NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #1-10

1. Emily Sonnett – D (CB), MF (MC) – Virginia

The complete, modern center-back. It’s a lazy comparison, but it’s hard to not draw parallels with fellow UVA alum Becky Sauerbrunn, as Sonnett boasts many of the same traits as the current best center-back in the world. The poise under pressure, the grace in possession, and the willingness to step up with the ball and create offensively are more than evident in Sonnett’s game, and it’s hardly a surprise she was called up to the full USWNT earlier in 2015 to kickstart her career at senior international level. The start against Brazil revealed that Sonnett still has a ways to go to be able to consistently defend top level talent like Marta, but there’s an undeniable amount of potential on display in her game. Offensively, Sonnett’s a lot better in the air than you’d expect from a libero and is definitely a threat in the box on set pieces. Could also get a look at central midfielder, but she figures to be best used at the heart of defense. Pretty much a no-brainer at #1.

2. Makenzy Doniak – F (CF) – Virginia

Far and away the best forward in this class. Makes finishing the simple and sublime look ridiculously easy. An expert in latching onto balls and passing them into the corners beyond flailing goalkeepers. Does well with playmakers who can play her into space, as once she establishes separation from defenders, she doesn’t lose it. Had to deal with some nagging injuries that limited her to eighteen starts and her fewest number of minutes since her rookie season, but still managed fourteen goals and eleven assists to finish with sixty-four goals and thirty-six assists in a spectacular UVA career. Efficiency numbers were even better than last season’s great haul, as Doniak netted fourteen on sixty-four shots and put a whopping 59.4% of her efforts on frame. More quick than explosively fast but can still find the ball with a burst of pace. I’m not sure she’ll ever be a USWNT star, but everything’s there for a lengthy and productive NWSL career.

3. Cari Roccaro – D (CB), MF (DMC) – Notre Dame

Like drafting a left tackle in the NFL, Roccaro’s not going to be a flashy pick, but she’ll likely be a contributor early and for a while wherever she lands. Has played all over the park in career at youth international and collegiate level, though center-back or defensive midfield looks the likeliest roles at the next level. Was once considered this class’ top prospect and a future USWNT player, but her development has seemingly leveled off, to the point that she may already be at her ceiling. Does she have the pace to deal with explosive forwards at professional level? Had a more expansive role earlier in her career, scoring eleven goals in her first two seasons but was kept on the leash more as a senior, with just two shots total. Irish never seemed to really come together as a title contender with her as one of the club’s Alpha Dogs, so I’m a little skittish. But I still believe Roccaro will be an excellent pro and definitely worth an early first round pick for anyone needing defensive solidity.

4. Raquel Rodriguez – MF (CM) – Penn State

Costa Rican went from being a very good player to one of the nation’s very best in a season in which she not only starred for Costa Rica at the World Cup but led her Nittany Lions to a long awaited national title. Can play multiple roles in midfield from being a deep lying creator to a more advanced attacking role. Comfortable finishing from all over the attacking zone, including with her head, but has an absolute rifle for a shot from distance and isn’t afraid to use it. Does a great job of finding loose balls in the area and stabbing them home. Has the vision and passing range to serve up balls to attackers. Technical skill allows her to dribble out of pressure, while physical strength makes her viable in the air on 50/50s. Can she defend top level talent? Had no shortage of clutch performances in big games, with nine of her goals being game winners, including in the College Cup final. Should be able to compete immediately, but likely to have plenty of European suitors.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #11-20

11. Cali Farquharson – F – Arizona State

Gets the award for “most valuable to her team” in 2015. Farquharson got hurt and ASU’s season went off a cliff, as the Sun Devils saw a season that began with Pac-12 title ambitions end with them out of the postseason. Limited to just fourteen matches this season by a hamstring injury, and considering she missed the postseason matches in 2014 through injury as well, there have to be some serious durability red flags here. When healthy, Farquharson can be a magician on the ball, capable of making opposing defenders look stupid with a combination of technical wizardry and athleticism. Efficiency numbers have been middling for most of her career, and this past season was no different, with nine non-penalty goals off of sixty shots to go with a 51.6% SOG mark. You sense she’s just beginning to tap into her potential as an attacker, but there’s still some serious risk given her injury history. Born in Japan, so she may have some international opportunities as well.

12. Megan Campbell – D (LB, CB) – Florida State

If Campbell commits to the NWSL, you can bump her up into the Top 5. The Seminoles defender is a dream prospect at the next level and will surely be in demand for many teams in many countries. Campbell had featured as a left-back in previous seasons for the Noles but moved to center-back this season to fill a need after Kristin Grubka’s graduation and fit in quite nicely. The Irish international has more than held her own in defending some of the most dangerous attacking talent in the college soccer ranks the past three seasons even as she’s missed time for international duty and through injury, which plagued her this past season. Of course, Campbell is perhaps best known for her rocket launcher like long throws, which have contributed to no shortage of assists in her career at multiple levels. A lot better in the air than you’d expect a former full-back to be. Versatility is a gigantic asset for potential suitors. It’s just a matter of what continent she chooses to continue her career on.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #21-30

21. Summer Green – F (CF), MF (AMC) – North Carolina

Might be one of the most confounding players of the past decade. Made her mark by scoring twelve goals in the U17 WC qualifying tournament in 2012, which may not have been to her benefit in the long run, as she’s endured a star-crossed career ever since. Appeared to be on the cusp of something special after a combined sixteen goals and fourteen assists in her first two seasons but went off the boil before the 2014 season. Netted seven goals as a senior but just two in ten ACC games and has struggled with lackluster efficiency numbers her entire career. Capable of the spectacular both in a scoring sense and in a creative sense, setting up her teammates. Tore her ACL against Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament and probably wouldn’t be ready until the second half of this season and has some durability red flags beyond just this injury. If she puts her name in the hat, someone will surely take her to have her rights and potentially see if she can meet her one-time potential.

22. Rebecca Wilson – F – Cal State Fullerton

Made The Leap from being a very good player to being one of the nation’s best senior forwards after an incredible 2015 for the Titans. Combined with Christina Burkenroad to form one of the nation’s deadliest attacking duos, ending up with an astonishing nineteen goals and ten assists on the season for the Big West season. It remains to be seen if the duo can function without that offensive chemistry, but it’s tough betting against the Californian after that senior season. Taking away penalties, Wilson scored once every 4.38 shots, a blistering number considering her usage rate. Add in a staggering 58.0% SOG ratio, and it’s easy to see why Wilson could be this draft’s real sleeper. Also displayed clutch scoring ability with ten match winning goals this year. Could be this year’s offensive gem from the middle rounds.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #31-40

31. Ashley Spivey – MF/F (AMC, CF) – UCF

One-time golden girl at youth level didn’t quite have the superstar collegiate career some may have envisioned, though you could hardly call her a complete bust either. After a modest two seasons at Maryland, Spivey ended up in sunny Orlando, where she was called upon as a makeshift center-forward in 2014 and netted ten goals as a junior. Spivey was allowed to shift back into an attacking midfield role as a senior with Carol Rodrigues leading the line, and the senior flourished with eleven goals for the Knights including six game winners, though her efficiency numbers were modest but passable for an attacking midfielder. Has a reputation as a ball stopper and sometimes tries to do way too much by herself, which could be a negative at the next level. Upside here, so she should get a look somewhere.

32. Michaela Hahn – MF (CM) – Florida State

FSU’s midfield metronome. Hahn’s contributions to the Seminoles can be a little hard to quantify considering she plays the thankless central midfield role deep in the middle of the park for the ACC side. Had thirteen assists combined as a sophomore and a junior but saw those numbers slip notably this season, with Hahn tallying just one assist in her senior season. May have taken up a role with more attacking responsibilities considering she finished third on the team in shots, with forty-one. Hahn netted five goals but on very poor efficiency numbers as cross the board as a senior. Has the range of passing and starting experience on a perennial contender to get a look, but can she defend the middle of the park given her size (5’4”)? FSU alums are usually gamers though, so she should get a long look somewhere.

33. Christina Burkenroad – MF (AMC, LM), F (CF) – Cal State Fullerton

Part of a wildly successful partnership with fellow Titan (and draft prospect) Rebecca Wilson that led Fullerton to a golden age of success over the past few seasons. Had a breakout season in 2015, totaling eleven goals and eleven assists for the Titans in a brilliant campaign. Efficiency numbers weren’t bad in terms of shots per goal for a midfielder and strong for shots on goal percentage. Quicker and with more technical skill and vision than you’d expect from someone who’s 5’10”. Big question is if she has a position at the next level. 5’10” wingers aren’t exactly a common sight at the highest level, meaning she may have to move into a central midfield position or even up top, though she’s not a prototypical target forward.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #41-50

41. Lauren Hughes – F (CF) – Rice

Canadian followed up her best season at Rice with her worst as a senior in 2015. Hughes looked like a major sleeper after her junior season, tallying fourteen goals and seven assists on scorching efficiency numbers, but it all went pear-shaped this season for the towering forward. Seven goals was a career low, though she did have a career best ten assists to add to Rice’s cause. The efficiency numbers are really what jump out though, with those seven goals coming on eighty-four shots, while less than 42% of those shots were on frame. A poacher from within the box who probably has a better passing range than most 5’10” forwards. Not particularly explosive. Likely ticketed for abroad, though that may not be the worst fate.

42. Kate Scheele – GK – Colorado

Jack of all trades type keeper split her collegiate career between Colorado College and Colorado the past four seasons. Does just about everything well, from shot stopping to 1v1s to dealing with high balls, though you probably wouldn’t regard her as an A+ in any single category. Has a strong leg, often taking long free kicks for CU, though you wonder how much of that will hold up when out of the thin air of Boulder. Draft stock probably suffered a bit thanks to listless season from her Buffs in 2015, where she ended up ceding about 20% of time to youngster Scout Watson, though most of that wasn’t performance based. Probably as game ready right now as any keeper prospect in this class, but I’m not sure she develops into more than a plus-level backup in the league. Should get a look and would probably be in demand overseas.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #51-60

51. Claire Falknor – D (LB) – Florida

Overrated. A tweener who’s played center-back and left-back in college but is too small to play the former and probably not quick enough to play the latter at the next level. Positioning has often been suspect at collegiate level, forcing her into mad dashes back towards goal and sliding last ditch tackles all too often. A hard-nosed, crunching tackler when she is forced into those slides. Not confident in possession under opposing pressure and has made costly errors when pressed while trying to build out of the back. Florida defensive players have often struggled when trying to make the leap to the next level. Didn’t show much going forward on offense on the stat sheet.

52. Allie Stephenson – MF (MC) – Oklahoma State

Undersized midfield dynamo for the Cowgirls was four-year starter for OSU and an invaluable cog in the middle of the park. Three-time All-Region pick while in Stillwater and was a first-team All-Big XII selection her final two years with the club. A fearless battler in midfield despite her lack of size and wins more 50-50s than you’d expect through sheer will. Can really strike a ball from range and scored six times as a senior, but her efficiency numbers aren’t that hot, especially a woeful 30% (!) shot on goal ratio in 2015. Might struggle with the physicality at the next level but has been a college overachiever and should get a shot in someone’s camp.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #61-70

61. Elise Krieghoff – F – Cal Poly

Beware the flat-track bully. Krieghoff did net fourteen goals as a junior but did so on poor efficiency numbers and did so against meek opposition, not netting a single goal against an RPI Top 100 team. Needed a big season in 2015 to prove doubters wrong but struggled with injury and netted just six goals on seventy shots in a brutal senior campaign. Did score against BYU & San Jose State, but that did little to prop up a difficult final season. Will probably get a shot in camp somewhere thanks to this being a pretty weak class overall, but she’ll have to show a much better cutting edge against better competition to stick.

62. Diamond Simpson – D (FB, CB) – Memphis

Another in a seemingly long line of vaunted Canadian prospects who didn’t quite live up to their initial billing. That’s perhaps a little unfair on Simpson who ended up being a solid player for the Tigers, but considering she had been a key part of the Canadian youth international setup, more was likely expected out of the defender. Played at center-back with Memphis but is too small (5’3”) to stick there at the next level, meaning she’ll need to shift out wide to make it. Had a great junior season but didn’t really save her best for last in a disappointing senior season. Likely another Canadian who’ll have to cut her teeth abroad.
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NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #71-80

This is largely based on the hundred I had bookmarked before the season, so some late risers like UNC’s Paige Nielsen haven’t been factored in yet but will be on the final Big Board. I’ve included YouTube links to highlight reels when available.

71. Emma Blackwell – D (FB, CB) – Florida Gulf Coast

FGCU isn’t exactly known for cranking out pro level talent despite being one of the nation’s best mid-majors, but Blackwell will be trying to buck that trend. She’s a two-time A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, continuing the club’s tradition of top notch defenders at this level. But Blackwell also has the same flaw that KC Correllus, another FGCU stud defender had, namely that she’s painfully undersized. Played center-back for FGCU but is going to have to shift to full-back to make it at the next level. Has a little bit of offensive ability with three assists this season, but she faces an uphill climb.

72. Morgan Batcheller – D (CB) – Cal State Fullerton

Much attention will be focused on Fullerton’s dynamic offense when looking at potential NWSL prospects, the defense is also worth a look from pro coaches. Batcheller took a while to truly turn into a star in the Big West, but she has been one of the region’s best center-backs over the past two seasons. Good for a little bit of offense, usually from the penalty spot but not a libero by any means. Not afraid to dive in for last ditch tackles to stop marauding forwards. A real sleeper who could round into a gem in the future.
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Requiem for the W-League

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

Where would we be without the W-League? Morgan Brian, Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy Rodriguez. Those are the only players on the world champion US National Team who never played in the W-League. Everyone else – from Carli Lloyd to Becky Sauerbrunn to Abby Wambach – honed their craft at that level before moving on up. (26 additional players for Canada and Mexico’s WWC teams also had W-League experience.)

The W-League was founded in 1995 with 19 teams from the Boston Tornado to the San Diego Lady Top Guns, with two teams folding during the course of the season. Despite several west coast teams leaving after the 1997 season to form the WPSL, the league grew to the point where by 1998 it had 34 teams in two levels. The two-table setup continued through 2001, when the league had 38 teams.

The league took a hit in 2001, when the WUSA formed and gave the best women players the opportunity to play professionally. Of the 120 players in the initial draft, at least 37 had played previously in the W-League. As for the Founders – the 24 players who formed the core of the league, based on the team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup – at least a third had played in the W-League, including Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow, Tracy Ducar, Sara Whalen, Christie Rampone, Danielle Fotopoulos, Tisha Venturini, and Siri Mullinix.
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