The Portland Thorns selected Sydny Nasello from the University of South Florida with the club’s first pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft and the 13th overall pick but now it seems as if Nasello won’t be signed by the club.
On the surface, this looked like a solid pick. Nasello has been described by women’s college soccer expert Chris Henderson as the “NCAA’s most dangerous dribbler.” She is USF’s second-ever two-time All-American. During her collegiate career, she amassed 24 goals, 28 assists and 76 points across 71 matches while leading the Bulls to four conference championships.
South Florida - Player to Watch #1— Chris Henderson (@chris_awk) April 19, 2021
Sydny Nasello - JR - F (LF), MF (AMC)
Diminutive winger is NCAA's most dangerous dribbler, averaging 10 (!!!) a match. Finishing has been razor sharp down the stretch, with 55% conversion rate on the season.
The 5-3 winger left a sizable impact on USF. Nasello is tied for first in assists in program history, third in assists per game (0.394), fourth in points per game (1.07), fifth in points, and seventh in goals and goals per game (0.338).
13 - POR - Sydny Nasello - F (WG) - South Florida— Chris Henderson (@chris_awk) December 18, 2021
Fit - A
Value - A+
Thorns really needed some attacking depth after earlier trades. Best dribbler in DI and a great passer for a winger. Good value here.
I recently watched the replays of USF against Florida and LSU. Nasello is labeled as a winger, but it was interesting to see how much freedom she was given in the Bulls’ system. She basically had a free role in which she was allowed to drift wide left, be the farthest player forward or drop behind the attacking line in a withdrawn center-forward role.
Nasello likes to get on the ball, and she will drop centrally or on the wings to do so. When she receives the ball, she finds the most success when turning quickly and driving into space. Nasello is extremely dangerous on the turn and has the quickness, ability in tight areas and ball control to make just about any collegiate defender look silly. Her dribbling ability is extremely impressive and eye-catching, and it was crucial to USF creating danger in the final third.
The winger also displayed a solid range of passing. Nasello was able to find teammates with cross-field switches, outside-of-the-boot passes surrounded by defenders and killer through-balls. She is also an adept finisher, scoring 11 of the Bulls’ 24 goals this season.
As soon as the Thorns drafted her, however, fans uncovered some concerning social media activity. And now, Meg Linehan of The Athletic is reporting that the Thorns will not sign Nasello.
Sources have informed me that @ThornsFC draft pick Sydny Nasello will not join the team for the 2022 season. Thorns decided shortly after the draft, and have been working to find other options for the player. #NWSL— Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan) January 7, 2022
Nasello liked or retweeted posts that contained anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, a celebration of former President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, as well as the transphobic tweet below.
Interested in how Portland responds to what appears to be a character issue with their first pick this year https://t.co/khWaVUVwNL— Claire Watkins (@ScoutRipley) December 18, 2021
The Rose City Riveters released a statement condemning Nasello’s likes and reshares on Twitter. Nasello released a Notes App message that read:
First and foremost I want to thank the entire Portland Thorns organization for the opportunity to live out my dream! I am so excited to get to work with such an amazing club. To the fans, I want to start off with an apology. I am so excited to live in Portland and play in front of the best fans in the country. I never want to make anyone feel like they are not supported by me and I am so sorry I’ve done that. I am so pumped to be in the Rose City and compete for championships with new teammates and new coaches. I am most excited to continue growing as a person and learn as much as I possibly can from the people I’m surrounded by in Portland. GO THORNS
Nasello eventually made her account private. Rhian Wilkinson was asked by The Athletic’s Steph Yang about drafting Nasello, her social media activity and how it clashes with GM Karina LeBlanc’s description of the Portland Thorns as a “purpose-driven” club.
“I think it’s important that I state that this is an inclusive, open club that values its fans and knows what we stand for,” said Wilkinson. “This is someone that we did a lot of due diligence on in terms of what we do as a club, but as a first-year head coach and, yeah, these are gonna come across as excuses, but I do need to hold my hand up and be responsible for not doing the work needed on the social media side.”
“Definitely a piece that we’re going to be working with this young lady and getting to know her,” Wilkinson continued. “But thankfully, we are part of a club, an organization, that’s very clear on where we stand on social issues like this. And I’m proud of that piece. And I aligned with our GM in her statements about who we are and that mission and purpose. So for now, I’m going to leave it but we’re definitely very early in our relationship and it’s going to be something that we address.”
The club is yet to release a statement about any of this — and it is fair to guess that there will be no statement until the Thorns announce that the club has or hasn’t signed the player to a contract.