The Orlando Pride have seven selections in the 2023 NWSL Draft, the second most behind the Kansas City Current’s eight picks. Five of those seven picks are in the third and fourth rounds. Despite most of the picks being later in the draft, the Pride’s history shows that they can obtain some key players with those spots.
The Pride are in the middle of a rebuilding project that started in earnest prior to the 2022 season. Veterans like Alex Morgan, Ali Riley, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger were shipped off for Allocation Money and draft picks. The result is that the Pride now have a slew of selections they can use to assist in their rebuilding project.
Until this past Thursday afternoon, the Pride held the second and third picks in this year’s draft, with the second pick coming from the Washington Spirit as a result of the Emily Sonnett trade in 2020. However, the Pride were a part of a four-team transaction that saw Angel City acquire the first pick from NJ/NY Gotham FC and Gotham subsequently giving the Pride $350,000 in Allocation Money for the second pick.
The Pride now hold the third overall pick, one selection in the second round, and five picks in the third and fourth rounds. In the MLS SuperDraft, it’s rare that late-round picks make the first team and fewer players chosen then have an impact. But since the NWSL doesn’t have a homegrown rule, the primary way for domestic players to enter the league is through this process, resulting in higher quality players later in the draft.
Last year’s NWSL expansion made it more difficult to find quality players later in the draft as those are now lower picks. However, the Pride have found some contributors for their roster, even in the fourth round.
In seven drafts since the team’s start in 2016, the Pride have selected 12 players in the third or fourth rounds. Of those 12 players, only Nadia Gomes, Cheyenne Shorts, and Jada Talley didn’t end up on the first-team roster. Gomes did join the team as a National Team Replacement Player and was on the team sheet three times, but didn’t come off the bench.
The Pride have found four players to contribute from the third round. Forward Danica Evans was drafted with the second pick in the third round of the 2017 draft (22nd overall) and made 26 appearances (four starts) in three seasons, scoring two goals and recording one assist. Abi Kim had a similar impact after she was taken eighth in the third round of the 2020 draft (26th overall), making 21 appearances with four starts in two seasons.
The two most successful third-round selections for the Pride were Erin Greening in 2019 and Kerry Abello in 2021. Greening was taken with the third pick of the third round (30th overall) and played one season in Orlando. She made 17 appearances, starting 16 times, while several starters were at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Arguably the most successful third-round pick so far is Abello. Drafted with the fourth pick of the third round and 24th overall in 2021, Abello was a regular starter in the Pride’s midfield last season. She made 24 appearances with 13 starts in all competitions and is expected to be a contributor in 2023.
With 12 teams now taking part in the draft, Abello would’ve been the last pick of the second round and Greening the first pick of the third round if 12 teams had participated in 2019 and 2021. The Pride have the first pick of the third round this year, so they could find a player to make a similar impact.
Interestingly, the Pride have had more success in the fourth round than in the third round over the past seven years. It started in 2016 when they drafted Dani Weatherholt with the first selection of the fourth round — 31st overall. Weatherholt was a mainstay on the Pride for five years, making 74 appearances with 60 starts and scoring three goals with one assist. Her 74 appearances were the most in club history at one point and she’s still fifth on the Pride’s all-time list.
The other impactful fourth-round selection for the Pride was Marisa Viggiano in 2019. Taken third in the fourth round, and 30th overall, Viggiano found herself in the starting lineup when the World Cup took most of the team’s starters away. In three years in Orlando, Viggiano made 48 appearances with 36 starts in all competitions and scored four goals.
In an expanded NWSL, Weatherholt and Viggiano both would’ve been third-round picks, but the Pride have the 25th and 29th overall picks with their first two third-round selections. So it’s possible to find players with the impact of those two later in the third round.
While the Pride traded away their second overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft, they still hold the third overall selection. That’s the pick that can bring in a player to make an immediate impact. The team has a total of seven selections in this year’s draft and history shows that any of those picks can bring in a player to help as the team continues its rebuild.