"It went better than I thought it would." - FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski
Going into last week, FC Kansas City had a bunch of needs to fill. With the retirements of Lauren Holiday, Amy LePeilbet and Leigh Ann Robinson and Amy Rodriguez pregnant, there were a lot of holes in the roster for the defending champions.
The Blues took care of one need (a quality striker) a couple days before the draft when they sent their 2016 first round draft pick to Houston for Tiffany McCarty and Jessica McDonald and then sent McDonald, a 2017 2nd round pick and an international slot to the Flash for US National Team forward Sydney Leroux.
With a pair of forwards in hand, the Blues approached the 2016 NWSL looking for midfield and back line help. The Blues had traded away the first rounder but had a pair of picks in the second round where they have traditionally picked very well. This year was no different.
As Andonovski and Director of Soccer Operations Huw Williams and the rest of the staff waited for their turn to pick at 16th and 18th they saw players they expected to easily go in the first round be still on the board.
With the 16th pick, FC Kansas City selected Katie Bowen from the University of North Carolina and then defender Brianne Reed from Rutgers University with the 18th. Both players not only could have been taken in the first round easily, many projected them to go around 7th or 8th with Reed going as high as third in some projections.
"In my mind both of those players were going to be gone," Andonovski explained. "The fact that we traded our international slot before the draft tells that we had absolutely not expected to have Bowen at 16 and we are like ok, we have to make a move."
"Extremely happy with the picks," Andonvski continued. "We got two players that we thought would be gone by the seventh or eighth pick but fell 16th and 18th, I could not be happier."
Some uncertainty about Bowen may have kept some teams from selecting her as high as she should have been. The North Carolina midfielder is also part of the New Zealand national team and has already played in two World Cups. With the Olympics this summer and possible other opportunities, there was a lot of speculation that she may not stay in the United States to play.
Will Bowen play? "She will," Andonovski confirmed. "People are going off of what they have heard, maybe a long time ago. We were in contact with her constantly the last week just in case. We contacted her during the draft and her coach was right there, we were talking to Anson Dorrance as well before we made the move. We talked with after we picked her as well."
FC Kansas City did pick up the needed international slot after the draft.
Not sure why the next pick was still available but picking Brianne Reed at 18th was a steal for the Blues. "People that know Brianne Reed, they know how good she is and how much she had competed this year for Rutgers," Andonovski relayed. "They didn't concede a goal for 18 games in a row and she was a huge part of that."
In the third round, the Blues took Alexa Newfield with the 28th pick. The second UNC Tarheel taken by the team in the draft. Newfield played in 19 matches (18 starts) and scored 11 goals with 3 assists in her senior year. The Georgia native has had some injury problems in the past but has comeback each time.
"Newfield is a very creative player, very tricky, someone that with a little work can fit very well into our system, in our style. She enjoys playing with the ball and I think will do well for us," Andonovski stated.
With the 38th pick, Andonovski selected defender Alex Arlitt from LSU. A Houston native, Arlitt appeared in 89 matches for LSU and has been one of the best defenders in Tigers history. "Alex is a very determined and a very pacey player, another defender that fits our needs. Someone that can fit multiple needs," Andonovski described his last pick.
Another Successful Draft?
FC Kansas City took a big step toward filling their needs. It will of course remain to be seen once they are in camp but it looks like the Blues again stole a couple starters in the second round. Newfield and Arlitt both have the potential to contribute as well.