FC Kansas City’s been portrayed as one of the unequivocal winners of this year’s draft, though I have some degree of doubt. I think the Midwest club needed to add a full-back to the mix after Kristen Mewis’ departure, but the team instead opted to add almost exclusively to the midfield and frontline. At this point, I’m not sure who lines up opposite Leigh Ann Robinson out wide for FCKC, though Merritt Mathias seems likeliest after playing there briefly last season. She seems like little more than a stopgap measure as a full-back though, and that FCKC didn’t at least take a flyer on a full-back in the draft was a bit odd.
The other question that seems to be pressing is how the club is going to line up in defense now with three quality center-backs after drafting Kassey Kallman in the opening round. It wasn’t exactly a shock from a value standpoint, but it’s hard to argue FCKC needed another center-back with the rock solid Becky Sauerbrunn and Nikki Krzysik. Sauerbrunn looks likeliest to move, either out to full-back or up top defensive midfield to replace Desiree Scott. Regardless, the defense still looks a bit thin in depth, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team adds another defender before Opening Day.
The club used its final five picks to add midfielders and forwards. That’s great in concept, but we’ll see in terms of execution. I don’t really think this club was lacking in the firepower department when you consider the goals of Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak. I’d expect Mandy Laddish and Jenna Richmond to play more defensive roles in the midfield, though both are versatile to play further forward as well. Finding a consistent forward to lead the line after last season will be key, and there certainly isn’t going to be a lack of options.
5 – Kassey Kallman – D – Florida State
From a value standpoint, I completely understand, as there was a drop off from #5 to #6 on my Big Board, with Kallman worth it in that respect. On the other hand, I’d argue that FC Kansas City didn’t exactly need another center-back (despite the bizarre cries of seemingly half the WoSo sphere), with Becky Sauerbrunn and Nikki Krzysik combining to form an exemplary duo in the middle. The question is what the club does now having drafted Kallman. 3-5-2 is the easy but perhaps not necessarily practical solution given the team’s style. In all likelihood, I’d expect Sauerbrunn to move to full-back or into defensive midfield to play the double pivot besides Jen Buczkowski. Kallman’s a center-back through and through, and this class’ best by a mile. She has size and athleticism and made life a nightmare for whichever forward she was tasked to stop while leading the Florida State defense. Her improvement in the past few seasons has been remarkable. It’s now just a matter of finding a way to compose the best XI with her in it.
12 – Morgan Marlborough – F – Santa Clara
There was some sentiment that FC Kansas City may have looked towards picking Marlborough in the first round given her local ties, which I always felt was ludicrous coming out of this season, which was not the best for the SCU forward’s draft stock. Perhaps rust played a factor after Marlborough was forced to sit out the 2012 season after transferring from Nebraska, where she had been a scoring machine for a perennially underachieving Huskers side. She found decidedly more mixed fortunes this season for the WCC side, putting up some impressive usage rates with less than five shots per goal and a near sixty percent shot on goal rate. On the other hand, Marlborough’s failings against top opposition were all too apparent, with just two goals against RPI Top 50 teams, with one of those coming from the spot. She disappeared against some top foes and was guilty of missing some gilt edged chances against others later in the season. Yet for all that, Marlborough is still a punishing player with the ball at her feet and will make anyone that stands off her pay dearly. How she fits in with FC Kansas City’s short passing game is anybody’s guess, as she’s clearly the ‘1’ in the 4-2-3-1. She has the size and strength to be a prototypical target forward, but some may question how much of a cutting edge she really possesses in front of goal.
16 – Jenna Richmond – MF – UCLA
For sheer talent, Richmond’s ranking probably represents her draft status on Friday. The UCLA midfielder was a key cog in the Bruins’ wealth of riches in the middle of the park this season, leading the club to the national title. Somewhat like Sarah Killion alongside her in Westwood, Richmond’s a bit of an all-rounder, capable of doing it all in the middle of the park, though the senior is a bit more of an offensive threat than her highly touted teammate. Richmond’s never going to set box scores on fire, finishing with just twelve goals in four years, though she had three this year and five assists for the Bruin cause. For a club that has shown how much it values central midfielders, Richmond could be another ace in the hole for FCKC. Given her lack of scoring nous, you wonder if FC Kansas City hasn’t planned on giving Richmond a shot as one of their deeper midfielders alongside Jen Buczkowski. Richmond’s a much different option than the departed Desiree Scott, but it could be an indicator of a more aggressive mindset if she does end up starting. The big question is Richmond’s health long-term. Richmond has gone through two ACL tears in 2008 and 2010, though the past three seasons have been fine. If she can stay healthy and is up to it physically after those knee injuries, FCKC could have another midfield gem.
19 – Frances Silva – F – West Virginia
The first of a run of local players to finish out the draft for FCKC, but certainly not an unmerited pick on value given Silva’s showing this season for West Virginia. She was prone to scoring against the big teams as a senior, netting a whopping six goals against RPI Top 50 teams this season, just one behind such luminaries as Crystal Dunn and Maya Hayes. The other usage numbers for Silva weren’t quite as rosy, with her shots per goal mark above 6.0 while not putting forty-five percent of her efforts on target. Both numbers need improvement if Silva’s to thrive as a professional, though she’s not going to be leaned on to carry the team offensively given FCKC’s returning weapons. Silva’s a force to be reckoned with on free kicks and is adept at operating on the flanks, having played on the right for West Virginia this season before Kate Schwindel’s injury forced her to be more of the main attacking threat. She could fill a similar role in the attacking midfield band of three for FCKC this season, though Silva also might fill a utility attacker role while she acclimates to this level.
20 – Mandy Laddish – MF – Notre Dame
One of the less publicized members of the U.S. U20 World Cup winning team of 2012, Laddish probably lasted a few picks longer than I expected her to given her winning pedigree. I think the worries with Laddish might be that she’s hit her ceiling developmentally. Laddish came into Notre Dame and immediately looked like one of the nation’s most promising rookies after being a key cog in the Irish’s national title winning team. Since then, Laddish has been very good but never really turned into the superstar that some might have anticipated. Laddish has a powerful shot from range and the versatility to play in either an attacking or defensive midfield role. Laddish has never been a scoring dynamo at college level but has usually been good for a handful of assists, including five as a senior. I think she’ll be auditioned as a candidate at defensive midfielder given her lack of a cutting edge in front of goal, but she might yet make her mark as a utility midfielder off the bench.
35 – Maegan Kelly – F/MF – Marquette
For the club that seemingly has everything offensively…another offensive player. This pick isn’t exactly a surprise, considering Kelly’s not just a local but also the sister of current FCKC member Katie Kelly. Where she fits in here exactly is a good question. The club already took two out and out attackers in Marlborough and Silva, along with two jack-of-all-trade midfielders who could play either in the attacking or defensive band of the 4-2-3-1. I’m not sure Kelly’s prolific enough in front of goal to be any club’s bell cow in attack, but she did show a great sense of the moment, scoring five goals against RPI Top 50 teams and eight goals against RPI Top 100 opponents. Her usage stats weren’t anything special as a senior though, with bad shots to goal ratio and shot on goal percentage likely shattering any illusions that Kelly’s going to be a top scorer in the league. At the same time, Kelly does have a way with passes and might end up being a playmaker off the bench early on. Still, it’s a crowded field in FCKC’s attack, and she’s not a certainty to make this roster.