Last year, the Boston Breakers needed the college draft to help rebuild their roster, ultimately taking six players over four rounds, including #1 draft pick Rose Lavelle. Boston ended up eventually signing every single player it drafted, although Haley Dowd did spend some time down in the Breakers reserves before getting called up after injuries took their toll on the team. This year is different, both in terms of Boston’s needs and its draft options.
What Boston already has
Okay, let’s just be real. A lot depends on how healthy Rose Lavelle is in 2018, and that’s fine. She’s a singular talent who can make or break a midfield, and she was a really exciting #1 pick in 2017. It’s not anyone’s fault that she picked up a bad non-contact hamstring injury that took her out of competition early in the season. (However, it most certainly is someone’s fault that she seemed to re-injure that hamstring by being played too early and for too long in a subsequent USWNT friendly.)
But let’s just assume that Lavelle will be healthy for 2018. We have to cope with the New England winter somehow. With Lavelle, Angela Salem, Rosie White, and Morgan Andrews, that’s a decent central midfield with a little depth. The wings are where it gets a little fuzzy; Adriana Leon can’t do everything herself and Tiffany Weimer can’t hang for 90 minutes at full speed any more. Midge Purce and Ifeoma Onumonu might be able to take on more responsibility there after they got their rookie seasoning, with Purce more likely to be in contention for a starting spot. That’s where new signing Lotta Ökvist comes in; though she was signed as a defender, if Allysha Chapman is on the roster, it seems unlikely Ökvist would be taking her spot at LB and thus could get pushed higher, which is a spot she’s played before.
In terms of forwards, there’s every reason to think Natasha Dowie will put up better numbers following on from the base assumption of a healthy Lavelle behind her.
For defenders, Beard will probably stick with his contingent from last year, once again assuming everyone comes back healthy from the offseason. Julie King played through the 2017 while managing an injury and had surgery on her ankle last November. And for goalkeepers, the team is probably set with Abby Smith and Sammy Jo Prudhomme.
What Boston needs
Boston has the pieces mostly filled in at every position, but there are gaps. Katie Stengel wasn’t quite the answer Boston was looking for in front of net as a partner with Dowie and having some help up top might have made the difference in a couple of close games.
A solid defender really wouldn’t be the worst pick in the world, despite the current roster looking fairly full. A strong right back might not go amiss here, or a strong center pairing for Megan Oyster. Last year head coach Matt Beard said he was fine on defenders after suprisingly not drafting a single one, only to see his back line get hit with injury after injury, which forced a lot of shuffling that eventually impacted the team’s ability to stay steady in the back.
What Boston can realistically get
2017 was the year Beard was trying to seriously turn over his roster and get a fresh start going. 2018 will be a season when he’s had a year with his class of ‘17 rookies and won’t be looking to rock the boat as much. Boston has the #2 pick in the first round as of this writing, as well as the #17, 22, and 32 picks overall. There are usually a couple of last-minute trades on draft day, so don’t expect Boston to continue holding three later picks, especially with not as much space on the roster this year.
As for that #2 pick, assuming the team doesn’t attempt to leverage that for a known quantity, there are a couple of great options for Boston.
Rebecca Quinn - defender/midfielder
Quinn has been used at center back for Canada and as a deep midfielder for Duke, so she has the versatility to go where she’s needed and could be a partner for Megan Oyster. Quinn may also end up becoming an allocated Canadian player, which adds to her general value by freeing up a little money. (As a reminder, federation players do not count against international roster spots.)
Savannah McCaskill - forward
McCaskill is a highly-favored prospect who will likely get snatched up in the first round. If Boston is looking for a scoring threat to complement Dowie, McCaskill could be it, providing the speed to Dowie’s more measured pace in the final third.
Imani Dorsey - midfielder/forward
Another pacey forward who could help Boston put the ball in the net. The drawback here is Dorsey’s versatility in being able to drop into more of a left winger position could run up against Beard’s plans for Ökvist.
The 2018 NWSL college draft will start at 10 AM ET on Thursday, January 18 in Philadelphia. The draft will be livestreamed on facebook and youtube.