all scores

Five takeaways from a whirlwind 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft

Kristie Mewis (Wilf Thorne/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft was filled with surprises, trades and roster shake-ups. Angel City and San Diego used seven of the nine available selections during Thursday night’s draft, with the Wave passing on two picks.

Much of the drama, however, happened outside of the draft, with a flurry of deals becoming official after the official selection process.

So, where does the league stand after Angel City and San Diego made their picks for the 2022 season? Here are five takeaways from the event.

1. NWSL (Expansion Draft) After Dark

In true NWSL fashion, much of Thursday’s action took place after the expansion draft.

San Diego made it official with Alex Morgan, announcing the terms of the team’s trade with the Orlando Pride for the U.S. women’s national team forward. The Pride received the rights to midfielder Angharad James and $275,000 in allocation money in exchange for the 32-year-old.

The Wave also announced a trade with Gotham FC for Kristie Mewis, whom the expansion club selected second overall in the draft, in exchange for $200,000 in allocation money. San Diego’s deal with the Portland Thorns for Christen Westphal and Amirah Ali was also made public, with the Thorns receiving $50,000 in allocation money for the two players.

Angel City also got involved in the post-draft movement, trading their No. 26 pick in the 2022 NWSL College Draft and $125,000 in allocation money to the Houston Dash in exchange for the Dash’s No. 6 pick.

The pre- and post-draft trades are a sign of progress in the NWSL, with clubs striking deals to keep their marquee players and protect their depth while also fulfilling players’ wishes. According to Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer, the $275,000 Orlando received in the Morgan deal is the largest amount transferred in a single NWSL trade in league history.

2. The Kristie Mewis flip

After San Diego selected her second overall in the expansion draft, Mewis was traded to Gotham FC in exchange for $200,000 in allocation money. The USWNT midfielder joins an already stacked Gotham FC side, after star goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and veteran defender Ali Krieger recently moved to the club in a trade. Mewis’ status for the NWSL season remains up in the air, however, with rumors indicating she could sign with Tottenham Hotspur.

The influx of new talent bolsters a team that includes MVP nominee Midge Purce, Defender of the Year Caprice Dydasco and stars Ifeoma Onumonu, Ali Long and Imani Dorsey. Gotham’s offseason moves signal a “win-now” mentality. If Gotham’s postseason posture is any indication, the club is definitely in the hunt for a championship in 2022.

3. San Diego’s trickery

San Diego passed twice during the expansion draft, forgoing their sixth pick and their eighth pick. The official reasoning for the non-picks has not been confirmed, but many speculate it’s due to a handshake deal the Wave made with the Portland Thorns ahead of the draft, which the Thorns intended to protect their core from selection. The series of trades announced afterward only strengthened that theory.

The passes, while perhaps a solid strategic move for San Diego, made the event less entertaining that it was originally chalked up to be. In fact, most of the excitement around the draft occurred in the weeks leading up to it, with clubs across the league striking blockbuster trades to secure immunity from Angel City and San Diego.

4. OL Reign has holes to fill

OL Reign lost two defensive players Thursday night, with Dani Weatherholt going to Angel City and Kristen McNabb to San Diego. Compounding their departures is the fact that the club will also be without internationals Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Eugénie Le Sommer, who are returning to Lyon following their NWSL stint in 2021.

While OL Reign still managed to protect star players like Sofia Huerta, Tziarra King and Rose Lavelle, the team needs to find answers for considerable roster turnover heading into the 2022 season.

5. San Diego and Angel City’s rosters are shaping up

San Diego and Angel City each made some impressive signings leading up to the expansion draft, highlighting the draw of both markets.

With Morgan officially joining Abby Dahlkemper in San Diego, the expansion club has established a solid veteran foundation. The Wave have also prioritized defense heading into 2022, with expansion draft selections Kristen McNabb and Kaleigh Riehl joining Dahlkemper on the backline. Next up, the team has the first pick in Saturday’s college draft and is expected to select Florida State star midfielder Jaelin Howell. Not a bad starting point for a club set to make its debut.

On the other side, Angel City’s attack is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in the league spearheaded by Christen Press. The Los Angeles club added Jasmyne Spencer to the lineup with their fifth overall expansion pick and secured Simone Charley via a pre-draft trade with the Thorns. ACFC also padded its defense during the draft, bringing in midfielder Dani Weatherholt to strengthen the team’s backline, anchored by center back Sarah Gorden.