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Orlando Pride Re-Sign Defender Celia through 2024

The Spanish fullback inked a new deal to stay in the City Beautiful for the next two seasons.

Daytona Soccer Fest - Racing Louisville v Orlando Pride Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride announced today that the club has signed defender Celia Jiménez Delgado to a two-year contract that will keep her in purple through the 2024 season. The 27-year-old right back, known more commonly as Celia, is coming off a strong first season with Orlando, claiming a spot in the starting lineup most of the season. Out of contract after the 2022 NWSL season, Celia was one of five players to whom the club offered a new contract.

“Celia is a dynamic and technical player that provides us with both a defensive presence and attacking threat on the right side,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines said in a club press release. “With her international experience, she has a veteran impact both on and off the field, and is a great part of creating our positive locker room culture. She is intelligent when she defends and takes her opportunities when she gets forward, which is all you can ask for from a defender. We are excited she will return to the Pride, where she can continue to grow as a player and a leader in this organization.”

“I’m excited for this 2023 season to begin,” Celia said in the club’s release. “Our team has the talent and the grit to be within the top teams. I’m looking forward to building a solid winning culture and enjoying the unity of the team.”

Celia joined the Pride on Dec. 18, 2021 via a trade with OL Reign. That deal also brought Leah Pruitt and the 2022 overall draft pick (Caitlin Cosme) to Orlando in exchange for defender Phoebe McClernon.

After beginning the 2022 season injured, Celia played in the Pride’s final three matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup, starting two and playing 176 minutes. The native of Andalusia, Spain did not score a goal or assist on one and attempted just one shot, which was off target. She completed two of her five crosses and contributed two key passes in the tournament. Defensively, she tallied five clearances, four interceptions, and a block, winning three of her five tackle attempts, 81.8% of her 11 duels, and all three of her aerial duels.

In the regular season, Celia appeared in 18 of the Pride’s 22 games, starting 17 and going the full 90 just seven times, playing a total of 1,287 minutes. She tied for second on the team in goals, which sounds impressive until you get to the total, which was two — still, not bad at all for a fullback. She attempted just five shots that weren’t blocked, got three of them on target, and scored on two of those for a 66.7% conversion rate. Despite recording seven key passes, Celia did not register an assist in her first season with the Pride, and was successful on only five of 24 cross attempts. She passed at a 71.4% success rate, but went just 29.4% on her long passes. Defensively, she finished the season with 41 clearances, 26 interceptions, and four blocks. She also won 60% of her 35 tackle attempts, 52.8% of her 108 duels, and 61.5% of her 13 aerial duels. She conceded 23 fouls, won just seven, and picked up one yellow card on the year.

What It Means for Orlando

With the signing of Celia, the Pride have inked three of the five players whose rights they held to new deals, as the Spanish fullback joins Viviana Villacorta and Carrie Lawrence in signing a new contract. All of them are on new two-year deals. The remaining players who were offered a new contract, but have not yet signed, are midfielder Jordyn Listro and defender Courtney Petersen.

Additionally, the Pride had four players who earned free agency at the end of the season. Two of those players — Marta and Erika Tymrak — have re-signed with the team, with Meggie Dougherty Howard recently signing with San Diego Wave FC. That leaves Toni Pressley as the remaining free agent and a total of three players from last year’s team who the club wanted back still unsigned to this point.

Celia earned a rating of 6 out of 10 from The Mane Land staff after the 2022 season. She was a solid, if unspectacular, attacking piece from the right side throughout the year, although her defending could stand to be improved upon. Her movement cutting inside from the right to the middle can stretch or create confusion for the opposing back line and she was one of the better attacking players at playing quick passes in traffic to create chances.

While it is unclear how the Pride will utilize her in 2023 after acquiring Haley Hanson (now Haley McCutcheon) late in the 2022 season, it’s at least a positive depth signing to bring Celia back, and if she doesn’t end up starting, she can be a valuable player to bring off the bench if the team is chasing the game.