METUCHEN, NJ – The 2021 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft was conducted on Wednesday night and two United Women’s Soccer (UWS) alumnae were selected in the First Round. The Santa Clarita Blue Heat can puff out their chests in satisfaction as University of Southern California forward Tara McKeown (8th overall) and University of California – Los Angeles midfielder Viviana Villacorta (9th overall) were drafted by the Washington Spirit and Orlando Pride, respectively. It is the second straight NWSL Draft that saw multiple UWS alumnae selected in the First Round.
McKeown was a 2019 All-UWS selection for Santa Clarita and will join up with former Blue Heat teammate Ashley Sanchez and former USC teammate Natalie Jacobs on the Washington roster. Sanchez was a two-time UWS Team of the Week selection during the 2019 UWS season before she declared early for the 2020 NWSL Draft, where the UCLA star was selected fourth overall. Jacobs (LAGOC) was the 2018 UWS Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-UWS selection before being drafted by the Spirit in the Second Round (13th overall) in 2020. Washington traded up to select McKeown, sending $100,000 in allocation money and a 2022 2nd round pick to Sky Blue FC to pick up the 8th pick.
Villacorta is a keystone UWS alum as she has suited up for Santa Clarita since the first-ever season of the national pro-am league. Before she attended UCLA, Viviana was a starter for the Blue Heat when they won the inaugural UWS Championship in 2016 and kept that spot all the way to the 2019 season. The U.S. U-20 international is the second consecutive UWS alum to be drafted in the First Round by the Orlando Pride as midfielder Taylor Kornieck (LAGOC) was selected third overall last year. She will join Kornieck and 2019 UWS Player of the Year Kate Howarth (New England Mutiny) on the 2021 Orlando roster after she finishes her spring season at UCLA.
“I’m so excited,” said Villacorta via a Zoom call after her selection. “I’m so honored to be a part of this awesome team with amazing players. It’s an honor playing with [Marta and Alex Morgan]. I know I’m going to learn so much from them and I’m just going to keep growing as a player, and as a person as well, and just playing at that caliber with them, and they’re just going to help me become better.”
Just like Ashley Sanchez did last year, Stanford University star Catarina Macario decided to forego her senior college season to pursue her professional dream this year. Yet, the two-time MAC Hermann Trophy winner & 2019 UWS Championship MVP did not choose the NWSL route. Instead, Macario has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Olympique Lyonnais Féminin who compete in France’s Division 1 Féminine. Lyon are the most successful club in the history of D1F, with fifteen league and seven UEFA Women’s Champions League titles on their honor roll.
On top of that, the Brazilian-born forward has finally been approved by FIFA to represent the U.S. Women’s National Team in international competition. Catarina moved to the United States at age 12 and has propelled herself up the soccer ladder to the heights she now experiences on a daily basis. She will be available for selection by USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski for the next two matches against Colombia on January 18 and January 22 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.