The National Women’s Soccer League may be months from featuring any games, but the 2019 NWSL draft marks an informal beginning of the season. While the draft’s impact has been blunted recently due to contraction, teams are still looking to land starters and regular contributors, and draft day is generally high on surprise trade announcements involving big names. For the Washington Spirit, it’s a big day as they look to recover from a nightmarish 2018 season. If 2019 sees them successfully rebuild after two bad years, whatever happens today is probably going to be a big part of it.
When will the Spirit pick?: In the first round, Washington has the 4th, 7th, and 8th picks (they picked one up yesterday afternoon). They’ll then skip two rounds, as they have no second round selections, before jumping back in with the 2nd and 4th picks in the fourth and final round (29th and 31st overall).
What about everyone else?: Here’s the full draft order.
Location: McCormick Place (Chicago, IL)
Start time: 12:00pm Eastern
What you should expect from the Spirit: After a disastrous 2018, it seems safer to say what you shouldn’t expect, since Washington has plenty of work to do. The roster is overloaded with forwards, winger/forwards, defensive midfielders, and goalkeepers, so it seems doubtful we’ll see more than one pick in those positions (and most likely, we’d be talking about a creative wide player rather than a speedy winger/forward type).
The Spirit badly need to increase their quality and depth at the back, as Taylor Smith’s torn ACL leaves them with just three full-time defenders. After a season that saw them shatter the league’s all-time lowest goals total, the Spirit also have a serious need for creativity in the midfield and out wide. They may appear to have that problem solved with Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and Estefania Banini all currently healthy and on the roster, but that trio will miss time for the World Cup. Lavelle and Pugh may not even make 10 appearances thanks to the USWNT’s
profit-driven extensive warm-up schedule, so Washington needs NWSL-ready options to step in.
Finally, as with any NWSL draft, there is plenty of reason to expect plenty of trades. The Spirit weren’t involved in last year’s flurry of moves, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they were aggressive today (and as the offseason goes on).
What are you drinking?: This was written before I even arrived in Chicago, but given that it’s Chicago in January, probably a hot cup of coffee or green tea.
This is the place for all your pre-, mid-, and post-draft discussion.