NWSL Draft grades: Kansas City Current earn an ‘A’; Washington Spirit makes puzzling moves

PHILADELPHIA — The National Women’s Soccer League welcomed 48 new players into the league during the 2023 draft on Thursday. A wild first round full of trades with player movement and swapped positions set the tone for the evening. Angel City FC selected 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson with the No. 1 selection overall, while the Kansas City Current traded forward Lynn Williams to leap into the No. 2 spot, taking Duke forward Michelle Cooper. The draft also closed out the night with a trade by the Houston Dash. It was a deep draft class, and lots of teams are walking away with good additions to their rosters and a ton of positive vibes.

With the 2023 draft officially in the books, let’s grade teams on their overall draft night:

Angel City: B-

The Los Angeles side made headlines in the day leading up to the draft when they participated in a four-team trade to move into the No. 1 slot. The move was reported to draft Thompson. Here’s how Angel City acquired the top pick:

  • Angel City FC received the rights to forward Yazmeen Ryan from the Portland Thorns in exchange for $200,000 in allocation money, along with ACFC’s 2023 first-round draft pick and 2024 second-round draft pick.
  • Angel City FC then traded Ryan’s rights and $250,000 to Gotham FC in exchange for the No. 1 draft pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft.

The club ultimately spent $450,000 to climb into the top spot and selected Thompson. A young prospect with a high ceiling, Thompson could play along the front line depending on the team’s plans to utilize her. It was a bold move to make and could likely pay off sooner than expected. The club also needed to bulk up their goalkeeping core and did so by selecting another California native — Angelina Anderson out of California-Berkely.

Chicago Red Stars: C+

A team that lost several players in the offseason to free agency and retirement, the club entered the draft needing to draft players in all areas. They started with three selections overall but finished with four players. Penn State forward Penelope Hocking was considered among the top forwards in the draft class and was Chicago’s first selection at No. 7.

The additions of Grace Yochum (Oklahoma), Ally Schlegel (Penn State), and Sophie Jones (Duke) are all attacking-minded players who can come in and compete for starting roles for the club. But no added defenders for depth gives them a lower grade.

Houston Dash: B+

Houston traded out of the first round but made it worth it in a trade with North Carolina Courage. They received forward Diana Ordonez and the No. 30 overall pick. Ordonez is coming off a breakout season where she broke the record for most goals scored by a rookie with 12. They also had a need for depth in defense and in the midfield. They achieved that by selecting players like Jylissa Harris (University of South Carolina) and Lindsey Jennings (Louisiana State University).

Kansas City Current: A

The Current continued their streak of big draft day moves when they made a deal with NJ/NY Gotham FC to leap into the No. 2 spots. They selected top prospect and Mac Hermann Trophy winner Cooper with the pick and closed out the first round with Alexa Spaanstra, a versatile forward who can also play in the midfield.

NJ/NY Gotham FC: A-

The team started the day with the No. 2 pick, made a massive amount of moves with the Current, Racing Louisville, and San Diego Wave FC — and still left with a top-five selection. The club acquired USWNT forward Lynn Williams from the Kansas City Current in a trade for the No. 2 slot, then selected Jenna Nighswonger in the No. 4 spots after a trade with Louisville. The clubs’ move earlier in the week to acquire Yazmeen Ryan also sets them up nicely for 2023.

North Carolina Courage: C-

They lost Debinha in free agency and now Ordonez in a trade and for the available talent in the first round made somewhat confusing selections for their picks. They were winners in last year’s draft, but not in this one, unfortunately. But Clara Robbins (FSU) at No. 9 could be a steal.

OL Reign: B-

OL Reign has an above-average roster and walks away with a somewhat average grade. They left the day with only two picks but swung for the fences with a trade. Laura Harvey picked up another star player in a trade with Washington Spirit for USWNT defender Emily Sonnett.

Orlando Pride: A-

The team participated in the multi-team deal ahead of draft day and acquired a bunch of allocation money in the process. They ultimately lost out on the free agency race for Brazilian international Debinha but made good selections with their draft picks. Defender Emily Madril was the most highly-rated defender coming into the draft and the Pride needed to target the backline. They also walked away with Messiah Bright, a top-rated forward out of TCU who scored 49 goals in her collegiate career.

Portland Thorns FC: B

The reigning champs picked up another first-round pick in a trade with Angel City FC, and opted to select Reyna Reyes out of Alabama — a player who can slot into the backline and midfield and develop into a long-term solution for their defense .

Racing Louisville FC: C+

Racing Louisville traded out of the first round and acquired Paige Monaghan in a trade with Gotham FC for the No. 4 slots. She was their biggest pickup of the night, alongside the money allocation, which gives them the average grade.

San Diego Wave FC: C+

The California club jumped up in the draft order for the first pick in the second round but did not have to truly flesh out major parts of their roster with this draft. They hit the jackpot with Naomi Girma in last year’s draft, made good free agency signings this offseason and had minor use for this year’s draft. However, midfielder Sierra Enge was a standout at Stanford and picking up an extra goalkeeper in Lauren Brzykcy was a smart move.

Washington Spirit: D+

The Spirit needed to bulk up their roster so they traded away USWNT defender Sonnett. Make it make sense. If Riley Tanner — a forward/midfielder out of Alabama — can have a breakout year and help in the attack, perhaps the team will outscore the opposition on the pitch.

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