Thorns FC: Draft

The 2017 draft is now eight days away.

What does Thorns FC need, and who should they be targeting?

At the end of last season we went through the players currently signed, and I identified three positions that I’d like to see strengthened:

  1.  winger/utility midfielder
  2.  centerback depth, and
  3.  fullback

Of these positions I’d put the second as the least critical, given that the Thorns have several defenders who could fill in there.  The fullback position may also end up being depth, depending on how well Morris’ rehabilitation is proceeding and how well Klingenberg pulls her game up next year.  The outside midfielder is, perhaps, as much luxury as anything else, given the attacking talent on this squad.

This season’s draft is perhaps the deepest for several years, and includes a number of standout players even without the two Canadian internationals (Buchanan and Lawrence) who signed with Olympique Lyonnais and Paris St. Germain, respectively, for the coming NWSL season.

The obvious problem is that currently Thorns FC doesn’t get a pick until 14th overall, 4th in the second round, and then has only one more second round pick, one late in the third round, and dead last.

I’d opine that whoever goes 27th and 40th will be, at best, both depth and speculation.  In case you don’t recall, here’s a brief history of Portland’s draft picks after the first round:

2016: Mackenzie Berryhill (third round, #21) – as you probably remember, Berryhill appeared in five matches last season, usually as a late match sub before being waived and claimed by Orlando.

The 2015 and 2014 drafts reflect then-Coach Riley’s distrust of young/college players:

2015: Michelle Betos (second round, #14 [trade]) – The Thorns got Betos as part of a three-way swap with Chicago and Boston in the deal that sent KK to the Red Stars; Kendall Johnson (third and fourth rounds #25 and 34 [trade]) – another Riley draft-day swap, this time with Sky Blue for the picks.

2014: Sinead Farrelly (second round, #16 [trade]) – the opening blast of the Riley Draft Demolition Era; the Merseyside Magician sends the #16 pick to FCKC for Sinead; Emily Menges (second round, #25) – one of Riley’s few straight-up draft picks was the Menges half of the Great Wall of Emily; Elizabeth Sullivan (fourth round, #31) – released in May 2014, having played one minute, to make space for Vero and Heath.

The first year of league play reflected, as much as anything, the inexperience of a lot of the people involved:

2013: Nicolette Radovicic (second round, #16) – released in April, 2013 for unknown reasons and since out of soccer altogether; Amber Brooks (third round, #24) – played well here in 2014 after being loaned out the year before and then traded in 2014; Roxanne Barker (fourth round, #32) – South African GK, originally intended to backup KK but dropped in favor of Addie Gay; still playing in the RSA.

Not really a bad history, that.  Two clear successes (Menges, Betos), and three players that either did well here for at least one season (Brooks, Farrelly) or adequately over several (KJ), compared to four picks that didn’t really work out (Berryhill, Radovicic, Sullivan, and Barker).

But, still…the real question has to be what can Portland get for the two second round picks, assuming that there’s no chance of trading up.

Well…Rose Lavelle is out of the question.  Sorry.

Even with Portland’s midfield and striking talent I’d love to pick up Lavelle.  She may be this generation’s best CM, and she would provide service of the sort we briefly saw here with Vero Boquete.  But…she will be gone long before the second round.

Likewise I suspect that players like Ashley Hatch and (unfortunately!) Kayla Mills will be off the board by late in the first round.  I’d love a shot at Mandy Freeman or Maddie Bauer as CB depth, but I’m suspicious of their chances of staying on the boardpast the first round, given that Boston is still a defensive trainwreck and they won’t get a shot at Buchanan.

Here’s four players, though, who should be around and who I think the FO might want to take a hard look at:

Ellie Boon (LB, University of Portland):  Top Drawer – not rated; All White Kit – #21.  Ellie led the UP squad back into the playoffs this season, and was described by Henderson as a “…big left-back with prototypical size for the position at the next level (5’8’), Boon’s plied her trade with the Pilots well enough for the past three seasons in Portland. Boon would enjoy her best season defensively in 2015 as well, being the best member of a rearguard that held WCC foes to under a goal a game in league play.”  Worth a look, as her size suggests that she could back up the CBs as well.

Michelle Vasconselos (RW, AM, BYU)  Top Drawer – #15, AWK – #15.  Henderson sums her up: “Vasconcelos had a dream season for BYU and put up sixteen goals and thirteen assists, including a stretch of seven straight matches with a goal. Her efficiency numbers rebounded to ridiculous levels as she made the devastating engine that was the Cougar attack roll. Her stock surged as much as anyone’s this past season, and she should provide an instant spark to someone’s attack, even in a super sub role.”

Toni Payne (F/MF, Duke) Top Drawer – #39, AWK – #18  Toni had a good NCAA season but seemed to have trouble scoring against better opponents.  She’s pacey, has a strong right foot, and a surprisingly deft touch for a college player.  Could do well as RW or at striker.

Claire Wagner (CB, Clemson) Top Drawer – #42, AWK – #20.  Standout in the back for the Tigers and can score, as well; four this past season and eleven over her four years.  Watch her highlight video to see that she has a hell of a right foot.  She’s deadly from distance and could provide Heath with some assistance on corners and free kicks.

Anyone else you’ve seen in the NCAA this past season that you like for the Thorns?

We can kick that can around over the weekend and then we’ll regroup here next Thursday to discuss what really happened.