The fourth edition of the National Women’s Soccer League draft came to Maryland today and signs of progress were readily apparent even before the 2016 NWSL Draft kicked off this morning at the Baltimore Convention Center.
In stark contrast to previous editions when the league booked rooms that proved too small for its showcase event, this year’s model was held in the same space that had hosted the MLS SuperDraft one day previous.
Fans filled that hall today and the Washington Spirit’s supporters certainly brought the, um spirit, supplying the women’s draft with a raucous cheering section, a first at the draft for the growing league.
The media contingent continues to grow too and if things didn’t run quite as smoothly as at the SuperDraft, the opening five-minute delay was a forgivable glitch.
In an echo of the men’s event trades took center stage, with the Portland Thorns swapping the second pick in the draft for SkyBlue FC’s third selection hours before the draft got underway.
Portland received striker Nadia Nadeem in return, and the Thorns parted with next year’s natural first round pick as well as a conditional fourth rounder in return.
When the draft finally began the Thorns opened by making Emily Sonnett the second consecutive University of Virginia Cavalier to be chosen number one after the Houston Dash claimed Morgan Brian in that spot in 2015.
Sonnett, like Brian, is a U.S. WNT player and with Olympic places up for grabs the center back was with the national team and unable to attend.
Sky Blue made use of the second pick by eagerly snapping up Penn State and Costa Rica midfielder Raquel Rodriguez.
The adjustment period from college to the pro’s should be easier for “Rocky” than most, after all, Rodriguez has already played in a senior Women’s World Cup. And the former Nittany Lion was no passenger, Rodriguez scored the Ticas first ever World Cup goal in a 1-1 draw with Spain.
Rodriquez is a good get for the league, there was speculation that the midfielder/forward would begin her career in Europe.
Portland clearly came to Charm City ready to wheel and deal, quickly flipping the third pick that they acquired in the deal with Sky Blue FC for the number one position in the league’s Allocation Ranking Order.
The system is a new one announced by the league just before the draft that deals with unattached subsidized players (USI) formerly known as allocated players.
If the player’s right are not controlled by the club they can be claimed with the order determined by how the teams finished the previous season, playoffs included.
Portland is thought to be lining up 17-year-old Mallory Pugh with that pick, meaning that the U.S. U20 star, now in camp with the full U.S. WNT, would forego college to begin her pro career in Portland.
Also making a big splash today was the Houston Dash with three first round picks. Houston coach Randy Waldrum grabbed Notre Dame central defender Cari Roccaro with the fifth overall pick, followed that by taking Rachel Daly, out of St. John’s University by way of England at six, and finally Janine Beckie, a Canadian forward from Texas Tech, with the eight selection.
Afterward, the coach said, “I couldn’t be happier, I mean I’m ecstatic about the choices.” Waldrum felt comfortable using such a high pick on the injured Roccaro because he knows her so well from his time coaching the former U.S. U20 captain at Notre Dame.
The coach said that Roccaro had surgery on her hip to repair a torn labrum and will be out for four to six months. Waldrum is targeting a May or June return for the versatile Roccaro and he is confident in the pick.
“We just felt she was good enough to take her,” Waldrum said, “even if for some reason you didn’t have her for the full six months.” “I think,” the coach said matter of factly, “in the long run she is the kind of player that we want to build our team around.”
This year’s draft takes on added importance with many teams set to lose top players to the Olympics. Waldrum was not the only coach thinking along those lines but the coach of the Trinidad and Tobago national team, who won’t be going to the Olympics, admitted that he chose Daly at least in part as cover for Beckie, who is expected to make Canada’s Olympic team.
— Round 1 —
No. 1 – Emily Sonnett – UVA (Portland Thorns FC)
No. 2 – Raquel Rodriguez – Penn State (Sky Blue FC)#
No. 3 – Christen Westphal – U. of Florida (Boston Breakers)*
No. 4 – Carson Pickett – Florida State (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 5 – Cari Roccaro – Notre Dame (Houston Dash)
No. 6 – Rachel Daly – St. John’s Univ. (Houston Dash)
No. 7 – Cheyna Williams – FSU (Washington Spirit)
No. 8 – Janine Beckie – Texas Tech. (Houston Dash)
No. 9 – Michaela Hahn – Florida State University (WNY Flash)
No. 10 – Sam Witteman – UC Berkeley (Orlando Pride)
— Round 2 —
No. 11 – Makenzy Doniak – UVA (WNY Flash)
No. 12 – Cali Farquharson – ASU (Washington Spirit)
No. 13 – Leah Galton – Hofstra (Sky blue FC)
No. 14 – Mallory Weber – Penn State (WNY Flash)
No. 15 – Christina Burkenroad – Cal State Fullerton (Orlando Pride)
No. 16 – Katie Bowen – UNC (FC Kansas City)
No. 17 – Brittany Ratcliffe – UVA (Boston Breakers)
No. 18 – Brianne Reed – Rutgers (FC Kansas City)
No. 19 – Katie Naughton – Notre Dame (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 20 – Alli Murphy – Texas Tech (Washington Spirit)
— Round 3 —
No. 21 – McKenzie Beryhill – ASU (Portland Thorns FC)
No. 22 – Sarah Gorden – DePaul (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 23 – Erica Skroski – Rutgers (Sky Blue FC)
No. 24 – Laura Liedle – Stanford (WNY Flash)
No. 25 – Paige Nielson – UNC (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 26 – Britt Eckerstrom – Penn State (WNY Flash)
No. 27 – Abby Smith – Texas (Boston Breakers)&
No. 28 – Alexa Newfield – UNC (FC Kansas City)
No. 29 – Caroline Casey – William & Mary (Sky Blue FC)@
No. 30 – Summer Green – UNC (Seattle Reign FC)
— Round 4 —
No. 31 – Dani Weatherholt – Santa Clara (Orlando Pride)
No. 32 – Courtney Raetzman – Kentucky (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 33 – Janelle Flaws – Illinois (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 34 – Madalyn Schiffel – San Francisco (Washington Spirit)
No. 35 – Adrienne Jordan – No. Colorado (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 36 – Candace Johnson – Univ. of Missouri (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 37 – Kara Wilson – Duke (Washington Spirit)
No. 38 – Alex Arlitt – LSU (FC Kansas City)
No. 39 – Ashleigh Ellenwood – Arkansas (Chicago Red Stars)
No. 40 – Lindsey Luke – Utah (Seattle Reign FC)
* = Portland Thorns FC traded the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft, No. 4 spot in the Allocation Ranking Order and future considerations to the Boston Breakers in exchange for the No. 1 spot in the Allocation Ranking Order.
# = Sky Blue FC acquired the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 NWSL Draft from Portland as well as a natural first-round and conditional fourth-round selection in the 2017 NWSL Draft. In exchange, Portland received the rights to Nadia Nadim and No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft and a natural second-round pick in the 2017 NWSL Draft
& = Chicago Red Stars have acquired the No. 32 and No. 35 overall picks in the 2016 NWSL Draft. In exchange, the Boston Breakers have acquired No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft.
@ = Chicago Red Stars acquired No. 33 and No. 36 overall picks in the 2016 NWSL Draft. In exchange, Sky blue FC received the No. 29 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft