Marisa Viggiano is working hard to get better for Year 2 with the Orlando Pride.
Too often, across sports, we have seen players have a quality first season and then rest on their laurels before quickly fading into a distant memory. Orlando Pride’s Marisa Viggiano enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign in the NWSL, but she isn’t wired to get complacent now.
That could be because Viggiano comes from a competitive, sports family. Her father, Tom, is in the Kent State University Athletic Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player with the Golden Flashes in ice hockey. Tom, who also briefly coached at KSU, did not pass his pedigree on the ice down to Marisa. When asked if she considered playing hockey instead of soccer, Marisa answered, “This question makes me laugh because I cannot skate to save my life. My skating is basically me moving my feet half an inch forward and moving forwards from sliding on the ice or someone holding my hand and pulling me.” She added with a smile, “I never considered hockey for these reasons.”
There was another talented athlete in the Viggiano house growing up. Marisa’s younger sister, Natalie, currently plays soccer for the Wisconsin Badgers. An alum of Northwestern, Marisa got to play against Natalie in Big Ten action before getting drafted. “The game we played against each other was something I will cherish forever! We also play the same position so we were going up against each other throughout the game,” she said. “We are super close, but also super competitive so we didn’t talk much leading up to the game or during. My parents were relieved that we tied because they knew it would start something if one of us won over the other.”
As we all know, siblings are always comparing themselves against one another. I asked Marisa to name one thing that each sister does better than the other, on and off the pitch. The elder Viggiano sister said, “This is tough! One thing on the field she is better at than me is her speed and agility. One thing off the field she is better at than me is not being afraid to put herself out there and not caring what people think about her! And she’s way better at doing makeup than me, too.”
“One thing on the field I am better than her is my technical ability and fitness. One thing off the field I am better at than her is cooking. And I like to think I’m smarter.”
Marisa’s aware that she doesn’t have the pace of her sister or other players in the NWSL. Maximizing her ability without that top-notch speed was a focus for her after the 2019 season. “During my first professional offseason, I worked a lot on my body positioning and movement and overall strength,” she said. “The NWSL is such an athletic and quick game, and I’m definitely not the quickest, so I wanted to really work on how I could position my body to allow some extra time on the ball by creating space.”
She definitely created enough space in a July matchup vs. Sky Blue FC. As you can see in the video below, Marisa gave herself plenty of room to fire an absolute rocket into the upper 90 for her first professional goal and a match-winner in Pride’s 1-0 victory. “Scoring my first goal the way I did was something I will remember for the rest of my life! To be completely honest, I’m still kinda shocked I did that, but to score a goal like that on such a special night for the team and in front of so many fans was so special to me,” she recalled.
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 21, 2019
With that kind of skill, self-awareness, and passion to improve, Marisa Viggiano will definitely keep working to make sure that a good rookie season is just the first step in a long, successful career in professional soccer.