2017 NWSL Draft – Team Needs (Part Two)

Orlando Pride

Picks – 22, 32

Signed (16)

GK – Harris

DEF – Alleway, Berryhill, Camila, Levin, Monica, Krieger

MF – Edmonds, Kyle, Weatherholt, Witteman

FW – Belanger, Burkenroad, De Vanna, Hagen, Morgan

Unsigned

GK – Bledsoe

DEF – Catley, Pressley

MF – Evans

FW – Fields, Spencer

Two things are quite noticeable when trying to analyze the Pride for the forthcoming draft. One, they’ve still got a handful of players out of contract, which complicates trying to figure out which direction the club’s going to go. And secondly, Orlando’s first pick is in round #3, which definitely lengthens the odds of finding a true contributor right off the bat, even in a class like this.

Ashlyn Harris should return as the club’s #1 in goal, but the backup situation isn’t settled as of right now, with Aubrey Bledsoe out of contract and coming off a serious injury. Last year’s third choice, Kaitlyn Savage doesn’t return, so the club might be looking for another option with their second pick, though there are plenty of other holes to fill on paper.

On the backline, the Pride made a big splash in acquiring Ali Krieger, which should ensure that the right-back slot is filled for the foreseeable future. A much bigger question at the moment is who takes on the left-back slot if the out of contract Steph Catley does not return. Cami Levin is an option, but the Pride may want to consider another left-back for depth at the very least with one of their two picks, though new signing Camila can fill either full-back role if needed. Centrally, the club would appear to be set with the retuning Monica and Laura Alleway, but depth is pretty much non-existent, with Toni Pressley out of contract and the only other option really on paper second-year player McKenzie Berryhill.

The loss of Becky Edwards to retirement leaves a pretty sizable gap in the center of midfield that will need to be filled. Kaylyn Kyle and Kristen Edmonds are two prime contenders to fill some of the midfield starting spots, the latter especially after a breakthrough campaign in 2016. Most of the other options on the roster that could fill the vacant spot from Edwards’ retirement are still pretty raw, meaning the Pride may look to use one of their two picks to add some competition at the very least.

The frontline is obviously a concern as well, as you wonder where the goals are going to come from until Alex Morgan returns. Having Jasmyne Spencer out of contract at the moment doesn’t exactly help matters either. Getting Lisa De Vanna for a full season could work out well if she’s on form, but that’s far from a guarantee. Otherwise, it may be up to hoping that the likes of Edmonds, Josee Belanger, and Sarah Hagen can knock them in. Adding some additional depth wouldn’t hurt, but there are other positions of need.

Biggest Needs: CM, LB (if Catley doesn’t return), CB depth, GK depth (if Bledsoe doesn’t return), FW depth


Portland Thorns

Picks – 14, 20, 27, 40

Signed (16)

GK – Franch

DEF – Johnson, Klingenberg, Morris, Reynolds, Sonnett

MF – Boureille, Brynjarsdottir, Henry, Heath, Long

FW – Horan, Nadim, Raso, Sinclair, Weber

Unsigned

GK – Betos

DEF – Menges

MF – Shim

Portland won the regular season title in style last season but suffered a defensive meltdown in the playoff semi-final that surely raised a few questions heading into the offseason. Those questions are likely to be amplified after the offseason retirement of center-back Kathryn Williamson, though she missed much of the season through injury. Adding to the questions is the fact that starter Emily Menges is out of contract, along with starting goalkeeper Michelle Betos.

Re-signing Betos has to be considered a priority given her performances of the past two seasons, but the club does have a solid backup plan in AD Franch. If Betos doesn’t return, the Thorns would need to invest in another goalkeeper as the club’s backup. If Betos does re-sign, Portland will again boast a superb one-two punch in goal.

Menges not returning would be a massive blow to the defense, especially combined with the loss of Williamson through retirement. It would surely send the Thorns to the market for a center-back, though not picking until #14 would limit their options. As is, Portland should probably be looking for some depth in central defense at the very least, even if Menges does come back. Out wide, the club is set with Meghan Klingenberg as the starting left-back and Kendall Johnson as dependable cover if she can return from injury. Katherine Reynolds returns as the starting right-back, but the Thorns could look for a long-term replacement or for depth at that position.

In midfield, Portland should be solid for the most part. The club will have to deal with a rather big absence for chunks of the season though as Amandine Henry joins up with the France WNT for UEFA EURO 2017. Henry is clearly one of the leading midfielders in the league and will continue to be a huge asset for the club when she’s here. Even when Henry is gone though, the Thorns should have enough to compete with just about any team in the league. The duo of Allie Long and Tobin Heath also look set to return, with the latter set to light the league on fire again after the domestic club season of her life. Iceland’s Dagny Brynjarsdottir showed star potential at times last season but also will miss some time through UEFA EURO 2017. Given the absences, adding one or two players for depth might be worth it, especially if the out of contract Mana Shim does not return, but it’s not a huge need.

It’s a little more of the same on the frontline, where leading scorer Nadia Nadim also looks to be EURO 2017 bound with Denmark. Her absence will hurt, but that loss will be mitigated by getting a full season from Christine Sinclair, especially if the Canadian is still in scoring form in 2017. Lindsey Horan will also be a point of focus after scoring six goals last season, while Australian Hayley Raso could play an increased role after impressing in Portland last season. Again, it’s not a huge area of emphasis, but another body or two to cover when Nadim is absent wouldn’t hurt.

Biggest Needs: RB, CB depth (higher if Menges doesn’t return), backup GK (if Betos doesn’t return), MF depth


Seattle Reign

Picks – 6, 26, 37

Signed (14)

GK – Kopmeyer, Schiffel

DEF – Barnes, Fletcher, Pickett, Reed, Corsie

MF – Elston, Fishlock, Utsugi, Nairn

FW – Naho, Yanez

Unsigned

FW – Mathias, Dallstream, Rapinoe

The Reign were expected to be, at the very least, a playoff team last season and were a lot of pundits’ title favorites. However, a shocking and disappointing fifth place left Seattle out of the postseason and all but assured some serious changes in the offseason. True to form, the Reign have shaken things up, with Kim Little returning to Europe, Hope Solo likely departing, and Keelin Winters retiring among other losses. With just fourteen players signed as of the writing of this article as well, there are probably still moves to be made beyond the draft to fill the roster.

Solo’s departure means that the starting job is assuredly Haley Kopmeyer’s, with the Reign netminder finally winning the #1 spot after serving as the backup and spot starter for the Reign for multiple seasons. Seattle moved quickly to fill the backup role by trading for the rights to Madalyn Schiffel, who was initially drafted by Washington but who opted for a season in Europe last year. It’s a move that likely ensures the club won’t be in the market for a keeper in this draft.

Most of the major protagonists from last year’s defense look set to return, but it’s a bit surprising the Reign haven’t looked to fortify this group more, as they looked a bit long in the tooth at times in 2016, though they did concede just twenty-one goals on the season, good for fourth fewest in the league. In the middle, two of Lauren Barnes, Kendall Fletcher, and Rachel Corsie figure to start. With Fletcher getting up in years, the Reign may want to start investing in a long-term replacement, though it may not be the highest priority with a first-round pick.

There are significantly more questions out wide for the Reign. They finished the season with Merritt Mathias (currently out of contract) and Rumi Utsugi playing full-back, which probably isn’t ideal. The club took Carson Pickett with a first-round pick last season, and she may be the solution in the long-term, but she was also clearly a work in progress last season. All things considered, it’s probably more likely the club springs for a right-back, especially if Mathias won’t be back.

With two-thirds of one of the league’s most consistent midfields over the past three seasons having gone, Seattle finds itself in desperate need of a rebuild in the middle of the park. Retaining Jess Fishlock was absolutely crucial considering Little and Winters’ departure, as the Welsh international is going to need to be more of a focus on offense this season as opposed to the more all-around role of the past few seasons. Getting Christine Nairn back from Washington via trade should also help lighten the burden on Fishlock, especially if Nairn shows some of the form she did with Washington the past few years. Filling that third slot is going to be the big ask, and with few great options on the roster, Laura Harvey may be looking to bring in a central midfielder with the club’s first round pick.

The Reign could be searching for answers up front as well, depending on the contract status of some of their veterans. First and foremost is Megan Rapinoe, who played in a handful of matches at the end of the season after recovering from an ACL injury but who also isn’t guaranteed of being allocated by U.S. Soccer. However, she is in the latest USWNT camp, so you’d still put her as odds on as getting that allocation again. The futures of Mathias and Kiersten Dallstream are more up in the air, meaning Seattle will be looking for depth at the very least. If the club can’t get Beverly Yanez and Naho firing though, the Reign might think about opting for a forward for that first-round pick.

Biggest Needs: RB, CM, FW depth, CB depth


Sky Blue FC

Picks – 4, 10, 23, 24, 30, 34

Signed (18)

GK – Casey, Stanley

DEF – Grubka, Rampone, Simon, Skroski, Stanton

MF – Conheeney, Killion, Lytle, Rodriguez

FW – DeCesare, Galton, Hayes, Kai, O’Hara, Schulmann, Zimmerman

Unsigned

GK – Loyden

FW – Kerr

Christy Holly was a miracle worker in 2016, taking a side that honestly had no right to finish in mid-table up to seventh in the league (actually tying for sixth on points), besting more star laden sides like Orlando and Houston. Holly accomplished much of that through intelligent drafting, with the picks of Raquel Rodriguez and Leah Galton early on, along with the late pick of Erica Skroski, looking like masterstrokes by season’s end.

There’s the potential to further fortify the club through this year’s draft, with SBFC boasting two of the top ten picks in a loaded class. It would be a major surprise if SBFC went without taking a goalkeeper, if not with one of their first round picks, with a pick further down the line in the middle rounds. Neither Caroline Casey nor Caroline Stanley look like a long-term solution, and Holly is probably going to want to at the very least bring in some competition. They’ll likely be one of the main suitors for either Jane Campbell or Kailen Sheridan.

The backline looks like it might need a little bit of fortification as well. Christie Rampone was fine at center-back after her international retirement, but the club clearly needs a long-term plan as a replacement. Kristin Grubka did well to improve upon a horrid rookie season and looks to have locked the other starting spot down for the moment. Depth is almost non-existent though unless Skroski moves back over from full-back, so SBFC should be in the market for at least one central defender. Skroski has looked like one of the league’s best young defenders after just one season and should have the right-back spot locked down. Left-back might be another story, as the club could improve upon Erin Simon, especially with Kelley O’Hara looking to be a permanent fixture in the attack now.

The situation in central midfield is one of the league’s best, with Sarah Killion growing into her potential last season, while Rodriguez also impressed in her rookie season. They’ll have plenty of weapons to feed with a young and promising strike force available to the club. Sam Kerr is obviously the crown jewel, but she’s out of contract currently and not guaranteed to be back. If she isn’t, the club will likely be in the market for a forward to try and replace her goals. Galton, O’Hara, Tasha Kai, and Maya Hayes all look to be returning, so this group shouldn’t be shy of goals if everyone’s on form, though SBFC may still look to add another body or two to create competition for places.

Biggest Needs: LB, GK, CB, FW depth (higher if Kerr doesn’t re-sign)


Washington Spirit

Picks – 19, 29, 36

Signed (17)

GK – Labbe, Wys

DEF – Johnson, Kleiner, Zadorsky, Kallman, Church

MF – Jensen, Lohman, Matheson, Mewis, Huster, Solaun

FW – Farquharson, Stengel, Williams, Ordega

Unsigned

DEF – Dydasco

FW – Estefania

To put it not-so-kindly, Washington looks like a side that’s going to be in pole position for Andi Sullivan in a year’s time. The club has shed most of its star power through trades and defections overseas, and the replacements don’t exactly look the most inspiring on paper. The Spirit also have the misfortune of not picking until the end of round two in one of the most talent rich drafts in pro WoSo history.

The holes are numerous, but there appears to be serious worries in goal for starters. Kelsey Wys tore her ACL in the offseason in the W-League, putting her participation in the 2017 NWSL season in serious doubt. Backup Stephanie Labbe’s status has also been questioned going into the offseason, with some believing she’ll be elsewhere come the new season, but that might have changed with the starting spot in D.C. appearing to be all hers. Regardless, the Spirit need a backup at the least, and it’d be stunning if they didn’t use one of their picks on a netminder.

The backline looks shaky. Fan reaction to the trade of Ali Krieger to Orlando…was not positive. The left-back situation is up in the air as well, as Caprice Dydasco is recovering from an ACL tear in the playoffs last season. Shelina Zadorsky does return, and she’ll need to be spectacular, even if Washington unearths a gem or two in this draft. She’ll likely be partnered by Kassey Kallman, who’s trying to salvage her pro career after a nightmare in Boston. Alyssa Kleiner will likely get first crack at being the full-time solution again at left-back, while Whitney Church and Estelle Johnson could also contend for playing time. Realistically, though the Spirit need to find some quality to put on the backline.

If there’s hope for Washington, it’s in the middle of the park. The ageless Joanna Lohman and Canadian international Diana Matheson should join up with Tori Huster to give the Spirit some midfield quality, while the trade for Kristie Mewis could potentially reinvigorate a stalled career. Havana Solaun adds some depth after being acquired from Seattle, and of all the worries facing Washington, they should be fine in midfield if everyone produces.

The frontline could be a disaster. Crystal Dunn is gone, Estefania doesn’t look likely to be back after signing in Europe, and Cali Farquharson is also recovering from an ACL injury. The Spirit do have some young talent in the form of Katie Stengel, Francisca Ordega, and Cheyna Williams, but it’s going to be a lot to ask those players to step up and be a leader of the attack. It’s not likely Washington’s going to find such a leader given their draft position (and defensive needs), but they need some additional depth at the very least.

Biggest Needs – GK, RB, LB, CB (depth), FW (depth)

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