Morgan Weaver was ranked 12th in Top Drawer Soccer’s NWSL 2020 Draft projection so it came as a surprise to everyone that she was drafted as the second overall pick by the Portland Thorns. But Thorns coach Mark Parsons saw it as a huge addition.
“I’m still managing to get my head around the fact that we got Morgan Weaver,” said Parsons. He was excited to get her with the second overall pick and believes she will prove to be an important edition for Portland.
The Thorns used their top two picks to bolster their attacking arsenal. They took Sophia Smith who was projected as the number one pick and Weaver who led her Washington State Cougars to the school’s best season in history.
Weaver spent four years at Washington State and was influential from the start. She was one of five players who started all 19 matches in her freshman season. During that season she opened her goalscoring account against North Dakota State. But she didn’t stop at one. She scored a hat trick in that match and also would go on to score in their next two games against TCU and Seattle.
She led the Cougars in scoring in all of her four years at Washington State. In her final season, she started in all 24 matches and notched 15 goals and five assists. Weaver led WSU to a Cinderella run in their first-ever College Cup. But the magical cup run was ended by top-ranked North Carolina, who scored twice following an early Weaver goal.
After the heartbreaking loss, Weaver displayed one of her best qualities: her leadership.
“I just told them we can’t be sad right now,” said Weaver. “It sucks that we lost but honestly the amount of hard work we’ve put in this season, the history we’ve made — you can’t be sad about it. We’ve done stuff that people haven’t done before in Coug history right now. The Coug fans that were here, the alumni, everyone here that was supporting us … and I told them I can’t wait to be here next year to watch them.”
Weaver’s college career came to a close and so did the Cinderella cup run, but she had accumulated quite the resume. Weaver scored 43 goals in college (tied for 2nd in the program’s history), 85 starts (2nd), six postseason goals (1st) and took 363 shots (1st).
Among Weaver’s other strengths are shot creation and her ability to get shots off. She took 126 shots in 24 matches in her senior season and 363 shots in 85 matches throughout her college career.
The number of shots a player or team takes is obviously a factor in how many goals they score and it was an issue for the Thorns last season. Portland did not have a player in the top ten for number of shots and their shot leader, Midge Purce (36 shots, 22 games, 8 goals) was traded to Sky Blue.
Shots are not the most important statistic and are not an indication of goalscoring efficiency, but it clearly has an effect when you examine the top five shot takers from last season. Lynn Williams took the most shots and Debinha took the fourth-most. Both were crowned champions and the latter was the NWSL Championship MVP. Sam Kerr took the second most shots and was the regular season MVP and was rewarded with a move to Chelsea. Weaver is a great shot taker and could provide a spark for Portland’s offense.
Obviously creating and taking shots in NWSL will be much more difficult for Weaver than it was in college, but her ability to take a large number of shots is something for Thorns fans to be hopeful about. Weaver will need to work on her efficiency in front of goal, but her ability to play wide and through the middle, her pace and dribbling ability could prove to be difficult for defenders.
Even if it takes some time for Weaver to adjust to NWSL offensively, there are other ways for her to leave her mark on the game.
“It was a tremendous opportunity to be in a position to acquire a player of Morgan’s quality,” Parsons said. “She’s had an incredible six to 12 months, showing the physical, technical and tactical qualities of someone that has an extremely bright future. We are getting someone who has no ceiling and brings an incredible mentality to how she plays the game.”
Weaver showed her tactical quality game in and game out. One of her best qualities is her pressing ability. She wreaked havoc on opposing defenders and goalkeepers even when she didn’t have the ball. Her ability to know when and how to press the opposing team forced bad passes and resulted in easy goals for the Cougars.
It is hard to predict how she will adapt to the NWSL, but Weaver has the skill, tactical awareness and mentality she needs to succeed in Portland.
“My goal is to win a championship someway, somehow,” Weaver said. “I’ve never been able to say that we have won the championship. I want to know that feeling.”