2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ Fourth Round Analysis

31 – ORL – Dani Weatherholt – MF (CM) – Santa Clara

Notice a trend here?  It’s the third Californian taken by Tom Sermanni, who clearly must have done a lot of scouting on the West Coast.  Weatherholt, like just about everyone at Santa Clara, can play but was something of a late bloomer after coming in with a lot of hype.  Definitely fills a need for some midfield depth for the Pride, but I’m not sure that the club couldn’t have just nabbed her after the draft as an undrafted free agent.

32 – CHI – Courtney Raetzman – MF (MC, WG) – Kentucky

If she was a half-foot taller, she’d probably be 10-15 picks higher.  Likely to play out wide at the next level and can break opponents down on the dribble.  Diligent defender and gritty as hell despite her size.  Could be a great change of pace off the bench early here and knows the club having been a part of their reserve team.  Exactly what you want with a fourth-round pick.

33 – CHI – Jannelle Flaws – F (CF) – Illinois

I’m guessing the Red Stars are absolutely ecstatic about getting Flaws this deep into the draft, as I think she could’ve been off the board a round or two earlier.  Another reserve player who the club knows, Flaws can sit on the last defender’s shoulder and zoom in to score goals.  Injuries are a worry, and she’s an older prospect, but this is great value for a last round pick.

34 – WSH – Madalyn Schiffel – GK – San Francisco

I expected Schiffel to show up in someone’s camp, though her being drafted is a bit of a mild surprise.  The hype around the San Francisco keeper has built steadily for the past year, and helping lead the Dons to the brink of a shock WCC title surely didn’t hurt her cause.  With Stephanie Labbe likely coming here as an allocated player, Schiffel will likely be here as a reserve for now.  But I’d rather have her than Labbe in all honesty, and it’d hardly shock me if she turns into a starter in the league at some point.

35 – CHI – Adrienne Jordan – D (LB) – Northern Colorado

Raw.  Probably a bit too raw for my taste as a drafted player, but definitely the type that can cut their teeth on a reserve team like the one Chicago boasts.  Probably one of the best players in the history of the Big Sky Conference and would’ve probably gotten a look somewhere had she not been taken here.  Definitely has skill on the ball but lacks elite size for this level.  Big step up in class and is a project. Continue reading

2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ Third Round Analysis

21 – POR – McKenzie Berryhill – D (CB) – Arizona State

A polarizing player for sure.  Was much higher rated coming into this season but, like the rest of her ASU teammates, underwhelmed as they were one of the nation’s most disappointing teams in 2015.  Has a decent range of passing ability but may not be able to defend top level talent effectively.  I don’t really get the need considering the amount of defenders already on the roster and the fact that they’re looking a little thin on depth in the attack when they’ll be missing some of their international players.  Definitely not a sure thing to make the opening roster here.

22 – CHI – Sarah Gorden – D (CB, FB) – DePaul

Has done very well the past few years for DePaul, though I would’ve thought she might have slipped a little further after this past season where the Blue Demons were just above average as a team.  A utility defender who can play everywhere, Gorden’s too short to be a center-back in this league, and considering how the Red Stars could’ve perhaps used some more depth at CB (even after taking Naughton), I’m not sure I would’ve waited a little longer to bring her off the board.

23 – SBFC – Erica Skroski – D (CB) – Rutgers

Not exactly out of left-field, this one.  Skroski was known as a talented player before this season but took it to another level as she helped Rutgers get to the College Cup this past season.  Like Reed, the big question is her height, but that shouldn’t be a problem considering how tall some of the other CBs here are.  From a sheer value perspective, this is a great pick, and considering she’s a local, that’s a bargain as well for a club that needed some defensive reinforcements coming into this draft.

24 – WNY – Laura Liedle – D (RB) – Stanford

Great pick.  I had a second round grade on Liedle, so to get her in the middle of the third is a huge get for the Flash, who need defensive depth.  Liedle is another player coming from a possession style club in Stanford, which really fits in with how the Flash say they want to play now.  She’s an absolute workhorse who was steady for the Card for four seasons and could be even better as a pro.  I feel Liedle may be much better than many of the defenders taken in front of her this draft.

25 – SEA – Paige Nielsen – D (FB, CB) – North Carolina

This might be the absolute best landing spot for Nielsen, a player with a ton of potential but who needs time to develop.  Nielsen made the switch to defense after beginning her career as an attacker and took to it really well in turning into one of the best defenders in the ACC.  She probably won’t be under any immediate pressure to be a starter here and can learn from some really great mentors on the backline.  In a few years, this could be an absolute steal. Continue reading

2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ Second Round Analysis

11 – WNY – Makenzy Doniak – F (CF) – Virginia

It’s not a case of the Flash needing forwards, per se, but there’s simply no way that you can pass over top first round value early in the second round.  I thought that the Flash could’ve taken Doniak with the ninth pick, and it still would’ve been an incredible steal.  Charlie Naimo’s side is getting a forward that is probably the best pound-for-pound finisher in this draft and who makes slotting the ball in the back of the net simple.  There was chatter about people being worried about Doniak not having the pace for the next level, which sounds mind-bendingly idiotic when you consider the heaps of forwards who have been nothing but pace at this level but who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  The question is how the Flash fit Doniak into their system having just traded for Jessica McDonald.  It’s a luxury I think the club will be happy to have.  I suspect the UVA forward will have a point to prove.

12 – WSH – Cali Farquharson – F – Arizona State

I don’t get it.  Farquharson is value at this spot and is a first-round talent when healthy.  But the Spirit just took a forward off the board with Cheyna Williams and came into this draft with six on the roster.  While Washington’s probably going to jettison a few of those forwards now, you can’t help but wonder why the club would spend a high second round pick on a player that doesn’t fill an immediate need and that has shown signs of being injury prone.  I think Farquharson has a future in the league if she stays healthy, but I’m not sure it’s with the Spirit.

13 – SBFC – Leah Galton – F (LF, CF) – Hofstra

Another Brit who scored goals in bunches, Galton was an explosive presence on the frontline for Hofstra the last four years.  SBFC really needed to add attacking talent to the frontline after trading Nadia Nadim and got some here with Galton, but I’m not sure if it’s the greatest fit.  The Brit is still somewhat raw coming from a smaller school, and that’s reflected a bit in her efficiency numbers, which are a bit ragged.  I think she’d be better served in a spot where she could be eased into the pro game rather than likely having a lot of scoring pressure thrust upon her right away.  Given this club’s poor record at developing forwards, there’s cause for caution.

14 – WNY – Mallory Weber – F/MF (AMC, RW) – Penn State

Look, I love Weber as a player and think she can carve out a role for herself in this league.  But why, oh why, is WNY still picking attacking players?  This is a club that entered into the draft with four defenders and a ton of personnel in midfield and up front and added to that with their first few picks.  But with some quality defenders still on the board, to keep going after attacking players is nuts.  Weber gives the Flash some needed attacking width and versatility, but she’s going to have trouble getting major minutes considering the logjam here. There may be a move to full-back in the cards.

15 – ORL – Christina Burkenroad – MF (AMC, LM), F (CF) – Cal State Fullerton

This one may be a round too soon, but Burkenroad definitely has a lot of intriguing facets to her game.  She played as a towering winger for Cal State Fullerton, but I wonder if she’s got the pace to do the same at the next level.  Finding a position will be key for her given her tools, but she’s another player with a lot of upside.  Definitely gives the Pride a different look in the middle of the park. Continue reading

2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ First Round Analysis

1 – POR – Emily Sonnett – D (CB), MF (MC) – Virginia

Confirmation of the world’s worst secret.  The Thorns have a glut of defenders now but will probably see their new #1 pick start opposite Kathryn Williamson right away.  Sonnett’s a modern center-back in the Becky Sauerbrunn mold who is mobile, composed, and can begin the attack with her feet.  Better in the air than you’d expect.  I’m not sure she’ll be a superstar, but I think she’ll be in the USWNT mix for a long time to come and should stabilize a sometimes shaky Portland rearguard.

2 – SBFC – Raquel Rodriguez – MF (CM) – Penn State

From a talent standpoint, Rodriguez is certainly worthy of being picked here.  But did SBFC really need to trade up to get her?  I’m not particularly convinced Portland were all that interested in taking the Costa Rican international at the second slot considering they were shopping the pick so blithely throughout the week.  A Rodriguez-Freels pairing in central midfield should be dynamite, but who on Earth on this club is going to put the ball in the back of the net when the club’s internationals are away?

3 – BOS – Christen Westphal – MF (CM), D (CB) – Florida

I feel like the Mallory Pugh imbroglio deserves its own column, so I may touch on that later, but man, what in the world was this?  I think the Breakers got absolutely screwed by getting just the #3 pick in a weak draft in compensation for being forced to cough up whatever half-assed scheme the league dreamed up to ensure Pugh ended up in Portland.  But good lord, talk about taking lemons and making whatever the opposite of lemonade is.  There is a clear, clear drop from #3 to #4, even in this draft, and the Breakers somehow managed to miss that.  Even though they lost Pugh, Boston still had Makenzy Doniak potentially fall into their lap, which would have given them a solid one-two attacking punch that they were probably going to need if Kyah Simon heads to the Olympics with Australia.  Or Boston could have traded down with this pick and picked up a few late-first/early-second round picks and gotten Westphal then.  But this is simply a typically dim pick from an organization who has specialized in them over the years.  The indication is that Westphal is going to be moved to full-back, which makes more sense than using her at center-back, but it still blunts her advantages on the ball while not really addressing the fact that she probably won’t be able to defend top level talent.

4 – SEA – Carson Pickett – D (LB), MF (LM) – Florida State

I probably would’ve been a little more comfortable if Seattle had traded down a few slots to get Pickett, but there’s really no point in quibbling with a team that needs a left-back getting the best one on the board.  Her service from the flank is absolute dynamite, she comes from a system that churns out quality pros, and she’s got a non-stop motor going up and down the flank.  At the very least, she’ll be a versatile reserve, but I think Pickett’s got the makings of someone who can be a starter early on at left-back for the Reign.

5 – HOU – Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

Oh, dear.  This probably would’ve been a lot more understandable before we found out that Roccaro would be missing potentially half the season through injury.  Keep in mind this is already a club that could be missing four or five defenders already for chunks of the season on international duty.  And that had just fourteen players on the roster coming into the draft.  And that also had needs elsewhere on the squad for players that can play right now.  If Roccaro heals quickly, this could still work out OK for the Dash.  But there have been increasing concerns about her pace at this level, and considering she’s going to get tossed into the deep end on a side lacking big-time veteran defenders, this could be an absolute disaster. Continue reading

2016 NWSL Draft – Let’s Laugh at Chris’ Four Round Mock Draft

1 1 Portland Thorns FC (via ORL) – Emily Sonnett – D (CB), MF (MC) – Virginia

This is the easy part. Sonnett’s been tabbed for the #1 spot for months now since she’s starred for Virginia in the college ranks and has worked her way into the full USWNT picture. She should be an immediate starter at center-back for the Thorns and is a threat to make the Olympic roster already despite her youth. Not a can’t miss prospect but should still be a strong pro.

1 2 Portland Thorns FC ( via BOS) – Makenzy Doniak – F (CF) – Virginia

With a caveat. I think the recent rumors about a draft day trade that may bring Nadia Nadim to Portland could see this pick actually be traded to SBFC or made by the Thorns and then traded to SBFC. The Jersey club already have a need for some solid central attacking talent even before possibly trading Nadim and would have a dire need for it after the fact if it goes down. If Portland keeps the pick, Doniak would make for some nice attacking cover if Nadim doesn’t come. Raquel Rodriguez could also be a pick here, though the need isn’t great on paper for the Thorns.

1 3 Sky Blue FC – Raquel Rodriguez – MF (CM) – Penn State

Value over need. I think the first real “drop” in talent in this draft happens after Rodriguez, which means I doubt she falls past the third pick. If SBFC keeps this pick, she’ll form a great midfield trio with Katy Freels and Sarah Killion that could slice defenses apart. If SBFC moves up to #2 to take Doniak, and Portland moves back to #3 to take Rodriguez, it may still work out fine for the Thorns. Getting Rodriguez, Brynjarsdottir, and potentially Amandine Henry on the same page might be a task, but the result could be dynamite.

1 4 Seattle Reign FC (via WNYF) – Rachel Daly – F (LF, CF), D (LB) – Saint John’s (NY)

This is the draft’s pivot point, and you’d sooner win the lottery than figure out what Laura Harvey’s thinking. I think this inevitably comes down to Daly vs Carson Pickett, and I think Daly’s ability to play as a true forward’s going to win the day, even though a lot of other pundits have fallen back so easily on this being the pick just because Daly’s English. I think it’s a reach at #4, but having a roster like Seattle’s means you can take risks. I’m still wondering if Harvey will actually use an international slot on a rookie though.

1 5 Houston Dash ( via SRFC/PTFC) – Brianne Reed – D (CB) – Rutgers

I think this would’ve been Cari Roccaro had she not been revealed to be injured and possibly out until midseason. The Dash would probably love to have her, but they really can’t be using first round picks on players that may not be able to play in the short-term considering their lack of numbers. Reed lacks size but is athletic enough to cover more than one position and should hold her own right away here.

1 6 Houston Dash – Janine Beckie – F – Texas Tech

This would probably be a bit of a reach, as I think Beckie’s more good than great, but her style syncs well with Ohai and Ubogagu and could give the Dash a very formidable frontline. There’s definite potential for the Dash to use the eighth pick on a forward and look towards the midfield with this one, though there just aren’t any worth this pick in my mind.

1 7 Washington Spirit – Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

The beauty about having a roster that doesn’t boast any gaping holes is that you can afford to be a little risky. Roccaro wouldn’t be under any immediate pressure to get back from her injury ASAP and would be decent value at this slot for the Spirit.

1 8 Houston Dash (via FCKC) – Abby Smith – GK – Texas

I think the Dash totally goofed by stocking up on low value late-first round picks when they really needed more picks to help fill roster gaps. I really think they’ll feel the pressure to take a keeper here without any picks later in the draft, meaning they’ll make a major reach to grab Abby Smith, though I think it would be a potentially catastrophic miscalculation.

1 9 Western New York Flash (via CRS) – Laura Liedle – D (RB) – Stanford

I have a really weird feeling about this one. I think Liedle could slip into the second round, as I have Carson Pickett rated higher, but Charlie Naimo’s shown a preference for West Coast players in the past, with Liedle filling a need on defense as a potential upgrade on Becca Moros. It wouldn’t shock me if Erica Skroski goes here either if still available.

1 10 Orlando Pride (via PTFC/SRFC)* – Carson Pickett – D (LB), MF (LM) – Florida State

This is the easiest pick on the board if Pickett’s still available. I still think Cami Levin’s playing right-back for this club, even when Steph Catley isn’t there. When she is, Pickett could be used as an energy player on the wing to give the club width.

2 11 Western New York Flash (ORL) – Erica Skroski – D (CB) – Rutgers

Skroski’s been a fast riser and could end up going late in the first round to one of the many teams needing a defender. If she drops to the Flash at this spot, it’s probably good value.

2 12 Washington Spirit (via BOS) – Katie Bowen – D (LB, CB), MF (LM, CM) – North Carolina

Another risky pick, especially if the Spirit take Roccaro, but it’s hard to foresee Bowen drop much further if she has even an inkling of a chance of playing on these shores. Do the Spirit need another defender? Probably not, if they take Roccaro, but Bowen can also play in the midfield in multiple roles as well and could give the side some depth there as well. In a worst case scenario, they could just stash her rights and maybe get something for them later.

2 13 Sky Blue FC – Samantha Witteman – D (RB), MF/F (RW) – Cal

SBFC need full-backs like nobody’s business, and Witteman would be by far the best left on the board at this point. She can play a winger role as well and would be a super sub early at the very least.

2 14 Western New York Flash – Cheyna Williams – F – Florida State

The Flash need forwards that can stretch the field, and Williams certainly fits that mold. The club probably need even more defenders, but it’d be hard to deny the FSU forward’s value at this point.

2 15 Orlando Pride (via FCKC/WAS/PTFC) – Mallory Weber – F/MF (AMC, RW) – Penn State

Not much defensive value at this point in the draft, meaning the Pride could load up with some attacking depth. Weber can play a variety of roles in the attack for Orlando and would bring a big winning mentality to the expansion franchise.

2 16 FC Kansas City (via WAS/PTFC/HOU) – Christen Westphal – MF (CM), D (CB) – Florida

This would be known as “falling into the right situation”. Westphal could be converted to full-back or used in the center of the park for pass happy FCKC. This could be a steal if Vlatko can make it work.

2 17 Boston Breakers (via CRS/WAS) – Cali Farquharson – F – Arizona State

Risky to say the least considering injuries, but there are few with her talent left on the board. If she’s healthy she’s an impact player.

2 18 FC Kansas City – Michaela Hahn – MF (CM) – Florida State

Can do it all in midfield. I think this is another situation where the club will be able to get a lot out of an already talented player.

2 19 Chicago Red Stars – Jannelle Flaws – F (CF) – Illinois

It’s largely Best Player Available for a Chicago side without a lot of gaping holes. They probably need a center-back more, but there’s not one worth the value at this spot. Rory Dames should know Flaws’ game well, and if she stays healthy, she’s another attacking asset.

2 20 Washington Spirit (via BOS/PTFC/BOS/SRFC) – Katie Naughton – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

Another center-back? Another Notre Dame player? Well, half right. I think Naughton has potential as a defensive midfielder, and I think the Spirit would try and convert her if they take her.

3 21 Portland Thorns FC (ORL) – Summer Green – F (CF), MF (AMC) – North Carolina

A luxury pick. Having filled gaps just about everywhere else, the Thorns can take Green and stash her rights in hopes of her getting healthy. Low risk, high reward at this point considering Portland’s wealth of riches on the roster.

3 22 Chicago Red Stars (via BOS) – Candace Johnson – D (CB) – Missouri

This would be a great team-player fit, as Johnson’s the physical defender a side like the Red Stars would make great use of. I think Johnson may end up one of this class’ best players overall when all is said and done.

3 23 Sky Blue FC – Kinley McNicoll – D (LB), MF (LM, CM) – Wisconsin

Versatility helps. International slot does not. There’s just not much left right now though in terms of quality full-backs, and SBFC may have to roll the dice with one of their remaining international slots.

3 24 Western New York Flash – Paige Nielsen – D (FB, CB) – North Carolina

Being able to play many positions helps at this point. Nielsen can probably play multiple roles on the backline, though she’s still raw at this point. If she stays on these shores, she could be a real sleeper and a boon for a WNY side that needs defenders en masse.

3 25 Seattle Reign FC (via PTFC) – Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz – D (CB) – Michigan State

We’re deep into, “I Just Don’t Know” territory now. Fiebernitz is probably the best domestic center-back option left on the board at this point. Given Harvey’s draft history, the late picks could be way from left-field.

3 26 Western New York Flash (via HOU) – Brittany Ratcliffe – F (RF), MF (RM), D (RB) – Virginia

Can play all over the park and comes from a possession style attack at Virginia, making her a good fit for Charlie Naimo’s hopes of changing the Flash’s playing ethos this season.

3 27 Chicago Red Stars (via WAS) – Georgia Kearney-Perry – D/MF (CB, FB, DMC) – Saint John’s (NY)

Red Stars need full-back cover and defensive midfield depth. Kearney-Perry does both (and can play center-back to boot). Costs an international slot, but Chicago has plenty available.

3 28 FC Kansas City – Christina Burkenroad – MF (AMC, LM), F (CF) – Cal State Fullerton

A bit of a project, but Burkenroad was super productive for a program that could pass it around a bit if so desired. Versatility definitely helps her cause.

3 29 Chicago Red Stars – Courtney Raetzman – MF (MC, WG) – Kentucky

Another with Red Stars Reserves ties. Gritty and hard-nosed but undersized. Would be an asset off the bench here.

3 30 Seattle Reign FC – Alexa Newfield – F (WG) – North Carolina

If you’re going to take a risk, take a crazy one, and Newfield would be a giant gamble with some massive upside given her injury history and talent.

4 31 Orlando Pride – McKenzie Berryhill – D (CB) – Arizona State

The Pride probably need a little more defensive cover, and there may be a chance for a little value this deep in the going.

4 32 Boston Breakers – Leah Galton – F (LF, CF) – Hofstra

Two attackers with Boston’s first two picks? Yeah, I know, but even though she’d cost an international slot at this point, I think it’d be a risk worth taking if they can convert Galton to a bit of a more withdrawn role in the attack.

4 33 Sky Blue FC – Sarah Gorden – D (CB, FB) – DePaul

You better be able to play multiple roles if you’re a final round pick type, and Gorden might be able to confidently fill a utility defender role for the Jersey side.

4 34 Washington Spirit (via WNYF) – Kailey Utley – F (RF) – West Virginia

Local-ish with some upside, which you can’t really argue with at this point of the draft.

4 35 Boston Breakers (via PTFC) – Madi Krauser – D (RB, LB) – Colorado

I’ll probably be a little disappointed if Boston doesn’t go for a full-back before this, but the value just works out this way. Krauser could potentially play on either side.

4 36 Sky Blue FC (HOU) – Lindsey Luke – GK – Utah

Luke probably has more value than this, but keepers aren’t hot commodities at these drafts unless they’re almost sure things. Luke is not, but she’s got real potential.

4 37 Washington Spirit – Britt Eckerstrom – GK – Penn State

The Spirit’s roster’s already pretty bloated as is, so I figure they’ll spring for a potential third GK option when Labbe is gone for the Olympics.

4 38 FC Kansas City – Morgan Batcheller – D (CB) – Cal State Fullerton

Call it a Titans two-for-one for FCKC, who I have taking Christina Burkenroad earlier in this mock draft. Batcheller’s still a bit raw but has a lot of upside.

4 39 Chicago Red Stars – Nicole Waters – MF (MC) – Dayton

If you’ve got those international slots, use them. Waters would probably be a lock if she were American, and she’s got the vision to help open up space for the Red Stars marauding forwards.

4 40 Seattle Reign FC – McKenzie Karas – D (CB) – Washington

Local! Helps that Karas had a great 2015 as well and that the Reign could use another defender or so.

2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ Roster Breakdown & Team Needs Chart

Boston Breakers (19)

GK – Kranich, Stout

DEF – Barczuk, Elby, Engen, Kallman, King, Lazo, Pathman, Wood

MF – Farrelly, Mewis, Salem, Schoepfer, Verdoia, Zerboni

FW – Marlborough, McCaffrey, Simon

Open International Slots – Two (Simon)

Draft Picks: Three (17, 32, 35)

In terms of sheer numbers, Boston’s better off than most of their compatriots in the league right now, and that’s a good thing, as with just three picks, they aren’t likely to get much more than impact subs from this draft.  The Breakers probably won’t mind too much though, as the last thing they needed was another avalanche of youth.  Boston probably already filled one of their biggest gaps through trades earlier in the offseason, by adding some steel and experience to a lightweight midfield.

Full-Backs – Yeesh.  They aren’t alone, but the Breakers’ wide defending situation looks ugly on paper, with replacement level players such as Julie King, Lauren Lazo, and Mollie Pathman being joined by new signing Brooke Elby.  There could be decent value with Boston’s first pick, but I’m not sure they’ll be getting a surefire starter.

Forward – The departure of Nkem Ezurike could have Boston at panic stations come the Olympics if Steph McCaffrey and Kyah Simon are both gone.  That’s not set in stone, but with the only other forward options Morgan Marlborough and Katie Schoepfer, reinforcements are needed.

Center-Back Depth – The Whitney Engen trade gave Boston’s its first-choice CB pairing, but Engen being gone in all likelihood for the Olympics means Kallman could be partnered again by either Julie King or Amy Barczuk, which isn’t exactly reassuring.  There are more pressing needs, and there could be value here in later rounds.

Dynamism in MF – Boston added grit in the middle of the park, but the only real game changer in the midfield is Kristie Mewis.  They won’t find a big hitter there in this draft, but a change of pace off the bench would be nice.

Backup GK – Boston’s season could largely ride on whether the Libby Stout signing pans out, and while she’ll be with the club all season, the club could use an upgrade on Jami Kranich, who did not inspire confidence in lieu of Alyssa Naeher last season.  The Breakers could probably grab one as an undrafted FA though. Continue reading

2016 NWSL Draft – Chris’ FINAL (Probably) Big Board

1. Emily Sonnett – D (CB), MF (MC) – Virginia

The complete, modern center-back. It’s a lazy comparison, but it’s hard to not draw parallels with fellow UVA alum Becky Sauerbrunn, as Sonnett boasts many of the same traits as the current best center-back in the world. The poise under pressure, the grace in possession, and the willingness to step up with the ball and create offensively are more than evident in Sonnett’s game, and it’s hardly a surprise she was called up to the full USWNT earlier in 2015 to kickstart her career at senior international level. The start against Brazil revealed that Sonnett still has a ways to go to be able to consistently defend top level talent like Marta, but there’s an undeniable amount of potential on display in her game. Offensively, Sonnett’s a lot better in the air than you’d expect from a libero and is definitely a threat in the box on set pieces. Could also get a look at central midfielder, but she figures to be best used at the heart of defense. Pretty much a no-brainer at #1.

2. Makenzy Doniak – F (CF) – Virginia

Far and away the best forward in this class. Makes finishing the simple and sublime look ridiculously easy. An expert in latching onto balls and passing them into the corners beyond flailing goalkeepers. Does well with playmakers who can play her into space, as once she establishes separation from defenders, she doesn’t lose it. Had to deal with some nagging injuries that limited her to eighteen starts and her fewest number of minutes since her rookie season, but still managed fourteen goals and eleven assists to finish with sixty-four goals and thirty-six assists in a spectacular UVA career. Efficiency numbers were even better than last season’s great haul, as Doniak netted fourteen on sixty-four shots and put a whopping 59.4% of her efforts on frame. More quick than explosively fast but can still find the ball with a burst of pace. I’m not sure she’ll ever be a USWNT star, but everything’s there for a lengthy and productive NWSL career.

3. Raquel Rodriguez – MF (CM) – Penn State

Costa Rican went from being a very good player to one of the nation’s very best in a season in which she not only starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup but led her Nittany Lions to a long awaited national title. Can play multiple roles in midfield from being a deep lying creator to a more advanced attacking role. Comfortable finishing from all over the attacking zone, including with her head, but has an absolute rifle for a shot from distance and isn’t afraid to use it. Does a great job of finding loose balls in the area and stabbing them home. Has the vision and passing range to serve up balls to attackers. Technical skill allows her to dribble out of pressure, while physical strength makes her viable in the air on 50/50s. Can she defend top level talent? Had no shortage of clutch performances in big games, with nine of her goals being game winners, including in the College Cup final. Should be able to compete immediately, but likely to have plenty of European suitors.

4. Katie Bowen – D (LB, CB), MF (LM, CM) – North Carolina

The Footballing Ferns’ brightest young prospect will be in high demand should she choose to stay on these shores for a professional club career. Though she seemingly saw her profile fall through the cracks a bit as UNC has struggled to maintain its previous level of greatness, Bowen has already established herself as a vital member of the senior level New Zealand WNT, which could be a bit of a liability for an NWSL club during an Olympic year. Versatility a massive asset, as she played center-back and winger in Chapel Hill and full-back and midfielder with the Ferns in international competition. Not necessarily a big producer of offense, Bowen nonetheless has had a huge impact on matches at multiple levels with her boundless energy and workrate. It’s tough to project where she’ll play at the next level, but her ability to play multiple positions effectively should make her a hot commodity. Big question is if she’ll choose to stay in the U.S. or line up for many a suitor abroad.

5. Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

Like drafting a left tackle in the NFL, Roccaro’s not going to be a flashy pick, but she’ll likely be a contributor early and for a while wherever she lands. Has played all over the park in career at youth international and collegiate level, though center-back or defensive midfield looks the likeliest roles at the next level. Was once considered this class’ top prospect and a future USWNT player, but her development has seemingly leveled off, to the point that she may already be at her ceiling. Does she have the pace to deal with explosive forwards at professional level? There are some I’ve talked to who are very wary about the answer to that question. Had a more expansive role earlier in her career, scoring eleven goals in her first two seasons but was kept on the leash more as a senior, with just two shots total. Irish never seemed to really come together as a title contender with her as one of the club’s Alpha Dogs, so I’m a little skittish. But I still believe Roccaro will be a serviceable pro and worth a first round pick for anyone needing defensive solidity.

6. Brianne Reed – D (CB) – Rutgers

It’s hard to separate Reed from her center-back partner with the Scarlet Knights, Erica Skroski, but I’m giving her the nod as being a bit better for a bit longer, though the difference isn’t huge by any means. After two nondescript seasons for the Big Ten side, Reed suddenly made an enormous leap as a junior in 2014, becoming one of the nation’s best central defenders as the Scarlet Knights began to find their identity as a contender. A ruthless tackler, to the point of recklessness at times. Has fantastic closing speed that allows her to chew up space and cut attackers off. Her play was again outstanding in 2015 as a senior, and that Reed wasn’t named an All-American despite helping anchor one of the nation’s best defenses is crazy. The biggest flag against Reed is her height, as she’s a marginal 5’5” and is going to have to be protected in some regards against the bigger forwards in the NWSL, so she’ll probably need a bigger center-back partner if she’s to flourish. But from a production standpoint, it’s hard to make a case against Reed since she’s been one of the nation’s best the past two seasons.

7. Carson Pickett – D (LB), MF (LM) – Florida State

I suspect the secret may finally be getting out by this point, but Pickett’s a special player who has been overshadowed somewhat by FSU’s phalanx of superstars for four seasons. But make no mistake, Pickett’s been part of the engine that’s made the Noles go on both offense and defense during her tenure in Tallahassee. Tallied twenty-two assists the past two seasons and has a left-foot and service that scouts should be going gaga over. Can play winger or full-back and has done both in her career with Florida State but probably grades out as being a left-back at the next level given the paucity of quality full-backs in the pros. Full-back options aren’t exactly numerous in quality in this class either, so Pickett’s value could be boosted in that regard as well. Doesn’t have as much name value as some others in this class, but I think Pickett will end up being one of this year’s best draftees in retrospect.

8. Cheyna Williams – F – Florida State

Explosive forward was one of the missing pieces of the puzzle for Florida State in their run to a first national title in 2014. Did so on solid if not spectacular efficiency numbers but really carried the mail against bigger clubs leading the line. Those numbers dipped a fair bit in Williams’ senior season as she slipped to ten goals for the Noles and needed seventy shots to do so, though her SOG % soared to 54.3%. Williams only scored three times in league play but made them all game winners, showing some clutch scoring ability. A big question is how much her stats were diluted by basically being in a time-share with Berglind Thorvalsdottir all season long. At her best, Williams is a spectacularly dynamic player who is capable of beating multiple players off the dribble en route to goal. Still, you sense that there’s more there to be brought out by a good coaching staff, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.

9. Janine Beckie – F – Texas Tech

Canadian international has given brief glimmers of hope that her nation’s life after Christine Sinclair might not be a barren experience. Consistent scoring ability got her on the international radar, and Beckie’s promptly become a likely candidate to end up on Canada’s Olympic roster should the nation qualify in February. Struggled mightily early as a senior, with just two goals in her first ten games but then exploded for twelve in her final thirteen matches of her career. Efficiency is a major concern though, as without penalties, Beckie netted just eleven goals from one hundred eleven shots as a senior on a 44.7% SOG ratio. Doesn’t have game breaking speed but does have a little burst and is a cultured finisher from almost any situation. Dual national player likely to be allocated by Canada in the future, making her a tantalizing pick for someone, though I don’t think her upside is as high as many do.

10. Rachel Daly – F (LF, CF), D (LB) – Saint John’s (NY)

English youth international was worth the wait for Saint John’s (NY), as after being forced to sit out 2012, Daly exploded onto the national scene with a stunning twenty-three goals as a sophomore to establish herself as one of the nation’s most dangerous scoring threats. It got considerably tougher as a junior though, as Daly netted just eight goals on eighty-five shots as the Red Storm underachieved. With 2015 very much a crossroads season for the Johnnies as well as Daly for her draft stock, the Brit carried her team on her back, netting nineteen goals as her side finally cashed in on some of its longstanding potential. Her efficiency numbers are still a mixed bag, though, as taking away penalties, Daly had sixteen goals on one hundred seventeen shots, or more than seven shots per goal. That may be an indicator that a move back to left-back may ultimately be in the cards for Daly, though she’ll definitely get a look in the attack somewhere. And that ‘somewhere’ is key, as it’s not certain Daly will stay in the U.S. If she does, she should come off the board in the first few rounds. Continue reading

NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #1-10

1. Emily Sonnett – D (CB), MF (MC) – Virginia

The complete, modern center-back. It’s a lazy comparison, but it’s hard to not draw parallels with fellow UVA alum Becky Sauerbrunn, as Sonnett boasts many of the same traits as the current best center-back in the world. The poise under pressure, the grace in possession, and the willingness to step up with the ball and create offensively are more than evident in Sonnett’s game, and it’s hardly a surprise she was called up to the full USWNT earlier in 2015 to kickstart her career at senior international level. The start against Brazil revealed that Sonnett still has a ways to go to be able to consistently defend top level talent like Marta, but there’s an undeniable amount of potential on display in her game. Offensively, Sonnett’s a lot better in the air than you’d expect from a libero and is definitely a threat in the box on set pieces. Could also get a look at central midfielder, but she figures to be best used at the heart of defense. Pretty much a no-brainer at #1.

2. Makenzy Doniak – F (CF) – Virginia

Far and away the best forward in this class. Makes finishing the simple and sublime look ridiculously easy. An expert in latching onto balls and passing them into the corners beyond flailing goalkeepers. Does well with playmakers who can play her into space, as once she establishes separation from defenders, she doesn’t lose it. Had to deal with some nagging injuries that limited her to eighteen starts and her fewest number of minutes since her rookie season, but still managed fourteen goals and eleven assists to finish with sixty-four goals and thirty-six assists in a spectacular UVA career. Efficiency numbers were even better than last season’s great haul, as Doniak netted fourteen on sixty-four shots and put a whopping 59.4% of her efforts on frame. More quick than explosively fast but can still find the ball with a burst of pace. I’m not sure she’ll ever be a USWNT star, but everything’s there for a lengthy and productive NWSL career.

3. Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

Like drafting a left tackle in the NFL, Roccaro’s not going to be a flashy pick, but she’ll likely be a contributor early and for a while wherever she lands. Has played all over the park in career at youth international and collegiate level, though center-back or defensive midfield looks the likeliest roles at the next level. Was once considered this class’ top prospect and a future USWNT player, but her development has seemingly leveled off, to the point that she may already be at her ceiling. Does she have the pace to deal with explosive forwards at professional level? Had a more expansive role earlier in her career, scoring eleven goals in her first two seasons but was kept on the leash more as a senior, with just two shots total. Irish never seemed to really come together as a title contender with her as one of the club’s Alpha Dogs, so I’m a little skittish. But I still believe Roccaro will be an excellent pro and definitely worth an early first round pick for anyone needing defensive solidity.

4. Raquel Rodriguez – MF (CM) – Penn State

Costa Rican went from being a very good player to one of the nation’s very best in a season in which she not only starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup but led her Nittany Lions to a long awaited national title. Can play multiple roles in midfield from being a deep lying creator to a more advanced attacking role. Comfortable finishing from all over the attacking zone, including with her head, but has an absolute rifle for a shot from distance and isn’t afraid to use it. Does a great job of finding loose balls in the area and stabbing them home. Has the vision and passing range to serve up balls to attackers. Technical skill allows her to dribble out of pressure, while physical strength makes her viable in the air on 50/50s. Can she defend top level talent? Had no shortage of clutch performances in big games, with nine of her goals being game winners, including in the College Cup final. Should be able to compete immediately, but likely to have plenty of European suitors.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #11-20

11. Cali Farquharson – F – Arizona State

Gets the award for “most valuable to her team” in 2015. Farquharson got hurt and ASU’s season went off a cliff, as the Sun Devils saw a season that began with Pac-12 title ambitions end with them out of the postseason. Limited to just fourteen matches this season by a hamstring injury, and considering she missed the postseason matches in 2014 through injury as well, there have to be some serious durability red flags here. When healthy, Farquharson can be a magician on the ball, capable of making opposing defenders look stupid with a combination of technical wizardry and athleticism. Efficiency numbers have been middling for most of her career, and this past season was no different, with nine non-penalty goals off of sixty shots to go with a 51.6% SOG mark. You sense she’s just beginning to tap into her potential as an attacker, but there’s still some serious risk given her injury history. Born in Japan, so she may have some international opportunities as well.

12. Megan Campbell – D (LB, CB) – Florida State

If Campbell commits to the NWSL, you can bump her up into the Top 5. The Seminoles defender is a dream prospect at the next level and will surely be in demand for many teams in many countries. Campbell had featured as a left-back in previous seasons for the Noles but moved to center-back this season to fill a need after Kristin Grubka’s graduation and fit in quite nicely. The Irish international has more than held her own in defending some of the most dangerous attacking talent in the college soccer ranks the past three seasons even as she’s missed time for international duty and through injury, which plagued her this past season. Of course, Campbell is perhaps best known for her rocket launcher like long throws, which have contributed to no shortage of assists in her career at multiple levels. A lot better in the air than you’d expect a former full-back to be. Versatility is a gigantic asset for potential suitors. It’s just a matter of what continent she chooses to continue her career on.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #21-30

21. Summer Green – F (CF), MF (AMC) – North Carolina

Might be one of the most confounding players of the past decade. Made her mark by scoring twelve goals in the U17 WC qualifying tournament in 2012, which may not have been to her benefit in the long run, as she’s endured a star-crossed career ever since. Appeared to be on the cusp of something special after a combined sixteen goals and fourteen assists in her first two seasons but went off the boil before the 2014 season. Netted seven goals as a senior but just two in ten ACC games and has struggled with lackluster efficiency numbers her entire career. Capable of the spectacular both in a scoring sense and in a creative sense, setting up her teammates. Tore her ACL against Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament and probably wouldn’t be ready until the second half of this season and has some durability red flags beyond just this injury. If she puts her name in the hat, someone will surely take her to have her rights and potentially see if she can meet her one-time potential.

22. Rebecca Wilson – F – Cal State Fullerton

Made The Leap from being a very good player to being one of the nation’s best senior forwards after an incredible 2015 for the Titans. Combined with Christina Burkenroad to form one of the nation’s deadliest attacking duos, ending up with an astonishing nineteen goals and ten assists on the season for the Big West season. It remains to be seen if the duo can function without that offensive chemistry, but it’s tough betting against the Californian after that senior season. Taking away penalties, Wilson scored once every 4.38 shots, a blistering number considering her usage rate. Add in a staggering 58.0% SOG ratio, and it’s easy to see why Wilson could be this draft’s real sleeper. Also displayed clutch scoring ability with ten match winning goals this year. Could be this year’s offensive gem from the middle rounds.
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