Talent is high in the 2017 NWSL College Draft

CHICAGO – The 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft is just nine days away, with hundreds of college athletes waiting to be one of the 40 names called on January 12 in Los Angeles, California.

The current draft order has the Chicago Red Stars with a total of four draft picks, including the eighth overall pick – the same pick that Chicago was able to acquire Arin Gilliland in 2015. Chicago has a reputation for coming away with some of the best draftees that make an immediate impact in the league, thanks in large part to head coach Rory Dames.

In 2014, Chicago drafted Julie Johnston and Vanessa DiBernardo with the third and fourth overall picks, respectively. The following year, the draft would shine light on Gilliland, Danielle Colaprico and Sofia Huerta, who were all drafted within the first 11 slots. The Red Stars would win back-to-back NWSL Rookie of the Year awards in 2014 and 2015 for the tremendous individual play of Johnston and Colaprico.

A majority of the draft picks in 2016 were local players, including Katie Naughton, Sarah Gorden and Courtney Raetzman who all hail from the northwest Chicagoland area.

Below, we take a look at the roster currently with the Chicago Red Stars for 2017.

GOALKEEPERS
Michele Dalton
Alyssa Naeher

It’s no secret that the Red Stars might have the best goalkeeping duo in the game. Alyssa Naeher, currently the number one goalkeeper for the U.S. Women’s National Team, played her first year in Chicago after being acquired from Boston, and proved why she is a force to be reckoned with. Naeher finished the season tied for first in clean sheets (6) and GAA (1.00) for goalkeepers that appeared in ten or more matches.

Michele Dalton might just be the best backup in the league. In 2015, Dalton earned her starting role after filling in admirably for Karina LeBlanc during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Dalton would finish that season with 12 starts and first overall in the NWSL with a .917 goals against average. This past season Dalton filled in flawlessly for Naeher with seven starts and a GAA of 1.00.

DEFENDERS
Arin Gilliland
Sarah Gorden
Sam Johnson
Julie Johnston
Katie Naughton
Casey Short

Not to be bias once again, but a starting backline of Arin Gilliland, Sam Johnson, Julie Johnston and Casey Short is easily a run for the strongest four-back in the league. Gilliland, Johnston and Short all had time with the U.S. WNT during this offseason, while Johnson had significant time at the youth national level. Sarah Gorden and Katie Naughton were picked up in the 2016 NWSL College Draft and proved that they can fill in seamlessly when called upon. Naughton earned nine starts and 16 appearances total in the centerback position. Meanwhile, Gorden played her longest minutes at the end of the season against Kansas City when Gilliland went down injured in the first five minutes. Gorden, along with the rest of the defensive unit, was able to keep one of the best forward duos in the league scoreless and only allow four shots on goal against FCKC.

MIDFIELDERS
Danielle Colaprico
Taylor Comeau
Vanessa DiBernardo
Mary Luba
Alyssa Mautz
Courtney Raetzman

The center of the midfield is deep with veterans Danielle Colaprico and Vanessa DiBernardo leading the way. Colaprico will be entering her third season with the Red Stars and has solidified herself as one of the best young defensive midfielders in the league. Already one of the best natural midfielders and top assist guru in the league, DiBernardo grew even more in 2016 with her leadership as captain during the Olympics.

Tryout-turned-contract-player, Taylor Comeau appeared in 16 games for Chicago and finished the season with one goal and one assist. On the outside you have veteran Alyssa Mautz, who continues to find ways to be a threat both offensively and defensively for the club. Mary Luba and Raetzman will look to find a bigger role in 2017 after Chicago traded Amanda Da Costa to Boston in the offseason. A couple of forwards have dropped back plenty of times, but we will cover them under the forward position still.

FORWARDS
Sofia Huerta
Jen Hoy
Stephanie McCaffrey
Christen Press
Cara Walls

If you look at that list and don’t think that is some of the most talented players in the offensive third (or anywhere), you should close the screen, reopen and then just nod your head and agree with us. After adding Stephanie McCaffrey during a midseason acquisition, the frontline looked like an even bigger threat to opponents. After starting off scoreless in Boston, McCaffrey scored two goals for Chicago in just 6 appearances. Jen Hoy was sidelined for five games due to injury, but still managed to create multiple chances inside the box and added in two goals of her own.

Cara Walls, in just her second year of professional soccer, improved drastically and started eight games and became the go-to holding forward by the end of the year. Sofia Huerta saw plenty of time at the outside flank this past season, but still managed her time up top and proved why she was a finalist for NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2015 after finishing her sophomore season with seven goals and two assists. Then, of course, we have captain Christen Press, who once again had an extraordinary season, finishing the season with nine goals, despite playing a great deal in the ten position throughout the season.

CHICAGO DRAFT ORDER
Round One: 8th pick
Round Two: None
Round Three: 28th pick
Round Four: 38th & 39th picks

LOCAL TALENT (ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
Rashida Beal – Defender, University of Minnesota (Germantown, WI)
Gracie Lachowecki – Midfield, University of Miami (Evansville, IN)
Rose Lavelle – Midfield, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Cincinnati, OH)
Morgan Proffitt – Midfield, Marquette University (Columbus, IN)
Abby Reed – Forward, DePaul University (Rockford, IL)