It was expected to be a quiet day for Seattle Reign FC in the NWSL Draft, but instead of announcing one pick in the last round, the club ended up with three new players.
Before the draft started, the first Vlatko Andonovski - Laura Harvey trade was announced. Reign FC acquired defender Yael Averbuch and the 25th overall pick in the draft in exchange for midfielder Diana Matheson.
Averbuch spent the last three seasons with FC Kansas City, winning the 2015 NWSL Championship with the club. She spent the 2014 season with the Washington Spirit. While she spent her early career as a holding midfielder and set piece expert, Averbuch slotted into the centerback position last season — pairing up alongside Becky Sauerbrunn.
Averbuch actually gained some experience in that position in 2015, when she filled in for Sauerbrunn while she was away for the World Cup. According to FourFourTwo, Andonovski first became aware of Averbuch’s skills before she joined his team, during a U.S. women’s national team camp he attended in 2013. “He came away thinking she was the most technical player in the group, and when the spot on his back line opened up two years later, he realized Averbuch would be the perfect fit,” FourFourTwo reported.
Averbuch, who is 31 and stands tall at 5’ 10”, spent time with the U.S. women’s national team between 2008 and 2013, earning 26 caps. She isn’t the fastest player, but is a great passer who can help build play from the back, a tall presence along the backline who is good in the air, and a threat on set pieces outside the 18-yard box.
This move makes a lot of sense for Seattle for many reasons. Lauren Barnes could use a consistent centerback partner this season to help shore up a defense that let in far too many goals last season. Averbuch is also respected as a locker room leader who took on the role as president of the newly formed NWSL Players Association.
Averbuch also has lots of respect for Andonovski and the style of soccer and kind of team he likes to build. Speaking with The Blue Testament when Andonovski’s departure from FCKC was announced, Averbuch had nothing but praise for her coach over the last three seasons.
“Vlatko is one of the best parts of our league, not just FC Kansas City, he is a shining point in our league as a whole,” Averbuch stated.
“In a league that is trying to improve and you want to point out the quality of the league, Vlatko over the last five years has been a major piece of quality, always positive news, and making people feel good about their career path and decisions to be a professional soccer player. It says more about him than just his role in FC Kansas City, he such an important part of the NWSL as a whole.”
It would have been fun to see Matheson in a Reign FC jersey, but sending her to Utah in this trade also makes good sense. Seattle had too many players available to compete for time in the midfield already, and she is coming back from an ACL tear. At 34 years old, her ability to contribute and be at full fitness remains a question.
With that newly acquired 25th pick, Seattle selected defender Allyson (Ally) Haran from Wake Forest. Haran was a two-year captain of the Demon Deacons and earned 66 starts over four years, including every match since her sophomore year. She anchored the Wake Forest back line to 28 shutouts, including 11 during her senior year. Internationally, she has experience with both the U.S. and Canada U-20 teams and is a dual-national. As a centerback, it could be difficult for Haran to break into the Reign roster — although there may still be some trades on the horizon.
“One thing that caught my eye with Ally very early into the evaluation process was the fact that she is very good on the ball, very composed,” said Andonovski in a Reign FC press release. “She’s very creative and I think she will fit well into the style of play that we have.”
Chris Henderson with All White Kit had this to say about Haran’s selection:
NWSL Draft - Round 2— Chris Henderson (@chris_awk) January 18, 2018
25 - SEA - Ally Haran - D (CB) - Wake Forest
C - Value
B+ - Need
Reign need defenders, but Haran might've been around at 36. Very good this year, average otherwise.
With the 36th pick, Reign FC selected Celia Jiménez Delgado from Alabama, who mostly played as a right wingback for the Crimson Tide. A transfer student from Iowa Western Community College, she was selected as part of Spain’s squad at the 2015 World Cup, earning a start in all three of Spain’s matches. She has also represented Spain on every youth national team from the age of 14 onward.
“Celia is one of the players with probably the most potential in this draft,” said Andonovski. “She’s young and at the same time experienced. She’s used to playing under pressure, playing big games, and we expect to be in big games at the end of the season so we may need her.”
Seattle would need to use an international roster spot for her, but it is possible they might have one if both Rachel Corsie and Jodie Taylor have green cards. If not for taking up that precious international spot, Jiménez Delgado would have likely been selected higher in the draft.
It was a bigger day than expected for Seattle. We suspect there are still a few more changes to come in the next month, but these moves could really help solidify Reign FC’s backline.