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No. 3 Overall Draft Pick Can Be Game Changer for Pride

Historically, NWSL third overall picks have been high-impact players who can contribute immediately, and the Pride need a few of those.

2020 NWSL Draft Photo by Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride have the No. 3 pick in this week’s NWSL Draft and history shows that it’s a good spot to pick up the kind of player who can slot into the starting lineup and become a force for years. If the Pride do their homework correctly, the player they add at No. 3 overall should become a key contributor and potentially a star player in the league.

Until last week, Orlando held the No. 2 overall draft pick, which would have been the highest in club history, as the Pride regularly traded away those picks in the first few years of their existence. That might be a key reason why the Pride have trended the way they have since 2017, but that’s a story for another day.

Looking at previous No. 3 selections in the NWSL draft, the first three jump off the page immediately.

  • 2013 – Kristie Mewis, FC Kansas City
  • 2014 – Julie Johnston (now Ertz), Chicago Red Stars
  • 2015 – Abby Dahlkemper, Western New York Flash
  • 2016 – Christen Westphal, Boston Breakers
  • 2017 – Morgan Andrews, Boston Breakers
  • 2018 – Quinn, Washington Spirit
  • 2019 – Jordan DiBiasi (now Baggett), Washington Spirit
  • 2020 – Taylor Kornieck, Orlando Pride
  • 2021 – Brianna Pinto, Sky Blue FC
  • 2022 – Emily Gray, North Carolina Courage

Adding a player with the quality of Mewis, Ertz, or Dahlkemper would be huge for an Orlando side that unexpectedly made a strong playoff push, only to come back to earth over the final six weeks of the season in 2022. Any one of those three players could have either turned some of the Pride’s draws in the seven-game unbeaten streak into wins or helped the team avoid the six-game slide at the end of the season.

It’s easy to look at USWNT players and see the quality they bring to a club, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones making an impact. That includes former Pride draft pick Kornieck, who emerged as a valuable player for San Diego and got her first caps for the USWNT in 2022. Unfortunately, Kornieck opted not to stick around to be part of the Pride’s rebuild, showing her quality with the Wave last year.

Westphal played 24 matches (22 starts) as a defender for a good defensive San Diego Wave side last year. Quinn is a standout midfielder with 84 international caps with Canada, and is one of the better players in the NWSL at helping a team control the middle of the pitch and win back possession — the kind of player the Pride could certainly use. Quinn was a key reason OL Reign had the Shield-winning season it did last year.

Out of the 10 No. 3 picks in the NWSL draft, six of them are genuine team-changing talents…so far. In addition, Pinto is a 22-year-old with a ton of potential, having made the USWNT roster for the 2017 SheBelieves Cup at just age 16. She’s becoming an impact player for the North Carolina Courage, having made 22 appearances in 2022 with 17 starts.

The odds favor the Pride having the opportunity to draft a player third overall who can not only become a starter, but could also become a Best XI-caliber talent in the NWSL. Kornieck is the highest-drafted player in club history at the same spot. Had she stayed in Orlando after the 2021 season, the Pride might have had a better outcome in 2022.

The club will be hoping the team’s 2023 top selection can develop into a dominant player in the next couple of years. It’s a pick on which the Pride honestly can’t afford to miss.