Orlando, Fla. —After a season of growth and maturation for the Orlando Pride, 2024 started off strong with the NWSL Draft in Anaheim, California, last week.
The 2023 NWSL Draft saw the Pride pick current players Emily Madril, Messiah Bright, Tori Hansen and Summer Yates, with the former two vying for NWSL Rookie of the Year accolades after standout seasons in the league.
Now heading into a season full of excitement and ambition, the team used its four picks to select Ally Lemos, Cori Dyke, Alex Kerr and Talia Gabarra, adding much-needed depth to multiple positions.
"We were able to add quality and positions of need," Pride General Manager Haley Carter told Orlando-Pride.com the night of the draft. "To bring a young talent like Ally, then Cori and the versatility that she offers, we're pretty excited about that."
Lemos was the first pickup for the Pride with the ninth overall pick. After spending two seasons with UCLA, which included winning a national championship her freshman year, she decided to go pro early.
"I'm just super excited to get started," Lemos told Orlando-Pride.com. "This is honestly a dream come true. Little Ally's screaming right now, but I'm honestly just expecting competition. Intensity. Quickness. The whole shebang. Honestly, I'm so excited."
At just 20 years old, she is the fourth youngest draftee in NWSL history. Despite that, her play on the pitch is beyond her years, making her a promising prospect for an up-and-coming Pride team.
"If you look at our recent signings with Angelina, Luana, and Morgan Gautrat, Ally has the opportunity to develop around world-class players," Carter said. "I think that's going to be really crucial as she continues to grow as an athlete. We're trying to set her up for success as much as we're looking to set the entire team and roster up for success."
Another key piece from the draft is Cori Dyke, the Pride's second-round pick. A five-year player at Penn State, the veteran midfielder and defender was the longest-tenured player in the history of the school and their captain for the last season. A self-described versatile player, Dyke will now join her friend Kerry Abello, another versatile player, at the Pride.
"It's just unbelievable. I mean, I've heard a decent amount about the team from talking with Kerry," Dyke told Orlando-Pride.com. "I had a long call with her about it, and she just had the best things to say about the team. She's had a great experience, and I just can't wait. She's an incredible player and an incredible person that I had so much respect for during my time at Penn State, and I learned a lot from her there, so I know I'll continue to learn a lot from her as well in Orlando."
Dyke's versatility, as well as her skill, ability and mentality, are some of the things that drew the Pride to draft her. As the coaching staff has proven over the last year, those kinds of plug-and-play utility players have become an integral part of the Pride's makeup.
"The midfielders that we have on the roster are incredibly versatile," Carter said. "Some of them can play in the backline. Some of them can play outside as wingers if we need them to play there. Some of them can play as a six or as an eight, even as a 10. So, we're always looking for players who are versatile and can play multiple positions, and we feel like we've accomplished that."
With the addition of those two versatile midfielders also come to players that fill depth in positions of need for the Pride. Alex Kerr was a standout forward for Texas Tech that scored goals and was a leader for her collegiate team, while Talia Gabarra is the daughter of former U.S. Women's National Team forward Carin Jennings-Gabarra and a grad of UCF, adding some local flair to the Pride draft.
"To get Alex, I think honestly getting her at 50 was a steal," Carter said. "Then with Talia, being able to bring in local talent like that is always going to be something exciting for our community, so I'm very happy about the night."