The Orlando Pride made a significant trade in the first round of the 2022 NWSL Draft, picking up the No. 10 overall pick, ending up with three first-round selections in total. The trade with OL Reign saw the Pride acquire the 10th pick, the Reign’s natural 2023 second-round pick, and two players to be named for center back Phoebe McClernon. The Pride used the pick to select Duke defender Caitlin Cosme. Those two players to be named later were announced late in the second round, with the Pride picking up right wingback Celia Jimenéz Delgado and forward Leah Pruitt.
Cosme is the sixth all-time first-round pick by the Pride, following Sam Witteman in 2016; Taylor Kornieck and Courtney Petersen in 2020; and Viviana Villacorta last year; and the second first-round selection of the 2022 NWSL Draft, following forward Mia Fishel.
“This is an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful that Orlando has watched me over the seasons and took a chance on me,” Cosme said about getting picked by the Pride. “I’m excited. I know I’ve been in Orlando Stadium once for a Final Four and it was incredible.”
The 5-foot-5 center back joins the Pride after spending five years at Duke University. The 22-year-old defender made 70 appearances (62 starts), recording 10 goals and one assist. Internationally, Cosme played for the U.S. U-14 and U-15 National Teams before attending Duke.
The New Hyde Park, NY native only played in five games before her junior year, when she became a standout at one of the top women’s college soccer programs in the country. During her senior season, Cosme was named first-team All-Atlantic Region by the United Soccer Coaches.
“I think fans can just look forward to someone with a voice,” Cosme said about what Pride fans can expect from her. “I’m really in your face. I like to push other people. And I’m young and I’m just looking forward to being a sponge, getting as much information as I can, and learning anything that I can. This team has a lot of greats on it and a lot of players with experience, and I’m just excited. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
What It Means for Orlando
The trade of Ali Krieger required the need for a center back in this draft. However, the need was even more crucial when the Pride traded McClernon for the pick. The trade means that Cosme becomes one of three center backs on the roster, joining Amy Turner and Toni Pressley.
Cosme would likely have been a backup with McClernon on the roster, but she could be pushed into a more prominent role for the 2022 NWSL season unless the Pride bring in another veteran player. As it stands now, Amanda Cromwell will have to decide whether Cosme or Pressley will start alongside Turner.
Here are some college highlights of Cosme:
McClernon, 24, was the Pride’s second pick in the second round (No. 14 overall) in the 2020 NWSL Draft. She played every minute of the four NWSL Challenge Cup matches in 2021, totaling 360 minutes. She did not have a goal involvement but created two scoring chances and attempted one shot. During the regular season, McClernon began the 2021 season as a starter at center back, appearing in 21 of the Pride’s 24 matches, starting 15 and playing 1,416 minutes. She did not score a goal but did assist on one, with one successful cross and four key passes on the season. She did not officially register a shot attempt. Defensively, McClernon finished with 47 clearances, 14 blocks, and 31 interceptions. She won 27 of 36 tackle attempts (75%), 59 of 107 duels (55.1%), and 12 of 28 aerial duels (42.9%). She passed at a 72.9% rate.
“Sometimes players have some goals and wishes that we try to accommodate,” Cromwell said, hinting that McClernon asked to be moved. She also said that process started before she was hired.
Losing a starting quality center back isn’t ideal but if Cosme can come in and replace McClernon, and if Orlando gets good value from next year’s pick and the two players acquired, this could be the most important trade for Orlando in quite some time.
Jiménez Delgado, 26, is a Spanish defender who played 16 games with OL Reign in 2019, scoring one goal. In 33 career games (25 starts) with the Reign, she scored two goals and added two assists. She played college soccer at Iowa Western and Alabama, and has played on loan with Perth Glory in Australia and also went on loan to Olympique Lyon in France. She scored three goals in nine matches with Perth. She also has 23 caps with Spain, including three starts in the 2015 FIFA World Cup.
Pruitt, 24, played college soccer at San Diego State and USC. She was drafted fifth overall by the North Carolina Courage in the 2019 NWSL College Draft and claimed on waivers by OL Reign in June of 2020. The Rancho Cucamongo, CA native made 19 career appearances in all competitions with OL Reign (seven starts) with two goals. Pruitt also played 14 times for the Courage in 2019, scoring two goals on a championship-winning side. She can provide depth at the forward position.