The Orlando Pride announced the signing of its top 2021 draft pick, Viviana Villacorta, this afternoon. The deal is for one year with a team option for an additional season. Immediately after the signing, Villacorta was placed on the season-ending disabled list.
Villacorta, 22, was selected by the Pride with the ninth overall pick of the 2021 NWSL Draft out of the University of California, Los Angeles. She decided to play the spring college season before joining the Pride and tore her ACL in the team’s season opener on Feb. 7 against Pepperdine. The injury ended her collegiate career and delayed her signing with the Pride.
“I absolutely understand why they would want to finish their senior year in the most effective way,” former Pride head coach Marc Skinner said at the time. “These players are giving so much of their life. They moved their life across a huge country to do something different. For me, I’m absolutely understanding of that. Hopefully they come in sooner rather than later for them as well, but there’s no pressure from them.”
“Viviana has a very bright future ahead of her, and her current injury does not change her ability to grow and develop into the player we all know she can become,” Pride General Manager Ian Fleming said today in a club press release. “In the meantime, we’re going to monitor her progress and provide her with the resources necessary to regain her health and fitness, all while being in our club’s environment where she can integrate into the squad this year. We’re very pleased to have her join the club and be a member of the Pride.”
Villacorta played three seasons with the UCLA Bruins, making 72 appearances with 60 starts from 2017-2020. She recorded seven goals and 16 assists in those appearances prior to her injury.
“I’m so excited. I’m so honored to be a part of this awesome team with amazing players,” Villacorta said after the draft. “It’s an honor playing with [Marta and Alex Morgan]. I know I’m going to learn so much from them and I’m just going to keep growing as a player, and as a person as well, and just playing at that caliber with them, and they’re just going to help me become better.”
In addition to her accomplished collegiate career, Villacorta played for the U.S. at the U-18, U-19, and U-20 levels. She also started at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
What It Means for the Orlando Pride
The Pride have been building a roster that can withstand the losses of key players like Marta and Morgan during international competitions. Once fully recovered from her knee surgery, Villacorta should be able to come in when those key players are missing, helping to set up opportunities for Sydney Leroux and Jodie Taylor. It’s still unknown how strong Villacorta will be after returning from her injury, but she’ll provide another option for the Pride’s attacking midfield in the future.
Orlando will have to wait until 2022 to see what it has in Villacorta, but if she returns to her pre-injury form, she’s an intriguing player that can add a lot to the Pride attack.