NWSL Draft – What They Need – Washington Spirit

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell:

When the Spirit have all of their personnel, they look like a pretty formidable side. They’ve got the ability to bomb forward from the defense, a great keeper, and some solid pieces in the middle of the park. But they aren’t going to have their top personnel for much of the season. The defense is shaky, to say the least, without the club’s national team players, especially on the flanks. If Kerstin Garefrekes doesn’t return, the club is dangerously short on guile in midfield besides Christine Nairn and Amanda Da Costa unless the club makes a risky move to throw Ali Krieger or Crystal Dunn into midfield. And the frontline could collapse like a house of cards if Natasha Harding doesn’t adapt quickly. The Spirit really need more than a single draft pick, but they’ll have to make do.

Biggest Needs: LB, CF, WG, CB, backup GK

GK – (Harris), (Williams), *Wys

As is the case with FC Kansas City and Boston, Washington will probably be sweating out the months leading up to the WWC and the possibility of losing starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris for an extended period of time. Likely battling with two others for two USWNT roster spots, Harris’ absence would be a serious blow to the Spirit’s playoff hopes. Unlike the other clubs mentioned above though, the Spirit have taken proactive steps to fortify the position in hopes of having a solid backup plan in the event of Harris’ absence.

Chantel Jones probably took a step backwards last season, and the Spirit made an intriguing switch in trading for WNY’s Kelsey Wys. Wys began as backup last season but ended up starting a giant chunk of the season after injuries struck down AD Franch and Lydia Williams. While Wys may struggle to be a full-time #1 at the moment, she’s a tested option in goal and probably wouldn’t be out of her depth if Harris is absent.

Oddly, the club claimed Wys’ WNY teammate from last season, Lydia Williams on waivers. It doesn’t make much sense on paper given Williams’ likely absence herself with Australia this Summer, and it’d be a surprise to see her in Spirit colors this season.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – Seattle Reign

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell

The Reign will be looking to avoid the hangover that struck the Flash after losing in the final in 2013 and look well poised to do it. The defense and midfield that played so well for the entirety of the season return intact and should be able to pounce on opponents’ weaknesses mid-season during the WWC. Re-signing Beverly Yanez was key to the frontline during the WWC, but how much will the Reign miss Naho? There aren’t any glaring weaknesses here, meaning Seattle will likely be drafting for depth on Friday.

Biggest Needs: WF, CF, backup GK, CM depth, RB/CB depth

GK – *Kopmeyer, (*Solo)

The Reign are in the same boat as most of the rest of the league, likely to be heavily dependent on their backup keeper for most of the year. Hope Solo is the only USWNT GK assured of a roster spot for the WWC, and her legal issues aren’t going to make things any less complicated if things aren’t settled by the start of the season. There’s no questioning Solo’s ability though, and if she’s there and in the right frame of mind, she gives the Reign a major advantage between the sticks.

Solo’s absence for international duty puts the pressure on third-year keeper Haley Kopmeyer. Kopmeyer’s been the understudy for two seasons and will finally get an extended chance to shine in 2015. She’s looked raw but capable in her limited minutes thus far and will have a chance to take a big step forward this season. There’s a good chance the Reign will bring in some additional competition though, as they at least need some cover with Solo being gone for so much of the season.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – FC Kansas City

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell

Admittedly, the defending champs don’t need much. The priority will be on adding to a defense that lost key contributors last season and which will be without Becky Sauerbrunn for much of the season. There are a lot of gambles currently on that backline: hoping Amy LePeilbet can hold it together, that Kate Deines can be a full-time starter at center-back, and Rafaelle Souza can play full-back at this level. Adding a couple of blue chip defenders from the draft would certainly add some insurance.

Biggest Needs: RB, LB, CB, backup GK, CF

GK – (*Barnhart), *Keane

It seemed like Nicole Barnhart had fallen permanently out of favor with the USWNT after being ignored for a call up all throughout the end of 2014. But Barnhart was back for the first camp of 2015, meaning the defending champs again may be worrying about their goalkeeping situation come WWC time. While Barnhart may still yet be lost in the shuffle with Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris, you wonder if Jill Ellis could really overlook a keeper who has been as solid as Barnhart’s been for the entirety of the NWSL era. If she is overlooked, FCKC will again be strong all season in goal.

If Barnhart goes to Canada, that could be problematic for the defending champs. The club, all things considered, got a good bargain in picking up Sara Keane as an undrafted free agent last season. Keane proved a fine understudy in the short-term, but it remains to be seen if she’s a long-term solution at the position. In any even, if Barnhart goes, the club will need a third goalkeeper for cover.
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NWSL Draft 2015 – The “Basic” Big Board AKA The Big, Big Board

OK. This is my big board for the 2015 Draft Class. Note I said not the “NWSL Draft Class”, but every senior from my evaluation. Also note the lack of notes. A limited amount of them will be on my “final” big board, with only confirmed entrants to the NWSL Draft. That will come late Wednesday/early Thursday. I hope.

  1. Morgan Brian – MF – Virginia
  2. Dagny Brynjarsdottir – MF – Florida State
  3. Sam Mewis – MF – UCLA
  4. Abby Dahlkemper – D – UCLA
  5. Sarah Killion – MF – UCLA
  6. Danielle Colaprico – MF – Virginia
  7. Kristin Grubka – D – Florida State
  8. Arin Gilliland – D – Kentucky
  9. Shea Groom – MF/F – Texas A&M
  10. Sabrina D’Angelo – GK – South Carolina
  11. Jaelene Hinkle – D – Texas Tech
  12. Lynn Williams – F – Pepperdine
  13. Caprice Dydasco – D – UCLA
  14. Chioma Ubogagu – F – Stanford
  15. Meghan Streight – D/MF – Texas A&M
  16. Daphne Corboz – MF – Georgetown
  17. Jordan Day – GK – Texas A&M
  18. Stephanie McCaffrey – F – Boston College
  19. Satara Murray – D – North Carolina
  20. Havana Solaun – MF – Florida
  21. Whitney Church – D – Penn State
  22. Nicole Setterlund – MF – Washington State
  23. Sofia Huerta – F – Santa Clara
  24. Lo’eau LaBonta – MF – Stanford
  25. Tatiana Coleman – F – UCF Continue reading

NWSL Draft – What They Need – Sky Blue FC

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell:

Seldom has a season rode on a signing as SBFC’s may. The club desperately needs offensive talisman Nadia Nadim back after last year’s star turn at midseason. Not just for her scoring ability, but the fact that Nadim isn’t going to the WWC, which separates her out from just about everyone else on the frontline for the New Jersey club.

Biggest Needs: DMC, CF, LB, WF, RB, CB (with pace)

GK – *Cameron, *Bledsoe

It’s a double-edged sword for the New Jersey club. On the one hand, the club loses last year’s #1, Jill Loyden, to retirement, raising some uncertainty about the goalkeeping situation here. On the other hand, Jim Gabarra’s side may be one of the few in the league that won’t be worrying about losing their starter to the Women’s World Cup.

Long-time backup and occasional injury fill-in Brittany Cameron looks to be back and will be the proven option in goal, though she did not quite reach the heights of 2013, when she looked to be one of the league’s better netminders for the bulk of her time as starter with Loyden injured. It’s clearly now or never for her hopes at an extended run at being a #1 though. Standing in her way will be Aubrey Bledsoe, the best keeper from last year’s class, who skipped out on the 2014 draft and juggled the W-League and a short sojourn to Europe. The upside, of course, is that she got to choose her NWSL destination. She could well be a long-term solution in goal here, it’s just a matter of proving she can handle the pressure of being a #1 right away.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – WNY Flash

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell:

Well, this is pretty easy. The Flash need everything, save a defensive midfielder, which looks well set with Becky Edwards and Amber Brooks. So it goes when your roster has been gutted in the offseason.

Biggest Needs: AMC, CF, WF, LB, CB, GK (if Franch does not return)

GK – Franch, *Jones

There’s as much drama here as with any other goalkeeping situation in the league, as the Flash continue to play hardball with AD Franch over a new contract. Franch looked like one of the league’s top goalkeeping talents as a rookie in 2013 but missed all of last season with an ACL injury. There’s no telling how she’ll recover from said injury, and Franch may be forced abroad if the Flash aren’t willing to ship her elsewhere if they can’t agree to a contract. Even if WNY does try and trade her, who exactly would pay a surely steep price for the former Oklahoma State star?

The Flash made what seems to be a lateral move on paper in terms of their other goalkeeping spot. Kelsey Wys wasn’t awful last season but may already be at her ceiling in terms of potential and was traded to Washington for Chantel Jones. Jones had impressed in 2013 with the Spirit serving as Ashlyn Harris’ understudy and playing behind an abysmal backline but was considerably shakier last season in limited minutes. If Franch doesn’t return, this will likely be Jones’ job to lose at the beginning of the season. At the same time, an exit by Franch could see the Flash target a goalkeeper with one of their many picks in the draft.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – Portland Thorns

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

(Yes, I know the Thorns have said they’re trading away their last draft picks. Humor me.)

In A Nutshell

Portland’s season may ride on answering two questions: Can trading for Kathryn Williamson cure a defense that bordered on inept at times last season? And can Jessica McDonald keep scoring for fun when Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair aren’t around. Answers in the affirmative could go a long way in seeing Portland in the playoffs again. But there are depth issues aplenty around the squad and perhaps no draft picks to help solve those issues.

Biggest Needs:

RB, DMC, CF, backup GK, LB (if Marshall not healthy)

GK – (*Angerer), Betos

Presumably, Nadine Angerer is returning to the Thorns for 2015, though what exactly that means is up for debate considering she’ll be missing large chunks of time due to the Women’s World Cup. Angerer was solid in goal for the Thorns for much of the season, especially considering the defense in front of her, but claims of the German being the undisputed world’s best do seem a bit hyperbolic in retrospect.

The experienced Michelle Betos is the backup again and performed fine in her limited action for the club last season. She’ll likely be the club’s #2 again. As is the case with almost all of the clubs this season, Portland will need to find a reserve keeper when Angerer is away. With the club seemingly interested in trading away all of its draft picks, that may be easier said than done.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – Boston Breakers

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In A Nutshell:

The Team That Couldn’t Defend last season made a few moves to rectify that situation bringing in Kassey Kallman and Amy Barczuk, but one wonders if it’ll be enough considering all the pieces from that defense that do return. There’s added problems on offense, where the club loses Lianne Sanderson, Jazmine Reeves, and Heather O’Reilly, with the Breakers casting their lot with a whole lot of Brazilians. The biggest gap though may be in midfield, where the club could well be high and dry if Kristie Mewis makes the USWNT WWC roster.

Biggest Needs: DMC, CB, LB, RB, backup GK

GK – *Kranich, (Naeher)

You certainly wouldn’t begrudge Alyssa Naeher a spot on the USWNT’s WWC roster after single-handedly keeping Boston from constant defensive humiliation last season, but the sudden rise of her profile isn’t going to make things easier for the Breakers this season if she does go to Canada. Naeher often stood on her head last season to keep Boston in matches, and being without her for potentially half the season or more could be the death blow to their playoff hopes in 2015. If Naeher doesn’t make the cut, she figures to be busy again given the uncertain backline in front of her.

Plan B? Good luck. The Breakers used Naeher for every single minute of last season, meaning they don’t have a keeper with any actual top-level experience in reserve at the moment. Second-year player Jami Kranich is the existing alternative, but given her utter lack of experience at this level and her disappointing college career, one wonders if Boston will be in the market for a more experienced alternative. At any rate, you’d think the Breakers may want to bring in competition for the understudy role, either through free agency or the draft.
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NWSL Draft – What They Need – Houston Dash

* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup

In a nutshell:

The trade for Carli Lloyd and all but certain drafting of Morgan Brian should turn the attacking midfield into the strongest part of the team instead of one of its biggest liabilities, while the midfield as a whole should shine if Brittany Bock can finally stay healthy. But the back four and frontline are each arguably the worst unit in the league and in need of some serious fortification which may be beyond just this draft.

Biggest needs: CB, CF, LF, backup GK, RB

GK – *Henninger, (McLeod)

It’s clearly a now or never situation for Bianca Henninger, as the trusted backup finally gets her chance to shine in an extended period as a club’s starter. The Next Big Thing a while back but has had to wait for opportunities while serving as the backup to both Nicole Barnhart and Erin McLeod. But with McLeod likely to miss most of the season on international duty with Canada, Henninger will have every opportunity to prove she can shine as a #1. A good showing could also get her back in the mix with the USWNT, where she’s slid down the pecking order with limited opportunity.

The situation behind her is up in the air until McLeod returns later in the season. While Houston does have some later draft picks to work with, there are gaping holes elsewhere to fill that might take precedent. That in mind, the Dash might have to pluck someone from open tryouts or an undrafted free agent. Not exactly a reassuring thought given the defense in front of her.
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NWSL/NCAA – Four Factors Analysis – Class of 2015

(For methodology notes, check earlier post for 2016-2018 classes.)

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 8.24.41 PM

OK, there’s obviously a lot to digest here.

As far as the top prospects are concerned, there are a hell of a lot them with serious red flags, save the Queen of Queens, Dagny Brynjarsdottir, who is, sadly, taking her talents to Germany. Brynjarsdottir pretty much aces every category, with the most questions perhaps coming in the shot per goal category…which is forgivable since she’s an attacking midfielder and not a center forward.

Sam Mewis is also reasonably impressive considering she’s technically a playmaker, while Shea Groom could be a more jack of all trades in midfield and on the wing, even with somewhat disappointing numbers in shot on goal percentage. The other highly sought after attacking midfielder, Morgan Brian, is solid everywhere but shot on goal percentage, where her 27.1% number is either deeply concerning or the mother of all statistical anomalies. Either way, there’s little evidence Brian isn’t worthy of the #1 pick, as her talents stretch beyond just these numbers.
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