Less than a day before the 2019 NWSL College Draft, the Washington Spirit bundled the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and their natural 2020 first round pick to trade up, exchanging those spots with the Chicago Red Stars. In exchange, Washington gets the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft (which starts at 11:00am Eastern tomorrow morning).
For the Spirit, the move is clearly designed to move up and grab a specific player. That isn’t too much of a surprise, given that the draft pool is heavy on talented defenders and Washington is currently very short in the back. At the moment, the only true defenders the Spirit have under contract are center backs Estelle Johnson and Whitney Church. Caprice Dydasco was offered a contract after the 2018 season ended, but the club has yet to announce whether she has signed it. Taylor Smith and Rebecca Quinn are also under contract as Federation Players, but Smith recently tore her ACL (and may lose her Federation status), while rumors from France have linked Quinn to a move to Paris FC.
Other defensive options include winger Mallory Eubanks (who is under contract) and central midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard (who, like Dydasco, was offered a deal after the 2018 season concluded). However, even if every possibly defender returns, the Spirit would enter 2019 with three natural defenders and three midfielder/defenders (two of whom have very limited experience playing defensive roles).
The Spirit now hold the 4th, 7th, and 8th picks in the first round, as well as the 29th and 31st overall picks (which fall in the fourth round). It would not come as a surprise to see them use at least two of those first round picks to bolster their defense, though it is also worth noting that the team also needs attacking help coming off of a season in which they set an NWSL record for goalscoring futility.