The NWSL draft has brought some truly outstanding players into the league from the world of college soccer: Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, both Mewis sisters, the list of first round picks could go on and on.
But past the second round the chances of success can fade. I’ve gone back as far as the very first draft in 2013 to pick out my top 10 picks from the 3rd or 4th rounds, to see who went late and paid off for their clubs.
Each of the ten I picked are starters (at least are when both ACLs are healthy), and have made major impacts for their clubs since coming on board.
2015 – 19th Overall Pick – Caprice Dydasco – Washington Spirit
Dydasco was the very first pick on the third round of the 2015 NWSL draft. While she only played 6 games, with 1 start, in 2015 it was 2016 where she really started to shine. With 12 appearances, all starts, the speedy defender proved her worth to the Spirit, helping take them to the NWSL championship game. While she ended up with a torn ACL before half time, she has made a quick recovery and already returned to the pitch in 2017, which will surely be a delight for Spirit fans far and wide.
2015 – 21st Overall Pick – Sabrina D’Angelo – Western New York Flash
Only two goalkeepers were taken in the 2015 draft. FC Kansas City selected Katelyn Rowland with the 17th pick, which was followed by the Flash taking D’Angelo four spots later. While the two would end up as teammates during the Flash’s 2016 championship run, it is D’Angelo who has come out on top in terms of playing time and accolades. The Canadian international has been quite good since coming in to the NWSL. And no one can forget her 3 PK saves during the title game in 2016.
2016 – 23rd Overall Pick – Erica Skroski – Sky Blue FC
In 2016 Sky Blue took four players, each still on the current roster. Their third pick was used to snag Rutgers defender Erica Skroski, who made an immediate impact on the Sky Blue starting XI. Her speed, calmness under pressure, and willingness to put in the work have made her a mainstay in a young Sky Blue backline, where she has brought maturity far beyond what most second year players can find. Some minor injury worries have limited her time somewhat this year, but once she is back to 100%, her tough defending will once again be a rock in that back four.
2017 – 23rd Overall Pick – Kailen Sheridan- Sky Blue FC
Goalkeepers always go late. It’s a fact of the draft. But if early returns are any indication, a few coaches might have wanted to take a bigger risk in 2017. Sheridan won the starting job right out of the gate for Sky Blue and hasn’t looked back since. Her performances seem to only get better week to week. While some young goalkeepers have struggled coming into the league in the past it seems that Sheridan is thriving under the pressure.
2013 – 24th Overall Pick – Amber Brooks – Portland Thorns FC
Amber Brooks is one of those players who sometimes struggles to find playing time, despite performing extremely well whenever she actually gets the chance to take regular minutes. She is smart on the ball, able to play a hard position, holding mid, well and has a rocket of a shot when she takes it. It is against all reason that Brooks has not been in the USWNT picture since a brief stint in 2013.
2013 – 25th Overall Pick – Jen Hoy – Chicago Red Stars
Jen Hoy is often the odd woman out for Chicago when people discuss their many attacking options. And there are certainly plenty of other names to focus on there. But while she might not have the panache of Press or the outright speed of Huerta, Hoy has some beautiful footwork, great vision and had put in work over her time on the Red Stars. 2015 may serve as her high water mark with 1110 minutes played over 18 matches, with 4 goals scored but I think given the chance she has more in the tank.
2014 – 25th Overall Pick – Emily Menges – Portland Thorns FC
Over the last 3 years, Menges has been one of the best defenders in the NWSL. She’s the kind of player who rarely gets the recognition she deserves–solid no-nonsense defenders are often underappreciated. Always solid, she has developed one of the most sophisticated readings of the game, and her defending has only grown over the years.
2016 – 27th Overall Pick – Abby Smith – Boston Breakers
Another goalkeeper, another late round gem. Of the 5 goalkeepers who were selected in the 2016 NWSL draft Smith is the only one starting games. Lindsey Luke, Caroline Casey, Madalyn Schiffel, Britt Eckerstrom have all found themselves on NWSL rosters as backups, while Smith (when not fighting off nasty injuries) is the clear #1 in Boston. Her play has even gotten attention from the USWNT, as she was called into the US roster for the recent friendlies in Norway and Sweden Smith was on hand. Though she watched both games from the bench it was still a deserved call up.
2015 – 30th Overall Pick – Whitney Church – Washington Spirit
29 players had their names called before Whitney Church in 2015, nine of them defenders. And while you might not argue with Gilliland or Dahlkemper going before her it is clear that Washington got a bargain when they took Church 30th overall. Speed has never been Church’s primary feature but her brains on the pitch and her skill in the air have kept her in the Spirit’s lineup every game so far in 2017.
2013 – 31st Overall Pick – Haley Kopmeyer – Seattle Reign FC
Maybe the greatest late round draft pick of all time. Haley Kopmeyer joined a Seattle team already populated by the likes of Michelle Betos and Hope Solo and outlasted both of them. She joined in 2013 as a clear 3rd choice, but has taken the time spent as a backup to craft and hone her trade, growing by leaps and bounds into a top 3 goalkeeper this year. Her growth is in no small part to the Reign’s commitment to develop her and to Hope Solo’s mentorship of her during her time on the team. From second-to-last to one of the best isn’t too shabby.