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.

Dammit!

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.