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  • Writer's pictureDan Berridge

2021 NWSL Draft Preview

Where? Digitally, via the United Soccer Coaches digital convention.

When? Wednesday January 13, 2021 at 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight GMT.

How can I catch the action? The Draft will be shown live on the NWSL's Twitch channel (nwslofficial).

Alas, the hellish year of 2020 has been vanquished. And I couldn’t be more excited. The first significant event of the year is arguably one of the most important: the 2021 NWSL Draft. The Draft has produced some titilating results for the Pride in recent years. They’ve been able to unearth hidden gems like Danica Evans and Marisa Viggiano. Counter-intuitively, they’ve also taken a swing and a miss on more than one occasion. But that’s the nature of the beast, and part of what makes the whole process so interesting.

Another intriguing facet of the 2021 Draft is the prospect of an NCAA waiver. The NWSL has requested one, due to the Coronavirus pandemic's potential decimation of the college season. The NCAA spring season remains shrouded in uncertainty. If granted, the waiver will ensure any player registering for the draft will have to decide if they link up with their NWSL outfit (if selected) before or after the NCAA season. If indeed it goes ahead. They will have to do so by January 22. This particular anomaly will doubtless factor into Marc Skinner's thinking around any potential picks.

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The Pride head into this draft armed with 5 picks overall. Which isn’t a bad position to be, by along stretch. They will pick once in the first round, with the 9th overall pick. They hold 2 in the second round, (14th and 18th). The 14th pick was acquired from OL Reign in January last year, and the 18th pick was acquired from Chicago in June. The Pride then hold the 24th (round 3) and 34th (round 4).

With the recent departures of Claire Emslie and Emily Sonnett, this year's draft takes on even greater significance. The fact that many of Orlando's 2020 signings have yet to take the field for the club, adds another fascinating dimension to what already promises to be a pivotal day for the club.

We saw the value of youth, and the collegiate repertoire, available to Marc Skinner and his staff during the NWSL Fall Series. Players like Carrie Lawrence and Jordyn Listro showed glimpses of their potential. Orlando will be hoping to find similar talent on January 13.

This year's draft class is stacked with talent already. With some time to go, ahead of the player registration deadline, let's take a look at a select few of the potential future stars up for grabs:

Emily Fox: University of North Carolina

The Tar Heels have produced some memorable talent over the years, most notably in the form of our own Ashlyn Harris and Manchester City's Lucy Bronze. Fox is a versatile defender/midfielder, who can operate centrally and down the right. Fox already has USWNT recognition and as a former Hermann Trophy semi-finalist, isn't likely to remain on the board for long. Fox has chalked up 19 assists, mainly from full-back or playing on the right of a 3. In total she has featured 57 times for the Tar Heels, firmly establishing herself as key figure in their squad.

Catarina Macario: Stanford University

By all accounts, the Brazilian midfielder/forward is unlikely to be on the board when the Pride pick. Assuming, that is, they don't trade up to get a higher pick. And you get the sense she'd be worth the risk. With 63 goals in 68 games for the Stanford Cardinals, her record speaks for itself. She has pace and power, with the ability to score all types of goals. Throughout her collegiate career she has scored 34.2% of her 184 shots on target. That's a clinical rate at any level, for a striker. Particularly one as trigger happy as Macario. Macario is likely to be in the top 3 picks of this draft, so (as I previously alluded to) the Pride will need to trade up in order to stand any chance of getting her.

Tara McKeown: University of Southern California

The forward has 25 goals, and 20 assists from 62 appearances for USC. She's not afraid to shoot, attempting 132 efforts at goal during that time. McKeown impressively won Pac-12 Forward Of The Year for the Trojans. She also became the 5th player in school history to achieve All-American status. A player with tremendous potential, that won't be on the board for long. One to watch out for.

Savannah DeMelo: University of Southern California

The midfielder is another Trojan that's expected to go early doors, currently ranked 5th overall. Potential wildcard, as she missed the entirety of the 2019 season due to injury. Despite that, her college stats make for impressive reading. The Californian has 13 goals and 15 assists from 39 starts and 4 substitute appearances for USC. An offensive player, with a keen eye for a pass. Potentially a speculative pick, but one that might just be relatively low-risk.

Madison Haley: Stanford University

The forward is currently ranked at 9th overall, so may well still be on the board if Orlando picks at 9th. With 11 goals and 14 assists from 22 games in 2019, the pacey forward would be a shrewd pick up for the Pride. Another that has had USWNT recognition. Much like her teammate Rocario, Haley's stats in front of goal are mightily impressive. Throughout her college career she has scored from 36 of her 51 efforts on target. A whopping 70.1% of her shots on target, find the back of the net. That is lethal. The Pride could do a lot worse.

What are the areas of need, that the Pride could address during the Draft?

In all honesty, the Pride roster (as it stands) is fairly well stocked. The principle worry, likely to be keeping Marc Skinner awake at night, would be the prospect of losing more Pride loanees to their temporary abodes. We have already seen Claire Emslie and Emily Sonnett depart, albeit in Sonnett's case she is joining another NWSL club. As such, it would be prudent to use this draft to reinforce all three areas of the outfield. The pool certainly gives them options aplenty, in that regard.

Defensively, at least in the centre, the Pride are looking pretty strong. Ali Riley, Shelina Zadorsky and Toni Pressley et al provide plenty of depth. The Pride are well stocked at left-back, with Courtney Petersen and Carson Pickett. At right-back, however, Carrie Lawrence is the only out-and-out custodian of that position. Ali Krieger and Riley are capable of doing a job there, but perhaps reinforcement at right-back is worth keeping in mind for this Draft.

As for the midfield, the likes of Emily Van Edmond, Jade Moore and Taylor Kornieck should reinforce the central areas. Jordyn Listro impressed their during the Fall Series, so it will be interesting to see if she earns a deal. Regardless, the Pride find themselves short in the wide areas. Especially after Emslie's departure. With plenty of talented wingers in the board, this could be an area the team choose to strengthen on January 13.

Finally, the forward areas. The striking department has been considerably boosted by the news of Alex Morgan's return. Sydney LeRoux seemed more like her old self during the Fall Series... The Pride look well fortified up top, and that's not even counting the prospect of Marta as a false 9. It doesn't hurt to have other options though, particularly with players like Macario on the board.

What are your thoughts on the Draft, as far as the Pride are concerned? Let us know via the usual channels.


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