NWSL Draft winners and losers: North Carolina Courage reload with three first rounders, California love, more

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The first round of the 2022 NWSL Draft on Paramount+ is in the books as three trades shook up the order along the way in an eventful day. OL Reign moved into the first round to get the eighth overall pick in a trade with NJ/NY Gotham FC which they used to select St. John’s forward Zsanett Kajan. The Orlando Pride also acquired the 10th overall pick from the Reign to select Santa Clara forward Julie Doyle. It was quite the day for the Reign as they shipped midfielder Kelcie Hedge to the Houston Dash and acquired defender Phoebe McClerno to Orlando in the trade for the 10th pick. 

For more on every trade made during the draft, click here. For now, let’s dive head first into the winners and losers of the first round.

Winner: California love

With five draftees out of the state, headlined by Stanford’s Naomi Girma being the first overall pick, the hotbed of college soccer talent continues to produce. Girma could be used along the backline or as a defensive midfielder for San Diego, but she was easily one of the most talented prospects and could be a future USWNT regular. Also coming from the state was Savannah DeMelo, Mia Fishel, Julie Doyle and Kaitlin Fregulia.

Loser(s): Teams without a first round pick

Following the trade frenzy in the build-up to the draft, the Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit and Angel City were all left without first-round picks. While all three teams aren’t impacted the same, seeing young talent go off the board without a shot at replenishing your roster with high-end talent out of college always hurts. For a Chicago side that has already lost a lot this offseason, it should be throwing resources at the draft instead of avoiding it. You could argue that Angel City FC, on the other hand, who are newcomers are taking a slight risk by relying on experienced, pro talent that could make them a playoff team on their inaugural season instead of keeping an eye on long-term development via the draft. 

Winner(s): Racing Louisville and NC Courage

Almost any team with multiple first-round picks should be deemed a winner in such a talented draft, but Racing Louisville knocked it out of the park selecting Jaelin Howell and Savannah DeMelo to rebuild their midfield. The Courage checked every box adding a defender (Kaitlin Fregulia, No. 12), a midfielder (Emily Gray, No. 3) and a forward (Diana Ordoñez, No. 6) in Round 1 to strengthen the spine of their new-look roster. Gray was involved in 50 percent of Virginia’s goals this past collegiate season and can provide a much-needed lift to a side that needs it. 

Loser: UCLA

The Pac-12 powerhouse lost their coach Amanda Cromwell and top forward Mia Fishel to the Orlando Pride which puts them in a situation where it will need to reload to stay competitive. Fishel scored 12 goals while providing five assists playing an important role while upping her production from the 2019-20 season. While she will need to grow into the league, there is no better way to do it than under her old coach in Cromwell. UCLA will have a lot to rebuild moving forward.

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