[Updated 2:30 pm PST]
With the eighth and ninth overall picks in the NWSL draft, the Thorns picked up two versatile, ball-playing midfielders in Sandra Yu and Gabby Seiler. Outside of the two superstar midfielders of the draft, Andi Sullivan and Rebecca Quinn, they were the two most highly rated midfield prospects available to pick. Additionally, the Thorns added Oregon State goalkeeper Anabella Geist with the 29th pick, which they acquired by trading their 2019 3rd round pick to the Chicago Red Stars.
“I think we got fortunate that we didn’t have to have major things today. We got that all done last week,” said head coach Mark Parsons, referring to two huge trades last week that sent Allie Long to Seattle and brought in Caitlin Foord and Andressinha. The Thorns headed into the draft with no major holes in their roster, having brought in Foord to shore up an attacking corps that, even when it still included Nadia Nadim, struggled early in the 2017 season, and Andressinha to a midfield newly vacated by Amandine Henry.
Parsons noted that Andressinha doesn’t replace Henry, but will add a new look to the central midfield. “You can’t go and profile,” he said. “So we go get a creative player like Andressinha. We haven’t had a player like that in our midfield. It’s a different direction, a different wrinkle, it shows a little bit where we’re headed.”
Portland’s two first-round draft acquisitions were both players the staff didn’t expect to still be available by the eighth and ninth picks. “We had a couple hopes that coule happen, hoping one would come to fruition,” Parsons said. “[Both of] those two being there is a big bonus... We spent the last three weeks being prepared for worst-case, bad situations. We actually didn’t think about this situation much. Now I’m digesting it and I’m excited.”
Parsons speculated both Yu and Seiler slipped a few slots because they won’t be available to report to their NWSL teams immediately. “Gabby’s playing basketball [at the University of Florida], and Sandra graduates a little later,” he said.
Yu, currently a grad student at Notre Dame, is a midfielder who came back from an ACL injury her freshman year to put together three excellent seasons in a row, capping it with a team-leading eight goals and five assists in 2017. She’s played in midfield as well as in the front line at various points in her college career and is noted for her ability to settle and dictate tempo.
“We watched her in the [preseason] U-23s tourney last year, we played against her for 5 minutes,” said Parsons. “She played Allie, Mandy, Mana, Ashley Herndon. We watched her against Chicago and against Houston. She’s a very exciting player.”
Gabby Seiler, widely projected to be taken earlier in the draft, is a highly touted midfielder with a nasty shot. She scored in four straight games at the beginning of the 2017 college season before being moved to center back due to team need.
She’s played most of her career in attacking midfield. Long-term, she has the combination of skills to be a deep-lying playmaker for the Thorns, excellent at both dribbling to make space for herself and breaking up play.
Anabella Geist is a keeper who wasn’t expected to be picked—the NWSL broadcast team didn’t even have a photo of her on hand. Still, as a local player, the Thorns must have scouted her personally and liked what they saw enough to spend a pick, and you have to trust a coaching staff that includes former FIFA world player of the year Nadine Angerer to be able to identify when a goalkeeper has potential.
“These are three players that could start for us tomorrow,” said Parsons.