NWSL Draft – Team Needs + WoSo Independent Podcast #101


For those without the time to listen to the podcast, I’ve provided a summary for each team below. We get much more expansive in the podcast.

Chicago

Temperature of the Room – Well, it’s not all positive after losing Sam Kerr to Chelsea. The good news though is that much of the rest of the team has been kept intact through the offseason. The one major player related acquisition has been Kealia Ohai, who will likely be given the chance to be the top scoring option here.

What They Need – The Red Stars have picks and no overtly glaring needs. Katie Naughton going the other way in the Ohai trade means some center-back depth would be of use, especially if the Davidson-Ertz combo is going to be first choice. Sarah Gorden had a breakout 2019 campaign, but the club could still use with some more depth behind Casey Short & Arin Wright as well. Otherwise, a pure defensive midfielder to replace the departed Nikki Stanton is likely a priority.

Houston

Temperature of the Room – Should be relatively positive. The Dash have largely filled many of their needs through deals and signings thus far. Katie Naughton should get every chance to seal a starting spot alongside Amber Brooks in central defense. The trade of Ohai brought a need for replacement scoring, and the Dash brought in Katie Stengel after a solid year in Utah. They also look to be giving Jane Campbell some much needed competition in goal by signing Lindsey Harris.

What They Need – Assuming the Dash aren’t going to give up on last year’s high draft picks in attack of CeCe Kizer and Kayla McCoy, Houston’s needs are still defensive. The teams still desperately needs a true ‘6’ to shield the backline, with the aging Sophie Schmidt not a long-term answer. While Naughton fortifies the central defense, the full-back position still looks potentially problematic. Allysha Chapman will be gone for much of the year for the Olympics and is getting up in years, while Haley Hanson doesn’t look best suited for right-back.

North Carolina

Temperature of the Room – Still pretty positive. The Courage were far and away the best team in the league last year and will return almost intact. The one big deal they did make may be a crucial one, bringing in the versatile Hailie Mace for McCall Zerboni. Otherwise, it’s largely the group that romped to a league championship last year. Mace’s versatility should be a boon with players missing time for the Olympics.

What They Need – Not a whole lot. If you’re operating under the assumption that the club will lose Abby Dahlkemper to expansion next year, another center-back to develop would be a nice addition. Additionally, a little cover at right-back might be warranted if Mace won’t play there, as Merritt Mathias and Hailey Harbison are both coming off injuries. Otherwise, it’ll largely be adding depth to provide competition for places, with goalkeeper and center-forward potential areas to target.

Orlando

Temperature of the Room – A little better than last year maybe, but not by much. The Sonnett trade should make them better in central defense in theory (if Sonnett doesn’t end up at right-back), but Orlando paid a pretty heavy price in trading out the #1 spot and now not having a pick until late in the first round. Caitlin Foord potentially heading to Europe, and the Chloe Logarzo debacle (not Orlando’s fault) also have hurt, while the squad still looks bloated and far too much like last year’s.

What They Need – Two of everything, really. The most pressing need probably is a true defensive midfielder, though the entire midfield was largely a shambles last year and hasn’t been addressed at all yet. The frontline could be passable with an Emslie-Leroux-Marta trio likely to be called upon with Alex Morgan unlikely to contribute much due to pregnancy and international duty. The defense still looks largely uninspiring. Sonnett should help, but the club will be hit be international absences of Krieger, Kennedy, and Zadorsky and really could use some younger talent to develop on the backline. And lastly, while Ashlyn Harris still should be starting in goal here, they really need an upgrade behind her in the long-term with neither of the current backups impressing last year.

Portland

Temperature of the Room – Depends on who you ask. Some are very down on the team for seeing players depart, including Midge Purce, but I’d argue they’ve made some very positive moves to shake things up after last year’s struggles. Raquel Rodriguez came over in the Purce trade and should provide some much needed depth in central midfield, hopefully making this team a little easier to watch after last year’s sometimes painful displays. The assumption is that Sophia Smith will land here with the #1 pick, which could solve a huge hole at the #9 slot that has been festering for a while now.

What They Need – Assuming Smith fills that #9 slot, the Thorns really need numbers. They have just 21 rostered players by my count as of this writing, with trades and departures really eating into their depth. Defensive depth is paramount now with Sonnett’s departure. Emily Menges is strong at center-back, but there is a big question of who plays alongside her. And while Ellie Carpenter looks a budding star on the right, the Thorns are largely dependent on the aging Meghan Klingenberg on the opposite flank, with little prove depth behind her.

Reign FC

Temperature of the Room – Gloomy. Losing your manager is one thing, but the go months without a replacement is another. Farid Benstiti has been tipped to be the next boss here, news that hasn’t exactly been met with glowing approval by most. The rest of the team looks essentially identical to the group that made the playoffs last year but that looked clearly like the fourth best team in the league. The Reign don’t lack for numbers, but standing still seldom works at this level.

What They Need – To start moving. This was a club that made the postseason despite some horrific injury luck, but they also benefitted from the incompetence of most of their chasing rivals for that last playoff spot, with no guarantees the pack will be that feeble this year. There are many options in the attack and in goal, but the rest of the squad is desperately in need of some youthful energy. The central midfield is talented but aging, and in the case of Jess Fishlock, coming off of serious injury. The backline was bailed out a lot by Casey Murphy in goal last year and could use with some fresh faces to add competition. Right-back is probably the priority, but they could probably use with more than just one new face.

Sky Blue FC

Temperature of the Room – Very positive. It took a while for Sky Blue to get rolling with roster revival after some big moves off the pitch, but the team made some very positive steps with a few trades. In addition to securing some picks next year, the team added some punch to the offense with Midge Purce while adding leadership and strengthening the spine of the team by acquiring McCall Zerboni. This still isn’t a great team, but they do appear to be making forward strides.

What They Need – An entirely new backline. The difference between Sky Blue and Orlando last year was Kailen Sheridan in goal, and this team can’t expect Sheridan to put in a near miraculous performance in goal again this year, especially considering she’ll likely be gone for the Olympics. Right-back is probably the biggest need, but I’m not a big fan of the Imani Dorsey experiment at left-back, while the center-back pairing of Estelle Johnson and Mandy Freeman has major questions due to age and injury. Upgrading the backup spot behind Sheridan also has to be a priority as well. Adding Purce to the frontline should help the attack, but SBFC are still remarkably short on true center-forward options, so it’d hardly be a surprise to see them use a first-round pick on one.

Utah Royals

Temperature of the Room – Not that great. Laura Harvey’s departure came very late into the offseason, and though the team quickly appointed Scott Parkinson as the interim boss, the club has largely sat on its hands in the offseason. There haven’t been any major trade acquisitions, while the club has seen Makenzy Doniak and Katie Stengel depart. On paper, the team still looks respectable, but it’d take a very brave person to tip them for a playoff run at this point.

What They Need – To not blow off the draft for once. Harvey’s draft record in her years here was abysmal, with the only player to really make an impact being Gabrielle Vincent, who was actually an undrafted free agent. Doniak and Stengel’s departure has raised a big need for attacking depth, with the club looking too reliant on Amy Rodriguez for offensive inspiration when Christen Press is away. Otherwise, there’s a distinct need for youth in central midfield and talent at full-back, especially with Kelley O’Hara’s recent injury struggles.

Washington Spirit

Temperature of the Room – Optimistic. Maybe overly so? The Spirit went high risk in the draft last year, mortgaging the future to rebuild their squad through the draft. It largely worked, but it’s also left the team with precious few picks this year. There was a major cull in the offseason, with many players being waived. Replacements have come from Europe, but the Spirit may be playing a dangerous game again, as while said players are talented, they also have no experience in this league, which could be a problem if they can’t adapt quickly.

What They Need – Pretty easy, really. They need a backup keeper behind Aubrey Bledsoe (well, two backups actually) and a true right-back. Tori Huster did a yeoman’s job out wide last year but can’t be the long-term answer at right-back for a title contender. Some might point towards the frontline, given the spotty production there, but Washington doesn’t lack for options right now. Whether they’re the right options is another matter entirely.

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