The 2016 NWSL preseason began in earnest on Friday in Baltimore, as 40 players were taken in the draft. The league will soon embark on its fourth season, which is something the WUSA and WPS were not able to say. The Washington Spirit are beginning a new era with head coach Jim Gabarra, who came from Sky Blue FC to replace Mark Parsons, who made his way to Portland in the offseason. The Spirit had the seventh overall pick, with two more in each of the second and fourth rounds, and none in the third round. Let's see what Gabarra and company did.
First Round - 7th pick, 7th overall
Forward, Florida State
The 5'9 forward spent two years at Vanderbilt before transferring to Florida State. In her two years at Florida State, she scored 24 goals in 41 games. With Williams in the attack, the Seminoles reached the College Cup twice and won it once, in 2014, with Williams assisting the title-winning goal.
Forward, Arizona State
Second Round - 2nd pick, 12th overall
Farquharson scored 44 goals over 74 games in four seasons, never scoring less than 10 goals in one year. She led her team in goals scored every year, and departed Arizona State as the school's second leading goal scorer. She missed four games due to injury as a senior, but still garnered first team all conference honors.
Midfielder, Texas Tech
Second Round - 10th pick, 20th overall
The central midfielder graduated with 25 assists to her name, the second highest tally at the school. She owns the school record for assists in a season, which she broke as a junior in 2014 with 12 assists. She added 13 career goals, and was first team all conference as a senior.
Goalkeeper, San Francisco
Fourth Round - 4th pick, 34th overall
Schiffel graduated from USF as the school's leader in wins (29) and clean sheets (23), and was first team all conference as a senior.
Fourth Round - 7th pick, 37th overall
The Potomac, MD native began her career at Duke as a midfielder, but transitioned to centerback in her junior year, where she remained for the rest of her collegiate career. As a senior, Wilson was an important piece as her team reached, but ultimately lost, the College Cup final. She previously played with the Washington Spirit Reserves in the W-League.
The two most glaring weaknesses on the Spirit roster as currently comprised are left back and goalkeeper. Starting goalkeeper and national team player Ashlyn Harris left the Spirit for the Orlando Pride via the expansion draft. Kelsey Wys remains as the defacto number one, but it remains to be seen whether she can approach what Harris brought to the Spirit over previous seasons. Schiffel has potential, and she has seen time with youth national teams, but I would not expect her to contribute immediately. Jim Gabarra opted not to strengthen at left back in the draft. The best left back in the draft was Florida State's Carson Pickett, but she was taken fourth overall by the Seattle Reign, leaving the Spirit to take Pickett's teammate Cheyne Williams. Gabarra could be forgiven for not reaching for another left back in the first round, so hopefully there are other ways for the Spirit to improve at the position before the season begins.
Among all the draft picks, Williams should contribute immediately, even though it probably means that Crystal Dunn is pushed out to the wing despite Dunn's success at forward last season. Farquharson seems somewhat redundant, especially considering that UNC fullback Katie Bowen was still on the board, and went four picks later to FC Kansas City. I can see Alli Murphy appearing as late game substitute and injection of creativity when the Spirit need to come from behind. If the Spirit intend to go with Wys as the starter, Schiffel would serve as the backup. Kara Wilson would look to be good depth at centerback.
There's still a way to go before the season begins, so more roster moves are likely to come. I don't fully understand everything the Spirit did in the draft, but there is some good to look forward to.