LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Despite not having any picks in the first round, Portland Thorns FC still managed to make waves in the 2017 NWSL College Draft.
The Thorns selected four players – Rachel Hill of the University of Connecticut, Savannah Jordan of the University of Florida, Tyler Lussi of Princeton, and Caroline Flynn of the University of Nebraska – with the 14th, 18th, 21st, and 40th overall selections.
“We had to make sure that the people that are going to be coming into our camp are ones that will help our group get stronger off the field and [we also want to] give an opportunity to players that are exciting and dangerous and can make an impact on the field,” said Parsons.
“We got lucky that this was a draft with a lot of forwards,” he added. “The fact that we got those players at the places that we did is fortunate.”
Hill, a standout senior forward out of UConn, will bring with her to Portland ample goalscoring experience, having scored 61 goals in her collegiate career and an astonishing 151 goals for Somersworth High School in her native New Hampshire. But Hill also brings other intangibles that her new coach says will help her integrate quickly into a talented Thorns roster.
“With Rachel, she's an incredible teammate,” Parsons said. “You can't find someone who has not had a great experience or even an average experience with her as a teammate. She's going to be a super teammate, a great person that's going to help our group come closer and stronger.
“You throw in the records that she's done on the field, the goals that she's scored, the goals she's created and this is someone that has great potential, especially in our environment, to become a very good player.”
With the 18th pick in the draft, the Thorns selected standout University of Florida attacker Savannah Jordan. While Jordan will likely begin her professional career in Europe, Parsons wanted the Thorns to have the opportunity to negotiate with Jordan should she decide to return to the United States to play.
“Savannah Jordan is probably the best forward in this draft and the opportunity to talk to her at a later time about coming to Portland is exciting and one that we obviously value highly,” Parsons said of the selection.
As for Princeton's Tyler Lussi, whom the Thorns selected with the 21st overall selection in the third round of the draft, the Ivy League graduate is ready for the challenge of transitioning to the professional game and integrating into a new city with a new team full of experienced international players.
“I'm just excited to join the team and learn so much from every player,” Lussi said shortly after she was drafted. “But I'm also excited to see the fanbase because I know there's huge support from that. And to be able to play in front of so many fans is what I'm really looking forward to.”
Like Hill, Lussi too was selected in part because of the qualities of her character. In her final year at Princeton, the midfielder and forward both captained the Tigers to a 10-4-3 overall record and set new school records in both goals (with 53) and points (with 122).
But fresh off of a 2016 season in which the Thorns both won the NWSL Shield and led the league in defense, Parsons hopes that this year's draft picks will be able to add depth to an already talented roster with quality characters who can contribute to the team both on and off the field.
“We don't have immediate needs,” said Parsons. “We're such a great group of players and characters. We had to add great people and we did that.”