The National Women’s Soccer League held its third annual College Draft on Friday, January 16, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Some of the nation’s top collegiate prospects learned where they will be begin their professional careers. The four-round 2015 NWSL College Draft had its share of thrills with teams jockeying for position in order to snap up one (or more than one) of the several players available in a draft with a lot of depth.
2015 NWSL Draft Recap
Houston Dash — Morgan Brian (Virginia)
Sky Blue FC (Boston Breakers) — Sarah Killion (UCLA)
Western New York Flash — Abby Dahlkemper (UCLA)
Western New York Flash (Sky Blue FC) — Sam Mewis (UCLA)
Chicago Red Stars — Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston College)
Western New York Flash (Washington Spirit) — Lynn Williams (Pepperdine)
Western New York Flash (Portland Thorns FC) — Jaelene Hinkle (Texas Tech)
Chicago Red Stars (FC Kansas City) — Arin Gilliland (Kentucky)
Chicago Red Stars (Seattle Reign FC/Boston Breakers) — Danielle Colaprico (Virginia)
Note — Boston traded the 9th and 11th overall picks to Chicago for Stephanie McCaffrey.
Sky Blue FC (Houston Dash) — Kristin Grubka (Florida State)
Chicago Red Stars (Boston Breakers) — Sofia Huerta (Santa Clara)
FC Kansas City — Shea Groom (Texas AandM)
Washington Spirit (Houston Dash/Portland Thorns FC) — Megan Oyster (UCLA)
Boston Breakers (Portland Thorns FC/Chicago Red Stars) — Jamia Fields (Florida State)
Seattle Reign FC — Havana Solaun (Florida)
FC Kansas City (Seattle Reign FC/Portland Thorns FC) — Meghan Streight (Texas A&M)
FC Kansas City — Katelyn Rowland (UCLA)
Western New York Flash — Tatiana Coleman (Central Florida)
Note — Houston acquired Jess McDonald from Portland in exchange for the No. 13 pick and a 2016 second-round pick. Portland then acquired Jodie Taylor from the Washington Spirit in exchange for its No. 13 pick and a 2016 second-round pick.
Washington Spirit (Houston Dash/FC Kansas City)— Caprice Dydasco (UCLA)
Boston Breakers— Samantha Lofton (James Madison)
Western New York Flash— Sabrina D’Angelo (South Carolina)
Sky Blue FC— Daphne Corboz (Georgetown)
Chicago Red Stars— Cara Walls (Wisconsin)
Boston Breakers (Washington Spirit)— Bianca Brinson (Texas A&M)
Sky Blue FC (Portland Thorns FC)— Shade Pratt (Maryland)
FC Kansas City (Seattle Reign FC/FC Kansas City)— Jessie Ayers (Colorado College)
Chicago Red Stars (Boston Breakers/Seattle Reign FC)— Nicole Setterlund (Washington State)
Note — FC Kansas City traded away its 19th overall pick to Washington in exchange for a pair of 2016 second-round draft picks.
Sky Blue FC (Houston Dash) — Chioma Ubogagu (Stanford)
Boston Breakers — Stephanie Verdoia (Seattle University)
Washington Spirit (Western New York Flash) — Whitney Church (Penn State)
Houston Dash (Sky Blue FC) — Carleigh Williams (Central Florida)
Chicago Red Stars — Rachel Tejada (Illinois State)
Boston Breakers (Washington Spirit) — Bianca Calderone (Northeastern)
Sky Blue FC (Portland Thorns FC) — Lo’eau LaBonta (Stanford)
FC Kansas City — Kaysie Clark (Missouri)
Seattle Reign FC — Kendall Romine (Stanford)
Here’s a look at how each team fared in the draft.
Boston made a large overhaul to its roster during the offseason after a disappointing 2013 campaign. After testing the international waters before the draft and bringing in a trio of Brazilian players, the Breakers ended up with players who bring a lot of speed to the table along with goal-scoring potential. The Breakers wanted McCaffrey and Sam Mewis on the roster for the upcoming season and made no bones about it, doing whatever it took to get both of those local talents to Boston. However, getting McCaffrey is a good start and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Breakers continue to try and trade for Sam Mewis at some point. McCaffrey, Jamia Fields, Bianca Brinson, and Stephanie Verdoia are all proven goal scorers at the collegiate level. Head Coach Tom Durkin also mentioned after the draft that he believes there’s a potential to move Brinson to an outside back position, which will be interesting to keep an eye on during the preseason. But overall, the Breakers walked away with a good draft class and a lot of key pieces to work with for 2015.
Chicago Red Stars
The Red Stars continued their trend of securing strong draft day classes with the group that Head Coach Rory Dames put together. The first trade of the day saw the Red Stars send their first-round selection, Stephanie McCaffrey, to Boston in exchange for the ninth overall pick. And with that, the Red Stars selected Danielle Colaprico from Virginia. Colaprico’s stock rose immensely over the past two college seasons and could make an impact in the NWSL right from the start with her distribution from the wings. Sofia Huerta, Cara Walls, and Rachel Tejada all proved themselves to be solid goal scorers at the college level and will be fighting for starting time when the national team players are away. Along with Boston, Chicago walked away happy with its efforts.
Houson was expected to select Morgan Brian at number one and when she’s available for selection and not on national team duty, will make an immediate impact for the Dash. Head Coach Randy Waldrum later traded away the 18th pick to Portland in exchange for Jess McDonald and a 2016 second-round pick. Waldrum capped off the day by selecting Carleigh Williams in the fourth round, a move that adds defensive depth. However, with all the signings the Dash made in the offseason, today was all about selecting Brian to solidify the midfield and then pick up depth at every position.
FC Kansas City
Quietly, FC Kansas City came in and accomplished what it wanted to get done on draft day. All the players Kansas City drafted may have to play major minutes early in the season. The good news is they all have the potential to rise to the challenge. The Blues picked up their number one prospect in Shea Groom, who is a local product and brings with her a creativity on the ball and finishing ability. Katelyn Rowland will have a big opportunity with the Blues this year as she will back up Nicole Barnhart on the depth chart. However, with Barnhart back in the national team camp, she may step into action early on in the season. Jessie Ayers and Kaysie Clark fall into Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s system nicely in the midfield, and Meghan Streight saw her draft stock go up through the college season. Like Rowland, she will need to step into action when national team players are unavailable.
Portland Thorns FC
As expected, the Thorns didn’t remain quiet for the entire event. They traded for Washington’s Jodie Taylor. Taylor worked her way back onto the scoring scene after last season and while there are questions in how much she will be available with her potential to play with England for the World Cup, she adds depth to the Thorns up front. Head Coach Paul Riley said afterward that having no picks in the draft this year wasn’t planned but “there were a few players who fell through the cracks” he might bring into preseason camp.
Seattle Reign FC
In what may be the real shocker of the day, it was a quiet day for Seattle as Laura Harvey held two draft picks and didn’t make any trades in the process. Havana Solaun was an underrated midfielder throughout the season at Florida and plays a style of soccer that will blend right into the Reign’s scheme. She has great poise on the ball and also links up well with her forwards when given time on the ball to create. Kendall Romine was a stalwart with Stanford during her career and may have an outside chance to crack the opening day roster; at minimum, she may be one of the Reign’s amateur call-ups throughout the season. So while the Reign didn’t have a whole lot to do, they did a good enough job working with what they had.
Sky Blue FC
It was a day of highs and lows for Sky Blue FC Head Coach Jim Gabarra. Sky Blue was expected to draft Sarah Killion, who be thrown right into the mix in the midfield alongside Katy Freels. Gabarra made it a point afterward to say that he planned on selecting Danielle Colaprico at 10th overall but Chicago slid in and picked her up at ninth overall with its pick. Make no mistake, Kristin Grubka will make an impact in defense as she was a main piece of the stingy back four with Florida State for the past few seasons. After that, however, several question marks exist, especially with Corboz and Ubogagu. Both are expected to test the international markets. Best-case scenario for Sky Blue is Gabarra securing the services of four of the five players it drafted. Worst-case is only signing Killion and Grubka, and then it’ll be very interesting to see what the team’s roster looks like on opening day.
Washington had one pick coming into the draft. However, Head Coach Mark Parsons worked the draft room like a champion and was able to add a pair of draft picks, one in the second round and another in the third round, and only lost Jodie Taylor in the process. With those picks, the Spirit drafted a pair of UCLA Bruins in Megan Oyster and Caprice Dydasco, both of whom will be able to transition to the professional game nicely. Then Parsons saw Whitney Church, a first-team All-American out of Penn State, was still on the board at 30th overall and quickly selected her. Already a side in need of defensive depth, Washington needed to fill the holes that Ali Krieger and Crystal Dunn will leave in defense when they’re on national team duty.
Western New York Flash
Western New York filled several of its roster needs through the draft, which was expected with the number of picks it had acquired in the lead-up to draft day. Aaran Lines picked up potential starters on defense, in the midfield, and up front, and also selected Sabrina D’Angelo, who can compete for the number one goalkeeping job along with Chantel Jones. It was all but assured the Flash would walk out of Philadelphia as winners but it still had to execute the plans to be successful, and that’s exactly what the Flash did. When the season comes, all eyes will look to Western New York to see how many of its draft-day players will be on the opening match day starting XI.
Sarah Killion on UCLA producing six draft picks:
UCLA has such an amazing coaching staff there and the program is unbelievable. That team became, to me, like a second family. It was my home away from home and not only do they care about how you play on the field, but they also care about the person that you become. And I think those two feed off of each other and it just speaks so highly of the program and I will always speak so highly of the program.
Danielle Colaprico on the “Super” U-23 camp and what she learned from current pros in preparation for her NWSL career:
[The current pros] mentioned that you need to make an impact from the start and to make a statement. But most importantly, don’t be nervous about being the newbie [on the team].
Megan Oyster on being selected at the 13th pick, a pick that took nearly 20 minutes to decide due to timeouts and trades:
You never knows what happens at the draft as we’ve seen before, especially with trades happening everywhere. I was extremely nervous [during the wait] and thankfully, I was sitting next to my [UCLA] teammate Sarah Killion, who was just keeping me intact. And the other two girls [Danielle Colaprico and Shea Groom] sitting next to me as well saying that you’re fine and whatever happens, happens. So I was just excited to see my name come up on the board and I couldn’t be more excited to have it happen.
Stephanie Verdoia on being a one of the few mid-major conference players to be drafted:
It feels pretty unreal because there [are] a lot of great players in our conference and sometimes it is hard for us to get recognized obviously with such bigger conferences. But we have a lot of talent with a lot of girls with heart and fight and I’m honored to be part of this process.
Mark Parsons on getting all the pieces to fall into piece:
I cannot believe that we’ve got [the] three players that we got. I can’t believe that [Caprice] Dydasco and [Whitney] Church were around when they were around. Those three players (along with Megan Oyster) were the players that we dreamed of getting for the last few weeks. We had different strategies of how to get involved to get those players, and the fact that we pulled it off is unbelievable.
Aaran Lines on the draft:
We filled a good portion of our squad. You will see that with what we got today, we will be announcing a couple of players and internationals in addition to what we have acquired today. And the Flash needed this. Last year was a rough year in finishing seventh but with rebuilding, the squad for this season, it looks like it is coming together right now.