The 2016 Washington Spirit was one of the deepest teams in the NWSL. After seeing many players leave and others be injured long term, that depth will be truly tested in 2017. Here is a breakdown of the four position groups and how the Spirit should spend its three draft picks.
Goalkeepers: Currently the Spirit have two goalkeepers on the roster. Kelsey Wys, who started 14 games for Washington last year, tore her ACL in late November while playing for the Newcastle Jets of the Australian W-League. Then there is Canadian National Team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé. Labbé started in eight games for the Spirit but fell out of favor for head coach Jim Gabarra after returning from the Olympics with a bronze medal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spirit tried to pick up a goalkeeper in the draft considering the chances that we see both of last year’s goalkeepers in a Spirit uniform in 2017 is very slim.
Defenders: With US National Team defender Ali Krieger being traded to the Orlando Pride in early November and left back Caprice Dydasco tearing her ACL in the NWSL Championship game in October, the outside back position is very slim for the Spirit. Whitney Church and Alyssa Kleiner are likely starters for next season, but adding depth to this position should be one of the top concerns for Washington.
Midfielders: Despite losing midfielder Christine Nairn in a trade with Seattle, the Spirit midfield is probably its strongest unit going forward. With only three picks in the draft as of right now, this is a spot the Spirit can afford to hold out on.
Forwards: The departure of forwards Crystal Dunn and Estefania Banini were certainly blows for the Spirit, but the play of Katie Stengel and Francisca Ordega in the W-League is a good sign for Washington. Cali Farquharson tore her ACL late in the year which leaves Washington with three healthy forwards, four or five if Gabarra moves midfielders Diana Matheson and Kristie Mewis up to the front line. In a very offensive heavy draft, the Spirit might be able to steal a decent forward with the 36th pick of the draft.
Don’t be surprised if the Spirit make a few draft day moves to acquire more picks. Even if the draft does not pan out for the Spirit, it still holds the number one pick in the Distribution Ranking Order.