Orlando Pride draft picks relishing professional experiences

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Orlando Pride draft pick Marisa Viggiano (right) battles veteran Ali Krieger for the ball during a training session at Seminole Soccer Complex. (Jordan Culver-Pro Soccer USA)

SANFORD, Fla. — For Orlando Pride draft pick Marisa Viggiano, the professional experience has been better than she hoped.

Viggiano was selected by the Pride with the No. 30 pick in the NWSL College Draft in Chicago, which she attended. Viggiano and fellow draft pick Erin Greening, selected with the 25th overall pick, haven’t signed professional contracts yet, but both have been training with the Pride since the start of preseason workouts.

“So, to be honest, this experience has surpassed anything that I’ve dreamt of,” Viggiano told Pro Soccer USA. “It’s been incredible. From the play to the people to Orlando – it’s just been amazing. It’s amazing just to be here.”

Greening, who watched the draft in Hawaii with a friend, called the experience of being drafted “surreal.” 

“Honestly, coming here and coming to Orlando, the coaches, the players here, the club overall, it’s just… it’s phenomenal,” Greening said. “They’re all so welcoming, so inclusive – they make everyone feel at home.”

Both said many of the Pride’s players and coaching staff have been helpful, noting veteran right back Ali Krieger has been especially supportive.

“Ali’s been amazing,” Viggiano said. “Someone that I’ve always looked up to, watching her on TV when I was younger. To be here, she’s just really taken in a lot of the younger girls and she’s been imparting her wisdom. She has a lot of experience, she’s a great player. She’s really taken us in and helped us.

“She’s been really awesome in helping us. She definitely wants this team to be successful and understands that it takes every single person. She really is an amazing player and person.”

Both also agreed the tough part has been adjusting to the speed of play. 

“I’d say the hardest part [has been] probably just the speed of play,” Viggiano said. “You know, all these girls are very experienced and have been playing here, maybe, for a few years. So, kind of just getting up to speed with all of that and kind of just bringing my confidence into it.”

Before getting to Orlando, Greening already had a connection on the team in forward Danica Evans. The two played for the University of Colorado together during the 2015 and 2016 seasons – Evans’ junior and senior years, Greening’s freshman and sophomore years.

“It’s so nice just having a friend coming in here,” Greening said. “[Evans] was in Colorado before here, so we would train together, too. It’s been really nice.”

Orlando Pride coach Marc Skinner has praised the younger players on the team. When Pride players are called up their national teams and leave for the World Cup, Skinner will have to try to get the most out of the younger ones.

“Their learning ability, which is all I ever ask a player to give me, has been exceptional,” Skinner said. “I’d like to give them a lot of credit. Every single younger player that’s been in that we’ve worked with has taken on the ideas that we want, and that’s all I can ever ask as a coach.”

Greening said it’s hard not to be receptive when everything is so new.

Still, one piece of advice has stuck out.

“Control the control-ables,” she said. “Control what you can and have an open mind to things and don’t get down on yourself. Just always stay positive.”

She added her main goal in her first professional season is to grow.

“This is just a learning experience for me,” she said. “I’m going to take it day by day and do what I can and do my best.” 

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