(Refresh this page throughout the afternoon for pick-by-pick analysis and news.)
1 – Atlanta – Sydney Leroux – F – UCLA
The Beat hold the course and take Sydney Leroux with their first pick to help bolster their offense. Leroux has shown tremendous skill and has taken over games at time at the college level and has blistering pace to run at defenses with. The one concern is that Leroux has been prone to disappear in big games at some times as well, being marked out of games by defenders. The good thing for the Beat is that with Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara also in tow, the pressure won’t be solely on Leroux to provide the bulk of the offense this season.
2 – Sky Blue FC – Melissa Henderson – F – Notre Dame
Hardly a shock, as Sky Blue FC needs forwards in the worst kind of way with just Manon Melis and Gemma Davison on the roster right now. Henderson is a physical, sure finisher who has been outstanding at Notre Dame for the past four seasons. She probably had a less dominant season than expected as a senior with some flat performances in big games, but looking at her overall body of work, it’s hard to argue with this pick. She’s as ready as anyone in this draft to contribute right away and should be in the mix for a starting spot right away.
3 – Boston – Stephanie Ochs – F – San Diego
You figured that Ochs had raised her draft stock with a tremendous run towards the second half of the season, but this much? Ochs was nearly unstoppable as a provider late last season as she raked in the assists as San Diego rebounded from a shaky run in the middle of the season to win the WCC and reach the Sweet Sixteen. She’s great on the ball and in front of the goal but has also obviously shown the ability to feed her teammates as well. The Breakers needed offense in a bad way coming into this week and has really boosted their ranks with the addition of Ochs and Kyah Simon through free agency.
4 – Sky Blue FC – Camille Levin – D – Stanford
For my money, Levin was the best player in the country this season after an amazing senior year for the national champs. She settled into her role at full-back after featuring in attack last season and was the glue behind the team’s early season success when they were hurt by injuries. She has an unbelievable motor and doesn’t stop running and has the versatility to play at full-back, winger, and attacking midfielder. Sky Blue had a real need for wide defenders, especially given the absences through the Olympics, and they filled it here.
5 – Philadelphia – Sarah Hagen – F – Wisconsin-Milwaukee
It’s no secret that Paul Riley was enamored with taking Hagen at this spot, openly stating his desire for adding a forward early on in this draft. Riley has been looking for a change of pace from his speedsters up top and Hagen certainly provides an imposing target in the box. She absolutely destroyed opposition in the air as a collegian and is also plenty gifted with the ball at her feet. Hagen though is contracted to Bayern Munich, and it’ll be up to Riley to persuade her to come stateside when her German contract is up. It’s hard to believe he’d take Hagen if he didn’t feel he could though.
6 – Western New York – Lindsay Taylor – F – Stanford
Probably a bit of a steeper drop for Taylor than most expected, with some expecting her to go to Boston at #3. Taylor has fabulous pace and boasts a powerful shot that makes her an asset both in open play and from set pieces. Could be deadly out wide as a wing forward in a 4-3-3. Consistency is a concern, as she was up and down for a few seasons before blossoming as a senior. This was a big need for WNY with Sinclair and Morgan both likely away for the Olympics.
7 – Western New York – Teresa Noyola – M – Stanford
I’m not sure WNY necessarily needed an attacking midfielder with Lori Lindsey and Allie Long having been signed in the offseason, but Noyola at #7 represents silly value for the defending league champs. She’s a proven winner and a leader who ran the show for Stanford’s lethal passing game. Not just a passing marvel, Noyola also showed her goalscoring ability in the NCAA final with the winning goal. Only question is whether she can adapt to the pace of the professional game as she does not possess outstanding pace. But you get the feeling she’ll find a way to be a factor, perhaps sooner rather than later.
8 – Western New York – Tori Huster – M – Florida State
A puzzling pick. Not because Huster isn’t a great player, but because this doesn’t seem like a big need for the Flash. They’ve got Bock and Edwards as defensive midfielders already and have a glut of offensive midfielders signed as well in addition to having taken Teresa Noyola just now. Huster is a non-stop ball of energy who won’t stop running and does the dirty work while being a threat in front of goal as well. She’ll probably be a super sub as a rookie, but you have to wonder if WNY didn’t need a defender here.
9 – Sky Blue FC – Ingrid Wells – M – Georgetown
I don’t get it. Sky Blue probably had the weakest roster coming into the draft and needed players that could contribute right away. And they pick Wells, who’s under contract in Sweden and won’t be available to play in 2012. Wells is an outstanding player, and if Sky Blue can coax her to come over for the 2013 season, this could be seen as a masterstroke. But this team has some very real holes to fill right now, and they didn’t do that with this pick.
10 – Atlanta – Katy Frierson – M – Auburn
Fitz Johnson had basically intimated that he was going to use his second pick on an attacking midfielder and follows suit here. Frierson is a fantastic technical player with the ability to play the killer ball with her outstanding vision and has great skills on dead balls as well. Very intelligent player despite being slightly undersized. A great leader who put Auburn on her back in the SEC Tournament this season. Biggest worry is whether she and Lloyd are compatible in midfield together. I’m not sure the USWNT midfielder is a great fit with a true playmaker, but this is great value and fills a need for Atlanta.
11 – Boston – Courtney Jones – F – North Carolina
This is a big-time reach from the Breakers. First, this team had much bigger concerns to fill, especially after taking Ochs at the #3 slot. Who is going to play defense for this team? Second, Jones had a free agent grade on my big board coming into this draft. She’s an unabashed gunner who will shoot on sight, which has gotten her into trouble in her college career. Had a very poor senior season, which makes this pick a big shock.
12 – Philadelphia – CoCo Goodson – D – UC Irvine
Goodson’s been one of the big risers of the past few seasons after transferring from Texas and turning into a dominant force on the backline for the resurgent UC Irvine team. A massive center-back who is physical and mean in the trenches, Goodson smashes a ball with real venom as well. Goodson’s big frame also makes her a great target in the air, and she’s capable of being thrown up front in a pinch. A nice fit for player and team.
13 – Philadelphia – Toni Pressley – D – Florida State
Another big, mean center-back. Pressley is a very, very physical defender, sometimes to her detriment as could be seen in the College Cup. She has no shortage of upside though and could develop into a potential USWNT defender if she can combine technique with tenacity. Is also a big target for set pieces and has played up front in her college career, so I wouldn’t rule out a move up front if this team is starving for a target forward while Hagen’s in Germany.
14 – Philadelphia – Bianca Henninger – GK – Santa Clara
I get the feeling the other four WPS teams are going to be kicking themselves come a few years down the line. Not only did I have Henninger as the best keeper in this class but the best player overall. She’s only 5’6″ but is still a massive presence in the goal with great command of her area and great shot stopping ability. She also has the swagger and confidence to excel at the very highest level. She should be a great addition to boost Philly’s depth at goalkeeper and could compete for a starting job here in a few seasons.
15 – Sky Blue FC – Jillian Mastroianni – GK – Boston College
Sky Blue needed a goalkeeper to help fill the void when Karina LeBlanc is away for Olympic duty and may have gotten one here with Mastroianni. The Boston College keeper has been a little streaky but can be a brick wall in goal when she’s on top of her game. A great organizer and leader from the back, Mastroianni should immediately be competing for a role as LeBlanc’s top backup and could be competing for a starting spot somewhere down the line.
16 – Boston – Melinda Mercado – D – Oklahoma State
Steady as the mail in the back for Oklahoma State the past four years, Mercado’s been the anchor at the back for the Cowgirls’ elite defensive unit recently. A great athlete who once played on OSU’s basketball team, Mercado has the size and strength to be a contributor in the middle of the defense. Boston really needed a center-back with the losses in free agency this year and may have waited a little longer than expected but still got a great value here with Mercado.
17 – Philadelphia – Danielle Foxhoven – F – Portland
Foxhoven’s a risky pick, but Philly are definitely a team that can afford to take risks with the depth of talent on their squad. Setting a blistering scoring pace for her first few seasons in college, she began to taper off in later seasons as defenses swarmed around her and forced her teammates to score. Foxhoven still has a ton of talent though as she showed in spurts this season, especially against Florida State in the regular season. Might be hard pressed to make this roster given the numbers in attack, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see her stick on someone’s roster come April.
18 – Western New York – Tahnai Annis – M/F – Florida
A bit of a reach, as Annis is very undersized for an attacking midfielder at just 5’1″ but has overachieved in a big way with Florida the past four seasons. Has scored no end of big goals for her club thanks in no small part to a fantastic sense of timing and getting in the right place at the right time. A master of arriving late in the area and poaching goals. May be small but is very good in the air and a fearless competitor. Stock may have dipped with an up and down senior year after All-American junior year. The type of player that’s very hard to cut in camp.
19 – Sky Blue FC – Laura Heyboer – F – Michigan State
This is a great pick for SBFC who needed more than one forward going into this weekend. Heyboer was on fire for the first few years of her career before suffering a double leg break that hurt her progress. After a bit of a down year as a junior, Heyboer was all the way back as a senior and back to being a big threat in front of goal. Doesn’t possess blinding speed but has the strength to hold her own in tight quarters. Didn’t get a great chance to strut her stuff in the NCAA Tournament but could end up being a dark horse to watch in attack.
20 – Boston – Jessica Luscinski – M/F – Boston University
As expected, Boston springs for the local talent with their final pick of the draft. Luscinski’s not just a token local pick though as she was outstanding for BU for the past few seasons. You could see the marked difference in BU when she was out injured for a few games early in the season. Operated up front for the Terriers but is also capable of contributing in midfield at this level. Versatility could see her stick with the Breakers.
21 – Philadelphia – Jasmyne Spencer – F – Maryland
Spencer’s a lightning bolt in attack who has bags and bags of pace with which to torture defenders with. I had a free agent grade on her though after a poor senior season which was not aided by an injury against James Madison in the middle of the season. She’s also very undersized at 5’1″ and faces an uphill battle to make this roster with the glut of forwards currently on the squad.
22 – Western New York – Erica Henderson – D – West Virginia
Rochester native comes home to roost with the Flash after a fine career with the Mountaineers. Has the size to have a chance at this level at 5’9″. Has also played forward in college. Comes from a blue collar program that’s produced players like Carolyn Blank, so she’s certainly got a chance on a team that needs defensive depth.
23 – Atlanta – Kate Deines – M/D – Washington
Hard working and versatile player out of Washington has made a career out of being a tenacious leader for the Huskies. Has also featured at the U.S. U23 level, a boon for James Galanis at this stage in the draft. An absolute scrapper who’ll do anything asked of her by her coaches and could blossom into a mainstay with the right coaching. Fantastic value at this point and versatility gives her a shot at sticking.