NWSL Draft winners and losers: North Carolina Courage reloads with three first rounds, love for California, 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 on an eventful day. OL Reign advanced to the first round to take 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 got the Reign’s 10th overall pick to select Santa Clara forward Julie Doyle. It was quite a day for the Reign as they sent midfielder Kelcie Hedge to the Houston Dash and brought defender Phoebe McClerno to Orlando in the exchange for the 10th pick.

Click here to learn more about each trade made during draft. For now, let’s dive into the winners and losers of the first round.

Winner: California Love

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

Loser(s): Teams without a first round pick

After the trade frenzy leading up to the draft, the Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit and Angel City were all left with no first-round picks. While not all three teams are affected in the same way, it always hurts to see young talent disappear from the board without a chance to supplement your roster with high-end talent outside of college. For a Chicago side that has already lost a lot this off-season, it should be throwing resources into the draft rather than avoiding it. On the other hand, you could argue that Angel City FC, who are newcomers, are taking a small risk by relying on experienced, pro talent that could make them a playoff team during their first season instead of developing on long-term via design.

Winner(s): Racing Louisville and NC Courage

Almost any team with multiple first-round picks should be considered winners in such a talented draft, but Racing Louisville knocked it out of the park by selecting Jaelin Howell and Savannah DeMelo to rebuild their midfields. The Courage checked every box and added a defender (Kaitlin Fregulia, No. 12), a Midfielder (Emily Gray, No. 3) and a forward (Diana Ordoñez, No. 6) in Round 1 to form the backbone of their new look grid to be reinforced. Gray was involved in 50 percent of Virginia’s goals last season and can give a much-needed lift to a side that needs it.

Loser: UCLA

The Pac-12 powerhouse lost his coach Amanda Cromwell and top striker Mia Fishel to the Orlando Pride, leaving them in a situation where they must reload to stay competitive. Fishel scored 12 goals while providing five assists and was instrumental in increasing her production from the 2019-20 season. While she will have to grow in the league, there is no better way to do that than under her old coach at Cromwell. UCLA will have to rebuild a lot in the future.

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