Jordan Small and Tim Lawson catch up on all of the player movement and acquisitions, including the 2018 college draft.
On Thursday morning, the 2018 NWSL Draft took place in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Headed into the draft, all the talk was surrounding Andi Sullivan and whether or not she would declare for the draft. With seven picks in the round, including the first overall pick, the Washington Spirit was paying close attention to Sullivan’s decision.
Sullivan did declare late Wednesday night and was taken with the first overall pick by the Spirit. In doing so, it brought back a local high school product to the DMV. Because of US National Team camp duties, Sullivan was not present for the draft.
“Well, I think the great thing about Andi is she’s a better person than she is a soccer player,” head coach Jim Gabarra said when speaking to reporters after the draft. “So I think it’s certainly huge for our club to add her into the group that we have and fight for time in midfield and really be one of the core members of our squad.”
The Spirit also selected Canadian international and Duke product Rebecca Quinn with the third overall pick. In the second round, Schuyler DeBree and Mallory Eubanks were selected. The third round brought two familiar Spirit Reserves faces back to the Maryland SoccerPlex. Brittany Basinger was picked at 21 and Maddie Huster, sister of current Spirit midfielder Tori Huster, with the 26th pick. To round out the selections, Rachel Moore was picked with the first pick in the fourth and final round.
Of the seven draft picks, four had played previously for the Spirit Reserves, Washington’s W-League affiliate. This continues a trend of college Reserves players being drafted by the professional team.
“It’s kind of a transition into what we hope will be at some point players who play with our [development academy] and then are “Home Grown Players” but we don’t have that rule in place now in our league. In this case we’ve got players who we have seen with our reserves team over the last 3-5 years and rather than bring a player who’s new to our club, it’s a lot easier to bring a kid in that’s been with us whether that’s for a couple summers or a summer before.”
With a majority of the picks being able to play in the midfield role, the Spirit find themselves with an embarrassment of riches at that position. Gabarra sees this as a helping point moving forward.
“We want to play with like 15 players,” Gabarra said. “We’re like all midfield. We are really deep in there and it’ll be healthy competition and it will give us the opportunity to also make sure that our rookie players are getting the chance to get used to the league without the pressure of coming in and having to be a savior or start and play in every match.”
At the draft, the Spirit Squadron showed up and was in full on chanting mode from the beginning. Sky Blue was also well represented by their supporters group, Cloud 9.
“It’s great. I think they definitely beat out their performance in Baltimore,” Gabarra said. “I think you want to credit Cloud 9 from Sky Blue for being here to kind of challenge them a bit. It’s great to see in our game that you are getting to the point where you get supporters who are singing and chanting and screaming at us from the fans.”
Preseason camp opens for the league on Feb. 19 with the season beginning on the weekend of March 24-25.
I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 NWSL College Draft. I caught up with the Spirit first draft pick, Cheyna Williams, and with Coach Gabarra. Also, for those of you that are interested, there is some audio from the commissioner’s post-draft interview.