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Orlando Pride select Taylor Kornieck with third overall pick in 2020 NWSL Draft

The Orlando Pride drafted the Colorado product with their first pick and addressed the defense in the middle of the draft

Marc Skinner sat stoically in his chair at the Baltimore convention center in Maryland. 

Orlando Pride’s coach was just waiting for the opportunity to see if the club could move up a few spots in the 2020 NWSL Draft on Thursday.

He had his eyes on University of Colorado midfielder Taylor Kornieck, the team’s top target. Shortly after the draft started, Skinner was delighted when the Pride executed a trade with the Chicago Red Stars to move up to the No. 3 slot.  

The Pride selected Kornieck with the third overall pick in the draft, giving the team a unique midfielder. 

“I don’t want to say [we’re] the cat that got the cream, but we were really happy with the fact that we got the opportunity to bring her to Orlando,” Skinner said. 

Looking to bolster a roster that was decimated by injuries and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Kornieck headlines a draft the Pride used to address needs in the midfield and on defense.

Orlando traded forward Rachel Hill to Chicago, sending the Red Stars the No. 19 pick in the 2020 draft, allocation money and the Pride’s natural 2021 first-round pick to move up and select Kornieck. 

Chicago also traded its No. 26 overall pick in the 2020 NWSL Draft to Orlando. 

Kornieck, who is 6-foot-1, brings an imposing presence to the midfield for the Pride. Her ability in the air was lauded during the broadcast of the draft. 

“It’s surreal,” Kornieck said during an interview after she was drafted. “I’m just so grateful to be here and I’m so humbled to be here. I’m speechless, honestly. [Skinner] was just saying how excited he was to draft me and the feeling is mutual. I’m just excited to get going.”

Kornieck left an indelible mark with the Buffaloes. 

She was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection in 2018 and 2019. She scored a career-high 12 goals during the 2019 season and was a third-team All-American selection by the United Soccer Coaches. 

She became the first player in program history 100 career points finishing with 102. She holds the school record for assists with 24 and is second in program history with 39 goals. She is also CU’s career leader in points per game (1.24), shots (332), shots per game (4.05) and penalty kicks made (9). 

“We all knew we needed Taylor,” Skinner said. “Taylor is unique in terms of there are not many players that have the height that she has but the ability technically to play. I can’t wait to put her into our team and show everybody just what a quality young player we have.”

Kornieck should be able to slot right into the midfield for the Pride. 

Skinner said he feels she can become a world-class midfielder with time. Skinner added she is an all-around midfielder because Kornieck is versatile enough to fill multiple roles. She played higher up the field for Colorado because of her ability in the air and technically, but can play in a one, two or three-person midfield should the need arise. 

“I’m relishing the opportunity because I already see ways in which we can improve her and ways into which she can fit into a system and adapt our style and give us a plan b of we never really had the ability to do,” Skinner said. “I’m buzzing about having the opportunity to bring her in.”

After trading up to select Kornieck, the Pride immediately shifted their focus on addressing the backline, selecting four consecutive defensive players. 

Orlando had the worst defense in the NWSL last season, allowing a league-high 53 goals. 

Orlando selected University of Virginia defender Courtney Petersen with the seventh overall pick. Petersen plays leftback and started 19 games for the Cavaliers last season, tallying one goal and four assists. Petersen was an All-ACC second-team selection last season. 

The Pride stayed local with the 10th overall pick, selecting UCF defender Konya Plummer. Plummer, who plays centerback, was the American Athletic Conference Defender of the Year last season. Plummer has international experience, captaining the Jamaican national team during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Orlando selected Petersen’s Virginia teammate, Phoebe McClernon with the 14th overall pick. McClernon was an All-ACC second-team selection last season. She played in 21 matches during the 2019 season, making 20 starts as Virginia posted 14 shutouts. 

University of Denver’s Cheyenne Shorts was taken with the 21st overall pick by the Pride. She was named the Summitt League Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. 

Orlando selected University of California, Berkeley forward Abi Kim with the 26th overall pick in the draft before finishing the draft with Bowling Green State University midfielder Chelsee Washington. 

“We feel that we’ve covered a good array of areas we needed to strengthen in,” Skinner said. “Honestly, I’m delighted with what we’ve done.”

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