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2022 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Viviana Villacorta

The midfielder returned from a knee injury early in the season, and became an important player, but sustained a serious ankle injury late in the year.

NWSL: Orlando Pride at Chicago Red Stars Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride drafted midfielder Viviana Villacorta with the club’s first selection in the 2021 NWSL Draft (No. 9 overall). Due to the pandemic, college soccer was pushed from the fall of 2020 into spring of 2021 and many players, including Villacorta, opted to return to finish out their college careers. Unfortunately, Villacorta sustained a torn ACL playing for UCLA in a match against Pepperdine and missed the entire 2021 NWSL campaign following the college soccer season.

Despite the injury, the Pride signed Villacorta to a one-year deal in August of 2021 with an option year for 2022. Orlando exercised that option for 2022 last December. After easing into getting playing time, Villacorta became a valuable part of the midfield before sustaining an injury against OL Reign on Aug. 26 that required ankle surgery. She was then placed on the season-ending injury list.

Let’s take a look back at her first professional season between the knee and ankle issues.

Statistical Breakdown

Villacorta began the season still easing back into fitness from last year’s knee injury, so she did not make an appearance in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup. She made her Pride debut on opening day of the regular season, playing 18 minutes against Gotham FC. Some inflammation kept her out of the next couple of matches, but then she returned on May 18 and did not come out of the lineup until her ankle injury.

The midfielder made 15 appearances (13 starts) and was subbed off only five times — one of those being due to the injury against the Reign — playing a total of 1,044 minutes. She did not score a goal or assist on one, and mustered only one shot attempt, which was not on frame because it was blocked. Her distribution was good, with 82.1% passing accuracy across all passes, 75.4% in the attacking half, and 60% on long balls. She made nine key passes on the year. Defensively, Villacorta contributed 21 interceptions, seven clearances, and a block. She was successful on 64.3% of her 14 tackle attempts, 50.5% of her 101 duels, and 77.8% of her nine aerial duels. She won 14 fouls, conceded only six, and was not booked all season — a rarity for a central midfielder.

Best Game

It was a difficult task to select a best game for Villacorta, because there aren’t a ton of stats with which to back up how she played. I’ll go with her performance in a 1-0 home win over Houston on July 8. Villacorta played the full 90 minutes and helped the Pride control the match. She did not score a goal or assist on one, but she did record her only shot attempt of the season, which was off target. In the 53rd minute, she thought her pass had sent Darian Jenkins behind the back line for a breakaway opportunity, but the flag came up as the forward couldn’t quite hold her run. Villacorta finished third on the team in touches, with 55, and completed 81.8% of her 44 passes, but she went a perfect 7/7 (100%) on her attacking third passes. She also had nine ball recoveries and one tackle, and did not commit a foul in the match.

2022 Final Grade

Villacorta receives a composite rating of 5.5 out of 10 for her 2022 season. While I personally rated her slightly higher, the grades among the staff were pretty close overall. Prior to the injury, Villacorta had become an indispensable player and perhaps was becoming (or did become) the Pride’s best two-way midfielder. From May 18 until the Aug. 26 game in which she was injured, Villacorta played at least 45 minutes in every match for Orlando. She had made herself an automatic starter on a team that had issues virtually everywhere and plugged in different pieces throughout the year trying to find the right combination. The only thing she has left to unlock is her ability to contribute more directly to the attack in terms of goal contributions.

2023 Outlook

The Pride hold Villacorta’s rights but will have to sign her now that she’s out of contract. We expect that Pride General Manager Ian Fleming will do whatever he can to bring back the UCLA product, as she fits in perfectly with his vision for rebuilding the team. If she can fully recover from her ankle injury, we expect Villacorta to slot right back into the starting XI in 2023, however, she will likely have to earn that spot all over again if someone other than Seb Hines is named head coach of the team this off-season. Villacorta is a player the Pride can build the midfield around and we think fans have only started to see a glimpse of the player she can become for Orlando.

Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)