On Friday, the National Women’s Soccer League announced where each of the 55 allocated players will call home. There were some no-brainers and there were some surprises. At the end of the day, each team had the start of their rosters in place and in the upcoming weeks will look to build around these players and fill in the gaps in the rosters.
A big week is in store – the College draft is on January 18 and free agency will reportedly start “soon.” Here’s a recap of who each team picked up and where they will be looking to fill in:
Who they’ve got: Sydney Leroux, Heather Mitts, Heather O’Reilly, Adriana Leon, Rhian Wilkinson, Anisa Guajardo, and Cecilia Santiago
The Boston Breakers are now the longest tenured club in NWSL having played in both the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). The Breakers got a good mix of veteran talent (Mitts, O’Reilly, and Wilkinson) and young talent (Leroux, Leon). Both O’Reilly and Wilkinson are versatile players, O’Reilly is a flank midfielder but can also play up top while Wilkinson could see time in either the midfield or on the back line. Adriana Leon scored her first international goal for Canada yesterday. Cecilia Santiago is one of two Mexican goalkeepers allocated and is just 18 years old.
Gaps to fill: The Breakers will likely look for a second experienced goalkeeper to aid in the development of Santiago. Maybe we’ll see the likes of Alyssa Naeher who played in Boston during the 2010 and 2011 WPS seasons. Midfielder Leslie Osborne has ties to Boston as well having captained the Breakers in 2010 and 2011. Elli Reed is a defender who spent time with the Breakers during 2011 and may re-sign with her former team.
Chicago Red Stars:
Who they’ve got: Shannon Boxx, Amy LePeilbet, Keelin Winters, Erin McCleod, Carmelina Moscata, Maribel Dominguez, and Dinora Garza
The Chicago Red Stars got some good veteran talent in Boxx, LePeilbet and Dominguez. LePeilbet is one of the top center backs in the country and will anchor the backline in front of Erin McCleod. Dominguez should be a familiar name for some fans – she was a forward for the Atlanta Beat in the WUSA – and she is a proven goal scorer. However, LePeilbet has struggled with injuries in recent years and both Boxx and Dominguez are 35. Erin McCleod played with the Washington Freedom in WPS (2009-2010). She rebounded from an ACL injury in 2010 to play for Canada in both the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games, the latter of which where her team won a bronze medal. Canadian teammate Carmelina Moscato has been playing with the national team off and on for nearly a decade and brings more experience to the table. Winters and Garza will bring some youth to the midfield which should help the Red Stars.
Filling the gaps: With only one defender allocated to them, the Red Stars will be looking to add some defenders to pair in the back with LePeilbet. Rachel Quon (Stanford) will be a good choice coming out of the College draft on Friday. Nikki Marshall and Elli Reed are both young defenders and have WPS experience and could be signed as free agents.
FC Kansas City:
Who they’ve got: Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney, Becky Sauerbrunn, Desiree Scott, Lauren Sesselman, Renae Cueller, and Marylin Diaz
A lot of the talk has focused on the Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns allocations but FC Kansas City should most definitely be included in the top of the group. Both Cheney (Indianapolis) and Sauerbrunn (St. Louis) have Midwest ties. Nicole Barnhart has been the United States second choice keeper since 2008 and will be looking to break into the top spot for 2015. Both Sesselman and Scott are solid defenders, and Marylin Diaz will also challenge for a spot on the backline. Lauren Cheney is a versatile player who as seen time for the United States as both a forward and a midfielder giving the Blues options in their attack.
Filling the gaps: The Blues were allocated only two attacking players in Cheney and Cueller and will look for some attacking talent in either free agency, the College draft or both.
Portland Thorns FC:
Who they’ve got: Rachel Buehler, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Karina LeBlanc, Christine Sinclair, Luz Saucedo, and Marline Sandoval
On paper, the Thorns are, for lack of a better word, stacked. With two of the top female players in the world – Morgan finished third and Sinclair fifth in the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year award voting – the attack will be dangerous for any defense they face. Heath, who won a starting role for the US team prior to the Olympics last summer, could have a breakout year in the midfield, especially given the attacking players she has in front of her. She has played mostly on the flank for Team USA but has seen time in the center of the pitch during her stint at the University of North Carolina – where Thorns head coach Cindy Parlow Cone was an assistant coach. Buehler is a solid player in the back to anchor the defense in front of veteran goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. Both Saucedo and Sandoval are defenders who could challenge for spots in the starting lineup.
Filling the gaps: The midfield. Heath is the only midfielder allocated to the Thorns so adding to the midfield should be one of the priorities for Parlow Cone.
Seattle Reign FC:
Who they’ve got: Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriquez, Hope Solo, Kaylyn Kyle, Emily Zurrer, Jenny Ruiz, and Teresa Noyola
The Reign organization has used the word surprised in their assessment of the allocation process. Surprised that Mexican forward Veronica Perez, who suited up for the W-League’s Seattle Sounders Women last summer, didn’t land with the team. Surprise that Portland landed the attacking duo of both Sinclair and Morgan.
One thing that wasn’t a surprise was goalkeeper Hope Solo heading to the Northwest. Rodriguez has had consistency issues in the past with the national team but was dangerous in WPS with the Philadelphia Independence. Canadians Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer are both still young but both have plenty of national team experience, each with over 50 caps. Zurrer has had injury issues in the past so seeing if she can remain healthy will be key for her. Teresa Noyola was drafted seventh by the Western New York Flash in last year’s WPS draft but never got to suit up for the Flash before the league folded.
The biggest question mark is Megan Rapinoe. She will miss at least half of the season while she is playing in France with Olympique Lyonnais. All indications are that she will be back to play in NWSL in June when her stint with the French club is up. Lyon has been willing to pay its players top dollar to play for them and Rapinoe may be no different. One has to wonder that if the offer is made, will Rapinoe choose to stay in France or come home to the United States.
Filling the gaps: The Reign did get a good mix of players by position. They will need to find someone who can create in the midfield while Rapinoe is gone and a running mate for Amy Rodriguez. A solid defender who can help solidify the backline in front of Solo will be key as well. Solo may be the top goalkeeper in the world, but she will need help.
Sky Blue FC:
Who they’ve got: Jillian Loyden, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Sophie Schmidt, Melanie Booth, Monica Ocampo and Lydia Rangel
Christie Rampone is a veteran defender – and this is her third professional league. Rampone has played for Sky Blue FC before and coached them to a WPS championship in 2009. Jillian Loyden has been the third choice US keeper and looked like she was on track to compete for the second spot on the US team until a disappointing 2011 put her back. Kelley O’Hara is versatile – she was a MAC Herman Trophy winner in 2010 and came into WPS as a forward, before being converted to a defender by former US head coach Pia Sundhage. O’Hara’s versatility will be an assest to head coach Jim Gabarra as O’Hara could play up top if needed. Otherwise O’Hara will be able to learn from Rampone who also made the forward to defender conversion coming out of college.
Both Schmidt and Booth will bring experience to the table. Schmidt has played for the Canadian national team since 2004 (age 16) and professionally for magicJack in WPS during the 2010 season. Booth has been with the national team since the age of 17 (2002). Monica Ocampo should be a familiar name for those who followed WPS as she played for the Atlanta Beat in 2010 and scored against England in the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Rangel is a relative unknown.
Who they’ve got: Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Lori Lindsey, Robin Gayle, Diana Matheson, Alina Garciamendez, and Teresa Worbis.
The Spirit could be a dark horse in terms of the allocations. Leading the way is United States defender Ali Krieger. Krieger, who suffered a devastating ACL/MCL injury during the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, has spent the past four years playing for FFC Frankfurt in Germany. Canadian defender Robin Gayle and Stanford grad Alina Garciamendez will team up with Krieger on the backline. Lori Lindsey is no stranger to DC women’s soccer fans having played in both the WUSA (San Diego Spirit and Washington Freedom) and WPS (Washington Freedom and Philadelphia Independence). She will be solid in the midfield. Matheson scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time against France to lead Canada to a bronze medal last summer.
Harris has been in the United States player pool since she was 14 but only broke into the full national team pool in 2010 after a pair of ACL injuries during college. She will miss the beginning of the NWSL season as she finishes her contract with Germany’s FRC 2001 Duisburg.
Filling the gaps: With Harris being overseas, look for Washington to add a second proven goalkeeper to their roster. The Spirit were not allocated any forwards so look for them to add several attacking players to an already solid roster.
Western New York Flash:
Who they’ve got: Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Bryana McCarthy, Jodi-Ann Robinson, Veronica Perez, and Pamela Tajonar
The Flash were the 2011 WPS champions and 2012 W-League Elite Champions and look to continue that trend in NWSL in 2013. With only 23 US players allocated, the Flash became the team with two players from the United States in midfielder Carli Lloyd and hometown hero Abby Wambach. Wambach, who was named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year last week in Zurich, helped sell out Sahlen’s Stadium in the post-World Cup frenzy during the Flash’s 2011 season. She will be joined up top by Mexican forward Veronica Perez who played for the Seattle Sounders Women in the W-League in 2012. Lloyd, who scored both of Team USA’s goals in a 2-1 win over Japan in last summer’s gold medal game.
Midfielder/defender Bryana McCarty is the least experience Canadian who was allocated but forward/midfielder Jodi-Ann Robinson has more than 50 caps to her name. Both are young players who and will add to the Flash’s already potent attack. Pamela Tajonar is the second Mexican goalkeeper.
Filling the gaps: The Flash will look to add some solid defenders to the mix of offensive talent. The combination of Wambach and Perez could be deadly, but look for head coach Aaran Lines to add to his midfield around US midfielder Carli Lloyd.