The 2017 NWSL Draft was held earlier this week on January 12 in Los Angeles, CA, and Backline Soccer was in attendance to capture all of the haction. We watched as forty new players were selected for their new professional home in the NWSL for the 2017 season, and later joined the media scrum in the interview room as a few NWSL coaches and NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush answered questions.
Take a look at some of our interviews and footage from the first big NWSL event of 2017.
Amanda Duffy, the new managing director of operations for the NWSL, opened the event by going over the rules of the draft and its order. Jeff Plush, NWSL Commissioner, then spoke about the success of the league this past season including the introduction of the Orlando Pride to the NWSL, attendance numbers, the excitement of the 2016 NWSL Playoffs , and gave a thank you to the Sahlen family, previous owners of the WNY Flash, for their contributions to the women’s game. Plush then ended his opening with highlights of the growth of the NWSL and some ideas on what players and fans should look forward to in the future.
The number one draft pick in the 2017 NWSL Draft was Rose Lavelle, a midfielder out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lavelle was drafted by the Boston Breakers, and is the first-ever Badger to be drafted at #1 in any sport. She shared a few words of thanks and expressed her excitement to continue her next chapter with the Breakers.
Jeff Plush entered the media room right around the time Jane Campbell was selected by the Houston Dash and stayed for quite a bit of time patiently answering questions from various media in the room. Some highlights from the media scrum include talking about the newly drafted players, the USWNT CBA, and the purchase of FC Kansas City just a day before.
In regards to the USWNT CBA negotiations, Plush reiterated that those conversations are between the USSF and the players, and that the NWSL is not privy to them. He emphasized, though, that the NWSL would be ready to start the season regardless.
Plush was also asked about the possibility of Vancouver getting a NWSL team and the commissioner stated that the league has had good conversations with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
A question was also asked about a new TV deal being put together for the new season and Plush answered that he was confident they had acquired a new and “robust” TV deal that will be announced soon.
Some highlights not on video:
- Plush confirmed that there will be 24 games for the 2017 NWSL season.
- In regards to the WNY Flash being moved to North Carolina: “To fans that say they won’t set foot in North Carolina, that’s their decision, but we are a league who supports equality and diversity.”
- In reference to Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan choosing to go overseas, Plush said he was disappointed but felt that players had the right to leave the league.
Orlando Pride coach Tom Sermanni started off his media scrum joking with the press, saying “I’m not going to answer questions from you,” and laughing. But he got down to business soon after, answering questions about Alex Morgan’s absence, and if there were things he would need to do different without her. He said he did not know at the moment because the team was still in a state of flux in trying to get organized. He said that, when the preseason starts, his approach will be to evaluate the squad he has and figure out a way to play the best with who is on the field at the time.
Asked about what he needed to get in terms of roster for the Pride, he said that the team needed to get the best players that they could. The inaugural season was about the commitment to the players that were signed, but coming into year two, the health and future of the club is his focus.
Sermanni mentioned that he and the Pride were looking into a few trades, that his first priority is to try and get an international spot tied up. He added that the players selected in this year’s draft were on their list.
Not included in the video is Sermanni’s statement regarding their attempt to sign a Brazilian international player a few months ago. The deal with the unnamed player fell through when the NWSL couldn’t compete with her six figure salary elsewhere. He added that the competitiveness of the league is the biggest sell, though.
Randy Waldrum opened his Q&A by explaining the rationale behind selecting Jane Campbell, the fifteenth player picked in the 40-player draft. Waldrum noted that Campbell was the best player on the board at the time of their pick, and that she had been one of the two keepers they’d been considering, and the one they hoped one would still be available. Lydia Williams’ status as an international means there’s always uncertainty regarding her long-term involvement in the league, and the selection of Campbell was made with the future of the team in mind.
Laura Harvey was open about her 2017 draft choices, saying that while her roster doesn’t revolve around her picks, she sees a real opportunity for Maddie Bauer to make a name for herself this year. Harvey added that she’d been watching Katie Johnson all year long, and the 2nd Round trade was made because they were afraid she’d be gone before the Reign’s pick at 26. She went on to talk about the fact that while she picked mostly West Coast players, it was not intentional, though she noted that transitioning between coasts can sometimes be difficult. Harvey added that this year is probably the most invested she had been in a draft due to its depth, and because her roster had very specific holes to fill this year.
Finally, she made a point to talk about the return of Christine Nairn to the Reign and the retirement of England legend Kelly Smith, and how both will affect her team this year.
It was a great day in Los Angeles for the 2017 NWSL Draft and we look forward to attending many more in the future.