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Despite being drafted months ago, Viens still awaits first shot at professional debut

Evelyne Viens, selected No. 5 overall in the NWSL Draft, is still waiting to make her professional debut. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Former USF women’s soccer star Evelyne Viens may have been drafted fifth overall in the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft, but her transition to the life of a pro soccer player has been less than ideal.

Within two months of signing with Sky Blue FC, Viens found herself in an apartment in Harrison, New Jersey (a suburb of Newark) with her roommate, fellow draftee Kaleigh Riehl, and little to do. 

Instead of training ahead of the team’s season-opener against the Orlando Pride, which would’ve been played this past Sunday, Viens, like almost every professional athlete in the country, is home due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The first month was pretty relaxing,” she said. “I watched a couple of TV shows, and now I’m reading a couple of books.

“My roommate has a dog, so we try to help with the dog. He’s not quite a little animal.”

Newark and New York City are the areas most affected by coronavirus in the U.S., according to the current number of cases from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moving there in the midst of a pandemic is probably one of the last things anyone wants to do, but Viens is finding the silver lining.

Perhaps the biggest silver lining was getting drafted and having a chance to play in one of the top leagues in the world. 

She’ll now be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s best and most recognized athletes, with the likes of Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh and Midge Purce on the Sky Blue roster.

“Of course, with like Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd it’s going to be a new world,” Viens said. “Learning how they train, I’m pretty excited to be able to be with them.”

While USF certainly has a dedicated and loyal support group, Viens has more exposure on social media and more fans to interact with now that she’s playing professionally.

“Here, it’s really different, like the media stuff,” Viens said. “It’s just another level. It’s like a professional level, and I like what they’re doing here.”

The challenges coronavirus has presented means she has to connect with her new fans via alternative means.

“You try to still be present in the community,” Viens said. “I did some Q&A with fans, but on Zoom, so I try to stay connected with our fans but in a different way.”

Viens may have met with fans, but she hasn’t had much time to meet and train with her team — she only went through five days of practice before the league announced on March 13 it was suspending training and canceling preseason games.

Although there isn’t any formal practice right now, keeping in shape is still a must. But the extent of training is whatever can be done in one’s backyard.

“The strength coach sent us conditioning stuff to do and we have lifting, too,” Viens said. “We found a turf that is open, so we still have a chance to go on the turf and do some running and play some soccer.”

While a few of the other benefits of playing for a professional team — like matches in Red Bull Arena, Sky Blue’s new home starting this season — haven’t been fully available to Viens yet, there is a personal advantage that came with moving to New Jersey.

Viens is much closer to her family in Quebec, and even though she can’t see them face-to-face, it still means something.

“I wish I can be home with them,” Viens said. “But I know it’s best for me to be here and just stay positive, and I talk with them more often than I used to in Florida.

“I think it’s good for our family in the way that we still connect and talk with them. I know they’re safe where they are and I’m safe with what I’m doing here.”

Staying safe and playing the waiting game are really the only things players can do, but Viens is itching to get on the field to show the same hunger for the game that she did with USF.

Sky Blue finished second-to-last in the 2019 season, but with the addition of key players like Pugh and Purce, along with a new head coach in Freya Coombe and general manager Alyse LaHue, expectations for Sky Blue are high.

Working with top players and coaches, as well as promising training sessions has only made Viens want to retake the pitch even more.

“They want the best for the team, and the way they were doing for five practices was really good.

“We had one direction, and I knew we’d be ready for the first game of the season.”

For the full conversation with Evelyne Viens, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Brian Hattab and Nolan Brown, which premieres later this week.