The 2021 NWSL College Draft is, even moreso than usual, going to be an unusual event. Some stars have opted out, players that were expected to leave school early are going to stick with NCAA soccer this year, and the rules are different due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re used to it being a chaotic day, but this is unlike any draft the league has ever seen.
For the Washington Spirit, though, there are still four chances to add players to a roster that is built with competing for trophies in mind. Head coach Richie Burke has said over the years (including literally within the last week) that he drafts players that he intends to sign to pro deals, so in all likelihood if the Spirit take a player, they’re not just giving them a preseason try-out.
With all that in mind, we’re going to run a live post right here, with updates, analysis, and probably a bunch of jokes from André Carlisle and I being added to this story throughout the draft. Follow along, hit us up in the comments, and we’ll try to keep the draft fun.
Scroll down for the basic info you need to watch. Our most recent updates will live up here!
11:55pm (André): That was fun! I am genuinely shocked we made it before midnight given all the time outs and that it nearly took two hours to get to ten picks. I think the consensus is that the Spirit did some good work in this draft. We’ll certainly have more later so stay tuned!
11:48pm (Jason): Alright, unless the Spirit trade back in for the final pick, we’re done for the night. Washington’s last pick is Mariana Speckmaier, a forward (no, really) out of Clemson. Speckmaier led the Tigers in scoring in 2018 (10 goals) and in 2019 (6 goals).
Here’s the full Spirit draft summed up:
Forward Trinity Rodman
Forward Tara McKeown
Forward Anna Heilferty
Forward haha just kidding Goalkeeper Sydney Schneider
Forward Mariana Speckmaier
11:38pm (André): Big fan of this meme format. Also, that is a terrific action shot of the 5’10 Schneider at near full-extension.
How it started: How it’s going: pic.twitter.com/ckQQoS5dw3— UNCW Women's Soccer (@UNCWSoccer) October 20, 2020
11:19pm (Jason): I’ve officially hit the wall in terms of staring at a screen, and because it’s been about 5 hours since I had anything other than tea (which ran out about an hour ago). There’s still one more Spirit pick, and right now Mark Parsons is telling the media he wants to trade back into this draft before it’s done. Might get past midnight!
11:10pm (André): LOVE THIS PICK! That Jamaica squad was really fun and Schneider had some big moments! Really good pick, and she gets to learn under the one and only Brick Wall.
10:58pm (Jason): Spirit are back up after several more picks, and several more timeouts, but mercifully Washington didn’t take one of the latter. What they did do is select Jamaica national team starter Sydney Schneider, a goalkeeper who went to UNC-Wilmington. You might remember Schneider for making this penalty kick save during the 2019 World Cup:
Richie Burke just came on Plex Weather to say that the Spirit wanted a goalkeeper who was good with her feet, but he was hinting more towards a player with some starting pro experience. On the other hand, the Spirit’s policy with draft picks is that they’re picking players that they expect to sign and have on the roster all year.
10:39pm (André): I love it, you never know when Richie is gonna give you a bit more information. For weeks — nay, months — he’s been saying they’re looking to bring in an international player, and suddenly we know a country! Dust off your sleuthing kits, time to go to work!
10:32pm (Jason): Richie’s out here talkin’!!!
10:27pm (Jason): Here’s a little more from Burke on Tara McKeown:
10:23pm (André): Burke mentions that Anna Heilferty has trained with the squad as she’s local, and that they got a lot of positive feedback about her after those sessions.
10:13pm (Jason): The Spirit used the 19th overall pick to select winger/forward Anna Heilferty out of Boston University. Heilferty is a Falls Church native who was a three-year starter with the Terriers from 2017-2019. Boston struggled in 2019, but her sophomore season saw her post a 6 goal/6 assist season, so it looks like Washington is betting on being able to resurrect that kind of form.
9:48pm (Jason): There have been a lot of timeouts, so this round-up of picks isn’t very long. Here’s what has gone on in the last half-hour:
- Portland, after a timeout, took Sam Coffey from Penn St. Very good pick if you ask me, impressed by her when Penn St. played the Spirit in preseason.
- Sky Blue, after a timeout, traded the 13th pick to Louisville for a player to be named later and $35,000 in allocation money. The new kids took Kirsten Davis from Texas Tech
- Orlando took a timeout as well, but ended up picking BYU’s Mikayla Colohan.
- Kansas City mercifully did not call a timeout, and took Victoria Pickett of Wisconsin.
- Kansas City was up again, and took UCLA’s Lucy Parker.
9:16pm (Jason): Second round is under way. First round wrapped with Canada national teamer Deanne Rose going to the Courage, and now UNC’s Taylor Otto has been picked by Louisville. Portland is up next. The Spirit’s next pick is #19, but hopefully this round is a little faster.
9:00pm (André): Extremely hilariously, Richie Burke hopped in on McKeown’s post-draft presser and is doing our job for us! Thanks Richie!
8:45pm (André): Having waived a lot of attacking talent earlier this offseason — Crystal Thomas, Jessie Scarpa and Meghan McCool — it was surely a priority to add new young attackers, and Rodman and McKeown are two exciting ones.
8:38pm (Jason): After a very long wait, the Spirit have made a trade: $100,000 in allocation money and their natural 2022 2nd round pick to Sky Blue to pick up the 8th pick, which they used to take USC’s do-it-all player Tara McKeown!
After 2 good years, McKeown absolutely went off in 2019:
8:25pm (Jason): Chicago takes forward Madison Haley, which feels like a really good move for them. Haley has a real path to be a regular part of the mix alongside Mal Pugh and Kealia Watt in the near future. It also feels like they were going to take her anyway, so this trade with Portland is classic Red Stars draft day move-making.
8:20pm (André): And here are the results! Biggest immediate thing is the Red Stars getting an international slot.
And with that newly acquired pick the Thorns selected Yazmeen Ryan, midfielder from TCU!
8:10pm (André): Oh no the Red Stars are on the clock and just called a timeout, Rory Dames is about to get his swindle on. Cut the phone lines!
7:50pm (Jason): Pinto ended up going to Sky Blue at #3, and then Sky Blue took their timeout, and...Uh wow!
Kansas City then used that pick to take Stanford defender Kiki Pickett.
7:36pm (André): Also, in case you hadn’t heard, yes she is the daughter of that Rodman! Should be fun having her, a very young player, which fits with the Spirit’s typical draft activity. I am super excited to see what she can do in this team and in this setup, she’ll have a great defense and midfield behind her, so she should have plenty of opportunities to shine.
7:28pm (Jason): Here are the basics on Rodman: 5’10” forward, USA under-20, went to Washington State but didn’t actually play because Covid-19 wiped out the Pac-12 schedule this fall. She can play as an out-and-out striker, or on either wing, and she’s flat-out electric on the ball.
7:23pm (André): The Spirit select Trinity Rodman! A bit surprising with Brianna Pinto still on the board but a very exciting player coming nonetheless!
7:19pm (Jason): Louisville selects defender Emily Fox (UNC). So this leaves the Spirit with a complicated decision, because I think most people thought Brianna Pinto would go first instead.
Also, hey, the Spirit are on the clock!
7:00pm (Jason): Alright y’all the broadcast is going on Twitch, I am wearing a dress shirt for media zooms but otherwise am in the sweats I put on this morning. Simulating the draft day experience by playing dance music and having odd meal times all day.
Let’s do this thing.
When: 7:00pm Eastern
Where: We’re all at home. The draft is at your house, the draft is at my house.
When do the Spirit pick?: Washington has the 2nd overall pick, and then the 19th overall, 29th overall, and 39th overall (a.k.a. the second-to-last pick in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds).
What can we expect?: It’s a weird draft, with several top names either signing abroad (Catarina Macario) or opting to stay in school (Jaelin Howell). While it’s an exercise in futility trying to predict picks after the top 5, we can at least hone in on the Spirit at #2.
B&RU has heard buzz that the Spirit think very highly of US under-20 striker Trinity Rodman, while UNC midfielder Brianna Pinto — who is leaving school before her eligibility is up, but is also planning on playing for the Tar Heels during this spring’s NCAA season — is another future NWSL star that seems sure to go either to Racing Louisville with the first pick, but if the expansion side throws us (another) curve ball...well, that’ll be a tough call for the Spirit.
How can I watch?: The draft is streaming on NWSL’s Twitch page.
What are the rules?: Well, that’s complicated. The league allowed clubs to draft any player that has used three years of NCAA eligibility, even if they don’t register, but clubs can also pick players who haven’t used three years (but only if those players register). The list of registered players is here.
One thing we do know, after Lisa Baird said it clearly at yesterday’s State of the League: teams cannot select Catarina Macario, who signed her deal with Lyon before the event. It seems safe to assume this extends to Malia Berkely as well, as she signed with Bordeaux yesterday.
This post will update throughout the draft, with posts from André and me (Jason) throughout.