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San Diego Wave FC’s Stoney: We’re keeping top pick in Saturday’s NWSL Draft

NWSL newcomer looking forward to using newfound NCAA knowledge.

Courtesy of San Diego NWSL

Getting used to the particularities of the NWSL is always a process for new coaches to the league. But for San Diego Wave FC’s Casey Stoney, she feels ready to jump in.

And by the way, San Diego have no plan to trade the No. 1 overall NWSL Draft pick on Saturday.

Stoney spoke to reporters on Friday following the conclusion of Thursday’s NWSL expansion draft and before Saturday’s college draft, and admitted the crash course in scouting NCAA soccer has been a process.

“I’ll be really honest and transparent — back in kind of July time when I started this process, and I started on the college drafts and it was something that I wanted to invest in, it was an utter minefield, you know?” the former England international said. “People talking to me about ‘Power Five’ and I didn’t play here in college. Just in my head, I was a complete beginner. But I’m really fortunate, I’ve got incredible staff around me, now my technical team have been incredible during this time...Having those people around me is vital.

“I’ve spent endless hours watching footage, I’ve been to games live. I have watched every team, pretty much now that I think we’ve needed to,” Stoney continued. “Are we going to miss bits? Absolutely. Because it’s so vast. There’s so many players to watch, but I feel really confident that we’re super prepared for tomorrow.”

And amid rumors San Diego could be poised to part with the No. 1 overall selection in Saturday’s draft, Stoney said it’s not happening.

“We have been adamant throughout the last six weeks of this process as many teams have tried to trade for our first pick. We will not be moving, we value the player. We are going to pick very highly. And we’re keeping that first pick,” she said.

Wave FC made, well, pardon the pun but they made waves in the expansion draft by selecting midfielder Kristie Mewis with their first selection, and then immediately trading her to Gotham FC for allocation money. Stoney noted that the entire process was done at the request of the player and Gotham, who approached San Diego to set up the move.

“It was Gotham that came to us with it,” Stoney explained. “So it was initiated through Gotham. It was initiated through the player wanting the move as well. We, as a club, we don’t move people who don’t want to be moved, and it brought more revenue back into our budget, which is vital right now when we’re looking at building out this team.”

And while you can expect San Diego to sign players from abroad in the coming weeks, Stoney, who previously managed Manchester United, admitted both the allure of attracting top players and the drawbacks of managing in a league beset by scandals this year as well as vast distances to travel.

“Obviously, there’s challenges trying to get your Europeans here because we don’t have a Champions League competition. This stuff that potentially happened and came out in the press last year around the league, it’s all over Europe. So, we have to build that reputation again. We have to make sure that the league is very competitive, that the player welfare is at the heart of everything we do. But yeah, there’s definitely been players that have reached out, we are speaking to international players.

“Has it been challenging? Absolutely. There’s a reason there’s not that many European internationals playing within the league because it’s so far from home. Even trying to get an Italian to come to England was difficult, even getting a Spanish player to come out of Spain to play in England was difficult and it’s like a two hour flight. So to ask them to relocate so far away from home without European football in terms of Champions League has its challenges, but there’s always opportunities in the market to get the right types of players at the right times in their career, and also the right characters in your dressing room,” she added.

While the process is ongoing to bolster San Diego’s inaugural roster, in all facets, all eyes are focused on Saturday’s draft. Stoney admitted there are roadblocks in that process too, but she’s looking forward to putting her newfound knowledge to work.

“We know the draft isn’t as strong as it could be and should be because there’s so many players that haven’t entered and have stayed in for next year because of COVID. But I think we’ve done our due diligence, we have a game plan, but also there’s the unpredictability to where our teams are going to go. So it’s exciting, it’s an exciting process to be part of and tomorrow’s a big day for us,” she said.

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