The NWSL draft is one of the biggest dates of the offseason calendar, and reader, you’re in luck because the 2023 NWSL Draft is today! This year’s draft class is absolutely loaded with talent; from a teenage phenom going from high school to the pros to pro-ready seniors, another explosion of young talent is set to hit the league this season. Tune in at 6pm ET on Paramount+ or CBS Sports HQ to watch the draft in its entirety.
When do the Spirit pick?
Unfortunately, the Spirit don’t have many draft picks to play with, as they’re only slated to select 26th and 37th overall. But this may be even more reason to watch. Training camps can officially begin in eleven days and Washington currently has just 18 players under contract for 2023.
Julia Roddar’s transfer back to Sweden has left the Spirit with all their international slots to play with, along with future picks. It’s possible some combination of these pieces (plus money and/or a player) could land the Spirit in the first round. Still, it’s a loaded draft with over 250 players registered and just 48 slots available to select players. Expect a mad dash to invite undrafted talents to preseason camps.
How will the Spirit approach the draft?
Reader, this is a massive unknown. Previous iterations of the Spirit were aggressive on draft day, but this is new owner Y. Michele Kang and former Florida State head coach, now-Spirit President of Soccer Operations, Mark Krikorian’s first crack at a draft.
From previous moves, we know Krikorian has excellent relationships among youth ranks, which he leaned on to recruit interim head coach Albertin Montoya to take over after the dismissal of Kris Ward. Krikorian has also brought in former FSU assistants Mike Bristol and Morinao Imaizumi. This has also been felt on the player side when Canadian international and former FSU star Gabrielle Carle was announced as the Spirit’s only new signing so far.
Another thing to note is that Krikorian still had a lot of player support during his breakup with Florida State. Projected first round pick, defender Emily Madril, left FSU to play in Sweden ahead of the draft, citing her frustration in how the situation was handled and the lack of communication from school administration.
New head coach Mark Parsons is no stranger to the draft, and has historically been aggressive in securing top talent. He was on the Spirit’s staff when they grabbed Crystal Dunn #1 overall in 2014, and he finagled Portland into the #1 slot in 2020 to take Sophia Smith. The Thorns also made another few deals in 2021 to get up to 6th and select Yazmeen Ryan.
Who are some talents to keep an eye on?
In keeping with the Florida State theme, many of the players responsible for the school’s 2021 College Cup winning season have entered the draft. In addition to Madril, midfielders Clara Robbins and Jenna Nighswonger are also projected to be selected in the first round.
Of course, the Spirit would need to make a major deal in order to nab either one of these players, but all would fit a position of need. While midfield is currently the Spirit’s deepest position, the 2023 World Cup will see Andi Sullivan and Ashley Sanchez away from the club for multiple matches.
However, if the Spirit stand pat and elect not to move up, they’ll still have opportunities to add productive rookie talent. One name to keep an eye on is UCLA defender Madelyn Desiano. There’s an outside chance that she’d still be there by the time Washington’s first pick rolls around, but if she is, consider it a bit of a steal. En route to winning the 2022 College Cup, Desiano helped secure fourteen shutouts for the Bruins, and scored the game winning goal in the round of 16 and again in the semifinal versus Alabama.
Let’s get silly, what would YOU do?
This is tough because it’s a World Cup year and the United Spirits (shoutout to our Blogfather) are set to be the most affected out of anybody. Assuming full health, previous call ups have included Aubrey Kingsbury, Emily Sonnett, Andi Sullivan, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman. Vlatko’s been nothing if not consistent in his call ups, so we can expect to be without key talents for quite a few matches this year.
Given this, I’m inclined to get a little crazy. The current Spirit midfield has been together for a number of seasons and it could be time to shake it up a bit. Finagling a deal to pick up Clara Robbins would be first on the list. She’s pro-ready, and with a preseason and few months as Sullivan’s understudy, she’d be ready to step in once Andi heads to New Zealand.
As stated before, this draft is loaded. Therefore any stockpiling of picks could allow a team to add serious competition, or at the very least, depth. That’s exactly what Washington needs in the goals department.
Ashley Hatch has been the Spirit’s top scorer every full season since 2018. In only one season did anyone else on the team chip in with five or more goals (Rodman, 6; 2021). Last season every playoff team besides Chicago and San Diego had at least two players who hit the five goal mark. The Spirit should be on their toes and ready to pull the trade trigger should Riley Mattingly Parker, Haley Hopkins, or Jessica De Filippo start to fall.
Also, because she scored my goal of the year, it’d be worth keeping an eye on Lena Silano and nudging someone out of the way to bring her into preseason camp.
Of course, this approach would leave the defense a bit thin and, depending on the cost to move up, could limit resources needed to bring in quality. This is probably why I’m writing this instead of having serious draft-related responsibilities at a club. Regardless, the Spirit should consider making moves in this draft. There’s too much talent to miss out on.
We’ll be back after the draft to discuss anything and everything that happens. Also, be on the lookout for our live draft tracker throughout the evening and night, as Annie Elliott will be standing by to walk you through any Spirit related news that comes!
Happy drafting, Spirits!