NWSL Player Allocation: Breaking Down the Teams
After weeks of waiting, fans of the new National Women’s Soccer League received the news that they were waiting for: the National Team player allocation to the eight teams for the inaugural season. At around 2:30pm on Friday, US Soccer released the list of which uniforms the 55 allocated players would don for the 2013 season. Seven teams received three USA National Team players and two Canadian and Mexican National Team players while one team received two players from each national team.
“This allocation process is obviously a big step in building the foundation for this league and each of the teams will benefit from a group of very talented players,” said NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey. “This is always a difficult process, but we believe there was a fair distribution of talent across all eight teams and with the NWSL College Draft coming up in Indianapolis on Jan. 18, the rosters of the clubs will really start to take shape.”
According to USSoccer.com, the allocation process was assisted by experts who are familiar with the player pools as well as the college/professional scene. The hope for the end result was to distribute the players to make each team on a fairly level playing field. Let’s break down each of the teams and how they fared in the allocation process:
Allocated Players: Sydney Leroux (USA), Heather Mitts (USA), Heather O’Reilly (USA), Adriana Leon (CAN), Rhian Wilkinson (CAN), Anisa Guajardo (MEX), Cecilia Santiago (MEX)
Boston is one of the three teams that are being directly carried over from competitive soccer in 2012.
The team finished as regular season champs in the WPSL-Elite and one of the part-time members headlines the Breakers delegation in Heather O’Reilly. Going into the process, stability could have played a role and with Lisa Cole returning as Head Coach for 2013 that may have been the tipping point for O’Reilly coming back, who enjoyed her part time role with the Breakers in 2012. The ranks in the midfield will also be bolstered by Rhian Wilkinson, who showed well during the 2012 Olympics with Canada. Heather Mitts played with the WPS version of the Breakers in 2009, so that is another familiar face. A fellow Florida Gator will be joining Mitts as well as Adriana Leon was added to the team and could be a candidate for a strike-partner with Sydney Leroux. Anisa Guajardo will also be another option at forward as she is coming off of a 10-goal season with Pepperdine this past fall. The one thing that the Breakers were looking to do after their 2012 campaign was get more consistency in the net and have landed a gem in Cecilia Santiago. The Mexican International was the youngest goalkeeper, male or female, to ever start in a senior World Cup match and the 18-year old did not disappoint during the tournament. Expect Boston to look for some additions to the defense next week at the draft, while Wilkinson could drop back, the team will need capable center-backs in front of Santiago.
Chicago Red Stars
Allocated Players: Shannon Boxx (USA), Amy LePeilbet (USA), Keelin Winters (USA), Erin McLeod (CAN), Carmelina Moscato (CAN), Maribel Dominguez (MEX), Dinora Garza (MEX)
The Red Stars are another one of the teams to carry over to NWSL from the WPSL-Elite. Rory Dames’ side was only minutes away from capturing the league title before dropping a heart breaker in penalties in the Championship match to Western New York Flash.
With their crew of allocated players, the Red Stars will definitely be very strong in the back with a star striker up front. Erin McLeod is currently Canada’s number one goalkeeper and showed well during last year’s Olympic tournament. She will also have a familiar face in her back four with Carmelina Moscato, who has been a stalwart in the Canadian defense. Plus she will be keeping local ties as she is currently an assistant coach with the University of Wisconsin Women’s Soccer program. Amy LePeilbet will also be another figure in the back, mostly controlling the wings. Two Americans will be controlling the midfield with Shannon Boxx, who is more of the holding playmaker and a more front-running Keelin Winters, who is heading back to the US from her Bundesliga club Turbine Potsdam. Dinora Garza will be also be in the midfield for Chicago, a veteran player for the Mexican national team who was on the team in Germany for the World Cup. Then up front, Maribel Dominguez has been on the Mexican National team since the 1990s and has scored a fair few goals in her time as well. But expect the Red Stars to look for offensive minded players when it comes to draft day.
FC Kansas City
Allocated Players: Nicole Barnhart (USA), Lauren Cheney (USA), Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Desiree Scott (CAN), Lauren Sesselmann (CAN), Renae Cuellar (MEX), Marylin Diaz (MEX)
The FC Kansas City team is the side that few really knew about coming into the allocation process. No stadium announcement yet, relatively unknown coaches but I will have to say that they did a very good job of recruiting players to believe in FCKC.
And they were rewarded today in the allocation with one of the strongest defenses on paper. Nicole Barnhart, despite being the number two ‘keeper in the US, is still one of the top net minders in the world and will be have another opportunity to showcase her skills as the number one choice for Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski. She will be supported in defense by Becky Sauerbrunn, Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann. Sauerbrunn is a stable center back, most known for stepping in for Rachel Buehler in the 2011 World Cup semifinals when Buehler was red-carded in the quarterfinals against Brazil. She will most likely be joined by Sesselmann, who started every match for Canada in the Olympics. Scott will most likely play as a defensive midfielder, but known for being quite physical in defense as well. Diaz, who has featured with the Mexican youth national teams, will also add depth in defense. Lauren Cheney will thrive in her role of the creative play maker for KC, despite being moved all around the midfield in the last couple of years with the national team. The one surprise here was no Jodi-Ann Robinson, who was reported to have been one of KC’s top prospects in the allocation process. They will need to look for forwards however in the draft, with only allocated Renae Cuellar as forward.
Portland Thorns FC
Allocated Players: Rachel Buehler (USA), Tobin Heath (USA), Alex Morgan (USA), Luz Saucedo (MEX), Marlene Sandoval (MEX), Karina LeBlanc (CAN), Christine Sinclair (CAN)
On paper, this team looks to have been the overall winner in the allocation process, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
Putting together former 2011 WPS Champion Western New York Flash teammates Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair (former Univ. of Portland standout) will be a deadly combination. With Morgan’s pace, not to mention the 28 goals she had with the US National team in 2012, and Sinclair’s nose for the goal, they most likely will beat their combined 14 goals that they had together in 2011 for Western New York. If that isn’t enough offensively, they landed a dynamic playmaker/winger in Tobin Heath, who will utilize a faster paced Jeld-Wen Field to her advantage. And in defense, Thorns FC have Rachel Buehler in central defense in front of veteran goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. Also in defense are two veterans of the Mexican National team with Luz Saucedo and Marlene Sandoval. Both featured with Mexico during the 2011 World Cup, with Saucedo seeing action in Mexico’s three group matches while Sandoval appeared in one. The pieces that Portland and head coach Cindy Parlow Cone will look to add is depth in defense and midfield.
Seattle Reign FC
Allocated Players: Megan Rapinoe (USA), Amy Rodriguez (USA), Hope Solo (USA), Kaylyn Kyle (CAN), Emily Zurrer (CAN), Jenny Ruiz (MEX), Teresa Noyola (MEX)
Portland fans will be shaking their heads while Reign supporters will be rejoiced in landing Megan Rapinoe to the side.
The former Portland Pilot will be donning a Seattle uniform once she returns from her stint with Lyon in France. While at the same time, Head Coach Laura Harvey has a balanced set of players, starting in back with Hope Solo in net. Many people were unsure if they would see the Seattle native due to her concerns with the league, but Seattle got the player that they wanted in Solo. The Reign’s depth comes in the midfield with Rapinoe, Kaylyn Kyle, Teresa Noyola and Jenny Ruiz. Kyle was featured heavily during the Olympics with Canada and will be a good partner with Rapinoe in the center. Noyola, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2011 with Stanford, will do well down the flank and Ruiz adds depth to the midfield corps. Seattle will need to add forwards and defenders as they only have one of each, with Amy Rodriguez up front and Emily Zurrer in the back.
Sky Blue FC
Allocated Players: Jill Loyden (USA), Kelley O’Hara (USA), Christie Rampone (USA), Sophie Schmidt (CAN), Melanie Booth (CAN), Monica Ocampo (MEX), Nayeli Rangel (MEX)
Sky Blue FC as an official team was inactive 2012, but they did partner with New Jersey Wildcats in the W-League and held a trip over to Japan in early 2012 under the name Sky Blue.
But they do return a familiar face from the WPS days in Head Coach Jim Gabarra, who will be at the helm in 2013. And Sky Blue did receive a number of defensive minded players in the allocation along with a star striker. Jill Loyden has an opportunity to show herself to the US national team with getting some good minutes as well as returning to her home in the Garden State. Another Jersey connection with SBFC is Christie Rampone, as the venerable defender continues her quest for one more World Cup team. Kelley O’Hara and Melanie Booth, who both saw time for their respective sides in the 2012 Olympics, will be in the back along with Rampone. In the midfield, Sophie Schmidt will have the opportunity to continue her good form from the 2012 Olympics and will be joined by Nayeli Rangel, who played in all three group matches for Mexico in the 2011 World Cup. Up front, Monica Ocampo is a name you should know. And if you don’t please go to Youtube and search her equalizing goal against England in the 2011 World Cup. She could be one of the forwards in the league that will be very under the radar but could score a lot of goals. Gabarra will need to bolster his side in the midfield and forward area in the coming weeks.
Allocated Players: Ashlyn Harris (USA), Ali Krieger (USA), Lori Lindsey (USA), Robyn Gayle (CAN), Diana Matheson (CAN), Alina Garciamendez (MEX), Teresa Worbis (MEX)
The Spirit are another carryover team from last year, but this one came from the W-League under the name D.C. United Women. But the new look Spirit carry some familiar faces to the D.C. area fans, including Ashlyn Harris.
The standout goalkeeper from the then-WPS side Washington Freedom is coming back to the US from Duisburg in the Bundesliga, though it has been reported that Harris will finish out the season in Germany and then report to D.C. One player that will be back from Germany in time is Ali Krieger. The Virginia native is coming off of a rough 2012 campaign with an ACL/MCL injury to her right leg from Olympic qualifying. But she is back from FFC Frankfurt and will look for this opportunity with the Spirit to get back in the National Team. Also in the back is Alina Garciamendez, who was projected as one of the top defenders to go in the College Entry Draft if not named to the allocation list. But the Stanford grad will join Kreiger in the back, coming off of a strong senior year. Also in the back will be Robyn Gayle, who was on the 2012 Bronze medal team with Canada. In the midfield, Lori Lindsey, Diana Matheson and Teresa Worbis make up a strong core group, all with good international experience and most recently Matheson, who scored the game winning goal for Canada over France in the Bronze medal match. Head Coach Mike Jorden will look to gain some forwards as well as a goalkeeper however in the next few weeks to add to a sound defensive team.
Western New York Flash
Allocated Players: Carli Lloyd (USA), Abby Wambach (USA), Bryana McCarthy (CAN), Jodi-Ann Robinson (CAN), Veronica Perez (MEX), Pamela Tajonar (MEX)
The 2012 WPSL-Elite Champion Western New York Flash did end up being the team only getting six allocated players instead of seven.
But this team will pack a lot of offensive punch for sure, led by Abby Wambach. The Rochester native won the Ballon d’or for Woman Footballer of the Year for 2012 and will be sure to pack the stands at Sahlen Stadium. Joining her up front will be Jodi-Ann Robinson, who was on the winning WPSL-Elite team last year, as well as Veronica Perez. In the midfield, Carli Lloyd will be looking to add to the offense as well, as she is coming off of her two-goal performance in the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal match. The defense however for Head Coach Aaron Lines, will be a thinking point come draft day. In defense, he has Bryana McCarthy, who was part of a West Virginia University side that had eight clean-sheets last season, but that is it. And in net, Pamela Tajonar, one of Mexico’s back-up goalkeepers. Tajonar returns to the side after winning the W-League title with then Buffalo Flash in 2010, but hasn’t had much first team action since then.
Next Friday, the NWSL will be holding a college draft at the NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis. There will be four rounds in the draft, giving each team the opportunity to add four players. The order of drafting positions has yet to be determined though it will be ran via snake order (first round 1-8, then reverse order for the next round). Coming up next week we will reveal our NWSL draft board and some players to keep an eye on as well to get you set for next Friday.
JJ Duke will be graduating from Rider University in New Jersey in the Spring of 2013 with a degree in Digital Media Studies. While his playing days may have ended back in high school, he still prides himself of being a decent shot-stopper and an all-around fanatic of the beautiful game (fervent supporter of Manchester United and the founder of a Rider supporters group, the 206 Ultras). He is the Student General Manager at 107.7 The Bronc at Rider and has contributed to various local newspaper and Web sites in the Trenton, NJ area of high school and collegiate sports including The Rider News and Fish4Scores.com. He became involved with Our Game Magazine early in 2012 when upon following OGM on Twitter, he was contacted within minutes (which caught him by surprise) by Tiffany about working with the team. After spending the summer covering the USL W-League and the WPSL-Elite league as an intern, he is looking forward to continue working with the OGM team, especially on games in the US.