The 2021 NWSL Expansion Draft, whether we like it or not, is upon us. Tonight, Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC will get to select from existing NWSL rosters to stock their own ahead of their 2022 debut seasons. While the Washington Spirit made a deal to prevent San Diego from taking any of their unprotected players, a separate deal with Angel City only protects Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, and Andi Sullivan, leaving a distinct chance that someone from Washington will be moving to LA in the near future.
Our live updates will be up here. Scroll down a bit for the draft info and our pre-draft thoughts.
8:26pm: I second that, I think the way both teams made plenty of pre-draft deals shows there’s truly no need for this format to endure. — André
8:20pm: That’s the expansion draft. Hopefully we never do this again! Here’s the quick summary of the picks:
Angel City - Dani Weatherholt, Claire Emslie, Jasmyne Spencer, Paige Nielsen
San Diego - Kristie Mewis, Kristen McNabb, Kaleigh Riehl — Jason
8:12pm: San Diego stops passing for once and sign Kaleigh Riehl, defender from Racing Louisville! Truly makes you wonder what deals have happened in the background because this has been a weird one from San Diego, there must be a lot we don’t know but hopefully will find out — preferably tomorrow when the trade window opens again! — André
8:07pm: This one’s tough news, as Nielsen is a big part of the team here off the field as well as a player that could start pretty much anywhere in the league. However, with the Spirit, the success they had with Sonnett and Staab pushed Nielsen to right back, where she wasn’t at her most comfortable. Expansion drafts suck, is I think what I’d say.
Anyway in the meantime, Jill Ellis has come back to make a new pick, but is first giving Aly Wagner on the broadcast a hard time before passing again. — Jason
8:05pm: Annnnnd there it is, first Spirit player selected. Paige Nielsen is headed to the left coast to play for Angel City. Not a horrible loss for the Spirit given how well Emily Sonnett settled into the CB spot next to Sam Staab. Good pickup for Angel City though, you can already see their defense taking shape and it’s shaping up to be a formidable one. — André
8:01pm: San Diego...passes? With their third pick? I don’t know what this is, they have a timeout. San Diego wyd??? — Jason
7:57pm: With the fifth pick Angel City pick up Jasmyne Spencer from Houston Dash! Spencer had a great stretch with the Dash in the middle of the season but dropped back to the bench once internationals returned. This is an awesome pick, plus Spencer is one of those players that is GREAT for team culture, super respected and incredibly thoughtful. Love this pick! — André
7:54pm: San Diego’s second pick is Kristen McNabb from OL Reign. Very solid player with experience all across a back four as well as playing as a defensive midfielder. The Reign figured to have several defenders that teams could have taken, but now they won’t lose players like Celía or Madison Hammond, as they’ve had multiple players picked and are off the board. — Jason
7:52pm: The second player selected by Angel City is Scottish winger Claire Emslie from Orlando Pride. To be honest a low key super quality pick IMO. Third overall might be sort of high, but Emslie is a solid player with plenty of international experience, and only 27 as well. — André
7:49pm: San Diego selects Kristie Mewis from Houston. Probably the biggest name in the pool, but also currently attached to some rumors that she might not want to stay in NWSL. So to me at least, it’s San Diego taking a big gamble straight away. It also means that Houston gets $150,000 in allocation money, and apparently more:
San Diego Wave selects #USWNT midfielder Kristie Mewis from the Houston Dash in the #NWSL Expansion Draft. A source with knowledge of the plans tells me that Mewis is being flipped in a trade and will NOT stay in San Diego.— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) December 17, 2021
Houston gets $150K allocation money for losing Mewis.
7:44pm: Well, so much for my big-brain thought of Angel City having less interest in holding midfielders...but it does lower the chances of them picking a Spirit player at that position. San Diego can’t take a Spirit player, so this next pick won’t come from Washington. — Jason
7:42pm: Angel City finally went on the clock at 7:38, whew that was a long pregame in which many unnecessary things were done. But here we go, with the first pick in the 2022 Expansion Draft ACFC select midfielder Dani Weatherholt from OL Reign. — André
7:30pm: Well guys, no one has made a pick yet, and league sponsors have gotten time to talk about their product, so that’s...uh, something. — Jason
Start time: 7:00pm Eastern
Available TV: CBS Sports Network
Available streaming: Paramount+, CBS Sports HQ, CBS Sports HQ’s Twitch channel, and NWSL’s Youtube channel.
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Spirit protected list: Washington, like all teams, was allowed to protect nine players:
- Dorian Bailey
- Aubrey Bledsoe
- Bayley Feist
- Ashley Hatch
- Tara McKeown
- Julia Roddar
- Trinity Rodman
- Ashley Sanchez
- Sam Staab
On top of that, they traded the rights to MA Vignola to Angel City to protect O’Hara, Sonnett, and Sullivan, effectively expanding their list to 12.
Spirit unprotected list: Let’s sort them out by position:
GK: Devon Kerr, Sydney Schneider
DF: Camryn Biegalski, Paige Nielsen, Karina Rodríguez
DF/MF: Morgan Goff, Tori Huster, Saori Takarada
MF: Taylor Aylmer, Jordan DiBiasi, Lori Lindsey (retired), Joanna Lohman (retired)
MF/FW: Anna Heilferty
FW: Averie Collins, Kumi Yokoyama
How’s this thing going to go?: Folks, I won’t lie to you: the Spirit are almost certainly going to lose a player tonight. Washington probably has more players that would bring real value straight away for Angel City. We’re talking players that would have every right to expect to play 15+ games next season on an expansion team, including some potential day-one starters. Further, Angel City only has six teams to pick from, so...yeah, prepare for bad news.
Based on moves ACFC has already made, it seems fair to think that goalkeeper, forward, and defensive midfield are all positions they’re less likely to focus on. Huster’s injury and the international status of both Takarada and Yokoyama are also deterrents (Angel City feels like a team that has probably already made plans for all of their international spots), so they are most likely safe.
That boils the list down to Biegalski, Nielsen, Rodríguez, Goff, DiBiasi, and Heilferty, and of that group, there are three players that seem to have the highest odds of being picked. B&RU has heard from a couple of sources that Nielsen came up in pre-draft trade talks, but no deal was finalized before the league trade freeze. DiBiasi, provided she’s healthy, is also a logical target, given that she was getting USWNT call-ups before the 2020 season and plays a position Angel City is light at as of right now. Heilferty’s ability to step into several positions this year without trouble could also be very enticing for ACFC, as expansion teams in soccer have long valued players who bring versatility in year one.
What are you drinking?: I slept fairly badly last night, so coffee is a candidate. Right now though, it’s looking like some kind of citrus seltzer is leading the pack, with an unknown beer to follow the event (I haven’t bought the beer yet, so it’s a mystery).
This is the place for all your pre-draft, in-draft, and post-draft discussion. This post will update throughout the night with our takes on everything that’s going on, so check in throughout the expansion draft!
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