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Orlando Pride Re-Sign Midfielder Viviana Villacorta

UCLA product inks two-year deal to stay with Orlando through 2024.

NWSL: OL Reign at Orlando Pride Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Pride took care of an important bit of business today with the re-signing of midfielder Viviana Villacorta to a new two-year contract that will keep her in purple through the 2024 NWSL season. Villacorta’s initial pro contract expired following the 2022 season and the Pride offered the Torrance, CA, native a new deal. Today’s signing completes that process.

“I’m so grateful to be able to play for this club and community for two more years,” Villacorta said in a club press release. “We’re building for the future and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get back out on the field next year and to see all of our fans back at Exploria Stadium.”

The Pride originally drafted 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 in that spring season. 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.

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.

Villacorta’s main attributes were helping the Pride maintain possession in the middle of the pitch and win the ball back when the other team had it. She had a strong, if understandably inconsistent, rookie season and The Mane Land staff gave her a rating of 5.5 out of 10 for her first professional season.

“Viv has the potential to be one of the best players in our league and she showed that promise during her time on the field last year, so we are excited to keep her with the Pride for the next two seasons,” Head Coach Seb Hines said in the club’s press release. “She made an essential impact when she was on the pitch and continued to improve as the season went on. Her injury was an unfortunate end to a strong rookie season, but she has been working as hard as she can to be able to be ready for 2023.”

Following Villacorta’s ankle injury, the Pride took only one point from their final five matches as her loss in the middle of the pitch was felt.

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. 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 Orlando

The pieces are starting to fall into place for the Pride’s 2023 roster build after this signing and Monday’s re-signing of defender Carrie Lawrence. While a few other NWSL teams have been adding free agent signings to bolster their clubs, the Pride have just started to lock down their own players, which may be due in part to the club still not having hired an executive vice president and general manager.

Orlando has inked two of the five players from the 2022 squad to whom the club offered new contracts — Villacorta and Lawrence. The three remaining players include defenders Celia and Courtney Petersen and midfielder Jordyn Listro. The club’s free agents — Marta, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Erika Tymrak, and Toni Pressley — have yet to sign with anyone.

There is still quite a bit of roster building to do in the lead-up to 2023, with the NWSL Draft looming in mid-January. But having locked down Villacorta is an important step. The midfielder is the kind of young talent the Pride should be (and apparently are) building the team around. This is a positive step for the Pride, but still a preliminary one. There are several holes on the roster and some areas that need to be upgraded before Orlando can become a team that can compete in a difficult league.