CHICAGO — With almost half of the picks in the first round of the National Women’s Soccer League draft Thursday, the Washington Spirit and new Coach Richie Burke claimed four players from the U.S. under-23 national team, including a defender who debuted with the world champion senior squad last year.
The quartet will join a Spirit roster already featuring three of American soccer’s top young players: Mallory Pugh, Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan.
The newcomers are Stanford midfielder Jordan DiBiasi (selected No. 3 overall); Clemson defender Samantha Staab (fourth); Stanford defender Tegan McGrady (seventh); and North Carolina midfielder Dorian Bailey (eighth).
“We were thinking, ‘Let’s just hit it out of the park right from the get-go,’ " said Burke, a longtime youth coach in the D.C. area who was hired two weeks ago.
“I think they can all get on the park right away and contribute in this league. If they can contribute at this stage in their career, the future looks bright for us.”
The Spirit began the week with two of the nine first-round picks, then acquired another Wednesday and traded for the No. 3 selection after the draft began because it feared missing out on DiBiasi, a creative player who will help compensate for the expected losses of Pugh and Lavelle to U.S. Women’s World Cup duty this summer in France.
To obtain that selection, Washington dealt three players to New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC: center back Estelle Johnson, outside back Caprice Dydasco and reserve goalkeeper DiDi Haracic.
McGrady, who played for the U.S. senior squad last spring against Mexico, is likely to become the Spirit’s starting left back. Staab, who as a midfielder led Clemson with 11 assists last season, is projected to compete for a starting job in central defense. Bailey, Burke said, will provide depth in central midfield.
Without a natural second-round pick, Washington made another deal — relinquishing two draft picks to the Portland Thorns — in order to get into that round and choose Wake Forest midfielder Bayley Feist.
Stanford junior defender Tierna Davidson, a U.S. national team starter currently with the senior squad in Europe, was the first overall pick, selected by the Chicago Red Stars. Davidson weighed staying in school, signing overseas or committing to the NWSL.
With the No. 2 pick, Sky Blue chose UCLA defender Hailie Mace, who made three U.S. senior appearances last year.
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