2019 NWSL College Draft team-by-team previews
A look at what each of the nine teams are looking to add for the 2019 season
The Chicago Red Stars hold the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. (Photo credit: Jose L. Argueta/isiphotos.com)
The Chicago Red Stars hold the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. (Photo credit: Jose L. Argueta/isiphotos.com)

We’re just around the corner from the 2019 NWSL College Draft, which will be held on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 at 12 p.m. ET at the United Soccer Coaches Convention at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Player registration has been open since December 12 and on December 19 the NWSL released the preliminary list of registered players. While new NWSL hopefuls are preparing for their next step, all nine teams and coaches are simultaneously gearing up for the league’s seventh season.

Ahead of the big day, here’s a look at what each team could be looking for heading into the 2019 season.

Chicago Red Stars

This year’s NWSL College Draft will take place in the Red Stars’ backyard in Chicago. The Red Stars closed out the 2018 NWSL season in fourth place with a 9-5-10 overall record. Their last time out in 2018, Rory Dames’ team fell to the North Carolina Courage 2-0 in the semifinals. The Red Stars have the first, sixth and seventh picks in Round 1 of the draft, and then four more picks in the remaining three rounds. In 2019, the Red Stars will likely be without the NWSL’s back-to-back Golden Boot winner, Sam Kerr  for a good part of the beginning of the season due to her international duties with Australia at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Kerr scored 16 goals in 2018, so Dames could be looking to add some forwards to his squad for this season.

Several potential top draft picks could also be called on to represent their respective national teams, so it will be interesting to see if NWSL coaches invest their first picks in players like Khadija “Bunny” Shaw out of Tennessee, a member of Jamaica’s women’s national team, or if they look at non-national team players. Shaw’s name was not on the preliminary draft list, though players have until January 9 at 4 p.m. ET to register. If Shaw does enter the draft, and she is selected by the Red Stars, she would be a huge gain for Dames’ squad. Shaw scored 19 goals in 12 games to lead all goal scorers in World Cup qualifying, in any confederation.

Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue FC won just one game in 2018, finishing in last place in the league standings with a 1-17-6 overall record. Sky Blue have a lot of picks in the upcoming draft with the No. 2 and No. 3 overall picks, along with No. 10, No. 11, No. 19, No. 28 and No. 34. They could benefit from another few forwards to work with 2018 rookie attacking players Savannah McCaskill and Imani Dorsey, a couple midfielders that can feed the speed of Sky Blue forward Shea Groom and Dorsey, and disciplined defenders that can help Sky Blue turn around a 2018 season that saw them allow 52 goals.

Kayla McCoy an All-American forward out of Duke would be a smart steal for Sky Blue. Not only did McCoy lead her team in goals (12) and assists (8), but when Dorsey was at Duke the two each totaled 14 goals in 2017. Having McCoy and Dorsey reunited in New Jersey would be just the spark the club needs to change the story in 2019. Defender Ally Prisock out of USC started every game of her college career and helped the Trojans earn 15 shutouts in 2018. Prisock is a natural leader and knows how to keep an organized backline, which will be an absolute must when determining Sky Blue’s backline in 2019.

Washington Spirit 

The Spirit won just two games in 2018, and will have a new head coach in 2019, so they will need to take full advantage of their two first picks in the first round at the 2019 NWSL College Draft. At the 2018 NWSL College Draft, the Spirit selected Andi Sullivan first overall out of Stanford, and this time around they have the No. 4 and No. 8 picks in the first round, and then don’t have another selection until the third and fourth round (No. 20, No. 29 and No. 31). The Spirit scored the least amount of goals last season (12), so they should look to add offensive threats first.

If available, midfielder Jordan DiBiasi out of Stanford would be a smart first choice for the Spirit. DiBiasi scored 10 goals and chipped in 10 assists her senior season and was named an All-American her final two seasons. DiBiasi could not only help the Spirit get some offensive power rolling, but the Stanford captain also has experience playing with Sullivan in the Cardinal uniform, which could give Sullivan another player to work with in the middle. Georgetown senior forward Caitlin Farrell is another player that would give the Spirit more options up top. Farrell scored 18 goals her senior season and eight of her goals were game-winners.

North Carolina Courage

The Courage will have quite the test in 2019 after finishing the 2018 regular season with a 17-1-6 record, setting NWSL regular season records for most wins (17), points (57), fewest losses (1), most goals scored (53), fewest goals allowed (17), goals against average (.71) and largest goal differential (+36).

The Courage went on to win the 2018 NWSL Shield and the 2018 NWSL Championship, beating Portland Thorns FC 3-0 in the final. So what are the Courage looking for in 2019?

On December 17, the Courage announced that they traded forward Darian Jenkins to Seattle Reign FC in exchange for Seattle’s first-round draft pick (ninth overall) in the 2019 NWSL College Draft. The trade means that the Courage now have the fifth, ninth, 14th and 36th picks.

The Courage, along with the other eight NWSL teams, will be sending several of their players to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. That being said, Riley will be looking for some young talent to fill in and perform when players like Courage starters Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper likely earn a call-up to the U.S. women’s national team World Cup roster.

Julia Ashley, a senior defender out of UNC is a player Riley should consider adding to his squad. Just last month, Ashley played her final college soccer game at the Courage’s home field, WakeMed Soccer Park in the NCAA College Cup final against Florida State. While the Tar Heels fell to ACC rival Florida State 1-0, Ashley walked away with some impressive hardware in blue – she was named to the All-ACC team three times and was named to the All-Tournament Team this past season. Her versatility and pace on and off the ball fits in with the style of the Courage. While the Courage could have most of their backline on the field in 2019, Ashley could absolutely emerge into a role in the midfield, an area where the Courage could possibly lose most of their players to the World Cup. Ashley led the Tar Heels in assists (10) and was tied for the team lead in goals (6).

Houston Dash

The Houston Dash have already added a new face in the offseason by announcing James Clarkson as the head coach. He replaces Vera Pauw, who left the Dash after coaching them for the 2018 season finishing to a 9-10-5 record and franchise bests in points (32) and goals scored (35). Clarkson will look to build off of the work put in by the Dash and Pauw last season and gets to pick up plenty of new talent with the No. 12, No. 13, No. 16, No. 21 and No. 22 picks in the upcoming draft.

Kristie Mewis missed the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL at the start of the year, but if all lines up in her recovery, Mewis will be a player Clarkson will be turning in an offensive or even defensive role. The Dash are also in good form with players like Sofia Huerta and Kealia Ohai, who both have spent time with the USWNT, but missed Jill Ellis’ recent 23-player roster for the set of friendlies against Portugal and Scotland. Huerta had eight goals and six assists in 2018 and Ohai contributed five goals and four assists. The Dash should be looking to add new faces to each line on the pitch — another defender to fill in for Clare Polkinghorne when she is with Australia, and another forward who can put the ball in the back of the net like Rachel Daly, a member of England’s national team. Penn State senior Emily Ogle could be a good fit for the Dash either in the middle or up top. Ogle scored six goals and added five assists this past season and started all 25 matches. She received three All-Region First Team honors in her final three seasons and also earned All-America honors this year. Bianca St. Georges out of West Virginia would be a smart defensive pick for the Dash. In the regular season, St. Georges and the Mountaineers held conference opponents to a combined 14 shots on-goal. WVU allowed just 11 opponent goals and St. Georges earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Portland Thorns FC

At the 2019 NWSL College Draft, the Thorns won’t get a pick until the second round (No. 17). The Thorns finished in second place in the NWSL regular season and made their second-straight appearance in the NWSL Championship – but went on to fall to the Courage 3-0 at Providence Park. Mark Parsons’ side have unfinished business, and will likely be looking for pieces on all lines on the pitch to contribute. The Thorns will have a handful of players out on international duty for a good portion of the beginning of the season – they had eight of their players named to respective 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier rosters.

With the No. 17 and No. 35 pick in the upcoming draft, chances are high that Parsons will prioritize versatility in his player selection. In 2018, the Thorns had a rollercoaster of a season with injuries – defender Emily Menges out early on, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch played in the first three games and then sat out until late June. Defender Midge Purce got hurt, along with Katherine Reynolds, Emily Sonnett and Caitlin Foord. While these injuries came and went, adding new players that can fill in at any given position on the pitch would be wise.

If Stanford defender Alana Cook doesn’t get scooped up early on, Cook as an option in the back would be a huge win for the Thorns. Cook helped Stanford to an unbeaten regular season this year and has certainly showed that she can slow the college game’s best attacking lines.

Utah Royals FC

Utah Royals FC are entering their second season as a club after finishing their inaugural season in fifth place. Utah Royals FC don’t have a pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft until the third round – they have the No. 23, No. 27 and No. 32 picks. Their late selections come after a busy season and offseason of trades – the Red Stars acquired the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft from Utah in exchange for the rights to Christen Press. Press joining Utah and making her big return to the NWSL this past season was part of a three-team trade that kept things interesting in June. A few weeks later, the North Carolina Courage acquired the rights to Heather O’Reilly from Utah in exchange for Makenzy Doniak. The Courage also received Utah’s natural second-round pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft in exchange for the Courage’s natural third-round pick.

Utah has a long list of national team players, like Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara and Amy Rodriguez for the U.S., Rachel Corsie for Scotland and Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott for Canada. With several of those players likely to be competing in the World Cup, the team will turn to players like forward Brittany Ratcliffe and midfielder Taylor Lytle to step up in their absence. Utah has depth all over the pitch, but will certainly benefit from adding another dynamic defender into the mix and possibly a creative forward to compliment and run off of Katie Stengel and Ratcliffe up top.

Orlando Pride

The Pride finished the 2018 season in seventh place and will be looking for several additions to give them a new look in 2019 – including a new head coach after the club and Tom Sermanni parted ways in September. The Pride missing the playoffs in 2018 surprised many after they finished third in 2017 and given the offensive talent of Marta and Alex Morgan. The Pride went from being the most dominant offensive team in 2017 with 45 goals, to only totaling 30 this past season for a league fifth-best.

At this year’s draft, the Pride don’t have a pick until the third round (No. 25) and then will have their second and final pick in the fourth round at No. 30 overall. The Pride need to look into adding some offensive threats to their roster, since their leading goal scorers will be out for the Women’s World Cup. The 2019 draft class is plentiful in offensive talent, so ideally with a pick in the third round, the Pride will commit to a forward or attacking midfielder that can work well with Rachel Hill and Kristen Edmonds. 

Seattle Reign FC

At the moment, Seattle Reign FC don’t have a pick in the 2019 NWSL College Draft after trading their first-round pick to the Courage for forward Darian Jenkins. Seattle Reign FC have had a busy offseason, and most recently announced the re-signings of three players who could easily find their way into the starting lineup in the absence of the national team players. Reign FC re-signed Jasmyne Spencer, Morgan Andrews and Kristen McNabb. With no picks this year, they will have to turn inward to make a splash in 2019, or make a trade or two to get them back into the draft.

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