NWSL – 2014 Draft Review – WNY Flash – Versatility & Value

Considering they won the regular season title and got to the final last season, that Western New York has been mostly silent in the offseason has not been a surprise. The Flash’s draft strategy was pretty calculated, with the club opting for versatile prospects with three of their picks, including their first two. They also filled a big need with Kelsey Wys filling the vacant backup goalkeeper role and grabbed a nice value pick in taking Kristen Hamilton with the draft’s final selection. The Flash had a killer first XI last season, but some of their bench depth left a little to be desired, making the club’s solid draft notable in filling out the club with some quality depth.

They opted for a scalpel (Verloo) and a sledgehammer (Colohan) with their first two picks, and the Flash will be happy with both able to play multiple positions considering they’ll likely need to shuffle more than once this season with many USWNT friendlies scheduled throughout the NWSL season. In all honesty though, the best chance for a rookie to break into the starting lineup may be the club’s last pick, Kristen Hamilton. The Flash struggled to find consistent offensive options off the bench last season, and the Denver forward may well get an early chance to make the club look smart for taking a flyer on her late.

9 – Courtney Verloo – F/D – Stanford

Look through Western New York’s draft, and you find a whole lot of interchangeable pieces that can play multiple positions, including the talented Verloo with the club’s first pick. She’s a player that may have slipped from the forefront of many’s minds this season as Stanford struggled by their standards but was one of the few seemingly sure things the Card could rely on this year. She’s not going to be an out and out center forward for the Flash, but they’ve got Abby Wambach for that. Instead, if Verloo stays on offense, she’s probably going to be on the wing, using her skill on the ball to set up some of her teammates or win set piece opportunities. Verloo’s a dead shot from set pieces, including free kicks, and that could be where she makes her mark offensively as a rookie. There’s also the possibility Verloo moves back to the backline, where she played so effectively for Stanford for one season. A center-back pairing with Brittany Taylor might give the club one of the best ball playing central defense combos in recent memory. Durability might be a factor, as she missed an entire season earlier in her college career, though she also has held up well since. It wasn’t the flashiest pick, but it could be one of the most immediately effective ones for the Flash.

14 – Cloee Colohan – MF/D – BYU

The Flash probably needed some cover for Angela Salem in the midfield other than Amy Barczuk and got it in the form of Colohan, a take-no-prisoners midfielder whose crunching tackles have become a familiar sight on South Field in Provo the past three years. Nobody’s about to confuse Colohan with a #10, as she’s a pure destroyer who probably fits in better as a lone holder in a 4-3-3 despite having played extensively in the 4-2-3-1 with BYU. Though she scored goals for the Cougars, many came off of dead balls, specifically on free kicks. She’s certainly talented in that respect, but Colohan doesn’t make great decisions on the ball, making some head scratching decisions when given the time and space to go forward. That time and space figures to be in short supply at this level anyway, meaning Colohan’s likely going to be a defensive midfielder, plain and simple. If her decision making becomes a liability though, it would hardly be a shock to see her moved back to center-back, where her strength and attitude would make her another promising figure in an underrated backline.

18 – Kelsey Wys – GK – Florida State

Benefitting from a lack of Aubrey Bledsoe and Erica Owens in this draft, Kelsey Wys saw her stock rise to a massive degree as the sides without a backup goalkeeper engaged in a game of chicken to see who would get this class’ top netminder and the only one without a litany of questions attached to her name. Not that Wys isn’t without her flaws. The Seminoles keeper struggled in the biggest matches earlier in her career and still struggles with high crosses, especially on corners, wrinkles that have to be ironed out if she’s to become a top keeper at professional level. But her nerves seemed steadier in this year’s College Cup at least, and there’s still plenty to like about the FSU keeper. She’s a super shot stopper, with her reflexes bailing FSU out on the rare occasion the backline was breached. She also has a cannon of a leg, which should work well given the numerous big targets for WNY to aim for on punts and goal kicks. With AD Franch firmly entrenched as the Flash’s #1, there isn’t going to be any immediate pressure on Wys to come in and be a savior in goal. The Flash did well to aggressively target a big need coming into this draft and now have a one-two punch of some of the league’s most promising young goalkeepers.

27 – Annie Steinlage – MF/D – Virginia

I’m sensing a trend. Yet another WNY Flash draftee who could easily play multiple positions for the club after a strong college career. Steinlage gambled with a transfer to Virginia after her junior season with Michigan State and ended up a big winner, boosting her stock to the point that she ended up a third round draft pick in a loaded draft class. A center-back with the Spartans, Steinlage was perhaps expected to fill a similar role with Virginia as a senior but instead turned into a rock solid defensive midfielder for the Cavs, likely increasing her draft stock even further as her versatility was showcased. In midfield, Steinlage’s more likely to be a more connective option than fellow draftee Cloee Colohan, an out-and-out destroyer. Of course, she’s also adept as a center-back, and her skills on the ball, no doubt honed by her time at UVA, could make her an intriguing option if the club needs it in central defense. More than likely though, if Steinlage makes the cut in Rochester, she’ll be a valuable reserve, whose versatility will likely be what makes her stick early in her professional career.

36 – Kristen Hamilton – F – Denver

The last time a player from Denver was a final pick in a rookie draft, it worked out pretty well, with Taryn Hemmings playing a key role in both Boston and Chicago thus far. It’d be foolish to rule out Hamilton from making a similar impact, with the Pioneer forward having been a nigh-unstoppable force at mid-major level for the better part of four seasons. A two-time All-American who may have had her finest hour in 2012 as a junior with a hat trick against Portland at Merlo Field. Hamilton’s goal record against RPI Top 50 and Top 100 teams probably doesn’t compare with some of the big names in this class, but she also didn’t have as many opportunities playing in an understrength league. Regardless, Hamilton’s usage numbers were still very good at under five shots per goal and over sixty percent shots on target. The Colorado native is still a little slight of frame at 5’3″, but there’s still plenty of room for the rookie to make her mark as an attacking presence off the bench early, making her potentially one of the steals of the draft.

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