AllWhiteKit.com's Big Board has info on most of the players selected in this morning's NWSL Draft, including Portland Thorns FC picks Kathryn Williamson, Nicolette Radovcic, Amber Brooks, and Roxanne Barker.
If you are like me and know very little about women's college soccer, today's draft could be a little daunting. Luckily there are some folks out there who have been following the women's game much closer than I.
Today we can take a look at All White Kit to get a better idea of just who are the players that the Thorns drafted and speculate on how they could fit in to the Thorns roster.
Not the usual plodding center-back. All-American defender has been the backbone for Florida's defense for the better part of four seasons while also earning accolades as a U23 international and a winner's medal for the W-League's Ottawa Fury this past Summer. As you might expect, is solid in possession given the style the Gators operate under and is comfortable moving forward with the ball as well. Has excellent pace and is capable in the air given her size (5'6″). An extremely aggressive defender who's unafraid of diving into tackles should the situation warrant it. Size is a bit worrisome for a center-back at this level though, and she'd almost certainly have to be paired up with a big partner in central defense, though she's probably quick enough for a move out wide as a full-back. Injury history is also a red flag, as she's missed almost two seasons with ACL and meniscus injuries. With comfort in possession and quickness, she'd be a contender to move into a defensive midfield position, especially for a possession oriented team. Not a threat offensively, as she didn't score a goal in college.
With the reported addition of Allie Long in the midfield it looks like the Thorns took Williamson with an eye toward shoring up their defense. If they convert her to an outside back, Williamson could be the final piece in the Thorns back four, but even if she plays her accustomed centerback position she could push Marlene Sandoval for a starting spot.
The continued lack of height in the Thorns defense is worrying, with Sandoval being the tallest player so far at 5'7", and could cause problems against a player like Abby Wambach who is dominant in the air.
Less heralded than teammate Tishia Jewell, Radovcic has nonetheless been a key part of a one-two punch that's heralded in a new Golden Age for UCF soccer the past half-decade. After a solid rookie season, Radovcic struggled early in 2010 before turning the corner and heating up dramatically as a sophomore and hasn't looked back since. Eight goals as a junior was enough to lead the team, and Radovcic has earned a reputation of being a big game scorer for the scrappy Knights. That included this season, when Radovcic scored twelve goals, including five game winners, en route to C-USA Tournament Offensive MVP honors and first team All-Region honors after her great season. A player with no shortage of workrate and hustle, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the New Jersey native hook up with her local club back at home, Sky Blue FC.
Radovcic seems like a potential late game substitution for me. It is going to be hard to compete for minutes up top with Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, barring the use of the 4-3-3 formation, so Radovcic's penchant for performing under pressure will have to shine through for the Thorns.
I am not a huge fan of forwards heralded primarily for their high work-rate, but if Radovcic can come off the bench and out hustle a defense that has been broken down by Tobin Heath and Allie Long then she could be quite effective for the Thorns.
Amber Brooks, M
One-time top recruit who panned out beautifully for the Tar Heels and capped off her career with a national title this season after being a part of 2009′s title winning side. U.S. U23 team captain put another feather into her cap with MVP of Four Nations Tournament in La Manga after 2011 season. Has seen time in defense, most notably in the 2010 U20 World Cup, but future likely lies as a defensive midfielder, as she's short for a center-back and doesn't seem to have the pace to play full-back at the next level. Has been a tenacious battler in midfield for four seasons in Chapel Hill. Fantastic leader with great intangibles and a strong desire to win. Goal and assist totals have fluctuated for her four seasons with UNC but leveled off as a senior, with Brooks tallying seven goals and six assists. Excelled at dropping long balls for forwards to run onto and long set piece service but might not be a finished product as far as mid-range passing game is concerned. Talented poacher around the goalmouth on set pieces. Tremendous in the air for a player her size and a very good ball winner, which should help her cause as a defensive midfielder. Likely isn't going to be able to create her own shot at the next level. Has signed with Bayern Munich in Germany for the remainder of the Frauen Bundesliga season, and status for second half of NWSL season is up in the air.
The biggest thing missing from the Thorns roster so far has been a holding midfielder. Heath and Long are capable defenders, but both are certainly more attack minded in their play. If the Thorns are able to bring back Brooks from Europe then they will have a much more stable looking midfield.
Some of the comments on All White Kit are a little incredulous that she was ranked #6 on the board with her lack of passing ability, but if she can play a simple Diego Chara-esque game she should be a success as the link between the defense and attack.
South African international by way of Irvine, California has been a titan in goal for the Waves during their recent upturn in fortunes. A four-year starter for the WCC club, Barker's profile ticket upwards once more this past Summer when she made Banyana Banyana's roster for the Olympics and looks very much like a player who'll be in the mix for the growing South Africa program in the present and future. Has been a solid keeper from the very start for the Waves but really started getting national recognition the past two years, coinciding with Pepperdine's recent success. Has nice size and has made some big saves in big games for the club over the years. Not the most athletic prospect in this draft class nor is she the most consistent, but when she's on, she's a high-calibre keeper capable of carrying a team on her back. Should get a shot somewhere, even if it isn't at the top level in the U.S.
Update: A quote from one of Barker's college coaches was sent our way.
Great GK, great hands, great feet, exceptional with high balls, could have been just as successful as a field player in out program. She'll do well there.
Barker comes in as the back up to Karina LeBlanc, plain and simple. A backup keeper with a big upside is nice, but the likelihood of her seeing significant minutes this year should be pretty low.