The 2018 NWSL College Draft took place Thursday, January 18, and the North Carolina Courage went into the day with a few obvious holes to fill with their five draft picks. A major trade from earlier in the week sent defender Taylor Smith and 2017 Rookie of the Year forward Ashley Hatch to the Washington Spirit in return for the rights to US Women's National Team forward Crystal Dunn and an international roster slot. Let's see how they tried to make up the trade difference.
Frannie Crouse, Penn State University
With a significant need at defense, the North Carolina Courage made a surprise move by selecting forward Frannie Crouse with their first-round pick, tenth overall. Crouse made her mark in 2017 for the Nittany Lions, scoring four goals and notching five assists during the season, and then helped her team reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament by scoring two goals. She scored a total of 37 goals over her collegiate career. The big question is where Crouse fits into head coach Paul Riley's plans. She might be a relief forward played at her natural position, but it's far more likely that the Courage front office sees Crouse as a player that can transfer into a defense or midfield role. Taylor Smith, who quickly worked her way into USWNT rosters after being drafted 2016, was a forward at UCLA before she started playing defense for the Western New York Flash and then the Courage. This may be the same path that Crouse follows with the team.
Rebecca Rasmussen, University of Colorado - Boulder
The Courage made a more expected pick with their second-round pick, 20th overall, by selecting midfielder Rebecca Rasmussen. She played a defensive midfield role at the University of Colorado - Boulder, but she frequently pushed forward and played passes in for her teammates to score. She finished the 2017 season with seven assists, something that the Courage are definitely looking for in their wing midfielders and defenders. Rasmussen looks to slip into the role that Makenzy Doniak played sporadically throughout the season, although she could be transitioned back to play the defensive wing position that Smith occupied before the trade. Either way, she is an exciting playmaker that should be a valuable asset for the Courage.
Morgan Reid, Duke University
Morgan Reid was the sixth and final player that was selected from Duke University in the fourth round - 38th overall - of the 2018 draft, and she fits the bill as a traditional hometown selection that many NWSL teams employ; she grew up in Cary, NC, the town that the Courage call home. Reid is a pure defender, something that the Courage were clearly looking for in the draft, who started 86 of her 92 appearances with the Blue Devils over her four-year career, but she never scored a goal. Reid has experience with the USWNT youth programs in the U-20 and U-17 programs. She will probably take a year or two to break into the starting lineup, but she should be a great situational player when extra defensive prowess is needed for the team.
Carlin Hudson, Yale University
The Courage selected Carlin Hudson with their second selection in the fourth round, 39th overall, and was their second consecutive defender picked. Hudson started all seventeen games with Yale University in 2017, scoring one goal and earning three assists throughout the season. The Berkeley, CA native will fight for the spot vacated by Taylor Smith but could take some time to grow into the role at the professional level.
Ryan Williams, Texas Christian University
With the final selection in the draft, the Courage selected defender Ryan Williams from TCU. Williams had a great 2017 season, scoring one goal, the first of her career, and six assists. Throughout her career, she generated an incredible fifteen assists from her defensive position, something that must have piqued the interest of Paul Riley and the front office. The three-way battle between the consecutively drafted defenders should be a fascinating preseason storyline, and Williams should have a good chance with her assist generating potential.