Why Taylor Kornieck Could Have A Big Breakout Year For The Orlando Pride
As NWSL fans around the world look forward to restarting the action in Utah on June 27th, now is probably as good a time as ever to reflect on the draft. The Pride had a very positive draft, one where they were able to address a number of deficiencies on their roster. The most notable move was undoubtedly the acquisition of Kornieck. Pride head coach Marc Skinner said he felt like he was the cat who got the cream in the wake of the 2020 NWSL draft. The Pride traded up to number 3 overall to select the University of Colorado Boulder graduate. With 24 assists and 39 goals during her collegiate career, it's clear for all to see what she brings on the offensive side of the ball.
One of the, let's be frank, many areas the Pride struggled last season was in the middle of the field. Taylor Kornieck is a special talent in that area. She also possesses remarkable ability in the air, owed in no small part to her 6 foot plus frame. Aerial ability in the middle of the park is something this team has never really had. This will be particularly important when the newly dubbed Challenge Cup gets underway in Utah in a month's time. Marc Skinner's teams often play with a high line, particularly on goal kicks. Kornieck will provide a reliable foil for winning those aerial goal kicks and retaining possession in the midfield. Whilst the team obviously favour playing out from the back, it's not always possible in this league. As such the ability to mix it up will prove invaluable,particularly when up against a high press.
Kornieck's aerial abilities will also provide the team with greater presence in both penalty areas, particularly on the offensive side of the game. As the below goal for the University of Colorado testifies. Watch this clip. The delivery is perfect, but it's still not an easy opportunity to score. She anticipates where the ball is going to end up, attacks the space and fends off two defenders. She does well to maintain concentration and head the ball back across the keeper. All without even having to really leave the ground. As an Englishman who grew up watching the likes of Alan Shearer, I love this goal. They are becoming something of a dying bread, but for the Pride they won't have to be with Kornieck's acquisition.
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There are few doubts that the midfielder has the personal attributes and temperament to dive straight in at the deep end in the NWSL. Skinner may want to bed her in gently, but I do not believe that to be his mandate for Kornieck. Skinner told PRO Soccer USA in the immediate aftermath of the draft that he saw Kornieck being an integral member of the team from the off. “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". Definitely felt like the cat who got the cream. Kornieck isn't being brought in just to make up the numbers. She is being brought in to compete.
As I alluded to earlier, Kornieck's goal return for Boulder speaks for itself. She knows where the back of the net is. The Pride are crying out for the kind of numbers Kornieck posted in her collegiate career. This was a team that chalked up only 24 goals in the whole of the 2019 season, with only 4 of those coming from the midfield. That's simply not enough. If you take a peak at her college highlights reel, you will see that she is supremely confident and has the ability to score all manner of goals. The key will be seeing how she adapts to life as a professional, as it's a transition many have struggled with. I would argue that there is no better place to be in the league than Orlando, from a transitional standpoint. Superstars such as Marta and Alex Morgan, not to mention the many other leaders in the Pride locker room, will help to guide her. 2nd year rookies Marisa Viggiano and former Buffs teammate Erin Greening will also be on hand to help Kornieck settle in Orlando.
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Kornieck has already settled into an apartment in Orlando and whilst the current Covid-19 pandemic has seemingly put her career on hold, she is using the time to get to know her teammates and to settle into the area. During a recent Instagram live with Duda Pavao, Erin Greening shared that she was looking forward to linking up with Kornieck again and that the team had been using Zoom to get to know the new players during the quarantine. Using this time to get to know her new colleagues will definitely help Kornieck to settle in with the team quickly. And if that happens, you definitely feel that Marc Skinner will be feeling more than a little pleased with himself.