The 2017 NWSL Draft starts at 3pm today and features a unusually talented class of prospects. The Washington Spirit will need this draft to recoup from offseason losses and injuries. The Spirit currently hold the 19th, 29th, and 36th overall picks. The Boston Breakers hold the No. 1 and No. 3 picks, while the North Carolina Courage (until very recently they were the Western New York Flash) hold the second overall pick.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Lavelle is a talented playmaker who makes up for a slight build with unmatched technical ability. She also dominated in the Big 10, one of the more physical conferences. Lavelle is also part of the current USWNT camp. At Wisconsin she earned several indivudal honors, including 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist. In 2016, she played in a deeper role for the Badgers. While Lavelle isn’t the clear first pick, she’ll likely be one of the first names called.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Andrews is likely headed to the Breakers who are in the midst of a rebuilding process and value local players. The Milford, New Hampshire, native was a teenage phenom and started her career at Notre Dame before transferring to the University of Southern California. Andrews scored the opening goal in the NCAA final this fall to lead the Trojans to the NCAA title. Andrews is currently in training camp with the U-23 national team. She has previously practiced with Boston.
Hatch is a probable first round pick who could potentially head to North Carolina. Hatch’s technical side isn’t great but she is an athletic, strong forward that many coaches covet. The Courage isn’t in dire need of a forward but she fits in well with other forwards on the club’s roster. In her senior year, Hatch scored 19 goals and was named an All-American. While BYU isn’t in a top conference, Hatch scored a hat trick against Penn State last August.
Jordan is one of the best forwards in the draft but rumors indicate Jordan might go overseas. Jordan is crafty and smart player inside the box and notched 81 goals for the Gators. She is tough and savvy player who can not only score herself but also help put her teammates on the board.
Christina Gibbons is a gritty, versatile defender who mainly played left back for Duke but moved around as needed. Gibbons is one of the top defenders in the draft and was recently called up by Jill Ellis to the USWNT’s January camp- albeit as a midfielder. She’s the kind of player that coaches look for and is sure to come off the board early.
What the Spirit need
After losing Crystal Dunn, Ali Krieger, Christine Nairn, Estefania Banini, and Megan Oyster this offseason and three players suffering ACL tears , the Spirit are in need of rebuilding. This is complicated by the club only holding three picks (the earliest is a late second round pick) and not having many players to trade in exchange for spots. The most pressing roles to fill are right back, goalkeeper, and some depth at forward.
With three late picks, the Spirit’s options will be limited by other teams. Here are some candidates for roles the Spirit need to fill.
Position: Center back
This draft class is mostly attacking players, leaving the Spirit with limited defensive options. Wagner is a Clemson center back with strong offensive side as well. She could either convert to an outside back or provide depth at center back while Whitney Church replaces the injured Caprice Dydasco at right back. Wagner has a decent long-range shot which could be useful for the Spirit.
Position: Left back
Boon is one of the few left backs in the draft and could provide depth behind Alyssa Kleiner at left back. Portland has struggled the past few years and Boon also suffered a torn hip flexor at the start of her sophomore season. Boon will likely fall to the third or fourth round but could be a valuable addition to the Spirit.
Position: Center back
A potential second round pick, McNabb was part of a good backline at Virginia and is one of the few solid defenders who the Spirit could take in the second round.
Position: Center back
LePaul was a crucial part of a stingy Georgetown defense that advanced to the semifinals this season. She will probably drop to the fourth round and could provide useful depth for the Spirit.
Position: Right back
Another potential fourth round pick, Erin Smith is one of the few right backs in the draft. A New Jersey native, Smith led a stingy Rutgers backline to the College Cup in 2015. In addition, Smith was useful on offense and scored two goals as a junior.
It’s unlikely that USWNT call-up Jane Campbell will drop low enough for the Spirit to draft her but there are still a few goalkeeper options for the Spirit. Sheridan is a Canadian goalkeeper who was an alternate for the Rio Olympics. She helped lead a strong Clemson defense this year. Her decision making isn’t the greatest but Sheridan could be a useful backup while Wys is injured.
A four-year starter at Pepperdine, Seabert will likely fall to a late round making her a realistic option for the Spirit. She finished her career with a 0.90 goals against average and Pepperdine’s all-time record for most saves. Her footwork isn’t great but she is a good option for a backup keeper. However, if Steph Labbe doesn’t return to the Spirit, Seabert isn’t of the caliber to start from opening day.
Harris didn’t become the top goalkeeper at UNC until her final season but impressed enough in her final season to warrant inclusion. She has a flair for quick saves and while she doesn’t have the experience to be a starter from day one, could be a valuable backup, particularly for a late draft pick.
Sammy Jo Prudhomme
An unlikely pick, Prudhomme might sneak in the fourth round. Her stock increased considerably after a good senior season with USC that culminated in a national title.
Position: Right forward
After Cali Farquharson’s injury and Estefania Banini signing with Valencia, the Spirit need additional depth at forward. Purce has excelled at times for Harvard and with youth national teams but also sometimes suffers from poor decision-making. The Olney, Maryland, native has played with the Washington Spirit Reserves and won the W-League Championship with the team in 2015. The Spirit could use the No. 19 pick for Purce or see if she drops to the third round.
Position: Anywhere on the front line
Another potential second or third round pick, Toni Payne excelled for Duke and advanced to the NCAA final her junior year thanks to an astounding semifinal performance from Payne. In her senior year, Payne tallied nine goals and six assists. A fast and dynamic player, Payne proved potent on counter attacks and her pace would be a useful addition to the Spirit attack.
A two-time Big 10 Forward of the Year, Simone Kolander is another option for the Spirit. Kolander emerged as a promising star during her time at Minnesota. She played in 86 games for the Golden Gophers and scored 28 goals and notched 20 assists during her career. In 2015, she scored six game-winning goals. She’s not the most efficient finisher, but she could provide useful depth up top.
Position: Right forward/left forward
A later pick, Thomas could help fill in on the flanks in Washington’s 433 while Farquharson recovers from her ACL tear. Thomas is smart in the box and helped Georgetown advance to the College Cup in her final season. Thomas was recently invited to the Under-23 national team’s January training camp.