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2022 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Mikayla Cluff

How did the BYU product perform in her first professional season?

NWSL: Orlando Pride at Racing Louisville FC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride drafted midfielder Mikayla Cluff (then known as Mikayla Colohan) with their second-round selection (No. 14 overall) in the 2021 NWSL Draft. That was a productive draft for the Pride, as all four players Orlando selected — Viviana Villacorta, Cluff, Kerry Abello, and Kaylie Collins — are all still with the club. The MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist delayed the start of her professional career to participate in the pandemic-delayed 2020-2021 collegiate soccer season. She signed a two-year deal with the Pride this past Jan. 26 and debuted with the club this year.

Let’s take a look back at the midfielder’s first professional season.

Statistical Breakdown

Cluff got playing time right from the jump, appearing in all six of Orlando’s matches in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup and starting five of them for a total of 355 minutes on the pitch. She did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting just one unblocked shot, which was off target. Her passing was generally good, with an accuracy rate of 77.5%, and she completed six of her eight (75%) long balls and was 69.9% accurate in the attacking half. Cluff provided five key passes in the competition and completed one of her five open-play crosses. Defensively, Cluff chipped in five interceptions, three clearances, and a block, winning eight of 13 (61.5%) of her tackles but just 41.5% of her 65 duels. She was better in the air, winning five of nine (55.6%) of her aerial duels. She committed 11 fouls, won two, and was not booked.

In the regular season, Cluff appeared in 18 of the Pride’s 22 matches but started only eight, playing 930 minutes and going the full 90 in five of her eight opportunities to do so. She tied for second on the team in goals (2) on 11 unblocked shot attempts (17 total attempts), putting five on target. She did not record an assist despite recording 12 key passes and she was successful on one of her two open-play crosses. Cluff passed at an 83.1% success rate, completed 12 of 24 (50%) long balls, and was a solid 78.8% passing in the opponent’s half. Defensively, Cluff recorded 18 interceptions, 12 clearances, and one block. She won 63.3% of her tackle attempts but just 44.4% of her 162 duels and 47.5% of 40 aerial duels. In terms of discipline, Cluff won 16 fouls while committing 20 and picked up two yellow cards on the year.

Best Game

Cluff’s best performance of the season was her outing in the Pride’s 2-1 road win over the North Carolina Courage on May 18. Cluff started the match and played a solid 61 minutes, leading the Pride in shots (4) and shots on target (2) — both season highs for the midfielder, although she went on to equal her high in shot attempts later. She also created one scoring chance for her team. Her brightest moment came on her first career goal, which turned out to be the eventual game-winner. A ball in from the right flank found Sydney Leroux in front but the forward had her shot blocked. Cluff ran onto the rebound and fired home with her left foot to extend the Pride’s lead at the time to 2-0 just before halftime.

While Cluff’s passing accuracy in the game overall was just 75%, she was better in the attacking third, completing 83.3% of her attempts. She contributed five ball recoveries, four aerials won and two tackles won, committed one foul, and won a foul from the Courage. It was a sign of what the young attacking midfielder can contribute to the team.

2022 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff give Cluff a composite rating of 5.5 out of 10 for her first season with Orlando. Cluff lost a lot of minutes and starts to Meggie Dougherty Howard. The veteran showed a willingness to be aggressive and get forward into the box that we’d like to see more of from Cluff, who finished at a higher rate than MDH (two goals on 17 total shots and five shots on target as opposed to Dougherty Howard’s three goals on 22 shots and 12 shots on target). Cluff also needs to get more of her attempts on target and win more of her 50/50 opportunities against opponents. For a first-year player on a team that often didn’t have much control of the game in the middle of the pitch, it was a solid season for Cluff.

2023 Outlook

As mentioned above, Cluff’s first pro contract has her signed through the 2023 season. We expect to see her back in purple in 2023 and trying to develop her game to take it to the next level. The three-year WCC Player of the Year has a ton of upside and has shown an ability to both find the net and her teammates in the attacking third. If she can improve upon decision-making and continue to adjust to the quickness of both mind and body needed at the professional level, Cluff could be a valuable part of the Pride for years to come.

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