In need of both an attacking punch and defensive stability, Sky Blue FC entered last Friday’s NWSL draft with a plethora of options at No. 2 overall.
Ultimately, Sky Blue elected to draft midfielder Sarah Killion, one of six UCLA players (three of whom were selected in the first round) to be selected.
The Fort Wayne, Indiana native spent four years living in the sunny California atmosphere where she tallied 13 goals and 32 assists during her college career which included helping the Bruins claim a national championship in 2013—the programs first.
Although the 5-foot-8 Pac 12 Scholar Athlete of the Year will be moving across the country to play in New Jersey, Killion said after being drafted that she’s up for the challenge.
“I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana so I am pretty used to the cold and playing in that kind of weather so I just kind of got to shift my mind back four years to the old times I guess. But I’ll be ready for it I’m still pretty used to it.”
With Killion providing cover at defensive midfield, Sky Blue then had its sights set on Danielle Colaprico, a 5-foot-3 attacking midfielder from a high-powered Virginia team that ranked second in the NCAA in goals per game.
Being a Freehold, New Jersey native, Colaprico would have been a perfect fit on Sky Blue with the team playing just 47 minutes from her hometown and in need of more attacking weapons.
Instead, the Boston Breakers traded their No. 9 and 11 pick to the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for No. 5 pick and Boston College forward Stephanie McCaffrey, allowing Chicago to swoop in and take Colaprico for itself.
With Colaprico off the board, Sky Blue FC went defensive again selecting Florida State center back Kristin Grubka.
“At our second pick, it was no secret that we wanted Danielle Colaprico, and it looked like we had her until Boston traded their pick,” said head coach Jim Gabarra on Sky Blue FCs website. “We then went with the best player on the board in Kristin Grubka, who is a great player in the air and a real weapon on set plays.”
Though not the original target, Grubka provides Sky Blue with an athletic and versatile center back who anchored a dominant Florida State program for four seasons which was capped off with a national championship in her senior season.
She is also capable of playing defensive midfielder, something Gabarra hinted to after the draft.
Round three saw Sky Blue take two Maryland college products in Georgetown’s Daphne Corboz and Maryland’s Shade Pratt.
Corboz, an attacking midfielder and projected second-round talent, dropped into the third round following rumors that she was trying to play overseas in Europe.
Although the close proximity to her hometown is an enticing offer to stay in the States, Corboz appears set to play with Manchester City FC according to soccerwire.com, although she has been recently accepted to Rutgers medical school.
“We expect her to sign with Manchester City but we have the option now of possibly convincing her to play in New Jersey,” Gabarra said. “And then we have her rights [so] if she went and played just for one season at Man City she could come back.”
Pratt, meanwhile, gives Sky Blue’s backline more speed and could provide cover at the right back position with Caitlin Foord expected to miss a chunk of time playing for Australia at the Women’s World Cup this summer.
Sky Blue concluded the fourth round by adding a West Coast tandem in Stanford’s Chioma Ubogagu and Lo’eau LaBonta.
“[After round two] we were just taking players that have a unique ability and have a chance to make our roster in preseason,” Gabarra said.
The pair combined for 58 points this past season while playing with the Cardinal scoring 10 and 13 goals respectively.
Ubogagu also came at solid value for Sky Blue, with the dynamic attacker projected as a second round pick by Top Drawer Soccer.
Though the uncertain status of Danish striker Nadia Nadim could leave Sky Blue with holes left up front, the additions of Killion and Grubka provide instant upgrades at the back.
Add in the upside provided by Ubogagu, Pratt and the potential option of a returning to the states for Corboz and Sky Blue can leave Philadelphia with a feeling of accomplishment.
“It never goes exactly how you’d like it to go, but for us we feel our priority was getting Sarah Killion,” Gabarra said on the outcome of the draft. “And we were planning on that knowing that Morgan Brian was going No. 1 for three months now so our whole plan to make improvements to our roster was based off that.”
Will it be enough to push them to the playoffs in 2015? That remains to be seen.