Yesterday, the Portland Thorns selected four players in the 2023 NWSL draft. It was a night of relatively little drama for the Thorns, as they were able to add talented prospects at multiple positions.
In the deepest draft in NWSL history with over 250 players for selection, general manager Karina Leblanc and head coach Mike Norris went in with five picks: no. 5, no. 12, no. 24, no. 36, and no. 48.
Going into the draft, the team was looking to bolster their roster in the hopes of repeating as NWSL Champions. As a theme throughout the draft, they were looking for players that fit their team culture, was able to contribute immediately and be also potentially be a long-term fit. As the Portland Thorns do not have any glaring weaknesses, the selections in this draft were focused on depth.
Therefore, Leblanc and Norris took the BPA (Best Player Available) approach and it showed. Here’s a rundown of Portland’s selections, and a reaction and grade for each:
#5: DF, Reyna Reyes, Alabama
*Bonus: #4 on Chris Henderson’s Draft Board (#3 on Phuocerman’s)
Reyes is one of the best left backs to ever be available in the NWSL Draft. She is going to be the future cornerstone and star for Mexico’s Women’s National Team. She will be learning from a World Cup winning left back in Meghan Klingenberg, a world class right back in Natalia “Natu” Kuikka, and an up-and-comer in Tegan McGrady. If that’s not enough, she also has Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelli Hubly, and Emily Menges and their wealth of experience to learn from.
She may not start all the games right away, but will be an immediate contributor in multiple positions this year. Do not be surprised if she is the first choice starter for Mike Norris down the stretch.
Reyna Reyes is the modern left back. She has the attacking prowess, dribbling ability, and speed + defense combo that covers an entire pitch. Expect her to get into the box on counters, set pieces — as she often did in college, as evidenced by her amazing eight goals scored for Alabama. Thorns fans should definitely get used to hearing her name.
The best part of any draft is seeing these players with their family, friends, and loved ones celebrate their dreams coming true, and for Reyes it was no exception:
The moment Reyna Reyes (former FC Dallas Girls Academy) was drafted 5th overall by the Portland Thorns out of Alabama.— Garrett Melcer (@GarrettMelcer) January 12, 2023
That’s back-to-back first round picks for FC Dallas products with Diana Ordoñez going 6th overall last year. https://t.co/oqBlFD5n38 pic.twitter.com/FAqmJfA3Ka
#12: FW, Izzy D’Aquila, Santa Clara
How did other NWSL GMs allow her to drop to Portland at the end of the first round? All D’Aquila did was score 50 goals and record 16 assists in her SCU career. She was the second best scorer in the NCAA last season ( Tied with #2 pick Michelle Cooper).
What makes her so dangerous? She is a pure #9 with the ability to score in every facet of the game — including the clutch, as evidence by this fun stat from the Gaming Society’s Andre Carlisle: 17 of her 19 goals were game-winners! D’Aquila can time her runs to perfection, score from long distance, and head in goals.
The Women’s World Cup international absences are going to be huge opportunity for her to start and develop. Most likely she will be spot-starter and super-sub in her rookie season, but has a chance to be first choice selection on game days if Thorns opt to potentially move Sophia Smith to a winger similar to how she plays with the USWNT. Outside of the MVP, Portland does not have another true #9 besides Izzy D’Aquila.
Michigan State Thorns? Go Laurens!
Thorns FC made two trades with the Houston Dash at the draft. First, Portland traded up to the 32nd pick in exchange for pick No. 36 and $20,000 in allocation money. Portland then traded the 48th pick overall to Houston in exchange for $10,000 in allocation money and the Dash’s third-round pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft.
Their final two picks in the draft both hailed from Michigan State University — and both shared the same first name.
#24, FW, Lauren DeBeau
Norris on DeBeau via Ryan Clarke: “Lauren brings a little something different. Skillful, tricky player, finds good pockets, a good dribbler. Somebody who can create something out of nothing. She just creates opportunities to score, and is a different type of forward player than what we have.”
#36, GK, Lauren Kozal
Nadine Angerer is the best goalkeeper coach in the NWSL and she has another player to develop. With Shelby Hogan’s contract status still up in the air, Kozal may go into the season as the first choice backup. Bella Bixby has been in USWNT camps in the past and has a chance to be in the conversation again. Bixby, Hogan, and Kozal make a dang good trio of GKs for the Thorns
The @MSU_wsoccer team watched a magical ✨night unfold for two of its teammates after Lauren DeBeau (@LaurenDeBeau) and Lauren Kozal (@laurenkozal) were both drafted by @ThornsFC⚽️— Audrey Dahlgren (@AudreyDahlgren) January 13, 2023
Relive the tears, hugs, and smiles from FieldHouse ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/Bxljm9dvyf
Mike Norris’ thoughts on his first draft as head coach:
Predicted Post Draft Starting XI
Kuikka, Hubly, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg
Hina Sugita/Rocky Rodriguez, Sam Coffey, Crystal Dunn
Morgan Weaver, Smith, Janine Beckie
What are your thoughts on the draft? Who was your favorite draft pick? What is your current starting lineup? After seeing all the picks, which NWSL team do you think is most likely to win the NWSL Shield & Championship?
Be sure to let us know in the comments!