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Dunn selected first on frantic NWSL college draft day

Crystal Dunn WNT ISI

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The clubs holding the top picks in the National Women’s Soccer League college draft on Friday had few surprises in store, with the picks skewing heavily toward the U.S. National Women’s Team and, when possible, local ties.

The Washington Spirit selected UNC powerhouse Crystal Dunn with their overall first pick. The Spirit, who finished with a last-place record of 3-14-5, are hoping Dunn will be the watershed piece as they look to rebuild for 2014.

Dunn spent her 2013 collecting eight caps as an outside back with the USWNT, looking like a lock to make the roster for the 2015 World Cup in Canada. For UNC, she tallied 14 goals and six assists as a midfielder. She was up for the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy again after winning it last year, but lost to Virgina junior Morgan Brian.

The Houston Dash, the NWSL’s first expansion team, selected Kealia Ohai second overall.

Her Houston connections made her an obvious choice – she is the sister-in-law of Brian Cushing, a linebacker with the Houston Texans, and Dash president Chris Canetti had not-so-subtly tweeted a photo of Ohai meeting with coach Randy Waldrum before the draft.

But Ohai managed to share the limelight with Dunn at UNC over the past year, scoring 11 goals starting every game this season. Ohai was a member of the 2012 squad that won the U-20 World Cup – all five of the top drafts picks were in that group.

Midfielder Vanessa DiBernado, a University of Illinois grad, was an obvious choice for the Chicago Red Stars, who used their fourth overall pick on her. The Red Stars selected Santa Clara defender Julie Johnston third overall.

Curiously, the Portland Thorns traded the second pick in the second round and midfielder Nikki Washington to the Houston Dash in exchange for Meleana Shim, who the Dash had taken from the Thorns in an expansion draft a week earlier.

The Spirit traded a fourth-round draft pick for Tiffany Weimer from the Portland Thorns. The Thorns got Michelle Betos from Boston for 2014 and 2015 draft picks.



No. 1 –  Washington Spirit: Crystal Dunn (UNC)
No. 2 –  Houston Dash: Kealia Ohai (UNC)
No. 3 –  Chicago Red Stars: Julie Johnston (Santa Clara)
No. 4 –  Chicago Red Stars: Vanessa DiBernardo (Univ of Illinois)
No. 5 –  FC Kansas City: Kassey Kallman (Florida State University)
No. 6 –  Sky Blue FC: Maya Hayes (Penn State)
No. 7 –  Seattle Reign FC: Amanda Frisbie (Univ of Portland)
No. 8 –  Boston Breakers: Nkem Ezurike (Univ of Michigan)
No. 9 –  Western New York Flash: Courtney Verloo (Stanford)


No. 10 –  Houston Dash: Rafaelle Souza (Ole Miss)
No. 11 –  Houston Dash: Marissa Diggs (UCF)
No. 12 –  FC Kansas City: Morgan Marlborough (Santa Clara)
No. 13 –  Boston Breakers: Natasha Anasi (Duke University)
No. 14 –  Western New York Flash: Cloee Colohan (BYU)
No. 15 –  Sky Blue FC: Hayley Haagsma (Texas Tech)
No. 16 –  FC Kansas City: Jenna Richmond (UCLA)
No. 17 –  Seattle Reign FC: Megan Brigman (UNC)
No. 18 –  Western New York Flash: Kelsey Wys (Florida State University)


No. 19 – FC Kansas City: Frances Silva (West Virginia)
No. 20 – FC Kansas City: Mandy Laddish (Notre Dame)
No. 21 – Boston Breakers: Jazmine Reeves (Virginia Tech)
No. 22 – Chicago Red Stars: Hayley Brock (Maryland)
No. 23 – Boston Breakers: Mollie Pathman (Duke)
No. 24 – Sky Blue FC: Michelle Pao (Pepperdine)
No. 25 – Portland Thorns: Emily Menges (Georgetown)
No. 26 – Washington Spirit: Molly Menchel (Virginia)
No. 27 – Western NY Flash: Annie Steinlage (Virginia)


No. 28 – Houston Dash: Jordan Jackson (Nebraska)
No. 29 – Washington Spirit: Shasta Fisher (Virginia)
No. 30 – Seattle Reign FC: Ellen Parker (Portland)
No. 31 – Portland Thorns: Elisabeth Sullivan (Mississippi State)
No. 32 – Boston Breakers: Jami Kranich (Villanova)
No. 33 – Sky Blue FC: Elizabeth Eddy (USC)
No. 34 – Boston Breakers: Kim Decesare (Duke)
No. 35 – FC Kansas City: Maegan Kelly (Marquette)
No. 36 – Western NY Flash: Kristen Hamilton (Denver)


  1. I took two things from the draft. First there was a great buzz. It was very exciting to follow, NWSL trended on twitter and there was an atmosphere of a professional event. Second, it was a parade of young stars entering the league. The core group of U-20 World Champions leading the way not only promised more excitement for fans but showed that USSoccer is on the right track advanced highly talented players thru their ranks and into the league and maybe someday on to the NT. Hopefully it will be streamed next year as promised.

  2. Counting the minutes until Ohai joins the full side. Tough to crack the current line up at forward, flank mid would be perfect, probably the next in line to replace HAO.

  3. CB Julie Johnston is a rock, solid in defense, forwards Maya Hayes and Kealia Ohai are fearless at 1v1 and will outrun defenders at will, they just have to play in the right system.

    Vanessa DiBernardo can play, Mandy Laddish should be ok in midfield. Mollie Pathman, a natural left-footer, great skills should do well in midfield but lacks pace as defender.

    Morgan Brian, Sarah Killion and Chi Ubogagu should be available for next year’s draft…

    All of them above won the U-20 FIFA WC 2012 played in Japan.

    In term of skills, nothing but good things to come for the NWSL, however, the compensation aspect has to be there from the owners as well. These young women are putting their lives on hold to play out their dreams.

    The pay needs to improve.

    • Not to be a jerk, but the pay will increase when the butts in the seats increase, their television contracts increase (or exist), their sponsorship levels increase, their popularity increases, the level of play increases, etc. You can’t pay players more than the economics will dictate. They tried that once and the league folded. They are already subsidized by the respective Federations involved (US, Canada, Mexico).

      If you want their salaries to increase, support your team, buy a jersey & season tickets and support sponsors. Make NWSL attractive so the money keeps flowing & growing.

    • Johnson is natural Mid and that’s where she excels. Mid is likely to be her role at Chicago as well. She showed she could play CB during the U20 WWC but it’s not her normal spot.

  4. I’m not familiar with all the names on the list, but I do know that Crystal Dunn is an excellent player. Watching her play with the WNT, she blends skill with the determination to make the play. She’s just what Washington needs to lift their Spirit.


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