Monday’s NWSL Dispersal Draft lottery was kind to the defending league champions, who were the only 2017 playoff team to “move up” in Tuesday’s Dispersal Draft.
In the wake of this weekend’s announcement that the Boston Breakers would fold, the NWSL will hold a draft on Tuesday to disperse the team’s players. Monday’s lottery to determine the draft order gave Portland a one-in-14 chance of claiming the number one draft pick (each non-playoff team getting two envelopes; playoff teams getting one). Drawn into the fourth position, the Thorns became the only playoff team to move into the draft’s top five spots.
Though Mark Parsons’s team will surely miss out on the draft’s two big prizes (Rose Lavelle and incoming rookie Savannah McCaskill), getting the fourth pick practically guarantees the Thorns will land a player capable of helping immediately. Despite finishing ninth in the NWSL last season, Boston had accumulated a wealth of promising young talent.
Lavelle and McCaskill, most U.S. women’s national team fans know, but names like Abby Smith and Megan Oyster have also gotten recent looks from the United States’ senior national team. How you see their fit in Portland, however, may depend on your view of Thorns FC’s depth chart and where you think the 2017 champions need to improve most.
Level-by-level, here’s what the former Boston Breakers’ squad offers:
Abby Smith has deservedly earned a place among the top goalkeepers in the NWSL, recovering from a season-ending knee injury in 2016 to snare a national team callup last summer. Look around the NWSL, though, and you won’t see many teams looking for starting goalkeepers. Still Smith’s talent may compel a team to pick the former Texas Longhorn, even if it means creating competition in goal.
Behind Smith, Sammy Jo Prudhomme built on a national championship at USC in 2016 with a strong professional debut. If she finds the right fit, she’ll prove a strong backup.
Talented 25-year-old centerback Megan Oyster should be the first defender picked on Tuesday. The former UCLA Bruin, twice capped by the U.S., was drafted by the Washington Spirit in 2015, while Parsons was still with the Spirit. Oyster went on to play every minute for Washington in 2015, proving a key part of the Spirit’s unexpected playoff run.
Julie King will also be highly coveted, though where to take her may prove a dilemma for some. A member of the Breakers for all five years of their NWSL existence (as well as a part of the Breakers’ WPSL Elite team in 2012), King can play anywhere along the defense and has the athleticism to contribute in midfield. Her work ethic and leadership qualities are also highly respected, though she may not be a sure starter for teams in position to take her at the end of Tuesday’s first round.
Others to watch: Allysha Champan is a quality left back who will help a team’s pocket book, having been a Canadian allocated player; Amanda Frisbie enjoyed a stellar career at the University of Portland and joined the Breakers last year after time in Iceland; Christen Westphal is another versatile, athletic option, while Brooke Elby would offer good depth at fullback.
Rose Lavelle projects as one of the more creative players in the NWSL, and although some value McCaskill highly, the Cincinnati-born midfielder should go first overall to Sky Blue who currently hold the top spot. How she fits with Carli Lloyd, acquired by Sky Blue two weeks ago, is a problem to sort out later. Each player is best suited for attacking midfield.
Morgan Andrews is another young, emerging talent -- one who had a decent rookie year while playing a deep-lying playmaker’s role – but the slightly bigger prize in midfield for a contending team would be Angela Salem. A title-winner in WPS, Salem is coming off her most successful NWSL season, one that saw her perform as one of the league’s top two or three destroyers. For a team that just lost Amandine Henry, she would be a great acquisition, but Portland’s fourth overall pick feels too high to select the 29-year-old.
Also worth knowing: New Zealand international Rosie White would be a great fit for a team that needs another physical presence in the middle; Lotta Okvist is a 20-year-old Swedish international who can play in midfield or defense; former Thorn Tiffany Weimer could add depth wide.
The big prize in attack is McCaskill, the second overall pick out of South Carolina in the January NWSL College Draft. At 21, she has already been capped by the senior U.S. Women’s National Team, and after former Stanford standout Andi Sullivan, she was the clear top player in the year’s draft. As was the case two weeks ago, McCaskill seems destined to go number two overall (to Sullivan’s new team, the Spirit).
Canadian international Adriana Leon was Boston’s most consistent attacker last year, with her versatility and allocated status casting her as a potential first round pick. England international Natasha Dowie will also have no trouble finding a home, one where a team can test whether her hot-and-cold form in Boston was a product of her environment.
The ninth pick in last year’s College Draft, Midge Purce has already flashed potential as a wide option in the pros, something that earned the former Harvard standout a surprise U.S. national team callup last season. While some project her as a potential fullback, the 22-year-old could provide depth plus potential in the mid-to-late first round.
More intriguing options: Katie Stengel has never been able to replicate her overseas form in the NWSL, but as her current season in Australia’s W-League reminds us, there’s talent, there; wide attacker Ifeoma Onumonu was a high draft pick (eighth overall) last year but failed to make a major impact during her rookie season; and in Ghanaian international Elizabeth Addo, the draft has another player who could be a jewel in the eye of the right beholder.
One of the many quirks of Tuesday’s draft: You can select players on Boston’s retired player list. Names familiar to NWSL fans like Whitney Engen, Kyah Simon and Amanda DaCosta are among the six Boston retirees, but there’s one catch: If you sign a player who previously retired, they count against your roster limits and salary cap. The rest of the Breakers selected on Tuesday won’t.
Among those players are Boston’s three non-McCaskill draftees: midfielder Joanna Boyles (North Carolina); midfielder/forward Ashton Miller (Duke);
defender Elizabeth Wenger (Georgetown). Thanks to Tuesday’s dispersal, NWSL teams get a second chance to snare one of those collegiate standouts.
From the league:
2018 Dispersal Draft Order
The order in which teams select was randomly determined on Monday morning and the order will snake throughout the selection process: 1-9 and then 9-1 until completed.
- Sky Blue FC
- Washington Spirit
- Seattle Reign FC
- Portland Thorns FC
- Utah Royals FC
- Houston Dash
- Chicago Red Stars
- Orlando Pride
- North Carolina Courage
2018 Dispersal Draft - Available Players
Addo, Elizabeth (INTL - GHA)
Chapman, Allysha (FED - CAN)
Dowie, Natasha (INTL - ENG)
Lavelle, Rose (FED - USA)
Leon, Adriana (INTL - CAN)
Okvist, Lotta (INTL - SWE)
Prudhomme, Sammy Jo
White, Rosie (INTL - NZL)
2018 College Draft Picks
Schillgard, Louise (INTL - SWE)
Simon, Kyah (INTL - AUS)