1 – Houston – Morgan Brian – MF (AMC) – Virginia
There’s already been a lot of column inches devoted to Brian, so let’s try to keep this as brief as possible. The Dash badly needed some invention and teeth in the midfield going forward and got it with the trade for Carli Lloyd and the pick of Brian in the draft. The combo of Lloyd and Brian together should be one of the best attacking midfield duos in the league, though one wonders if it’s too attacking for its own good. The Dash are going to need great defensive midfield play to balance things out considering Lloyd and Brian are going to be bombing forward as much as possible. There’s also the worry of the pair being gone for the WWC, which could create problems, but in the long-term, Brian could be the foundation upon which a contending Dash team is built.
2 – Sky Blue FC – Sarah Killion – MF (DMC, MC, AMC) – UCLA
Any doubts as to whether SBFC was going to take a central midfielder pretty much disappeared mid-week when the club lost Sophie Schmidt, who is stepping away to prepare for the Women’s World Cup with Canada. Having traded away Ashley Nick as well, the club was desperate for a little more steel in the midfield to complement the passing and creativity of Katy Freels. Killion is capable of that and so much more as this draft’s most complete and well-rounded midfielder. I doubt she’ll be fulfilling primary creative duties, but Killion should function well as a link between defense and attack while shielding the back four as well. Who completes the midfield trio in Jersey will likely determine just how defensive Killion gets this year.
3 – WNY Flash – Abby Dahlkemper – D (CB) – UCLA
With the Flash having dispensed with almost all of their starting backline from last season, the club needed defensive reinforcements in the worst way. Dahlkemper certainly fits the bill for a quality acquisition, the UCLA center-back having concluded a dominant college career this season, with no end of personal plaudits to her name. A fantastic blend of pace, power, and defensive instincts, Dahlkemper should combine right away with Whitney Engen to form a strong center-back partnership. This pick likely means Brittany Taylor moves to full-back. At least when Engen isn’t away with the USWNT.
4 – WNY Flash – Sam Mewis – MF (AMC) – UCLA
Things worked out pretty well for the Flash, who needed a playmaker in the midfield in the worst way after trading away Carli Lloyd to beef up the spine of the club. Getting Mewis, a potential #1 pick in some other years, here is great value, though the club may also be a bit wary with her in the frame for a possible USWNT call-up for the WWC. Consistency has also been an issue in the past with Mewis, but her senior season showed how dangerous she can be both in front of goal and in setting up her teammates when everything’s clicking. With few other offensive midfield options right now, Mewis should get every chance to make her mark right away in Rochester.
5 – Boston (from Chicago) – Stephanie McCaffrey – F (CF) – Boston College
Reach. McCaffrey had been flying up draft boards the past month after her call-up to the U.S. U23 team and subsequent move up to the USWNT camp right after. But while that helped distinguish her from some of her forward rivals in this class, you have to wonder if the hype train moved a little to fast on a forward who scored just six times this season on fifty-nine shots. McCaffrey’s been able to make many of her attacking teammates more effective the past few seasons, but it’s come at a significant cost to her own numbers.
6 – WNY Flash – Lynn Williams – F (CF) – Pepperdine
It’s not like the Flash had many areas where they didn’t need new blood, but forward is certainly amongst the top of the priority list. With the only ones on the roster going into this draft being Abby Wambach, slowing down and gone for the WWC, and Jasmyne Spencer, grabbing a forward early was a big priority for the club. Williams should be familiar to Charlie Naimo, having played (briefly) for the LA Blues this past Summer before delivering another strong season for Pepperdine in the Fall. Williams possesses fantastic pace and a nose for goal in big moments, as evidenced by her dragging Pepperdine to new heights in her four years with the school. She is a bit of a gunner, taking a lot of shots compared to goals scored, but she’ll also have more options at this level, meaning she can perhaps tame that tendency. The Flash needed pace to replace the departed Sam Kerr and should have it with Williams.
7 – WNY Flash – Jaelene Hinkle – D (LB) – Texas Tech
It was basically neck and neck between Hinkle and Arin Gilliland as to who would be the first full-back off the board, and the Flash opt for the Red Raider with their fourth and final first round pick. Hinkle is used to attacking with aplomb up the flank, having played often in college in a 4-2-2-2 demanding width from the full-backs. Hinkle was more than happy to oblige as she stormed up the flank to cause no end of problems for opposing defenses. Hinkle’s borderline as far as size is concerned at 5’4″, but the Red Raider has too many other positives to overlook in the end. Left-back was a revolving door for WNY last season, and Hinkle should be able to shut that door if she can make the leap to this level confidently.
8 – Chicago – Arin Gilliland – D (LB) – Kentucky
With Taryn Hemmings likely moving central when the WWC hits and robs Chicago of its top two center-back options, Chicago was always going to need a left-back with sparse options. With this being the best class for left-backs, maybe ever, in a college draft, the Red Stars will happily add Gilliland to their ranks. With optimal athleticism and size, Gilliland can outmuscle smaller opponents and outrun bigger ones. While Gilliland played in the attack earlier in her career, she switched back to left-back and helped lead Kentucky to its best ever finish, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Leadership ability and intangibles are a big plus, and Gilliland should become a crowd favorite in Chicago in short order.
9 – Chicago (from Boston) – Danielle Colaprico – MF (RM, AMC, LM), FW (WF) – Virginia
Versatility is king as you start making your way down the order, and nobody’s going to argue that Colaprico didn’t show her versatility this season for Virginia, playing all four midfield positions in the club’s 4-4-2 diamond. She probably won’t be playing a defensive midfield role for the Red Stars, but she could line up anywhere else in midfield as needed, or even as a winger, where her variety of service should hold her in good stead. It’ll be interesting to see how well Colaprico, a product of Virginia’s slick passing system holds up stylistically with the Red Stars, traditionally a physical and direct side under Rory Dames.