NWSL – The Not-So-Wayback Machine: 2014 Draft Review

Most expected this to be a bumper crop of draftees considering the bulk of the top end of this class was composed of the 2012 U20 World Cup winning U.S. side. But defections to Europe, injuries, and players passing up a chance to play professionally has taken a toll, though some undrafted gems like Chicago’s Samantha Johnson have helped to pick up some of the slack.

Round One

1 – Washington – Crystal Dunn – D/MF – North Carolina

Dunn was a no-brainer of a pick at #1 for a rebuilding Spirit side and looks to be a near lock for the USWNT for the Women’s World Cup. If she’s healthy. And that’s a pretty big “if”. Given the end of her college career and last season with the Spirit, Dunn may be treading perilously close to an “injury prone” tag. She wasn’t a star for Washington in a bit of a stop-start rookie campaign but still showed signs of potential. The question now is whether she plays full-back or further up the pitch at club level going forward.

2 – Houston – Kealia Ohai – F – North Carolina

It’s hard to be the only one capable of playing the piano, being surrounded by a motley crew of piano carriers, but that was Ohai’s peril last season as really the only offensive player that showed many consistent signs of life throughout the 2014 season. Her skill set is never going to empower her as a club’s top scoring option, but she can be a dangerous field stretcher with the right #9 to play off of. Until the Dash get that #9 though, it might be a case of potential unfulfilled for the former North Carolina star.

3 – Chicago – Julie Johnston – D/MF – Santa Clara

I had pegged Johnston as the likely rookie of the year before last season started, and she was a deserving winner of the honor after a tremendous rookie season as the center-back for the Red Stars. At international level, she’d be a nice fit as a defensive midfielder, you know, if the USWNT played with a defensive midfielder. Might she end up as the best player from this class down the road? It’s not out of the question, and she is, at the least, a cornerstone for Chicago going forward.

4 – Chicago – Vanessa DiBernardo – MF – Illinois

DiBernardo perhaps didn’t hit the heights some may have expected as a rookie, but she still looks a solid building block for the future. And with Lori Chalupny looking increasingly like a part of the U.S.’ WWC plans, DiBernardo may be a crucial part of the Red Stars’ playoff hopes this season.

5 – FC Kansas City – Kassey Kallman – D – Florida State

I wasn’t sure that Kallman could make a smooth transition to full-back coming into her rookie season. I was wrong. Kallman was consistently excellent for the champs last year, making her trade to Boston in the offseason all the more shocking, especially with Nikki Phillips likely missing 2015 on maternity leave. I’d say it’s a good bet she ends up back in the middle for Boston this year and could be the backbone of the defense for many years if the Breakers are lucky.

6 – Sky Blue FC – Maya Hayes – F – Penn State

Oh, the difference a little help and some time can make. Hayes looked lost for the first half of the season with the club, but the light gradually flickered on when Nadia Nadim arrived and started spearheading the attack. Hayes still has a ways to go to become a scoring force in the league though, and with Nadim not guaranteed to be back in the U.S. this season, the former Penn State star might have to show a sharper edge in front of goal herself.

7 – Seattle – Amanda Frisbie – D – Portland

Missed the entire season through injury but was re-signed nonetheless. With Seattle’s defense looking pretty settled, the question becomes whether she moves into a more attacking role this season.

8 – Boston – Nkem Ezurike – F – Michigan

The Canadian was a bit of a surprise going as high as she did in last year’s draft and still looked like a project all things considered, being outplayed by Jazmine Reeves, a later pick for the Breakers. With the exodus of offensive players though, the pressure will be on for Ezurike to perform, though the addition of Morgan Marlborough, a very similar player, could be a bad sign for her hopes.

9 – WNY Flash – Courtney Verloo – F/D – Stanford

I thought Verloo could be a real contributor at this level. I was wrong! Verloo was cut very early into the season after failing to make a dent in the rotation and didn’t pop up elsewhere. She’s the only first-rounder out of the league not through injuries, making her, for all intents and purposes, the league’s biggest draft bust thus far.

Players Still in League: 8/9
Players Still on Draft Team: 7/9

Round Two

10 – Houston – Rafaelle Souza – F – Ole Miss

The Brazilian had a hell of a cameo off the bench against Boston at the beginning of the season…and then nothing. She seemed to never gain the full confidence of the Dash coaching staff and was waived after the season, being picked up by FC Kansas City, who can’t be accused of not having an eye for young talent. One wonders if she’ll be ticketed for a move to full-back considering some of the club’s defensive depth issues.

11 – Houston – Marissa Diggs – D – UCF

Diggs was one of many in the defensive shuffle for the Dash’s trial by fire in the backline last season, though she didn’t particularly stand out. She’ll again be counted upon to fill holes and may be in the running for a starting spot given some of the offseason changes on the backline. A move to full-back has been mooted, perhaps when some of the club’s other defenders are on international duty.

12 – FC Kansas City – Morgan Marlborough – F – Santa Clara

Marlborough was probably going to be a project coming out of school and looked the part last season for FCKC in brief action. Her number was pretty much up when the club signed Sarah Hagen though, Hagen being a much more refined version of the type of player Marlborough is. Traded to Boston in the offseason, Marlborough will likely battle Nkem Ezurike for the honor of leading the line.

13 – Boston – Natasha Anasi – D – Duke

Decided Iceland was more her pace (or better for the bank account), not bothering to sign. As a result, we got the comedy of Courtney Jones at center-back. It’s the little things that count.

14 – WNY Flash – Cloee Colohan – MF – BYU

Part two of “Shouldn’t We Have Realized This Earlier?”. Colohan never went to camp with the Flash and was last coaching high school soccer in the Fall.

15 – Sky Blue FC – Hayley Haagsma – D – Texas Tech

The casual public went “who?”. The college soccer population went “what?”. And the questions went mostly unanswered, as Haagsma went down with an ACL injury in preseason. She figures to be back this season to prove if this pick was madness or masterstroke.

16 – FC Kansas City – Jenna Richmond – MF – UCLA

Really this is why you should point at laugh whenever someone plays down the importance of the draft. Richmond fell as a result of concerns over her knees, but they held up fine as a rookie, letting her play a key role in defensive midfield for the title winners. She could hold it down in the center of the park for a long, long time in this league.

17 – Seattle – Megan Brigman – D – North Carolina

It looked like a reach at the time, and Brigman hung around on the roster all season in 2014 but was seldom used. Could face competition for a roster spot from new rookies or other camp invitees.

18 – WNY Flash – Kelsey Wys – GK – Florida State

It turns out this pick was wiser than expected, with Wys being called into duty thanks to injuries to AD Franch and her replacement, Lydia Williams. Wys proved to be a viable stand-in, though there was little to suggest she’s destined for superstardom. Playing behind WNY’s balky backline hurt though, and an offseason trade to Washington may be better for her fortunes, especially if Ashlyn Harris makes the WWC squad for the U.S.

Players Still in League: 7/9
Players Still on Draft Team: 4/9

Round Three

19 – FC Kansas City – Frances Silva – F – West Virginia

Scouting! It works! FCKC found another late round value with Silva, a player who blossomed as a senior with West Virginia and more than made a name for herself as a rookie both off the bench and in a starting role. She may have more of the latter this season with the Women’s World Cup approaching.

20 – FC Kansas City – Mandy Laddish – MF – Notre Dame

The former Notre Dame star found it a little hard to break into the FC Kansas City rotation as a rookie. Given the personnel in front of her, that’s understandable. Still, Laddish may need a change of address to get her chance, and she may have to fend off rookies if she wants to keep a roster spot with FCKC.

21 – Boston – Jazmine Reeves – F – Virginia Tech

Looked like having star potential as a rookie for the Breakers spearheading the attack. And then she took a job with Amazon. This may be an undesirable trend for the league in the present and future.

22 – Chicago – Hayley Brock – F – Maryland

Brock looked like a rough but promising prospect as a rookie for the Red Stars. Which should be par for the course for rookies in the latter half of the draft. Got injured midseason though, and it’ll be interesting to see if she develops this season.

23 – Boston – Mollie Pathman – D – Duke

Ended up consistently starting for the Breakers as a rookie. Good! Often on a porous backline. Bad! At the very least, Pathman’s versatility and ability to play further up the pitch should keep her on a roster as she tries to carve out minutes on the pitch.

24 – Sky Blue FC – Michelle Pao – D – Pepperdine

Weird. Pao never seemingly reported to camp but was then on the club’s reserve roster later in the season. Was a nice talent in college, so she’ll surely get a shot somewhere.

25 – Portland – Emily Menges – D – Georgetown

Looked like a third-round pick being thrown into the lion’s den against some of the world’s best attacking players. Paul Riley sticks by his favorites though, meaning Menges should be given every chance to stick as a part of the Thorns’ backline in the present and future.

26 – Washington – Molly Menchel – D – Virginia

Never went to camp with the Spirit and was last seen playing in Norway.

27 – WNY Flash – Annie Steinlage – MF – Virginia

Another swing and a miss for the Flash. Didn’t make the final cut and played with the Ottawa Fury in the W-League in 2014.

Players Still in League: 5/9
Players Still on Draft Team: 5/9

Round Four

28 – Houston – Jordan Jackson – MF – Nebraska

Another of the “talented but with injury flags” bunch, Jackson continued to roll after her senior season with Nebraska, impressing in patches with the Dash, which is the most anyone can really ask for from a fourth-round pick. One wonders where the minutes are going to come from when the Dash are at full strength this season though, with Morgan Brian (probably) and Carli Lloyd in the midfield.

29 – Washington – Shasta Fisher – D – Virginia

Left the Spirit early in training camp and didn’t feature at pro level last year.

30 – Seattle – Ellen Parker – MF – Portland

Didn’t make the Reign’s roster.

31 – Portland – Elisabeth Sullivan – F – Mississippi State

A surprising selection but one that made the opening day roster, nonetheless. Fell victim to the numbers game later though and didn’t catch on elsewhere once released.

32 – Boston – Jami Kranich – GK – Villanova

A mild surprise that she was drafted considering an underwhelming college career, but nobody really knows how her game translates to the next level, as she didn’t play a minute last season. Likely faces a challenge for the backup role this season, as club probably wants some experience if Alyssa Naeher makes the WWC squad.

33 – Sky Blue FC – Elizabeth Eddy – D/F – USC

A stunning pick considering Eddy had been an enormous bust in college other than a hat trick against Cal in one of the best collegiate matches of the past decade. She never came to camp, playing instead with the LA Blues of the W-League and winning a title. Her draft rights were traded to WNY, likely with some prodding from new technical director Charlie Naimo.

34 – Boston – Kim DeCesare – F – Duke

Powerful target forward decided Europe was a better bet than sitting on the reserves in Boston. May be on the move again.

35 – FC Kansas City – Maegan Kelly – MF/F – Marquette

Another late round pick who had better opportunities abroad than at the end of the bench in the NWSL, joining sister Katie in Europe not long into the season.

36 – WNY Flash – Kristen Hamilton – F – Denver

Didn’t last long in camp, with an injury rumored. Could be worth a flyer if healthy and able.

Players Still in League: 3/9
Players Still on Draft Team: 2/9


Players Still in League: 23/36
Players Still on Draft Team: 18/36

Still In League, Still With Team – By Team

2/6, 2/6 – Boston
3/3, 3/3 – Chicago
5/6, 3/6 – FC Kansas City
4/4, 3/4 – Houston
1/2, 1/2 – Portland
2/3, 2/3 – Seattle
3/4, 2/4 – Sky Blue FC
1/3, 1/3 – Washington
1/5, 0/5 – WNY Flash

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Chris Henderson.

4 thoughts on “NWSL – The Not-So-Wayback Machine: 2014 Draft Review

  1. Stevie McQuistan

    I said before the draft and still say today Julie Johnston was the best player in the draft.

    You just don’t get a skilled player like that at center back and/or holding mid with those leadership skills very often.

    I know people get blinded by Dunn’s speed, but with her already showing lower-body injury problems before the draft I would have stayed away (although I know it was somewhat predetermined for her to go to DC),.

    Obviously, Ohai to Houston was set up as well, so Chicago really lucked out – especially getting Press as part of the arrangements.

  2. kernel_thai

    I think Dunn will be fine. While she has had a series of injuries they were all different…ankle then foot leaving UNC…hamstring at Washington…knee sprain with NT. If anything she is unlucky. She did show flashes briefly last year of how she can effect a game and if she combines consistency with injury free she is going to be scary.

  3. Rdalford

    fyi nitpick typo’s – overall players still on draft team 18/36 ( not 18/32) and overall count by team is also off by one, Boston had 6 draft picks so 2/6 (not 2/5)

    as always enjoy reading the AWK articles.

  4. sec

    Well, you’ve got to credit WNY for looking themselves in the mirror and making dramatic changes. After a poor draft, they turn around and hire Naimo and then acquire several early picks in this year’s draft. Given that it is a WC year, I like their strategy, as their picks will likely get tons of opportunity to play and improve. Also, you can’t teach young legs, and that is an asset in a league with so many matches played in a tight schedule.


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