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NWSL Jan 15, 2016

NWSL draft: Portland Thorns pick UVa’s Emily Sonnett No. 1 amid flury of wheeling and dealing

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BALTIMORE – Portland Thorns FC surprised no one with their No. 1 pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft on Friday, selecting standout University of Virginia defender Emily Sonnett. The steady center back is a rising U.S. Women’s National Team member and the clear top choice of this year’s NCAA senior crop.

But what happened before and after that moment was not what anyone expected.

With new head coach Mark Parsons pulling the strings, Portland had announced early Friday morning a trade with Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) that sent dynamic Danish international forward Nadia Nadim, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft and a second-round selection in 2017 to the Thorns in exchange for the second overall pick in 2016 and a 2017 first and conditional fourth-round pick.

+READ: NWSL announces U.S. Women’s National Team allocations for 2016

When draft time arrived, Portland then sprang a trade with the Boston Breakers headlined by the No. 3 pick going to the Boston Breakers in exchange for the top spot in the league’s brand-new – only announced as the draft began, in fact – “Allocation Ranking Order” system, the means by which the NWSL (and the U.S. Soccer Federation that operates it) plan to disperse new members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams.

The Thorns weren’t done.

Parsons and his club soon made more headlines as sources informed that Portland will likely soon be using that top allocation spot on teenage wunderkind Mallory Pugh, a groundbreaking move that is not official yet but could be as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, Sky Blue used the No. 2 draft spot to select one of this crop’s most intriguing players, Costa Rican central midfielder Raquel Rodriguez, who led Penn State to the 2015 College Cup national championship and in the process won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer’s top player.

Boston raised eyebrows with the selection of Florida defender Christen Westphal at No. 3, while Seattle Reign FC grabbed Carson Pickett, the first of three Florida State products picked in the first round, at No. 4. The Houston Dash rounded out the top five with the capture of talented Notre Dame defender Cari Roccaro in the fifth spot.


+READ: NWSL draft preview: Team needs, players to know and storylines to watch

In all, 40 players were selected by the league’s 10 clubs over the course of four rounds, infusing their rosters with depth and youth, though most analysts expect that fewer members of this senior crop will step into major playing time as rookies than the NWSL’s first three draft classes.


1) Portland Thorns FC – Emily Sonnett, Virginia

2) Sky Blue FC – Raquel Rodriguez, Penn State

TRADE: Thorns pick up 1st allocation spot from Boston in exchange for 3rd draft pick

3) Boston Breakers – Christen Westphal, Florida

4) Seattle Reign FC – Carson Pickett, Florida State

5) Houston Dash – Cari Roccaro, Notre Dame

NWSL logo6) Houston – Rachel Daly, St. John’s

7) Washington Spirit – Cheyna Williams, Florida State

8) Houston – Janine Beckie, Texas Tech

9) Western New York Flash – Michaela Hahn, Florida State

10) Orlando Pride – Samantha Witteman, California


11) Western New York – Makenzy Doniak, Virginia

12) Washington – Cali Farquharson, Arizona State

13) Sky Blue – Leah Galton, Hofstra

14) Western New York – Mallory Weber, Penn State

15) Orlando – Christina Burkenroad, Cal State Fullerton

16) Kansas City – Katie Bowen, North Carolina

17) Boston – Brittany Ratcliffe, Virginia

18) Kansas City – Brianne Reed, Rutgers

19) Chicago Red Stars – Katie Naughton, Notre Dame

20) Washington – Alli Murphy, Texas Tech


21) Portland – McKenzie Berryhill, Arizona State

22) Chicago – Sarah Gorden, DePaul

23) Sky Blue – Erica Skroski, Rutgers

24) Western New York – Laura Liedle, Stanford

25) Seattle – Paige Nielsen, North Carolina

26) Western New York – Britt Eckerstrom, Penn State

27) Boston – Abby Smith, Texas

28) Kansas City – Alexa Newfield, North Carolina

29) Sky Blue – Caroline Casey, William & Mary

30) Seattle – Summer Green, North Carolina


31) Orlando – Dani Weatherholt, Santa Clara

32) Chicago – Courtney Raetzman, Kentucky

33) Chicago – Janelle Flaws, Illinois

34) Washington – Madalyn Schiffel, San Francisco

35) Chicago – Adrienne Jordan, Northern Colorado

36) Chicago – Candace Johnson, Missouri

37) Washington – Kara Wilson, Duke

38) Kansas City – Alex Arlitt, LSU

39) Chicago – Ashleigh Ellenwood, Arkansas

40) Seattle – Lindsey Luke, Utah