Some top Canadian talent missing but plenty of skill still on tap in NWSL draft

Boston Breakers hold the keys to NWSL draft

Some top Canadian talent is off the board but the Boston Breakers still have plenty to choose from Thursday at the National Women’s Soccer League draft.

The lure of Europe has removed Canadian star defender Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais) and midfielder Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain) from the 10-team draft.

“It’s a shame because they’re two very good players,” said Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard. “And they’re definitely someone we would have been interested in with the picks that we have.”

Boston will be the big player at the draft in Los Angeles, barring any deals to revamp a squad that finished last in the NWSL last season with a 3-15-2 record while being outscored 47-14.

The Breakers have four of the 10 first-round picks, with Nos. 1, 3, 8 and 9. Add in their second-round pick and they control five of the first 11 choices. Not to mention Nos. 31 and 38 in the four-round draft.

“I’ve learned from last year. I know the league now,” said Beard who was named coach in September 2015.

“I’m in much better position and I’m confident of turning this club around and having a successful season,” he added. “I think we’ve done some fantastic trades.”

Beard has been busy, picking up the Nos. 8 and 38 picks to the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for the Nos. 12, 16, and 21 selections. In November, he acquired Canadian international fullback Allysha Chapman from the Houston Dash.

“She’s my kind of player,” said Beard. “She’s a fighter.”

In November, Boston acquired defender Megan Oyster — and the No. 3 and 9 overall picks — from the Washington Spirit in a multi-player deal. Midfielders Rosie White and Amanda DaCosta were also brought on board.

On Tuesday, Beard added American centre back Amanda Frisbie who played most recently in Iceland.

Having reinforced the defence and midfield, Boston will likely be looking to find some goals Thursday. 

The Breakers have been coy about their draft strategy with the team tweeting out a picture of Beard holding a team jersey with No. 1 on it, with a colleague using his hands to block the name.

“We know who we’re picking at No. 1,” Beard said. “There’s some really good players here. We know who we want at (No.) 1, we know who we want at (No.) 3. After that it becomes a little bit of a lottery.” 

Draft-eligible goalkeeper Jane Campbell (Stanford) and midfielders Christina Gibbons (Duke) and Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin) have already turned heads, with invitations to the U.S. national team camp starting Friday.

USC midfielder Morgan Andrews, a finalist for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy won by Buchanan, is also highly prized. The U.S. under-23 player helped the Trojans to the NCAA championship, dispatching West Virginia’s Buchanan and Lawrence in the final.

“They’re some really good players coming out of this draft … I’m excited by some of the players we can bring to the club,” said Beard, an English native who previously coached the Liverpool and Chelsea women’s teams.

There were 13 Canadians on the preliminary NWSL draft-eligible list.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan (Clemson), midfielder-forward Summer Clarke (LSU) and forward Nichelle Prince (Ohio State) have all won caps for John Herdman’s national team. Goalkeeper Maryse Bard-Martel (Memphis), defender-midfielder Jordyn Listro (South Florida), midfielder Emma Fletcher (Cal) and forward Valerie Sanderson (Memphis) are Canadian youth internationals.

Prince, who had 27 career goals and 20 assists at Ohio State, was a member of Herdman’s Olympic roster. Sheridan, who 16 allowed just goals in 21 games for a .77 goals-against-average at Clemson in 2016, was an Olympic alternate.

The North American league has suffered from some defections in recent days.

With the 2020 Olympics well in the distance, established NWSL stars like Crystal Dunn, last year’s league MVP with the Washington Spirit, and Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) have left to join Chelsea and Lyon, respectively.

American forward Savannah Jordan (Florida) put her name forward for the draft but is rumoured also to be looking to France.

Beard believes such top players are taking advantage of the time before the next World Cup and Olympics to try playing abroad.

“And obviously when you enter a draft you don’t know where you’re going to go so it’s difficult to plan your life,” he added. 

The Western New York Flash, now known as the North Carolina Courage, and Sky Blue FC also have two first-round picks apiece. The reigning champion Flash/Courage will pick second and seventh while New Jersey-based Sky Blue selects fourth and 10th.

Five Canadians have been selected since the inaugural NWSL draft in 2013.

Forward Janine Beckie, who has 17 goals in 25 games for Canada, was taken sixth overall by Houston in last year’s draft. Canadian youth international Nkem Ezurike went eighth overall to Boston in 2014.

Other Canadians drafted were Rachel Quon (Chicago, ninth overall in 2013), Sabrina D’Angelo (Western New York, 21st overall, 2015) and Nicole Setterlund (Chicago, 27th overall, 2015).


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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