The Chicago Red Stars got their draft shenanigans in early this year. The vision for NWSL Draft Day 2019 started to come into play on Wednesday when the Red Stars participated in a series of trades.
Chicago announced a trade with Sky Blue FC for Katie Johnson in exchange for Chicago’s first round 6th pick in the 2019 draft. SBFC will also receive a second round pick in 2020.
The Red Stars weren’t done making moves on Draft eve when they also traded their 7th overall pick to the Washington Spirit in exchange for Washington’s natural first-round pick in 2020.
The Red Stars managed to make all these while still maintaining the number one pick in this years draft after getting some insurance on offense in Johnson.
Chicago chose top prospect in Tierna Davidson who is currently in U.S Women’s National Team camps for upcoming friendlies in January. In the days leading up to the draft the young Stanford center back was debating foregoing her college eligibility and turning pro.
Chicago held the #1 pick, with players still declaring for the NWSL draft. The narrative around Davidson was when/if she declared, would Chicago take her 1st? Would they notoriously make a draft day trade? And if they if they did, would a player like Davidson declare if her options to be drafted were Sky Blue FC or Washington Spirit.
Washington announced a late head coaching hire shortly before the draft and have a shift in ownership. For Sky Blue FC, various reports and narratives out of New Jersey have shown a dark cloud over the organization whose club conditions have shown to be less than minimum standard. Could a player with National Team ties be expected to go there?
Head Coach Rory Dames discussed the days leading up to the draft and narratives around Davidson.
“I think we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do at #6 and #7, So, we knew we needed to get somebody else who has proven they could score goals in the league. So K-Jo [Johnson] was a huge get for us there.” He continued, “We knew we wanted another first round pick next year, so being able to work that deal with Washington was important. But I think the real question was, is Tierna coming in?”
By Wednesday afternoon, after Chicago’s multiple pre-draft moves saw them still holding the #1 pick, it was apparent that they would select Davidson when she finally declared at deadline.
“A player like Tierna, that is locked into a position and fills a need for us? When the announcement came that she was coming, that made things a lot simpler for us.”
Davidson is currently in Portugal for USWNT camps, and on a conference call spoke about her familiarity with the Red Stars thanks to teammates like Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, and more.
“They definitely helped with my decision and gave me a lot of good advice. Kind of the inner workings of the team, and what the team culture was like, and personalities of players on the team. They gave me a first person look of the team without actually being there, which was incredibly helpful . . . I already feel a part of the team.”
When asked whether or not Chicago and their coaching staff can take her from the collegiate level to the professional level she says, “I absolutely do. I know that Rory is very focused on the development of each individual player, he really puts a lot of time and effort into it. So, I look forward to developing and fine tuning part of my game with Chicago.”
The Red Stars held the 6th pick in the second round (15th overall) and made another offensive pick after making a trade for Johnson the day prior. A young talent who was sought after by other teams, Sanchez is a Midfielder/Forward hybrid with strong potential due to her international experience who can get up the flanks and has a strong left foot. All attributes that Dames was impressed by.
“The big thing with her [Sanchez] was just the left footing, she can go into the wide space and whip in a ball from the left side. Jerry [Smith, Santa Clara head coach] also used her in the back before, so she can play as a #3, she can play as a #11. Her left foot on set pieces, you know, she serves the ball like a Rapinoe or a Tobin with the ability to pick out people and whip balls in. And she has international experience, you cannot underestimate that enough.”
The Red Stars rosters is a difficult one to break with such a veteran core, but most draftees always have a chance to compete in preseason with the Red Stars. For Sanchez and her experience, with a World Cup year that will see lots of Red Stars missing for international duty, she has an opportunity.
Come preseason for Chicago, they will have three Mexican Women’s National Team members on the roster, Sanchez, Johnson, and Christina Murillo.
Rounds 3 and 4
The Red Stars had picks 20, 24, and 26 in the 3rd round of the draft. A trade with Portland saw Chicago draft for lower picks in the fourth round at no. 31 and 35. The later rounds saw a mix of hometown talent, a draft day staple for the Chicago Red Stars and Rory Dames.
The Red Stars had selected Bianca St. Georges (No. 20), Kayla Sharples (No. 26), April Bockin (No. 31), Hannah Davidson (No. 33) and Jenna Szczesny (No. 35).
Kayla Sharples spoke with media after her selection, and the Northwestern University player was enthusiastic about joining up with the Red Stars and mentioned her history with Dames at the youth club level and growing up attending Red Stars games.
“Chicago’s my home so I’m very very happy to be back. I’m so grateful to Rory [Dames], I’ve known him for a very very long time and I trust him, he’s a terrific coach and he always gives me the best advice. I’m very excited for the future and I know that I’ll be better under him.” She continued, “That was always the dream, we’d see them playing on the practice field and be like, I want to be that someday. So it’s surreal that it’s happening now. My freshman year at Northwestern we played at Toyota Park and we went and saw some [Red Stars] games there, it was an incredible experience.”
Preseason is around the corner and will begin soon with players reporting. Look out for March for some preseason matches to be announced.