JJ Duke takes a look at what Sky Blue FC might (and should) do in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft. With six selections, Sky Blue will look to build off a strong 2016 draft class and add depth to become a playoff contender.
4, 10, 23, 24, 30, 34
CoCo Goodson (retired)
Shawna Gordon (retired)
Possible Draft Day Activity Level
In terms of return on investment, Head Coach Christy Holly absolutely crushed it on Draft Day last year. They drafted Raquel Rodriguez after trading up to get the second overall pick in the first round while getting Leah Galton in the second round and both Erica Skroski and Caroline Casey in the third round. All four of those players had a significant and positive impact last year and with a pair of first-round picks, I expect Holly to use those to his full potential. After that, expect him to trade away at least one of those four later-round picks for arsenal to use in coming seasons.
What Sky Blue Needs
If Holly sticks with keeping the core of the team he had last year, he won’t need much from this draft despite having a half-dozen picks to work with. But three questions come to mind when talking about Sky Blue. Can they make the necessary jump from being feisty underdogs to playoff contenders? Will Christie Rampone play another season? And will Kelley O’Hara stay stateside or move elsewhere.
Responding to the questions in reverse order: There hasn’t been much out of any camp saying that O’Hara will be moving anywhere but with the U.S. Women’s National Team still in CBA negotiations with the U.S. Soccer Federation there is always a possibility. I would have to think that Rampone will be playing another season after her strong and underrated 2016 season — who knows of another 40-plus-year-old center back outracing twenty-something-year-old strikers on a daily basis. If those two pieces fall favorably to Sky Blue, and they can make a splash by drafting a couple of solid defenders and maybe adding one more attacking selection, they should be in good shape to become a playoff contender.
With a pair of first-round picks, I see Sky Blue going for a top-line defender, particularly in the center back role, and then a forward. Yet again, Maddie Bauer comes to mind here to fit the center back role along with Rashida Beal.
In terms of attack, could Florida’s Savannah Jordan be available at No. 10? A lot of folks pegged her testing the market overseas but she also declared herself eligible for the draft. Because of her possible interest elsewhere, she may fall down the charts a little bit. When Jim Gabarra was in charge of Sky Blue, he drafted both Daphne Corboz and Chioma Ubogagu in hopes of perhaps of luring them to the Garden State, but failed on both counts. If Jordan is available at No. 10, why not have a go?
In conjunction to adding to the line of scrappy go-getting style that Sky Blue has, a nice diamond in the rough pick could be Kent State’s Jenna Hellstrom. She picked up a Second Team All-American nod and is a two-time MAC Offensive Player of the Year, with back-to-back seasons of double-digit output in goals and assists. With her hailing from Canada, Sky Blue shouldn’t have an issue fitting her in the roster as they have only a couple of foreign-based players on the roster.
For their later-round draft picks, Sky Blue won’t have to look far for defensive cover as Rutgers’ Erin Smith and Penn’s Paige Lombard both were NSCAA All-Regional honorees and could compete for roster spots. Keep an eye out for New Jersey native Nickolette Driesse in the mid-20s as a potential depth player in the midfield who could also gain valuable minutes in her debut season. She has the rare honor of winning two national championships with different schools (Florida State and Penn State).