On Thursday, the Breakers took a large step toward restructuring a less-than-stellar attack, acquiring Colombian forward Melissa Ortiz. The signing of a pure goal scorer will reduce the pressure to find a superstar in the draft, though Ortiz will have to exceed expectations to match the productivity of Sydney Leroux. In our round one preview, we projected the selection of Forward Kealia Ohai (North Carolina) while offering a best-case scenario of forward Maya Hayes (Penn State).
How will Ortiz impact the draft? We're back for round two.
Draft Preview, Round Two
- Seattle Reign FC (trade with Washington)
- FC Kansas City (trade with Seattle)
- BOSTON BREAKERS (trade with Chicago)
- Western New York (trade with BOSTON)
- Sky Blue FC
- Portland Thorns
- FC Kansas City
- Western New York Flash
While the attack remains a primary concern for Lee Billiard's Breakers, his team has needs elsewhere, particularly along the back line. In 2013, Boston surrendered 34 goals, a middle-of-the-road statistic that improved as the season progressed. In order to rank among the elite teams in the league (top-seeded Western New York conceded just 20 goals), Billiard will need to bolster a defensive unit that struggled to find an identity last season.
As it stands today, we expect Jazmyne Avant, Kia McNeil and Julie King to start beside assistant coach and center back Cat Whitehill, creating a serviceable unit (on paper). But, as we know, serviceable units struggle down the stretch, battling injuries and unmet expectations en route to a middle-of-the-table finish. Durkin may find fire on his bench - Bianca D'Agostino, a prospect with considerable talent, missed the entire 2013 season with a partially torn ACL - though depth presents a major concern ahead of the 2014 season.
Best Case Scenario: Kassey Kallman, Defender, Florida State
As a First-Team All-American and Hermann Trophy Candidate, Kallman represents the top defender in the 2014 draft. The Woodbury, Minn. native helped solidify a stingy Seminole's defense last season, guiding her side to a top 20 finish in goals against average (7th - .482) and shutout percentage (17th - .577). Though Kallman plays in a natural center back position, she also holds experience on the outside, providing Durkin with versatility where depth may run dry. If the first two rounds focus on attacking players, as many expect it will, look for the Breakers to jump on the senior captain.
Projection: Whitney Church, Defender, Penn State
Though Church represents a significant step down from the acclaimed Kallman, the Ashburn, Va. native has all the tools of an elite defender. Church, a 2013 All-Region award recipient, logged nearly 2,000 minutes last season, helping the Nittany Lions to six shutouts while contributing four goals and one assist. If the Penn State product falls to the 11 spot, the Breakers should give Church a nod, understanding that some growth may follow the senior defender.
Stay tuned for round three analysis as the 2014 NWSL College Draft draws closer.