NWSL – 2017 NWSL Draft – Chris’ Big Board Top 26

Hello everyone. Instead of making everyone wait for the full edition, here are the Top 25 on my Big Board after the 2016 season, only considering players that have officially declared as of today. If you read the earlier version of the Big Board posted this past Summer, you can skip the “What I Said Before 2016” section for each prospect and just move onto the “Anything New?” section for each prospect.

EDIT: I’ve added YouTube highlight videos for players that have them. Click on the player’s name where applicable.

EDIT 2: This post has been edited to reflect additional prospects who have entered the draft.

I’ll be posting profiles of the rest of the prospects ranked on my board later in the week.

1. Rose Lavelle – MF (MC) – Wisconsin

What I Said Before 2016:

On the precipice of a breakthrough at senior international level, Lavelle looks to be a dead certainty to be one of the top two picks in January’s draft, and could end up going #1 overall depending on team need. While Lavelle was a highly touted player coming into Wisconsin, few probably envisioned her rising to this level after four seasons in the college ranks. But Lavelle was an instant star for the Badgers, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and raking in awards by the bucketful since at an individual level, including a pair of All-America honors her past two seasons in Madison. Some might argue that Lavelle’s high volume shooting can be problematic at times, but given the dearth of weapons around Lavelle at times, it’s a lot more understandable. Lavelle impresses just as much with her ability to keep the game simple with short passes as she does with her runs with the ball from midfield. It’s those runs with the ball at warp speed that captivate the eye and make the quick footed Lavelle such a threat to opposing defenses. But most are probably starving for the opportunity to see Lavelle in an offense with superior players to see what the midfield schemer can really do.

Anything New?

Lavelle played in a deeper midfield role for much of 2016, which may help her draft stock, but it probably didn’t do much to enhance a toothless Wisconsin attack. She still played well and is an easy first round pick and potential #1 though thanks to her upside. I don’t think she’s a can’t miss player, but I do think Lavelle is a sturdy building block for someone in the midfield.

2. Christina Gibbons – D/MF – Duke

What I Said Before 2016:

Duke’s Swiss army knife really began to rise to prominence in 2014 when she battled her way onto the U.S.’ U20 World Cup team and held her own at left-back for most of the tournament. It underlined Gibbons’ ability at youth international level after having impressed early on in her Blue Devils career, when she had started every match as a rookie while looking like one of the best young defenders in the country. Gibbons continued to grow as a sophomore despite battling injuries late and showcased her versatility in taking up a more offensive role for the Blue Devils as they searched for goals. But Gibbons only really took the leap to the next level for Duke last season, helping marshal one of the nation’s best defenses. With Gibbons playing multiple roles for Duke over the course of the season, she excelled both defensively and going forward, netting three goals and five assists in an All-America season for Duke as they made a thrilling run to the College Cup final. Her versatility in being able to play just about anywhere on the pitch should help her cause, though you have to figure she’ll find her best role at full-back, the role she filled at the U20 World Cup.

Anything New?

Gibbons played more of an offensive role as a senior out of necessity as the Blue Devils were crushed by injuries. That they were able to get to the Elite Eight and within one win of an ACC title is a massive credit to their senior class, including Gibbons, who continues to look like a star in the making. The big question is, where on the pitch will it be? Conceivably, Gibbons could be a utility player used where needed. Regardless, she looks like a very good bet for the first round.

3. Savannah Jordan – F (CF) – Florida

What I Said Before 2016:

The active scoring leader in DI going into 2016 has been an unholy terror with the ball at her feet for three seasons for the Gators. Jordan made the best first impression possible as a freshman, scoring twenty-two goals for Florida, one of the best hauls in history at this level for a rookie. It’s been a steady deluge of goals ever since for Jordan, who topped nineteen goals as a sophomore with last season’s twenty-four goals and seven assists. While Jordan’s not lightning quick, she has enough of a burst and accompanying strength to separate from most opposing defenders. And if Jordan gets a sight of goal within eighteen yards, it’s almost assured that she’s going to be celebrating a goal. If the team that drafts her doesn’t try to get cute and do something daft like put her out on the wing, Jordan is going to be a dangerous scoring presence at the next level for years to come.

Anything New?

Jordan was still pretty good in 2016 but not quite the analytics darling that she was in her junior season. She still finished tied for seventeenth all-time in D1 career goals though and was still one of the nation’s top forwards. And yet the clarion call of “she’s not quick enough” has been uttered in some circles. As was the case with Makenzy Doniak last season, some teams never learn, and Jordan should still be a fine pro going forward with the right fit. Continue reading

NWSL – 2017 NWSL Draft – Four Factors Rankings

Is this thing on?

Why hello. After a long, long time away, I’m back for wall-to-wall coverage of the 2017 NWSL Draft, including on-site coverage, live from Los Angeles.

While I’m waiting until the official list of declared players comes out to release any type of public big board, I’ve calculated my Four Factors rankings for attackers for this past season. What are the Four Factors? Here’s my description from an earlier year’s rankings:

As anyone who follows me fervently knows, I’m always looking for new ways to quantify performance within college and pro WoSo. Branching out on last season’s analysis before the NWSL Draft, I’ve gone a step further by creating a “Four Factors” metric designed to measure efficiency and potency of attacking players eligible for the draft. As a quick check against last year’s draft class, the majority of players at the top of the rankings were drafted.

So who’s eligible to be tracked and what are the factors?

Who’s eligible? Any player who scored ten goals this season that were NOT penalties.

The Factors:

SPG – Shots per Goal – How many shots does it take for a player to score?

SOG% – Shot on Goal Percentage – How many of the player’s shots force a goalkeeper into action?

50 – Goals Scored Against RPI Top 50 Teams

100 – Goals Scored Against RPI Top 100 Teams

Each player in an individual draft class is ranked against the other eligible players, with the top ranked player in a category receiving the most points. If there are ten eligible players and a player finishes at the top of the RPI Top 100 category, that player gets ten “points” in the rankings. In terms of the 50/100 categories, players who didn’t score against RPI Top 50/100 clubs get zero points for that category. Points for all four of the ranking categories are added together to come up with a grand total.

While I’ve previously separated things out by class, this year, I’ve lumped everyone into the same data pool for the sake of my own calculations. Again, this isn’t meant to be a perfect guide, as stat keeping for the efficiency stats is shaky at times for some schools.

I’ve attached an Excel data file here if you’re interested in raw data.

Here are the basic rankings, with some notes for some interesting/notable findings (players ranked from worst to first):

34 – Ashley Herndon – James Madison – SR

Oof. Herndon comes in dead last on these rankings at probably the worst time possible thanks to not scoring against anyone with a pulse and some horrid efficiency numbers. She was a borderline draft prospect in my eyes going into 2016, but I’d probably opt out now.

39 – Chloe Williams – Eastern Washington – JR
56 – Alexis Pelefas – Central Michigan – SO
59 – Lauren Koehl – Illinois State – SR

59 – Margaret ‘Midge’ Purce – Harvard – SR

Purce is likely to be taken in the first half of the draft this year, but she’s still a very divisive prospect. The continued absence of production against top teams (even considering Harvard’s scheduling constraints) and poor efficiency numbers are still alarming. She passes the eye test, but I’d still be sweating bullets if choosing her.

60 – Megan Greene – Charlotte – FR
62 – Natasha Minor – Southeast Missouri State – SR
66 – Lexi Prillaman – Richmond – JR
68 – Savannah LaRicci – McNeese State – JR
72 – Jill Mullholland – Hofstra – SR
75 – Jemma Purfield – South Alabama – SO
77 – Emily Gingrich – Saint Joseph’s – SR
89 – Jessica Frey – Northern Kentucky – JR
90 – Carissima Cutrona – Buffalo – SO
101 – Maddie Clark – Mercer – SR
104 – Kela Gray – Howard – JR
116 – Hannah Rosenblatt – Northeastern – SO
116 – Jenna Hellstrom – Kent State – SO
119 – Maddie Gibson – Monmouth – FR
121 – Sarah Segan – William & Mary – FR

123 – Carol Rodrigues – UCF – SR

If you’re an international forward on the bubble, you better be high up on this list if you’re expecting to be drafted. Rodrigues isn’t and probably will be headed for other shores to get paid.

124 – Aaliyah Lewis – Alabama State – SR
126 – Allie Thornton – SMU – FR
127 – Ashley Smith – Central Arkansas – SO
127 – Sarah Collins – Stetson – JR

128 – Murielle Tiernan – Virginia Tech – SR

Tiernan’s probably done enough throughout her career to earn the benefit of the doubt for 2016, but her senior season probably didn’t help her draft stock.

128 – Tabby Tindell – Florida Gulf Coast – SR
131 – Kiersten Johnson – Toledo – SR
137 – Isabella Habuda – Liberty – JR
138 – Holly Enderle – North Dakota State – SO
140 – MacKenzie Cowley – George Washington – SR
140 – Maddie Mulford – Bucknell – JR
140 – Sarah Bonney – Texas Rio Grande Valley – FR
143 – Dakota Mills – Saint Joseph’s – SO
149 – Eleonora Goldoni – East Tennessee State – SO
151 – Molly Dwyer – Furman – JR
151 – Chandler Backes – Western Kentucky – FR
153 – Libby Leedom – Dayton – SR
153 – Kendall Ham – Bucknell – JR
153 – Laadi Issaka – Mississippi Valley State – JR
156 – Ariela Lewis – Alabama State – JR
160 – Rachelle Ross – Monmouth – JR

161 – Simone Kolander – Minnesota – SR

If you can stomach some middling efficiency numbers, Kolander could be worth a late flyer for attack minded teams thanks to a lot of goals against top teams.

164 – Michaela Abam – West Virginia – JR

Abam’s a statistical unicorn. The WVU forward scored the most goals against RPI Top 50 teams this season and finished dead last in shots per goal and shots on target % among players with ten non-penalty goals. Will the former outweigh the latter come next year? We’ll see. Continue reading

Playoffs at the ‘Plex

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women's professional soccer match at the 'Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Lori Lindsey holds off Marta, from a gameday program cover for the last team to have a women’s professional soccer playoff match at the ‘Plex, the 2009 Washington Freedom.

Based on what I’ve read on Twitter and elsewhere, Spirit fans have a definite glass-half-empty feeling about losing the first-place spot the last weekend of the season after having held it for several weeks previously. But look on the bright side: this is the best regular-season finish in the history of Washington women’s professional soccer.

Yes, Abby Wambach never managed it in four years here. Heck, Wambach and Mia Hamm combined never managed it. But this bunch of no-names – certainly with no one of the marquee value of the aforementioned – did the job.

However, though this Friday’s home playoff match is a first for the Spirit, it’s not a first for Washington (or the Soccerplex). Back in 2009, the Freedom finished third in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) on the strength of a 4-1-1 finish to the season, which included a barnburner, 4-4 match against Sky Blue at Yurcak Field that the Freedom tied up in the final minutes off a goal from Cat Whitehill. (I got held up at halftime behind the stands chatting with someone at that match and got back late only to find that I’d missed not one but two goals.) It’s a team with a few players familiar to Spirit fans: Joanna Lohman, Lori Lindsey, and Ali Krieger were all on the roster.
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Virginia Tech Tournament: Hokies Rule, Dukes Split

Ashley Herndon tallied a goal and an assist for James Madison but was only able to lead them to a split of their two matches.

Ashley Herndon tallied a goal and an assist for James Madison but was only able to lead them to a split of their two matches.

Once again I was able to head down to Thompson Field in Blacksburg, VA, to take in a four-team weekend tournament. This time Virginia Tech was hosting James Madison University, Indiana University, and Boston University.
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I went to the protests, and a soccer match broke out

Megan Rapinoe and Laura Harvey talk with the press after the match.

Megan Rapinoe and Laura Harvey talk with the press after the match.

For the second year in a row, the Seattle Reign’s late-season visit to the Soccerplex is overshadowed by happenings outside the match. You can find a zillion recaps and reactions to the sideshow online, both from the sources that cover the NWSL on a regular basis and the ones who only cover the league when something embarrassing or controversial happens.

You can read Spirit owner Bill Lynch’s explanation of why he rescheduled the anthem to prevent Megan Rapinoe from kneeling during the national anthem over at Equalizer Soccer. And I’ve uploaded Rapinoe’s fifteen-minute post-game interview – of which less than a minute is about the game – to Youtube. Caitlin Buckley also has a transcription of key parts of it.

And Steven Goff of the Washington Post has a day-after followup.

I’m still formulating my own opinion on the situation and don’t want to focus on that at this point, anyhow, but I will note on a night that Lynch’s team ensured a home playoff game and the most successful regular season of any Washington team ever, thanks in considerable part to him there’s hardly any attention being paid to that. But I’ll try to remedy that from here on out.
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Spirit Clinch Playoff Spot With 1-1 Draw Against Flash

It’s not hard to tell when the Spirit are going to win: they’ll be pinging the ball around from player to player, players always on the move to make themselves an open passing target, everyone calmly keeping possession and looking for an opening. I knew from the start of last week’s game that they’d beat Orlando because they came out playing that way.

Tonight against the Western New York Flash it was like that for only about ten minutes late in the first half. Other than that and a few minutes in the second half, the team seemed to be on their heels the entire evening. For both halves I sat near the goal Washington was attacking, and for both halves my dominant recollection is peering into the distance as the Flash went after the far goal.
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Spirit Triumph Over Breakers in Playoff Battle of NWSL Reserve Teams

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

Imani Dorsey scored twice to lead the Spirit Reserves to victory.

WPSL East Conference Final: Washington Spirit Reserves 3, Boston Breakers Reserves 1

It was everything you’d expect the first-ever match between two NWSL reserve teams to be: hard-fought, high-quality, and suspenseful. But the 2015 W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves came out on top on the strength of two goals from Imani Dorsey and a strike from distance by Maddie Huster that Carli Lloyd would have been proud of. Boston’s Katie Lenz countered with a well-placed goal, but it wasn’t enough.
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Spirit Reserves Tough It Out in WPSL Regional Semifinal

Washington, Boston reserve teams will face off for WPSL East Championship

Midge Purce picked up two assists but should have had a lot more

Midge Purce picked up two assists but could have had a lot more.

Unlike last season in the W-League’s fiercely competitive Southeastern Conference, the Washington Spirit Reserves have seldom been challenged this year, with their toughest opponent being the Spirit Academy. That changed tonight when they faced the regional hosts the Penn Fusion. They came away with a 3-1 victory, but it was hard-fought.
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NCAA – Chris’ 2017 Recruiting Rankings Summer Update (Top 50)

I’ve decided to dump Mallory Pugh into this class for UCLA since she’s not enrolling until January, so her clock doesn’t start until then.

1. Stanford
3. Penn State
4. Michigan
5. North Carolina
6. Duke
7. Virginia
8. Santa Clara
9. Cal
10. USC
11. Ohio State
12. Arkansas
13. Louisville
14. Texas Tech
15. Syracuse
16. Texas
17. Tennessee
18. Texas A&M
19. Florida State
20. Clemson
21. Wake Forest
22. Boston College
23. Auburn
24. South Carolina
25. Kent State
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NCAA – Chris’ 2018 Recruiting Rankings Summer Update (Top 25)

As always, still early, so these will likely change a bunch before next year, especially beyond the top handful.

1. North Carolina
2. Stanford
3. Virginia
4. Florida State
5. Penn State
6. Notre Dame
7. Washington
9. BYU
10. Duke
11. Boston College
12. Oklahoma State
13. Portland
14. Northwestern
15. Arizona
T16. Michigan
T16. Ohio State
18. Oregon
19. Tennessee
20. USC
T21. Rice
T21. South Carolina
23. LSU
24. Princeton
T25. Louisville
T25. Texas

Blue Chip Prospects

Brooke Bollinger – Florida State
Jaelin Howell – Florida State
Rachel Jones – North Carolina
Brianna Pinto – North Carolina
Alexa Spaanstra – Virginia