By SCOTT FRENCH / Contributing Editor
FC Gold Pride put together a really impressive draft today in Philadelphia, grabbing very good to great players with every pick in Friday's WPS Draft. Stanford forward Kelley O'Hara, the No. 3 overall selection, is the big prize, but Coach Albertin Montoya found good value all the way through the seventh round.
Might as well grade the drafts -- and, of course, we won't know how good these drafts really were until next summer, and perhaps not for another year or so.
In order from best to worst ...
FC GOLD PRIDE: A+
Two Stanford stars in the first round -- O'Hara and defender Ali Riley -- and that's not all. Florida State's Becky Edwards, taken with the first pick of the second round, could be the Bay Areans' midfield anchor. Wake Forest's Kaley Fountain, another second-rounder, offers versatility. Rutgers' Erin Guthrie is a fine backup keeper. Ohio State midfielder Ashley Bowyer, Arizona State defender Liz Harkin and UCLA defender Lauren Wilmoth, taken in the final three rounds, will compete for playing time.
BOSTON BREAKERS: A
UCLA forward Lauren Cheney makes this a great draft on her own. She's big, she's skillful, she's deceptively quick of foot (and quicker of mind), and she has international experience. She'll be a big star in WPS. Add Penn State goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher -- best netminder in the draft -- and Santa Clara outside backs Jordan Angeli and Katherine Reynolds, and this is a fine group. Tony DiCicco also made the local folks happy by taking Boston U.'s Carly Pretz and Boston College's Gina DiMartino (sister of L.A. Sol midfielder Tina DiMartino), and fifth-rounder Cynthia Morote-Ariza from Loyola-Chicago might be the, to borrow a cliche, diamond in this draft's rough.
SAINT LOUIS ATHLETICA: B+
When you figure in the draft-day trade (backup goalkeeper Jillian Loydon to Chicago for injured U.S. national team star Lindsay Tarpley), Brazilian coach Jorge Barcellos had himself a nice day. Ashlyn Harris, a longtime U.S. youth national team star (and one of seven North Carolina Tar Heels taken in the draft), more than makes up for the loss of Loydon, and UCLA midfielder Kristina Larson and Santa Clara midfielder Amanda Poach (who would have been a sixth-year senior for the Broncos next fall) are very useful players. Like Gold Pride, Athletica received good value in the later rounds.
LOS ANGELES SOL: B
This either was a brilliant draft or a subpar draft with some exceptional players, and we may not know which for awhile. Perhaps we should just trust GM Charlie Naimo, who has been the best team-builder in the women's game the past decade, First-rounders Nikki Washington and Casey Noguera, both from North Carolina, are supremely talented, but there are caveats: Washington is coming off a major injury; Nogueira's consistency is problematic. And then in the second round, with the fourth pick, L.A. goes for Portland's Michelle Enyeart, who has all the talent in the world but is coming off a particularly nasty knee injury. There's too many attacking personalities for my liking -- the best attackers in the league, Abby Wambach aside, were foreigners in year one -- and not enough defenders, which the Sol needs. I'd probably have taken Ali Riley over Wasshington State's Kiersten Dallstream with the third first-round selection, but Dallstream has a future. One more nice pick: Santa Clara's Kiki Bosio, who can play up front or in midfield and has one of the best flip-throws in the country. I had the privilege of watching her team up with Amy Rodriguez at Santa Margarita High School in south Orange County a few years ago, and I've always been a fan.
SKY BLUE FC: B-
UConn's Brittany Taylor is a coup -- she could step in for Christie Rampone, who's on maternity leave -- and Penn State's Katie Schoepfer was a bargain in the third round. Jury's out on the rest.
WASHINGTON FREEDOM: C
Colorado's Nikki Marshall can do a lot of things, and do them well, and Washington State's Carly Dobratz could work out. Kristi Eveland is coming out of UNC, and that's always a plus, but as a whole this draft list doesn't excite me.
ATLANTA BEAT: C-
Top overall pick Tobin Heath, from North Carolina, naturally, is a bona fide star. She was the slam dunk first pick in this draft, and she'll do great stuff in the expansion Beat's midfield. And Blakely Mattern, from South Carolina, is a defender with promise. But the Beat needed to get more out of this draft than it did.
CHICAGO RED STARS: C-
The Red Stars lose points for letting Tarpley go, even if she won't be at full strength this season. UNC defender Whitney Engen is a big plus -- she was the best backliner in the draft -- and her Tar Heels teammate Jessica McDonald, just a junior, has great potential. Portland's Kelsey Davis will battle Loydon for time in the nets, but will either provide what Swedish keeper Caroline Jonsson gave last year? The rest were curious choices, although if Notre Dame's Michele Weissenhofer can make the kind of impact she made early in her Fighting Irish career, bump that score up a full grade.
PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE: D
The Independence already have a solid squad on paper -- they've been bringing in outstanding players from around the league and Europe. So this draft wasn't as important for them as it was for fellow expansionists Atlanta. Good thing, because it's not a great draft. Philly had just one pick in the first three rounds -- LSU's Malorie Rutledge with the 13th pick -- and I'm always suspicious of SEC talent that isn't from Florida.