FC Kansas City has been known for how well they have played on the field, winning two of the first three NWSL Championships. They have also made their name with quality drafts, finding the players they need that other teams have may have overlooked.
The 2017 NWSL draft may add to that reputation.
Talking to FC Kansas City’s head coach Vlatko Andonovski after the draft it is pretty clear he is happy with the players he has selected. As Andonovski talked about the draft the grin on his face came through in his voice over the phone.
“I thought the draft went very well for us,” Andonovski stated. “The players that we picked are all quality players and all players with potential to be in this league. I’m excited to see them in Kansas City as soon as possible.”
Round 1 - (5th) Christina Gibbons – Duke Blue Devils
In the first round, Andonovski selected Christina Gibbons with the fifth pick. Gibbons being available at the fifth pick was just what FC Kansas City hoped for. Gibbons was rated as high as first or second in the draft. Gibbons has played at several levels for U.S. Soccer and was called into the current senior team camp.
“Christina Gibbons is one of the better players coming out in the draft this year,” Andonovski said. “She’s got the ability to play at several positions and I think she is a tremendous problem solver when she is on the field. The fact that she got called up to the national team is just more confirmation that she is a quality player.
Round 2 - (13th) Toni Payne – Duke Blue Devils
Payne scored 23 goals with 21 assists in her college career and has also played for the U.S. youth teams, from the U-23’s down to the U-15’s.
Andonovski had some time to see Payne in the current U-23 camp and he must have liked what he saw. “Toni Payne is one of the paciest players coming out of college,” Andonovski said. “She has proved she can play against any defense and she has proven she can play under pressure and be successful. Coming to Kansas City she will add another dynamic to the game.”
Round 2 - (17th) Stephanie Ribeiro – UConn Huskies
Ribeiro was tied for first in goals (21) and second in assists (14) in all of college soccer last season and has made a number of appearances for the U.S. youth teams.
Round 3 - (25th) Alexis Shaffer – Virginia Cavaliers
Shaffer scored 37 goals with 29 assists in college and has also been with the U.S. youth teams and was a MAC Herman Trophy semi-finalist. She had some high profile team mates but shined when they were gone. Was rated in the top ten picks by many.
Andonovski sees some similarities in Ribeiro and Shaffer. “Stephanie and Alexis are fairly similar in regards to creativity and technical ability. They are very good players that understand the team and can make others around them better. The fact that Stephanie dropped to 17th is unreal and I just couldn’t pass that up,”
Round 4 - (35th) Rashida Beal – Minnesota Golden Gophers
Beal is a tough, athletic and smart defender. She is the Big 10 defender of the year and someone that Andonovski has had his eye on. “Rashida Beal is a player I have watched for a long time now. I saw her for the first time play against FC Kansas City at UMKC’s field in a preseason friendly. She did very good and is a player I put on my list a long time ago and I’m glad she kept progressing and developing. She was actually defender of the year in the Big Ten.”
As noted already, FC Kansas City is known for quality play and good drafts. They are also known for the almost family environment within the team. From the first year they have looked for players that have some connection previously to help them transition into the team. This draft is no different.
“It is something we have always looked for, we have always looked for players that can play together and have some kind of connection,” Andonovski explained. “The fact that Christina and Toni play together on Duke. Alexis played youth soccer with Christina and then Stephanie, Alexis, Toni and Christina all play together on the national team definitely helps.”
Gibbons, Payne, Ribeiro and Shaffer have all been together in some combination or another in the last year so should know at least another couple players when they get to camp. Gibbons and Payne were also in camp with FC Kansas City forward Shea Groom as well before.
Gibbons is with the senior team camp right now training with U.S. and FC Kansas City Captain Becky Sauerbrunn and returning forward Amy Rodriguez.