Thorns FC: Draft Day – Fresh Meat!

So…here! are! your! new! Portland Thorns!

Round 2, Pick 4 (#14):  Rachel Hill (F, UConn)

Round 2, Pick 8 (#18):  Savannah Jordan (F, Florida – traded pick from Carolina for Rd 2/#10 (#20) and Rd 3/#7 (#27) picks)

Round 3, Pick 1 (#21):  Tyler Lussi (F, Princeton) – traded for #21 pick from CRS for 2018 picks)

Round 4, Pick 10 (#40):  Caroline Flynn (MF , Nebraska)

The 2017 NWSL Draft started with the least-surprising pick in draft day history; Rose Lavelle to Boston.


Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

Interestingly, in her draft day interview Lavelle said that Beard wants her as a BTB midfielder rather than her preferred ACM position.  I’d call that a waste of her skills, but that wasn’t the most shocking Beard thing that happened today, and we’ll talk about that, and much more, below the fold.

Anyway, the other Boston picks in the first round included Morgan Andrews (MF, USC) at #3 and “Midge” Purce from Harvard at #9 and a real surprise that we’ll talk about in a bit.

One minor first round surprise was Laura Harvey taking Maddie Bauer (CB, Stanford) at #6 overall.  Bauer is well regarded overall but both Dan Lauletta at the Equalizer as well as Chris Henderson of All White Kit didn’t have her going earlier than high in the second round and definitely after Freeman (who went 10th, to FCKC).  Freeman is considered by far the more versatile as well as the better of the two at CB.  Why, Laura?  Does this help your reputation as a sort of dark magician of team assembly?  Or will this turn out to be an error on Harvey’s part..?

The major surprises came later in the first round:

  1.  The Carolina Flash used their #7 pick to take Darian Jenkens of UCLA, a forward that had a string of injuries in college and shattered her fibula in October (Henderson had her at 46th overall, noting that “(a) healthy Jenkins has the potential to be a contributor at the next level, but the injuries are piling up, with the latest major malady potentially pushing the Bruin forward towards the end of the draft or into camp invitee territory.”), and
  2. Boston used their #8 on Ifemoa Onumomu of Berkely, a forward that also has a history of injury and who Henderson left unranked and Top Drawer had her at 46th overall. This one really is a headscratcher for me.  Dowie, Simon, Haavi (and now Purce)…seems like a low-ranked striker isn’t really a useful first round kind of pick.  Could this be the first hint that Beard is the New Harvey..?  I’ll talk more about this below.

Draft day notes:

I’d hoped that Thorns FC would have a shot at Vasconcelos from BYU, but she went to Chicago as #11, and Toni Payne went just a moment too soon, to FCKC at #13.  Damn.

I was gently surprised by how many attackers Boston took in the early rounds, particularly (as noted above) Onumomu and Purce.  The Breakers are stocked with offensive talent, but they sucked utter ass defensively last season (as they have for most of their seasons) and Beard did nothing to address that with some tremendous quality remaining on the board, including Freeman.  But Chris Henderson was even more insane than I was.  After the Purce pick he exploded: “Why take forwards back-to-back? This is a club with Dowie, Simon, and Haavi and just took a forward with the pick before this. This club really, REALLY needs defense, and they haven’t addressed that with any of their four picks in the first round. That seems like an enormous oversight considering how bad the team struggled there last year. Purce has moments of brilliance on the field, but her efficiency numbers are horrendous.”  Beard may turn out to be Soccer Turing…but not if his squad ends up losing a bunch of games 4-5.

Who came out looking good?  Who didn’t?

Draft day winners: I thought that Sky Blue did very well out of this draft, if only for Mills and Freeman, and the Schaffer pick is an absolute steal.  If they wanted a keeper, though, I’m surprised they waited to pick Sheridan, but she’s a decent pick and they may have suffered from not having a second round pick. Dames made some excellent picks for Chicago; I was irritated that he took Vasconcelos off the board before Portland could bid for her (tho the Hill pick took a lot of the sting out of that deal) and I think Profitt will help them.  FCKC was solid; Gibbons, Payne, and Ribero should all be good.

Draft day comme ci comme ça: Boston…well, you got Lavelle, and that alone might make this a huge win for you.  But Beard’s other picks are honestly puzzling except for the late Prudhomme take that gives them needed depth at GK.  Portland‘s draft is hard to assess until we find out what happens with Jordan; could be terrific, could be merely adequate.  Other than that Hill should be good, Lussi is meh, and the depth needs didn’t really get addressed.  Houston got a keeper they wanted but they and Washington didn’t really have enough picks here to make differences with their clubs.  North Carolina got Hatch and Wagner but the Jenkins pick looks really, really sketchy and Jaycie Johnson has had two ACL surgeries already.

Draft day losers: I think Seattle didn’t do well; Bauer should be useful if she doesn’t succumb to Harvey’s problems developing young players, but the Katie Johnson pick is completely inexplicable and Ship is pretty meh.  Orlando suffered from gutting their 2017 draft to assemble the underachieving 2016 squad, and the Evans pick seems iffy at best.  Sermanni got a tremendous steal with Driesse at #32 in the fourth round but it’s hard to see how the small draft helps them very much.

OK, so…let’s meet our new Thorns:

Rachel Hill (Top Drawer – #25 overall, All White Kit – #6 overall)

9/3/15 women’s soccer by Jason Jiang

Henderson considers her “this class’ best forward”.  Hermann Trophy candidate, and second most prolific scorer on the 2016 UConn squad.  Her stats suggest that she’s very efficient; 16 goals and 6 assists on 84 shots (her 0.190 conversion rate was the best on the team) and her SOG (42 0f 84, 50%), also the best on the squad.  Although the attacking positions appear to be getting overcrowded with this draft Hill looks the most likely to have an immediate impact what with Jordan starting the season in France.

Savannah Jordan (Top Drawer – #10 overall, AWK – #3 overall)

Here’s Chris Henderson on her:  “While Jordan’s not lightning quick, she has enough of a burst and accompanying strength to separate from most opposing defenders. And if Jordan gets a sight of goal within eighteen yards, it’s almost assured that she’s going to be celebrating a goal. If the team that drafts her doesn’t try to get cute and do something daft like put her out on the wing, Jordan is going to be a dangerous scoring presence at the next level for years to come.”

Savannah is a genuine enigma for me.  First of all, she’s a “power forward”, a big, central attacker who scores with a burst of speed through the center of the box.  We already have several players that can fill that role, including Nadim, Sinclair, Dagny, and Horan.  She’s very good at what she does…but we already have a number of players who are good at that, too.

Second, she’s going to start the season playing overseas (Montpelier in the D1F has been mentioned).  I’m SO over the whole “OMFG, she’s gong to be SO awesome when she gets here in midseason!” thing.  In a squad that already has a ton of attacking talent I’m not sure that taking her so high in the draft only to get her services for half a season or less is worth the investment.  At this point it will have to come down to a terrific half of 2017 AND a hell of a 2018 before I agree that this was a good choice rather than taking a DM or defender at this spot.

She’s a terrific player.  But she’s going to have to be bulletproof and invisible to make me less grumpy about burning a pick on half a season of her.

Tyler Lussi (F, Princeton) (Top Drawer – #22 overall, AWK – #43 overall)

My first real “hmmmm…”.  Here’s Henderson on her: “Lussi had her worst season as a collegian in 2016, scoring just eight non-penalty goals, marking the second straight season her scoring total has dropped after a peak of eighteen goals as a sophomore. Her efficiency numbers were, again, frightening, while most of her scoring was done very early in the season against weak competition, with Lussi netting just three goals in Princeton’s final twelve matches. She still has talent, but I’m not sure she’s a lock to be drafted any more.”

There seems to be some genuine difference in the two different ratings; Top Drawer sees Lussi as significantly better than Henderson does, so perhaps Chris’ assessment is a little too harsh.

But the other “hmmm” here is my concern that by this time Marc Parsons seemed to be trying to match his Boston counterpart forward-for-forward.  Dammit, Thorns FC needs depth at midfield and on defense, and so far this pick – with Ellie Boon still on the table – seemed a willful disregard of the team needs in favor of piling up forwards in an “the-inexplicable-persistance-of-Hanna-Terry” sort of way.  Jeremiah Braeback at Stumptown reported rumors that Parsons is considering moving her to fullback which, frankly, opens the question “Why the fuck not just draft Ellie Boon who IS a fullback, then?”

Not expecting much from her, so if she turns out to be replacement-level good I’d be fine with that.  But,  again, another forward?  Why?

Caroline Flynn (MF, Nebraska)  (Top Drawer – not ranked, AWK, #83 overall) – Caroline appears to have played largely as a defensive midfielder for the Cornhuskers; in her 22 games she scored once with a single assist.  The downside is that she’s a horrendous shooter; she took 43 shots to score that goal and only put 15 of them on target.

She also appears to have had a left knee injury, given the size of the brace in the picture above.  Is she a gamebreaker?  No.  But, hell…at #40 you don’t expect much and for a #40 she seems no worse than adequate.  If La Lanterne Rouge simply makes the squad this season I’d be fine; at least Parsons went for some defensive help with his final pick.

Overall?  Well, I’m very happy with Hill, I’m very irked that we have yet another quality player for less than a full season (but hope that she will turn out to be the quality she is said to be in the lng run…), and so far as I’m concerned if Lussi and Flynn are nice kids and help pick up the cones after practice?

I’m good with them.

But…I sure hope Boon showed like a star in the combine.

17 Comments Thorns FC: Draft Day – Fresh Meat!

  1. Kevin Bensel

    Thanks for your thorough analysis here. I really appreciate it.

    One additional point that I saw on Twitter (I forgot from whom) is that Beard doesn’t expect Engen to return to Boston for 2017, although he believes she will be in the NWSL. So Boston is losing its best defender and *still* only drafted forwards. Yikes…

    As for Jordan, given that she’s reportedly starting 2017 in Europe, I expect very little from her for this season. That said, if she does come midseason she may help with the loss of Dagny, Nadim, and Henry for the Euros (I believe it was Plush who said that teams would lose players in the Euros for 3-4 games). But I view her as a pick for 2018, either as a contributor to the Thorns or as valuable trade bait (Jordan would have likely have been a top-half 1st round pick in this draft). While I would have liked depth in the midfield or back line, I’m okay with this rolling of the dice.

    Like you I was surprised that Lussi went that high (I’m basing my opinion entirely on Top Drawer Soccer and Chris Henderson), and even more so that Portland traded up to get her. Clearly Parsons see something they like in her that Henderson (in particular) doesn’t.

    1. jdlawes

      IF we get a full 2018 AND a good half of 2017 I’ll be less cranky about Jordan. Right now I’m cranky, as much because of the pile of strikers as Jordan – who, as you say, really is a terrific player – herself.

      Lussi…this year’s Boureille, IMO. Not…bad, just not really what seems like a long-term asset, even as depth. Another forward, terrible college stats in a boutique league…I dunno, maybe Parsons can convert here into a useful winger or midfielder. Hope so; if not, waste of a pick in a stocked class…

      1. Kevin Bensel

        Apparently the team is expecting Jordan to be in Europe for all of the 2017 season and possibly return for 2018, based on Jamie Goldberg’s column.

        1. John Lawes

          Thing is, the D1F season wraps in late May/June, and the Champions League (assuming Montpelier gets in, and she DOES got there…) not much later. So even if she plays the full season there she could be here in midsummer.

          I’m not expecting much this year, though. If anything, her signing is an investment in the future…

      2. Timber Dave

        I won’t be cranky at all about Jordan, just because I’m happy that the team is building for the future. Hopefully we have a good enough striker corps here this year — though I do worry about Sinc’s age — and if Jordan can get decent minutes at Montpelier or wherever, that’s good for us. Assuming she DOES come here next year, of course.

        1. fdchief218

          I think there’s a good chance we’ll either 1) see her here late this year (the D1F wraps before midsummer) or next, or 2) get someone of value for her. She’s a good player and I’m not entirely arsed about her pick (the Lussi pick? Pretty much wasted – especially because we gave away 2018 picks for her unlike the 2017 picks we swapped for Jordan – unless Parsons turns out to be the Fullback Whisperer, IMO…) but I guess I’ll have to see how Marc plans to rebuild his frontline. Right now we seems to have a bunch of strikers/AMs who either primarily play inside (Sinc, Jordan, Hill, Horan as a striker, Dagny) or tend to drift inside (Nadim). We don’t have anyone on the right who plays wide consistently the way Raso and Heath do on the left.

          IF Parsons can reshuffle the frontline so as to provide attack from both sides and up the middle? Not cranky at all. But I think we might even have to wait until later in the season to see that on the pitch…

  2. jdlawes

    Let me insert an apology here for the rough formatting and typos. I wrote this watching the livecast on my work laptop in Room 207 of the Days Inn in Tacoma, eating a frozen pot pie, sipping Hoppy Bitch, and simultaneously editing last night’s field report. I was due back at the night worksite at 5:00 and the Flynn pick went down at about 4:15, so I had just enough time for a very brief proofread and posting before I had to grab a hat…

    I’ll clean this up after my shift in the early hours of Friday morning. Promise!

  3. Roy Gathercoal

    Thank you once again for your thoughtful analysis, John.

    I do cringe at your head, though. Even though Roller Derby has done it, we don’t have to jump off the cliff. . . Maybe it’s just my age showing, but “fresh meat” reeks of objectification and raw sexual consumption.

    But then again, I am weird.

    1. fdchief218

      Not weird, just not a GI, or a Derby girl. For our Rose City Rollers (as well as GIs) the term for trainees, newbies or rookies is “fresh meat”; the latest raw fodder that feeds the Beast. GIs (and Derby girls) tend to be pretty cynical about that.

      Sadly, I can’t think of anything more like beast-fodder than the rookies coming in through the NWSL draft. Don’t get me wrong; I love out Thorns, I love the women’s game. But think about this for a moment. These young women are being plucked from their colleges (where, one hopes, they chose the school they liked the best, the one that met their criteria) to go somewhere they have no say in chosing. To run and struggle and risk injury for the pleasure of the spectators in a city not their own, for a paycheck that would embarrass the downstairs guy at Jiffy Lube. They will reach the end of that road older, often with lingering pain from hard work and old injuries, without more than what amounts to pocket change and a hope that some sponsor or chance-met administrator can find a place for them selling cleats, or back to school.

      Fresh meat? Yeah…when you think about it, it’s kind of hard not to see these draftees as anything else.

  4. John Lawes

    Just to note: here’s how Henderson graded the teams on draft day:

    B = CHI
    B- = NC, POR
    C+ = BOS, SEA, WSH

    Interesting that nobody got an “A”. We both liked what SBFC and KC did but he gave Houston better and Orlando much better marks than I did – I dinged Orlando for their 2016 pick giveaway as much as for their drafting.

    I liked what Chicago did better than he did; I wonder if that was my rueful acknowledgement of their getting Vasconcelos, a player I wanted for Portland.

    He sees NC and Portland as doing “just slightly better than OK” which seems fair enough to me.

    He downchecked Washington harder than I did, and also gave Boston some stick for their other-than-Lavelle picks, which I think is reasonable – I was looking at “how did this draft help your team” (in which case just Lavelle means “a lot”) while he was looking at “how well did you draft” which, given Beard’s lack of interest in defenders seems a good assessment.

    We agreed that Seattle was a tire fire.

    1. Roy Gathercoal

      “We agreed that Seattle was a tire fire.”

      Why bring the 2016 men’s team in at the end?

      Perfect analogy.

      Tire fires burn hot and quick,

      useless for most everything except protests, obfuscation and poor souls who have no other option.

      They create lots and lots of black ugly smoke,

      that stinks,

      and permeates everything around,

      so that everyone gets sick of the stench,

      which is hazardous to the health of anyone who breathes in the smoke.

      And when it is inevitably done, the remains are truly gross and nauseating,

      hard to clean up,

      and everyone says “let’s not let THAT happen again!”

      1. John Lawes

        Speaking of that…any thoughts on the Ebobisse signing? Admittedly, the Timbers have historically been crap with drafting, but this young man sounds like a genuinely good striker as well as a smart, heady kid. AND he’s not a Zip!

        1. Timber Dave

          Savannah Jordan and Jeremy Ebobisse seem strangely similar picks. Their teams saw a good player dropping surprisingly low and traded some minor assets for her/him. In both cases, it leaves you wondering if the team just grabbed a good player with the idea that she/he might play, but might just be trade goods too.

  5. fdchief218

    In the case of the Thorns, I think definitely. We didn’t have a particularly strong draft position going in, so I think that Parsons was looking for the best value he could get. The Hill pick was terrific value, given that she was a consensus first rounder (thanks, Boston, for your bizarre late-first-round choices..!) and I think that the Jordan pick was as you describe it; a grab for the “best available player” with an eye towards the long term; on-field value in 2018 and possibly late this season, potential trade bait for some more immediate need…

    I’m honestly adrift on Ebobisse just because I always have a hard time assessing the Timbers’ drafting and player development. IMO the team hasn’t done well out of the draft and – at least to date – hasn’t done well with player development, either. Players that seemed promising at the T2 level, like Thoma and Besler and Winchester, just don’t seem able to make the jump to the next level. And then there’s Porter, who, for a guy who was successful in the NCAA, has become a professional coach who seems unwilling to field young players even when there doesn’t seem to be any downside to doing just that.

    So…I’m not really sure where this pick fits. The guy’s definitely a blue-chip prospect…but whether PTFC took him because of that, or as part of a future deal, or what the plan is…I honestly don’t have any sort of sense of it.

    1. Kevin Bensel

      Interesting re: the Timbers draftees. I thought that Besler was consistently subpar at the T2 level and so him not advancing to the Timbers wasn’t at all a surprise. His disappointing play with T2 was, however, as he was considered one of the “steals” of the draft when Portland got him by some bloggers and journalists. Winchester always struck me as a one trick pony who was unlikely to advance unless he significantly expanded his repertoire. On the other hand, I was somewhat surprised that Thoma didn’t advance. As a 2nd round pick it isn’t surprising, but he seemed solid and played both sides in his 2 years on T2.

      As you say, Ebobisse is a blue-chip prospect, who was generally considered the likely #1 overall pick. He has 8 goals and 3 assists in 11 games for the U-20s, so he has been performing. I think he is very likely to see some time with the first team this year. How much, given Porter’s history, is the question.

      1. fdchief218

        I used the three players just as example of players I’d seen at the T2 level who showed a little spark now and then but never seemed to improve, or, if they did, didn’t enough to crack the big side, and that I didn’t really understand why we hadn’t produced anyone yet. Not that those specific players didn’t advance…but that I had a hard time figuring out why or why not, who or who wouldn’t move on…and why the system seemed to have problems with doing that…

        I think my outlook on the Timbers’ player development in general is “WTF?” The team doesn’t seem to do well with bringing guys up; most of our value seems to come from trades for players that have come up through others’ systems.

        Now that we have the academies and T2 in place, though, I’m not sure if that’s still true. I think it’ll be interesting to watch over the next couple of seasons whether we start seeing more good players making the first team through our own “minor league” pipeline. And whether Porter will play them if they come up that way…


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