If you saw an NWSL mock draft show up on this site yesterday, no you didn’t. Call it proof of The Matrix, that life is a simulation, or just a random writer who’d prefer to not be horribly wrong, but the real mock draft and only one we recognize is the one you’re reading now.
You see, the NWSL gave potential draftees until 11:59pm Monday, Jan. 9, to register. The complete list of players who entered into the NWSL draft wasn’t published and released to the public until around noon, Jan. 10. On it were a few new names, and one major one: Florida State midfielder Jenna Nighswonger, a player with talent and potential worthy of a top-5 pick, entered the dang draft.
So without further ado, here’s our 2023 NWSL Mock Draft v1.0 (fine, 2.0, whatever).
No. 1 Angel City FC - Alyssa Thompson, Forward, Harvard-Westlake Prep School
Though Michelle Cooper would be a brilliant pick, Angel City is in the enviable position of having two incredible, generational talents to choose from. By selecting teenage phenom and star of tomorrow Thompson, Angel City can allow her to grow and learn from current stars Christen Press and Sydney Leroux until she’s ready to take the spotlight (which, given her talent, might only be a matter of months).
No. 2 Gotham FC - Michelle Cooper, Forward, Duke
Gotham struggled to score goals in 2022, meanwhile, in her final season at Duke, Cooper delivered 19 goals and 11 assists in just 22 games. An attack with Midge Purce, Ify Onumonu and Michelle Cooper with Yazmeen Ryan providing service sounds terrifying, and it could be coming to a stadium near you.
No. 3 Orlando Pride - Jenna Nighswonger, Midfielder, Florida State
Nighswonger’s late addition is yet another gift from this draft. The Florida State midfielder was on the three-player shortlist for the top honor in college soccer, the MAC Hermann award. She’s a dynamic midfielder with an eye for line-splitting passes and perfectly measured crosses. Nighswonger is as can’t-miss a prospect as eventual MAC Hermann trophy winner Michelle Cooper.
Any worthwhile rebuild in soccer begins in midfield, so Orlando should do all they can to keep her in Florida. Here are highlights from last October’s Florida State vs. Duke matchup, in which Nighswonger went all the way off for three assists.
Now imagine her alongside Marta, sizing up passes to the Pride’s collection of young, speedy forwards.
Merry Christmas, Orlando. From, Jenna.
No. 4 Racing Louisville - Emily Madril, Defender, BK Hacken (Florida State)
Louisville gave up the third-most goals in the league despite their keeper, Katie Lund, saving the most shots in the league and maintaining a save percentage close to San Diego’s 2022 Goalkeeper of the Year Kailen Sheridan. Madril is an exceptional defensive talent who fills an immediate and major need for Racing Louisville in the NWSL draft.
No. 5 Portland Thorns - Izzy D’Aquila, Forward, Santa Clara
The 2023 World Cup means Portland will face stretches of the season without top goalscorer, 2022 NWSL MVP and Championship MVP, Sophia Smith. Adding D’Aquila would help ease the goalscoring burden felt during Smith (and Christine Sinclair’s) absence. D’Aquila is a tenacious forward who netted 50 goals at Santa Clara in just 78 appearances, including 19 in 21 this season.
No. 6 North Carolina Courage - Alexa Spaanstra, Forward, Virginia
As the Courage approach life without Debinha, a shift in attacking philosophy may be in order. The Kansas City-bound Brazilian playmaker was an unstoppable central attacking force, but adding Spaanstra to Kerolin gives them quality out wide with an outstanding central target in Diana Ordóñez. Spaanstra is a classic wide player who can play on the right or left, and racked up 37 goals and 34 assists throughout her 107-game UVA career.
No. 7 Chicago Red Stars - Clara Robbins, Midfielder, Florida State
The Red Stars lost three midfield stalwarts in free agency as Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo went to Kansas City, and Dani Colaprico joined San Diego Wave. Clara Robbins is a dynamic midfielder who would be a great first step in the rebuild of that unit.
No. 8 Houston Dash - Reyna Reyes, Defender, Alabama
The Dash can score on just about anybody so the next step should be to improve defensively. They made a trade to secure 2021 Defender of the Year, right back Caprice Dydasco, and Reyna Reyes would allow them to solidify the left side too.
No. 9 North Carolina Courage - Tori Hansen, Defender, North Carolina
The Courage scored the second-most goals in the league, but a leaky defense kept them out of the playoffs by a single point. If replacing Debinha’s attacking output is the first priority, 1b should be reinforcing the defense. The 5’10 Hansen led a defensive unit that tallied 15 shutouts and helped UNC reach the College Cup championship game.
No. 10 Kansas City Current - Messiah Bright, Forward, TCU
The Current’s biggest to-do was strengthening their midfield, which they achieved through free agency by nabbing both Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo. Their next task should be crafting a more dynamic attack. With Lynn Williams finally healthy, a reliable target forward who scored 50 goals and delivered 25 assists in 100 games could be a perfect fit.
No. 11 North Carolina Courage - Sophie Jones, Defensive Midfielder, Duke
Part of the reason North Carolina shifted so many goals was a suddenly leaky midfield and an inability to control matches. Jones is a metronomic defensive midfielder who’s a solid anchor and good at managing the tempo of her team a la Portland’s Sam Coffey.
No. 12 Portland Thorns - Riley Mattingly Parker, Forward, Alabama
With Parker available, the Thorns may look to her to take the goalscoring reins while Sophia Smith and Christine Sinclair are away at the 2023 World Cup.