For the first women’s soccer draft open to the public for a fair few years, today’s NWSL College Draft made headlines in a few ways. A packed room at the Philadelphia Convention Center saw 36 graduating seniors learn the fate of where they will be continuing their soccer careers. There were some parts of the drafts that went as expected, other parts that weren’t expected and nearly double-digit amount of team timeouts during the draft.
First let’s recap the draft going team by team and how they did as a whole on the day:
1. Washington- Crystal Dunn (UNC)
2. Houston- Kealia Ohai (UNC)
3. Chicago (from Seattle)- Julie Johnston (Santa Clara)
4. Chicago- Vanessa DiBernardo (Illinois)
5. FC Kansas City (from Boston)- Kassey Kallman (Florida State)
Western New York- Courtney Verloo, Cloee Colohan, Kelsey Wys, Annie Steinlage, Kristen Hamilton
Winners and Losers of the Draft:
Boston: There was a lot of questions with the Breakers coming into the draft about who they would pick. It was obvious that they needed depth in the striker position despite recently signing Colombian international Melissa Ortiz. But the Breakers got a couple of quality strikers in Nkem Ezurike and Jazmine Reeves. One is a target striker, something that the Breakers did not have in 2013 as most of their offense last year was trying to launch balls over the top. But with Ezurike up top and some added speed with Reeves out wide, they are now much deeper in that striker position. Throw in that the Breakers traded backup goalkeeper Michelle Betos during the draft, picking Villanova ‘keeper Jami Kranich late could fill that role.
FC Kansas City: With Lauren Sesselmann no longer with the Blues, Kassey Kallman will surely be the right person to fill in the center back role next to Becky Sauerbrunn. FCKC also added some necessary depth in the midfield as well with Jenna Richmond and Mandy Laddish, who was a big of a surprise getting picked by the Blues and not Houston with the Notre Dame/Randy Waldrum connection. Morgan Marlborough and Frances Silva aren’t slouches either as strikers, something that FCKC needs as well to go along with Amy Rodriguez up top.
Western New York: Albeit the Flash already have a solid core with their first XI, gaining depth isn’t a bad thing either. And that is what the Flash got today, quality depth all over the field. Kelsey Wys will be a solid number two ‘keeper that could even compete for some minutes in the long run and Cloee Colohan and Annie Steinlage will be good options in defense if one of their core defenders gets hurt. For a team that needed healthy bodies towards the end of last season, they could be in much better shape come playoff time this season.
They Got What They Needed
Chicago, Houston, Seattle and Washington: It was expected who each of these teams would draft come their first picks and they did not change course. Washington ended up with a couple of Virginia players in the later rounds, Houston picked up a few more recent USA U-23 players that played under Randy Waldrum recently and Chicago picked up an under the radar striker in Hayley Brock after their Julie Johnston/Vanessa DiBernardo 1-2 combination in the first round. Meanwhile for Seattle, picking up Amanda Frisbie gives them a player that could be utilized all over the field while it is uncertain what type of role that both Megan Brigman and Ellen Parker will play with Seattle but Laura Harvey will have a role for them for sure.
They Had a Different Plan
Portland: Well, Paul Riley was on a mission today at the draft room. He wanted some of the old Portland players that they didn’t protect in the expansion draft back and he wanted to bring in some more of his Philadelphia Independence/SuperGroup players to the Rose City. So that is what he did. He got back Mana Shim from Houston and brought Michelle Betos in from Boston and sent Nikki Washington to Houston and Tiffany Weimer to Washington. As for the draft itself, Emily Menges is a nice defender and could fit in with the group as a role player. And Elisabeth Sullivan is a bit of an unknown but last year so was Mana Shim, so who knows what Riley has for her. Either way, Portland had a different game plan today coming into the college draft.
Sky Blue: While the New Jersey based outlet did score Maya Hayes, that was their only bright spot. Jim Gabarra brought in three players that he probably had eyes on through the college season but left some pretty good names up on the board. I would have to think that he has something up his sleeve international player wise because today just wasn’t Sky Blue’s day.
What Did They Players Say:
-Crystal Dunn on being drafted Number One Overall: “For me, it’s a great feeling. I didn’t know a 100%, you never really know, anything could happen especially with the trades going on so it is truly an honor.”
-Kealia Ohai on the first ever college pick by the Expansion Houston Dash: “It’s amazing. I am so excited and I have been lucky enough to meet the staff and they are amazing. I am so excited to work with them and I think this program is going to be awesome.”
-Ohai on Randy Waldrum making the jump in coaching: “I’ve had him for one camp with the U-23s and he is such an incredible coach and when I heard he was going to the Houston Dash I thought they are so lucky to have him and I know it was so hard for him to leave Notre Dame because it is such and incredible program and he has done such amazing things there but I think it shows his dedication for growing the sport in the country and he has aspirations and he is good enough to coach at the highest level.”
-Maya Hayes about prior communication with Sky Blue: “We talked a little bit (with Jim Gabarra) over text message, just asking about my school situation (which she would later say that she would be at camp for day one as she take her last semester off) and obviously he was hopeful to draft me so it was cool to talk to him before and having that communication beforehand.
-Jazmine Reeves on the past few months with Virginia Tech season & being drafted: “Honestly, it’s been a dream. I’ve been on this amazing ride to have an amazing season in my senior year to now be able to play at the next level with an amazing team and organization, it’s just very exciting and I couldn’t be grateful for the opportunity.”
What did the Coaches Say:
-Randy Waldrum on being the drafter instead of seeing his players get drafted from college: “Well you know as a coach it is a proud moment when your kids get drafted, even with Mandy Laddish going to Kansas City, I would have loved to have her but I am real happy for her and I am proud of that but it was a little different for me. I was really excited that the draft fell our way. We pretty much got the players that we wanted”
-Mark Parsons on settling on picking Crystal Dunn: “To us it was probably after a couple different defeats after I came in it was clear that the position we were in and as soon as we knew we were in that position it became a priority to pick up Crystal. There was no way we would even consider changing that for any current NWSL player in the league or any US allocated player.”
-Aaron Lines on the Return of Sam Kerr: “The Australian players are under contract with the NWSL and they will be reporting into preseason as any other NWSL player will be.”
Other Draft Notes:
-Timeouts: There were nearly double-digit numbers of team timeouts taken during today’s draft. Each team was allotted a time out per round, which slowed proceedings down and lead the draft to run for over three hours. Hopefully in the future the league will look to change this rule to speed up the process of the draft.
-Support: While the room was cramped for a lot of people that were attending the NWSL draft, there were plenty of fans that attended and lots of media coverage, only hoping that this means the interest for the NWSL has boosted for the coming season.
-Has Laura Harvey Made a Trade Yet t-shirt: It happened.
How do you feel the draft went for your favorite NWSL Team today? Were there any players left out or teams that could have taken a shot at other players? Let us know what you think in the comments section below