The Portland Thorns took Virginia’s Emily Sonnett with the first overall pick Friday in the National Women’s Soccer League draft, as the league prepares for a crucial fourth year.
Sonnett, the ACC Defender of the Year, is currently in January training camp with the U.S. women’s national team. She is the second straight Cavalier taken with the first overall pick; last year U.S. national team midfielder Morgan Brian went first to the Houston Dash.
The Thorns acquired the pick from expansion Orlando in a deal that sent U.S. national team star Alex Morgan to the Florida club. Morgan’s husband, Servando Carrasco, plays for Major League Soccer’s Orlando City.
The Thorns also were busy in the hours before the draft, acquiring forward Nadia Nadim of Denmark and draft picks from Sky Blue FC in exchange for draft picks. Nadim played two seasons with Sky Blue, with 13 goals and four assists in 24 appearances.
With the second pick, Sky Blue selected MAC Hermann Trophy winner Raquel Rodriguez, who was co-captain of the Penn State team that won the NCAA College Cup.
The Thorns also traded the third pick with the Boston Breakers, who selected Christen Westphal out of Florida. Rounding out the top five picks were midfielder Carson Pickett of Florida State, selected by the Seattle Reign at No. 4 and midfielder/defender Cari Roccaro of Notre Dame, selected by the Dash at No. 5.
Forty players over four rounds were taken in Friday’s draft in Baltimore.
Sonnett spoke later about joining the Thorns in soccer-crazy Portland.
“In terms of the pressure and wanting to perform well, I think being with the national team these past couple of months, and playing with (fellow Thorns and national team players) Meghan Klingenberg and Tobin Heath, and kind of getting a taste of what kind of caliber player they have is really good for me,” she said on a conference call with reporters. “I think going into Portland with an open mind and doing whatever they need, whatever they need on the field, or off, is going to be good.”
Shortly before the draft started, the NWSL announced new procedures for teams to acquire unallocated players from the national teams, called “Unattached Subsidized Individuals.” Players from the Canadian and U.S. national teams are distributed across the league with the federations paying their salaries.
New national team players who are unattached will be distributed via the new process. The Breakers were atop the priority list, but traded it to Portland for the No. 3 pick, Westphal.
The NWSL experienced a bump in popularity last season after the United State won the World Cup in Canada. It was the league’s third year; no other women’s professional league has played a fourth season.
The league is adding a 10th team this coming season, the Orlando Pride under former national team coach Tom Sermanni.