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UPDATED: Thorns take Margaret Purce, Angela Salem, Ifeoma Onumonu in Boston Breakers Dispersal Draft

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SOCCER: MAY 27 NWSL - Boston Breakers at Portland Thorns FC

Update 1/30 1:50 PT: With the 22nd pick in the dispersal draft, the Thorns select Ifeoma Onumonu. Another 2017 first round draft pick and much-touted forward, Onumonu actually went one pick above Purce in that draft at eight overall, and would go on to compete with Purce for the same position at Boston. She played college soccer at Berkeley alongside fellow Thorn Celeste Boureille. More attacking depth: why not.

Update 1/30 1:34 PT: The Thorns take Angela Salem with the fifteenth pick in the dispersal draft. Salem is a hugely experienced defensive midfielder who started in the NWSL with Western New York Flash before moving to the Washington Spirit under Mark Parsons in 2015, eventually ending up in Boston. She’s been a regular starter everywhere she’s gone and adds much needed competition at the base of midfield for Portland.

Update 1/30 1:16 PT: The Portland Thorns have acquired Margaret Purce with the fourth draft pick in the dispersal draft. A highly rated forward out of Harvard, Purce was drafted in the ninth overall spot in the 2017 NWSL college draft. She started 22 games and scored one goal at Boston last year, but she’s still young, and is widely considered to have a high ceiling.

Update 1/30 12:15 PT: Per a press release from the league, the Washington Spirit have obtained the first overall pick in the dispersal draft from Sky Blue in exchange for the number two pick and a conditional first-round and natural second-round pick in the 2019 college draft.

The Orlando Pride have traded the eighth and 11th overall picks in the dispersal draft to Seattle, in exchange for the Reign’s first-round pick in the 2019 college draft.

The dispersal draft order below has been updated and is now final. We will continue to update this article throughout the day.

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As part of the process of winding down the Boston Breakers, the NWSL announced the draw this afternoon for tomorrow’s dispersal draft. Portland has been drawn fourth in the pick order. All of Boston’s players have made themselves available for the dispersal draft and will be available to be picked.

It will be a draft conducted in snake order, meaning the teams will pick in the order they are drawn for the first round and reverse order for the next, and so on. Portland will pick at spots four, 15, and 21. Teams are not required to make picks and are allowed to take up to four players, none of whom will require international spots or count against the salary cap. The rights to players who have left the league will also be available through the dispersal draft, though they will count against the salary cap and roster space should they return, and if they are non-US citizens, will require an international spot.

It was ridiculous to allow a team in the state the Breakers were apparently in to participate in the college draft, but given the consequences for NWSL contracts, it might work out all right for those players drafted. All 21 of Boston’s contracted players will be dispersed, but so will their college draft picks, meaning that 25 players will get the chance to play on contracts that do not count against their teams salary cap for a year.

A player like Joanna Boyles, drafted in the fourth round of this year’s college draft, was looking at possibly being signed to an amateur contract or not being signed at all, but now has the potential to be at least making league minimum in a risk-free way for teams. Whether this is a long-term success or not depends on the league’s ability to expand in 2019—if they don’t find expansion teams and decline to make the roster space expansion permanent, a lot of players will be out of work.

If no team passes in the draft, the Thorns have the opportunity to take three players without impacting their cap space, which you would expect a team with the resources of the Thorns to do, especially given how thin the Thorns bench was over the course of the 2017 season due to injuries. Whether the other teams use all of their picks will be interesting to watch, and perhaps a statement on the relative ambitions of the clubs. Some accounts suggest the NWSL rejected bids to continue the Breakers because of a desire for a higher quality, more sustainable ownership group, so a club not taking their full allotment of cap-exempt players should be under scrutiny.

It’s a bit of an unpleasant spectacle to be picking over the corpse of the Breakers, but there is good value in the roster, and in the circumstances, players getting to have jobs seems the least-bad outcome. The major prizes from the draft are Rose Lavelle and Savannah McCaskill, but the Thorns need defensive cover, especially during a year with significant international obligations. Megan Oyster has a reputation as a strong centre back as does Julie King, though King will start the season injured. Elizabeth Wenger was picked in the second round of the NWSL college draft, the second highest central defender to go, and seems a sensible pick if available.

The draft will take place tomorrow at 1 pm PT. The order is as follows (the full list of available players can be viewed on the NWSL website):

  1. Washington Spirit (via NJ)
  2. Sky Blue FC (via WAS)
  3. Seattle Reign FC
  4. Portland Thorns FC
  5. Utah Royals FC
  6. Houston Dash
  7. Chicago Red Stars
  8. Seattle Reign FC (via ORL)
  9. North Carolina Courage

This article will be updated as draft picks are selected.