I'm glad the draft is finally over. But I wonder if Friday's selections got the Sky Blue any closer to winning a title.
You never know with these picks. In 2013, a mid-2nd round sleeper, Erika Tymrak won the rookie of the year award. She now has a ring. And last season's winner was Julie Johnston, who was passed up by two other teams in her college draft.
Basically, if SBFC can bring back Mia-Hamm-ized forward Nadia Nadim, who put the team on her back and acclimated it to winning, and get that situation right, then it really has upgraded its roster for this year (a World Cup year). Keep in mind Nadim, a Danish national, will not be competing in the World Cup, during which time most NWSL teams will have skeleton crews.
The Afghan-born 27 year old, who is very much worth caring about if you want to see progress for this squad, led the team in scoring in 2014 with seven net-finders in merely five starts and a cameo substitution. For comparison: Seattle's Kim Little led the league in scoring with 16 goals in 23 appearances.
Regarding this morning's draft, SBFC had a lot of drafting power. For the most part, they made the right choices.
"We had a very good pick at number two overall and had time to plan for who we were going to take," said SBFC head coach Jim Gabarra. "We had been locked in on Sarah Killion since September. All of the moves we have made during the off-season have been done with that in mind."
There is a sense that Freehold, N.J. native and UVA midfielder Danielle Colaprico got away at ninth overall - but I would dare to remind any disappointed fans that Kristin Grubka (Florida State, No. 10 overall) is pretty tough to get by in the red zone of the field, also stresses out forwards by invariably blocking slide rule passes and will knock in crosses thanks to her size and leaping ability. Good luck trying to guard Grubka on corner kicks with her strong, space-eating, Wambach-esque heading skills.
"At our second pick, it was no secret that we wanted Danielle Colaprico, and it looked like we had her until Boston traded their pick. We then went with the best player on the board in Kristin Grubka, who is a great player in the air and a real weapon on set plays," noted Mr. Gabarra. "The remaining four picks, we were looking for players with unique skill sets that would give them a chance to make our roster."
Personally, I didn't want to diversify the midfield after choosing the midfield-sustaining Sarah Killion. With Sophie Schmidt (will focus solely on WWC) and Ashley Nick (dealt to Houston) gone, plus Christie Rampone captaining the USWNT, SBFC was in need of high-end enforcers, rather than offensive organizers.
As far as the NSCAA 2nd-team All-American and homegrown product Daphne Corboz (Georgetown, No. 22 overall) goes, the idea kicked around among GMs was that because she has dual-citizenship with France and her father played for third division club Grenoble, she would perhaps play in Europe, where more lucrative offers are available. And yet, she couldn't be passed up in the third round: she has too much upside; she's such a nuisance for defenders; at 5' 2" she shows flashes of Lionel "la pulgita" Messi (a nickname meaning the tiny flea). For real. When the ball is glued to her foot or she is showing that she's a great cutter who can shoot wisely, or when her left-footed long-distance shots flummox goalkeepers. For real - there's a lot to like.
She also reminds me of US neophyte, pixel-sized Mallory Pugh, the 16-year-old who overachieved at the U-20 FIFA World Cup last year. From my perspective, Jill Ellis may take a chance on her in June - what an enlivening scenario that would make.
But back to SBFC and the now.
Here's another thought on the draft: the team reinvigorated its front-line by drafting Chioma Ubogagu (Stanford, No. 28 overall). There's really nothing you could dream up that would have made he available so late. Was it front-office insouciance? After winning a title her freshman year (SBFC fullback Cami Levin delivered the assist that won the College Cup with an unforgettable lunch-pail cross where she ate it twice) Ubogagu's stagnant production raised questions. But ask any defender if they realize when marking her that she has the nerve to take it to the hole and get a shot off, and they will tell you that Ubogagu has the potential to become a household name in women's soccer, much like her Stanford Cardinal predecessor, Christen Press.
Regarding track star and center-back Shade Pratt (Maryland, No. 25 overall), I cannot feign expertise. Every indication from her coaching staff is that she was magnified sufficiently by scouts to earn her selection.
As for Lo'eau Labonta (Stanford, No. 34 overall), I've seen her tumble defenders while dribbling, her playmaking precipitates chaos on the defensive end, so teaming her up with Nadim, Maya Hayes or midfield catalyst Katy Freels will be a sight to see.
On a regular year, a lot of these 3rd and 4th, and even 2nd rounders, get stamped out of the roster, and yet they may not have such an uphill battle on their hands due to the likelihood of the Rampones, Schmidts, Kelley O'Haras, Sam Kerrs, Jonelle Filignos, and Caitlin Foords of the world heading up to Canada to reach the ultimate goal.
Finally, no need for Cloud Nine Sky Blue Supporters (the base of the team's fans who always see the upside in the downside) to go into a dystopian funk for not acquiring a goalkeeper. Aubrey Bledsoe, a U-23 USWNT call-up, and Brittany Cameron, great for the clubhouse and serviceable at preserving low-scoring affairs, will (drumroll) have a healthy competition for the starting spot.
And I hear ya, if you look below, SBFC, despite plenty of opportunities, hasn't always chosen the player with the right soccer phenotype, and yet it's so much fun to follow this team day in, day out. The '09 feeling I keep remembering when I think of this team is: we've already gone all the way, we can do it again. Right you are.
One last thing: I'm guessing that the relatively rare phenomenon Nadim gets re-signed. "We are continuing to work on getting Nadia to play this season," Gabarra told SB Nation. "We had been trying to trade for Sam Kerr for some time and regardless of the Nadia situation we get a proven goal scorer."