The Orlando Pride built a huge chunk of their roster today through an expansion draft. They were allowed to take up to 10 players, with a maximum of two from any one club. Their first pick, Meghan Klingenberg, was part of a handshake deal to maneuver her onto the Portland Thorns' roster, so Orlando ended up taking nine total players for their own roster.
1. Meghan Klingenberg | Defender | Seattle Reign
2. Ashlyn Harris | Goalkeeper | Washington Spirit
3. Taryn Hemmings | Defender | Chicago Red Stars
4. Jasmyne Spencer | Forward | WNY Flash
5. Jamia Fields | Forward | WNY Flash
6. Cami Levin | Defender | Sky Blue FC
7. Lianne Sanderson | Forward/Midfielder | Portland Thorns
8. Toni Pressley | Defender | Houston Dash
9. Maddy Evans | Midfielder | Boston Breakers
10. Aubrey Bledsoe | Goalkeeper | Sky Blue FC
Players already on Orlando's roster:
Alex Morgan | Forward | Portland Thorns
Kaylyn Kyle | Midfielder | Portland Thorns
Sarah Hagen | Forward | FC Kansas City
Now that Orlando has sent Klingenberg on to Portland as part of their prearranged deal, the Pride have 12 players on their roster and are looking to fill out the rest through the college draft, trades, and international signings.
By position, they have two goalkeepers, three defenders, three midfielders, and four forwards. Orlando has said that they "do not have any prearranged deals" in place for their drafted players, but could end up trading them before the season begins.
In a press conference after the draft ended, head coach Tom Sermanni had some thoughts on how he was going to complete his roster. "We still have another 10 spots to fill in the roster, so we'll be looking at balancing out the squad with those spots," he said. "I still think we need probably most areas. ...fullback, the left hand side for example. Center back. Taryn Hemmings is a fairly versatile player so she can play different positions for us. We certainly still need probably two midfield players and we probably need a little bit still on our forward line."
"We're looking both at the college draft and obviously internationally for filling some of these spots, and probably center back comes down to either a high quality college player or an international player."
Two names Sermanni agreed would be good choices for the college draft were Emily Sonnet and Cari Roccaro, assuming either one was still available by the time Orlando was allowed to pick. One possible source of international players is Sermanni's old stomping ground, Australia, where he was head coach of the Matildas and helped usher in a wave of young talent
"I would like to look very closely, and have done, at obviously the Australian players," he said. "The other thing we need to balance out with our international squads is how many players we're going to lose when the Olympic games come round. The difficult thing with Australia is that they have qualification which was supposed to be end of January but now is looking more like the end of February, early March. Looking closely at Australian players, I would like to bring some here because personally I know them. They're good players and they also fit into this league and this culture very easily."
Positionally, Sermanni is probably most needing to fill in his back line first, especially at center back. Taryn Hemmings is a solid, experienced defender who has great value on the wing but Sermanni needs an anchor. Toni Pressley and Cami Levin can also play centrally so Sermanni may shift Hemmings centrally again or he may leave her wide; his comments don't really clarify his intentions and in any case it's early days.
There are a few defensive pieces left on the board within NWSL who could potentially become part of future trades. Players like Amanda Frisbie or Elli Reed could make for solid choices who are available all season.
Sermanni also has four draft picks as of this writing, though Orlando gave away their #1 pick to Portland as part of the Alex Morgan deal. Orlando will instead go first in the second round, which could present a problem based on 2016's shallower pool of players. As Sermanni noted during the press call, players like Sonnet and Roccaro are certain to go very early in the first round, possibly taking the first and second spots between them. Sermanni may not want to risk having to fill crucial positions on his roster with weaker picks, instead using those spots on players he can develop or as parts of trades. He may fill in his roster from the back forward with trades and internationals first, then younger or untested players in the last few spots.
Obviously Sermanni will look towards Australian players as an option. He's not only familiar with their roster, but NWSL and the W-League are familiar trading partners and several Australians are already well-known to NWSL fans. Sermanni may try to rustle up the change he would need to get someone like Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry, or Elise Kellond-Knight to Orlando. Too many Australians, however, and he runs into the Olympic problem.
As it stands, Orlando could just about field a starting XI if they absolutely had to play a game today. Their spine has the most shape and they lack true width, which is to be expected with their roster just over half full. But with the college draft taking place January 15 at the 2016 NSCAA convention in Baltimore, the feeding frenzy may be over - for now. Take a breather, NWSL fans, but don't get comfortable.