2017 NWSL Draft – Team Needs (Part One)

Boston Breakers

Picks – 1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 31, 38

Signed (16)

GK – Smith, Stout

DEF – Elby, Strom, Westphal, Oyster, Chapman, King

MF – Ratcliffe, Salem, DaCosta, White, Verdoia

FW – Dowie, Simon, Haavi


DEF – Engen

The Breakers have seven picks overall, including five of the first eleven, and they’re going to need them to pan out considering the state of the roster. Boston finished dead last in goals scored and goals allowed, with the defense seventeen goals worse than the next leakiest defense. Manager Matt Beard has engaged in a clearout in the offseason while also trying to bring in some international talent to fortify the ranks, but the draft is a clear focus for the club in restocking the reserves of talent in Boston.

In goal, Abby Smith is the presumptive #1 after impressing in brief action last season before a serious injury ended her rookie season. Smith’s health is obviously going to dictate Boston’s course of action, but it’s difficult envisioning them spending one of their earlier picks on a netminder given the holes elsewhere. Libby Stout is the likely backup and saw extended minutes here last season, but the Breakers can probably do better and may choose to use one of their final picks on some competition for the backup spot.

Defense has to be a clear priority after the horror show on the backline last year. With Mollie Pathman retired and Kassey Kallman shipped to Washington, the rebuilding effort’s already well under way, though the talent on hand doesn’t exactly foster confidence at first glance. Megan Oyster arrived in the trade with Kallman and is likely being looked at to start at center-back after falling out of favor in D.C. in her second season. Who partners her is a good question, with veteran Julie King a likely option right now. Whitney Engen would obviously slide into that second center-back spot if she re-signs here, which certainly is not guaranteed right now. It would be a surprise if the Breakers don’t use one of their early picks on a central defender.

If the club does get Engen back, King likely starts at right-back with newly acquired Allysha Chapman the likely starter at left-back. Depth here isn’t great though, so the Breakers might need to reach a bit to bring in someone that can compete for minutes on the flanks.

Boston will likely be looking to use it’s top pick on an attacking midfielder after Kristie Mewis was sent to the Spirit via trade in the offseason. The team is missing a noted attacking spark in the center of the park, even after the additions of Amanda Da Costa and Rosie White. Again, depth is an issue here, even if Angela Salem starts against as a defensive midfielder.

The Breakers look to be set at forward. Natasha Dowie looked an inspired signing upon joining the team last season, while Kyah Simon should also push for starting minutes despite being goal shy in 2016 for the club. Big things are expected of new recruit Emilie Haavi out of Norway, though how many games Beard gets out of her this season with UEFA EURO 2017 pending is a question. It doesn’t seem too likely Boston spends a first-rounder on a forward though.

Biggest Needs: AM, CB (especially if Engen doesn’t re-sign), general depth everywhere, backup GK competition

Chicago Red Stars

Picks – 12, 16, 21, 28, 39

Signed (19)

GK – Dalton, Naeher

DEF – Gilliland, Gorden, Johnson, Johnston, Naughton, Short

MF – Colaprico, Comeau, DiBernardo, Luba, Mautz, Raetzman

FW – Hoy, Huerta, McCaffrey, Press, Walls


FW – Green

There’s not too much to discuss in terms of Chicago’s offseason to this point. The Red Stars traded Amanda Da Costa to Boston and acquired the rights to Summer Green from Seattle, but, for better or worse, there’s really been little else to note for the third-placed side of 2016.

The club looks set in goal. Alyssa Naeher is one of the league’s best, while Michele Dalton is an experienced set of hands to back her up. It’s difficult envisioning Chicago taking a keeper with any of their picks, save the last one, and anyone brought in will likely just be competing for a reserve slot.

Defensively, Chicago has one of the league’s strongest backlines overall. The club looks set on the flanks, with Casey Short and Arin Gilliland forming one of the league’s best full-back duos. Depth out wide might be worth pursuing with one of the club’s later picks. Centrally, the Red Stars boast Julie Johnston, who should be an anchor here for years to come. Finding a reliable partner for the former Santa Clara player should be a priority. Chicago used one of their top picks on Katie Naughton last year, and while she and Samantha Johnson were serviceable at center-back, neither looks like a star in the making, though the Red Stars may not find such a star in this draft by the time they make their first pick.

In midfield, Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo are locks. Both are amongst the very best young midfielders in the league and form a strong spine for the Red Stars for the foreseeable future. Finding that third link in the middle of the park is a high priority for the club though. Both Alyssa Mautz and Taylor Comeau saw major minutes last season but aren’t at Colaprico and DiBernardo’s level. Depth here could also be improved just a bit.

There’s not really a need to boost the forward ranks given the current roster. Christen Press remains a deadly striker, while Sofia Huerta netted seven goals herself. How the club integrates Stephanie McCaffrey over the course of a full season will be a storyline worth watching and could ultimately make Jen Hoy expendable, though she’s one of the better options off the bench in the league right now. It’s hard seeing any draft pick seeing major minutes up front barring injury in 2017.

Biggest Needs: Third MF, CB, FB depth, MF depth

FC Kansas City

Picks – 5, 13, 17, 25, 35

Signed (14)

GK – Barnhart, Parkhill

DEF – Arlitt, Bowen, Reed, Sauerbrunn, Taylor

MF – Labonta, Laddish, Newfield, Scott, Tymrak

FW – Rodriguez, Leroux


DEF – Averbuch

MF – O’Reilly

FW – Groom, McCarty, Kastor

FCKC’s biggest additions aren’t going to come through the draft but rather through returns from maternity leave. Second low scorers in the league last season, the Kansas City club are going to be happy to welcome back Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux to the fold if all goes according to plan. Rodriguez certainly looks like a lock to be back, as she’s already returned to USWNT camp this month, but one wonders if she’ll be able to hit the ground running and be the force up front she was during the club’s title runs. Leroux’s a bigger question for multiple reasons, but if she’s on form, she could form a great one-two punch with the aforementioned Rodriguez.

The big question is how FCKC will fortify the rest of the squad which sunk into mid-table in 2016. In goal, Nicole Barnhart remains ageless and continues on for her fifth season as the club’s #1, but there are major questions behind her. At thirty-five, the clock is ticking on the former USWNT member, and the club doesn’t have a developmental backup in sight after trading Katelyn Rowland away last season. Cat Parkhill is not the answer as a backup, and if either Jane Campbell or Kailen Sheridan or on the board in round two, they might be appealing targets for the two-time league champs.

The backline was probably less of a concern than anticipated, conceding the second fewest goals in the league despite undergoing a major makeover heading into 2016. Becky Sauerbrunn remains her brilliant self, but the club is probably still going to be in the market for a center-back partner going into 2017. Yael Averbuch fulfilled the role admirably last season but is out of contract and not guaranteed to return, with depth here negligible.

Katie Bowen looks like a fixture for the present and future at left-back, while Brittany Taylor continues to hum along at right-back, though the veteran is getting up in years and may be needed to fill in at center-back if Averbuch doesn’t return or if the club doesn’t find another central defender to partner Sauerbrunn. In that case, FCKC might also be in need of a right-back to challenge Bri Reed and Alex Arlitt for a starting role.

Questions abound in attack with a lot of players out of contract and with Frances Silva having retired. Desiree Scott and Mandy Laddish form a fantastic defensive band of midfielders, but who runs the point in midfield is going to be a key question, with Erika Tymrak drifting in and out of favor. Using the club’s first-round pick on a playmaker might be an indicator that the former Florida Gator’s days as a key player in midfield might be numbered. FCKC might be in the market for wingers as well if Heather O’Reilly does not return to the fold.

The other big contract question is with Shea Groom, who netted eight goals last season in a breakout campaign. She’s a spiky character but one with real talent who is a nice insurance policy in case Rodriguez and/or Leroux doesn’t return to form. If Groom doesn’t re-sign, a forward has to be near the top of the priority list considering this class’ strength in that position and the age of the club’s returning duo.

Then again, depth in attack and midfield are going to be high priorities anyway with just fourteen players under contract as of the writing of this article. FCKC have been quiet in the offseason, understandable given the pending sale of the club, but the draft could offer up an opportunity to start the push towards a return to the playoffs for the former champs.

Biggest Needs: CB, AM, Developmental GK, RB, WG, FW (Bump this up if Groom does not re-sign)

Houston Dash

Picks – 15, 33

Signed (18)

GK – Williams

DEF – Moros, Poliana, Privett, Roccaro, Bruna, Van Wyk

MF – Brian, Brooks, Heap, Lloyd, O’Sullivan, Andressa

FW – Beckie, Daly, Henderson, Ohai, Ubogagu


GK – Henninger

DEF – Ochs

The Dash bet big to win last season, which included gutting this season’s cache of draft picks, and it didn’t exactly work, with the club sliding back to eighth in the final table. Despite the disappointing season, the Dash don’t look too awful on paper and could have one of the league’s most robust attacks provided everyone is on form and whether manager Randy Waldrum can apportion minutes to an attack-heavy roster.

Lydia Williams has solidified her position as the club’s #1 and figures to take the same role this season for the Dash. The big question is whether they’ll need a backup with Bianca Henninger currently out of contract. If Henninger doesn’t return, the Dash may target a keeper with their second pick of this draft. If she does, Houston should be set here.

Defense is the big worry for Houston after the club finished in the bottom half of the goals allowed table in 2016. It’s not exactly a surprise then that the club has decided to move on from Canadian Allysha Chapman, who was traded to Boston, and Australian Ellie Brush, who was not retained after a frustrating season. The Dash have signed a brand new pair of center-backs in the offseason, bringing in the experienced Brazilian Bruna as well as South African Janine Van Wyk to compete for starting roles. Cami Privett was shoehorned into a role in central defense last season and should also challenge for minutes, along with last year’s draftee, Cari Roccaro. The Dash have quantity, though I’m not sure they’ve got quality in central defense, but I doubt they’ll be able to improve that situation picking at #15 in this draft.

With Chapman gone, the Dash need full-back depth. Rebecca Moros and Poliana both started here last season and both return, but there’s pretty much nothing behind them at the moment with Stephanie Ochs out of contract. This would appear to be an area that needs a boost in depth through the draft.

The midfield is stacked with talent, with youngsters Denise O’Sullivan and Andressa likely to be more settled with another season under their belts. Carli Lloyd turns thirty-five in the middle of the 2017 season, but the club probably doesn’t have a high enough draft pick to grab a ready made long-term replacement. Getting Morgan Brian back to full strength after a fitful season has to be seen as a big priority this year. Other than depth, likely in the form of a defensive midfielder, big additions in the midfield look unlikely.

There’s no real need to add to the ranks in attack. Kealia Ohai is probably one of the first names on the team sheet after her eleven goal showing in 2016, it’s just finding the right combination around her to get the most out of the offense. Rachel Daly showed great potential in bursts and could be in line for a big 2017. Janine Beckie was more miss than hit at club level last year but has shown well internationally, while more will be expected of Chioma Ubogagu this year. Any pick for the frontline is likely to be buried on the depth chart this season though.

Biggest Needs: FB depth (especially LB), CB depth, backup GK (if Henninger doesn’t re-sign), MF depth (mostly defensive)

North Carolina Courage

Picks – 2, 7, 18

Signed (18)

GK – D’Angelo, Eckerstrom, Rowland

DEF – Dahlkemper, Eddy, Kennedy, Niemiec

MF – Doniak, Erceg, Hahn, Mewis, Speck, Zerboni

FW – Debinha, Hamilton, Sanderson, Smith, Williams


DEF – Hinkle

FW – McDonald, Rosana

There are numerous questions floating about with the Flash’s move and re-branding right on draft week. While early indications are that Charlie Naimo and Paul Riley are still making decisions in the short-term, the lack of any announcement about the long-term management of the club makes pinpointing need a difficult proposition. If Riley does not return, this team could face a ton of turnover between now and the opening kick of the season, as it’s very much a “Riley” squad on paper. The lack of proven USWNT star power is also a red flag for the new ownership in all likelihood, even if the roster won a title last season.

In goal, it’s less a question of needing someone than of who’s going. The club has three keepers rostered, and one is probably going to have to be shipped out, as it’s unlikely with the limited roster numbers that the Courage can keep all three without seriously sacrificing depth elsewhere. Sabrina D’Angelo is on top of the depth chart, meaning the newly acquired Katelyn Rowland and last year’s draftee Britt Eckerstrom are probably fighting for the backup role. It’d hardly be a shock to see one moved before the draft for another pick.

Defensively, a lot depends on whether the club is able to re-sign Jaelene Hinkle. The fringe USWNT’er is out of contract, and if she doesn’t re-up with the Courage, the club will have a massive hole on the backline. Full-back as a whole could be a spot of worry for the Flash, as Elizabeth Eddy is solid at right-back but not much more at this point. The Flash have a great center-back pairing of Alanna Kennedy and Abby Dahlkemper, but again, there’s precious little depth behind them unless the club moves defensive midfielder Abby Erceg to the backline to fill a gap. Clearly, WNY needs to add a body or two to the backline corps.

As you might expect, it’s a much different story on the other side of the ball. Erceg had a bounce-back season in the midfield after struggling in 2015 and again should anchor the middle of the park in front of the back four. Two of the other three positions look set as well, with Makenzy Doniak likely to continue on as a right-winger, while Sam Mewis plays as the club’s #10. McCall Zerboni could fill the other midfield spot, but if the Courage follow through and sign Brazilian Rosana, the veteran Zerboni could be pushed into another role. The club could use maybe one more player for depth in midfield, but it’s not a pressing need.

The frontline looks set…if the club re-signs Jessica McDonald, who’s out of contract at the moment. If McDonald’s back, she and Lynn Williams will again form the league’s most potent one-two punch. Even if the club happens to lose McDonald, the Courage still have offensive options available to them, most notably newly signed Brazilian Debinha. The promising Taylor Smith should also see an increased role in her second season, while they’ll also be hoping that Lianne Sanderson can make it back from a torn ACL.

Biggest Needs: RB, LB (if Hinkle doesn’t re-sign), overall defensive depth

2 thoughts on “2017 NWSL Draft – Team Needs (Part One)

  1. Slicey

    I see some big trades in our future.

    I could definitely see O’Reilly heading to Carolina, and Averbuch might be interested in heading there, too. She has become a defensive asset with Kansas City and it looks like Carolina needs defense.

    I was surprised to see the three forwards have yet to re-sign with KC, especially considering Groom and Kastor are both local talents. I think all three of those players could see improvement working side-by-side with Rodriguez and Leroux.

    I hate losing players, but there is definite potential for both sides to benefit on a trade between FCKC and the Courage.


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