Nwsl_-_sophie_smith_-_asn_top_-__isi_-_2020_draft Howard C. Smith/ISI Photos
NWSL Draft

Smith taken first, Pugh & Sonnett traded in busy day at NWSL Draft

The NWSL draft took place in Baltimore on Thursday and it was full of surprises and blockbuster trades. ASN's John Halloran was on location to break it all down. 
BY John Halloran Posted
January 16, 2020
6:55 PM
BALTIMORE – The National Women’s Soccer League has become known in recent years for blockbuster trades on its annual draft day, and the 2020 edition held in the Baltimore Convention Center on Thursday proved no different.

The single-biggest move of the day occurred early as a flurry of first-round trades involving multiple teams resulted in United States women’s national team attacker Mallory Pugh being traded from the Washington Spirit to Sky Blue FC in exchange for a first-round pick and two second-round picks this year and Sky Blue’s first-round pick in 2021.

That followed another major trade occurring earlier in the week in which national team defender Emily Sonnett was sent to Orlando in exchange for the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Portland Thorns then used that selection to take U.S. forward Sophia Smith, who declared early after helping Stanford to the national championship this fall as a sophomore. Smith also just recently wrapped up a camp with the senior national team ahead of Olympic qualifying.

With the second pick in the draft—acquired in yet another trade—the Thorns selected another attacker, Morgan Weaver from Washington State. Weaver impressed many this fall as she led the Cougars, not considered a powerhouse in the NCAA ranks, to the College Cup and finished her senior season with 15 goals.

After the Orlando Pride selected highly-regarded midfielder Taylor Kornieck with the No. 3 pick, the Spirit then used the pick they acquired in the Pugh deal to select UCLA winger Ashley Sanchez. Sanchez is another underclassman who declared for the draft early and has been a much-hyped prospect in the U.S. youth system for years. In 2016, she won U.S. Young Female Player of the Year and has already earned multiple call-ups to the senior national team.

With the No. 5 pick, Sky Blue added forward Evelyn Viens, a Canadian who some had touted as their darkhorse candidate to get into the first round. The North Carolina Courage then followed by selecting Ally Watt, a forward out of Texas A&M who should fit in perfectly with the Courage system if she can earn playing time in an already-stacked lineup.

To round out the first round, Orlando selected Courtney Peterson a midfield/defender out of Virginia, the Utah Royals nabbed North Carolina State midfielder Tziarra King, and Reign FC selected midfielder Kelcie Hedge out of Santa Clara.

The day also included large amounts of allocation money trading hands, a new phenomenon in the NWSL. That money can be used in a number of way, including exceeding maximum salaries for players that meet a series of requirements laid out in a new compensation structure laid out this fall.

However, as was revealed late on Thursday, that money—which is a cash transaction between teams and not just permission to exceed cap limits—can also be used by the clubs for things as pedestrian as facility costs and will not necessarily go to player salaries as previously believed.

Penn State defender Kayleigh Riehl, who many thought could go as high as No. 2 and who has represented the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup, fell into the second round where she was eventually pick by Sky Blue at No. 11.

Sam Hiatt, who started for the U.S. at center back in the 2018 U-20 World Cup and was also a part of Stanford’s NCAA championship team this past fall, was selected at No. 33 by Reign FC.

The complete first round

No. 1 Sophia Smith - Portland Thorns
No. 2 Morgan Weaver - Portland Thorns
No. 3 Taylor Kornieck - Orlando Pride
No. 4 Ashley Sanchez - Washington Spirit
No. 5 Evelyn Viens - Sky Blue FC
No. 6 Alleandra Watt - North Carolina Courage
No. 7 Courtney Peterson - Orlando Pride
No. 8 Tziarra King - Utah Royals FC
No. 9 Kelcie Hedge - Reign FC

John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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