NWSL – 2014 Draft Review – Sky Blue FC – How Many Young Defenders Does A Team Need?

Sky Blue FC’s draft seemed pretty normal for about one round, when they made the obvious pick to add Maya Hayes to their frontline, a unit riddled with questions coming into the new season. The frontline still isn’t exactly the most consistent or reliable group of forwards, but the additions of rookies Jonelle Filigno and Hayes should at least provide some more options. Kelley O’Hara’s return to health would also be much appreciated for the sake of the club’s firepower.

After that pick though, things went notedly haywire. Coming into the draft with just four recognized central midfielders (although, I guess you could call it five with Madeleine Thompson able to function as a defensive midfielder), SBFC promptly added two defenders and a player in Elizabeth Eddy who seems like she’ll either be a full-back or a wide forward for the club. Eddy and Haagsma both had undrafted grades on my draft board, and I think the club really reached for both, especially considering defense wasn’t exactly a top priority coming into this draft. The club already had tons of young defensive talent that was acquire last season, including CoCo Goodson, Kendall Johnson, Caitlin Foord, and Lindsi Cutshall. Realistically, SBFC needed to add more veterans to that young backline, not more rookies. Given the club’s shaky draft from last season, with Kendall Johnson the only player finishing the season as a major contribution, this set of draftees may not have set minds at ease.

Worse, the team didn’t seem to really address its lack of depth in central midfield. Unless Gabarra’s going to be juggling some of his personnel to fill the gaps there, the team still looks short-staffed behind a very competent starting unit. For a club that wheezed over the line as fatigue and injuries took their toll late last year, it might be a mistake that comes back to haunt them.

6 – Maya Hayes – F – Penn State

Another pick that was pretty easy to figure out once all the chips fell the way they were expected to. Though there’s been conflicting reports as to the availability of Australian internationals at the beginning of the season before the AFC Cup/World Cup Qualifiers, SBFC needed some more heft in the attack anyway. Jim Gabarra’s side lost Danesha Adams in the expansion draft, and Kelley O’Hara still has it all to prove after an injury hit 2013, meaning the team needed someone to help out Lisa De Vanna and Monica Ocampo in the attack. Hayes probably isn’t the big, burly forward that would balance the frontline out, but she is this class’ best pure scoring option after lighting up the collegiate ranks the past three seasons. Her first step is explosive, and she seldom loses a footrace if she’s got space between herself and a defender. Hayes crushed big schools and small schools alike, but the Penn State star has to get stronger to deal with the bigger center forwards at this level. It remains to be seen how she’ll fit into the puzzle with SBFC’s existing forwards, but she and De Vanna could give the Jersey side the league’s fastest one-two punch.

15 – Hayley Haagsma – D – Texas Tech

Huh? I didn’t have Haagsma anywhere close to being drafted, much less being a second round pick. The serious knee injury she suffered as a rookie in 20120 is already a pretty notable strike against her given the league’s draconian injury rules, though she’s stayed relatively healthy since. Even so, Haagsma had done little to distinguish herself in seasons since, staying in the starting lineup for two seasons before 2013 but playing in midfield. She made the move to center-back and did well for herself, but I’m not sure anyone outside of Lubbock would have tipped her as the cream of the crop defensively in the Big XII. Hell, I’m not sure Haagsma was even the second best defender on TTU behind Jaelene Hinkle and Kansas Bayly. Haagsma’s not bad in the air for someone who’s 5’7″, but I think the Red Raiders’ defensive statistics on the whole were grossly inflated by the level of some of the competition they played. The two goals they conceded against Texas A&M, which could have been much more, was perhaps a red flag for any suitors for Tech’s defensive players. More to the point, where exactly was the need for center-backs? SBFC already has CoCo Goodson, Christie Rampone, Lindsi Cutshall, and Madeleine Thompson at the position. They needed full-backs if anyone on defense, in addition to midfield depth. Given all of the above, this looks like a serious reach.

24 – Michelle Pao – D – Pepperdine

Well, I don’t think anyone can argue about the value in getting one of the class’ best full-backs towards the end of the third round. But really, did anybody come into this draft saying SBFC needed more full-backs? Or defenders for that matter? With Kendall Johnson, Caitlin Foord, Kelley O’Hara, and perhaps even Lindsi Cutshall, SBFC would appear to be solid two deep at both full-back positions. Which makes this an odd pick unless the club has plans to move Caitlin Foord into a more attacking role. Of course, SBFC isn’t exactly short on attacking options now either having taken Maya Hayes and having been allocated Jonelle Filigno. Add in the return to health of Kelley O’Hara if she is played up front, and SBFC is flush with offensive options as well. Pao’s an excellent right-back who isn’t afraid of barreling forward and could play a little further up in an emergency, but she also isn’t in Foord’s class and looks like a reserve option at best for SBFC right now.

33 – Elizabeth Eddy – D/F – USC

What, did Jim Gabarra stop paying attention after 2010? Eddy was a highly sought after youth player who had been a part of U17 and U20 World Cup teams but who never really developed into much with the Trojans, which was pretty much the theme at USC for the past few seasons. She did net a hat trick against Cal as a freshman but then ended up scoring just thirteen more goals the rest of her USC career. A jack of all trades but master of none, Eddy bounced around like a superball in Los Angeles, playing all over the pitch, including on defense as a junior in 2012. She’s definitely not going to be a prime source of goals at this level, with a shots per goal ratio north of eight for her career and over six as a senior. She’s got boundless energy and workrate, but that’s not going to be enough by itself to stick at this level. Her best bet to hang around is to establish herself as a utility player that can fill in in multiple positions, but even so, I’m still dubious about her odds of making it.

2 thoughts on “NWSL – 2014 Draft Review – Sky Blue FC – How Many Young Defenders Does A Team Need?

  1. kernel thai

    Id be very surprised to see KO playing up front this year. Theyd be better off moving Foord up front. She’s been playing front line for Sydney and with her on the right, DeVanna on the left and Hayes in the middle cleaning up the rebounds, theyd have the fastest line in the league.

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    1. Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

      They will probably want to stick with Ocampo in at center forward, since she had a great goal scoring rate last season (still a mystery how she got less playing time than Adams). They will have a lot of speed on both wings next year.
      Based off the draft and last year’s roster selections, Gabarra must not be pleased with Cutshall or Thompson. While Gabarra does needs to reduce Rampone’s minutes, it still doesn’t justify these post-first round selections, as there were better players available and a need for midfield depth.

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