With 16 of the 20 player spots filled on the Orlando Pride roster, most people may think there's not much left to do for acting GM Phil Rawlins and Head Coach Tom Sermanni. Well, I'm here to correct that misconception.
The College Draft
As of the writing of this article, the National Women's Soccer League had not released the 2016 roster rules, so everything here is based on the 2015 roster rules. There shouldn't be many changes to the rules, so we should be good to go. Also, NWSL allocations haven't been announced, but that announcement will occur before the College Draft on Jan. 15. This announcement will identify all the national team players from the United States, Canada and Mexico for the 2016 season. Generally, each national federation will pay the salary of an allocated player which doesn't count against the salary cap or as an international player spot on the roster.
Additionally, the Pride has four international player spots with Steph Catley and Monica Hickmann Alves filling two of the spots. Finally, Orlando currently has two picks remaining in the draft: the fifth pick in the second round and the first pick in the fourth round. However, Caitlin Murray has reported the Pride will get the last pick in the first round once the Portland Thorns officially sign Lindsey Horan from the Alex Morgan trade.
There are few different avenues the Pride can take with the three picks they should have. A strong possibility is they trade a pick or combination of picks for a veteran player. Rawlins' stated goal for the Pride is playoffs in year one, so building a team through the draft may not be in the cards for the front office. This is likely due to the hinted move Sermanni mentioned while on The Mane Land PawedCast.
If the Pride does not trade away its picks and decides to build the team depth with the draft, then the team can use the No. 10 and No. 15 overall picks to select the best available player and then a team need, respectively. With a late first-round pick, Orlando should draft Christen Westphal, a two-time All-American from the University of Florida. Mostly known as a defender, Westphal can also play midfield. Another option for the Pride, if available, would be international player, Rachel Daly, St. John's two time All-American forward who can also move to the back line.
In the second round, the Pride can address the lack of depth by selecting McKenzie Berryhill from Arizona State. One of the PAC-12's top defenders, she was on the back line and in the Sun Devil midfield when called upon. With the Pride's final pick, the team could take defender Carson Pickett from FSU. With an open international spot, Orlando could decide to select English defender, Georgia Kearney-Perry. These choices offer the Pride the ability to strengthen the back line or move a defensive-minded player into the midfield.
In addition, UCF's Ashley Spivey may find her way onto the team if she decides to declare for the draft before the deadline. She would be a Top 40 talent in the draft class, so she could be selected, or, if she doesn't get drafted, the Pride could put in a discovery claim for her. As a draft-eligible player if Spivey does not declare for the draft, she would have to sit out the 2016 season if she decided to pursue soccer after the draft.
Finally, Orlando could do a combination of both by trading picks for a player and swapping draft picks in this year's draft. Okay, end of story, the team is put together and the Pride are ready to take the pitch, right? Well, not so fast, my friends. The team needs to build its amateur roster.
The Open Tryout
A feature of the NWSL, which may be unfamiliar to your average Orlando City supporter, is the amateur roster. Basically, the team will have a list of 10 unpaid players who can practice and take part in scrimmages and exhibitions with the team for the season. Those players benefit from receiving top-level coaching and sharing the pitch with professionals to improve their game.
The amateur roster is important because these players will supplement the team during national team call-ups. Think about it, with Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Steph Catley, Monica, and Kaylyn Kyle gone for international duty, these unpaid amateurs will be added to the roster to fill the bench.
The open tryout is a great opportunity for players who wish to continue their dream of playing professional soccer. The Pride's Maddy Evans, during the early part of her career, found herself on the amateur roster for the Boston Breakers, even though she was drafted back in 2012. The coaching staff will truly have to sharpen their eyes for talent because as an expansion team, the amateur roster sits empty.
We'll have to see what Rawlins and company decide to do, but keep it tuned to The Mane Land for updates on the Orlando Pride and its preparations for its inaugural NWSL season.