Just days after the 2017 NWSL College Draft, the Orlando Pride have already spent two of their 2018 draft picks. The Pride sent their natural first- and fourth-round picks in next January’s draft in exchange to Portland Thorns FC in exchange for the rights to forward Rachel Hill. A two-time MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, Hill was Portland’s first pick of the 2017 NWSL College Draft (No. 14 overall) with the fourth selection in Round 2 of last week’s draft.
“Rachel was a player we scouted heavily and rated very highly going into draft day,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Tom Sermanni said in a club press release. “While we weren’t able to trade up to draft her, we’re happy we were able to make this deal work to bring another goal-scoring option to the roster.”
Hill, 21, was a four-year letterwinner at the University of Connecticut and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the annual award given to the nation’s best collegiate player, in both 2015 and 2016. The Rollinsford, NH, native tallied 61 goals and 18 assists in 89 career appearances with UConn, earning NSCAA All-American honors twice. She currently ranks second in school history in career goals. Hill helped lead the Huskies to three straight NCAA tournament appearances and two American Athletic Conference titles.
In the Stumptown Footy article linked above, Thorns Head Coach Mark Parsons lauded Hill’s locker room presence and skill on the pitch.
"With Rachel, she's an incredible teammate," Parsons said in a release follow the draft. "You can't find someone who has not had a great experience or even an average experience with her as a teammate. She's going to be a super teammate, a great person that's going to help our group come closer and stronger.
"You throw in the records that she's done on the field, the goals that she's scored, the goals she's created and this is someone that has great potential, especially in our environment, to become a very good player.”
The 5-foot-5 forward has international experience as well. She was part of the 2014 U.S. U-20 Women’s World Cup roster, playing in the team’s 1-0 group play win over Brazil.
It’s clear that the club is looking for more attacking options with the prospect of being without Alex Morgan until June. Hill is a player with a proven goal-scoring record who may develop quickly into an attacking threat for Sermanni’s team. This goal shows a bit of her skill set:
I’m always a bit leery of sending a No. 1 pick (let alone more picks in addition) in exchange for a young player taken in a later round — albeit in this case only four picks beyond the first round. But Hill clearly fills one of the club’s primary needs and clearly Sermanni felt she was worth cashing in next year’s No. 1 and throwing in a No. 4 for the UConn star.
If Hill can help the club bridge the gap of Morgan’s absence and develop into her replacement down the line, this trade will go down as a very important one for the Pride.