Things are starting to take shape for the National Women’s Soccer League as they head toward their April 13th opening day. With its initial college draft behind it, the teams of the NWSL are moving closer to filling their 20 player rosters. Each of the eight teams added four college players, joining the seven that each club, except for the Western New York Flash with six, were allocated earlier this month.
The Flash were allotted just two U.S. national team players, but with hometown hero Abby Wambach and Olympic goal scoring hero Carli Lloyd the two, WNY had little to complain about. Still the league had to address that imbalance, and they have done that. The Flash have received a stipend of $24,000 from the league to be spent on one player. So that’s what they meant when they said people weren’t going to get rich in this league.
The NWSL Draft was a somewhat hectic affair, with announcements coming fast and furious via twitter. Zakiya Bywaters went first to the Chicago Red Stars, the UCLA forward will be expected to stretch defenses and score goals for the Red Stars.
Former Stanford defender Rachel Quon was a star on one of the nation’s best programs, so Chicago got a good one with their second pick. At number 17, Florida State’s Taylor Vancil was the second keeper taken in the draft, behind only Adrianna Franch from Oklahoma State, who went to Western New York with the sixth pick. Princeton forward Jennifer Hoy was the final pick and will get a chance to team with Bywaters up top.
National team veteran Shannon Boxx will lend experience, and steel to the Stars, while Amy LePeilbet will be counted on to lead the defense.
Picking second the Washington Spirit did very well to land Virginia attacker, and Hermann Trophy finalist Caroline Miller in the second round, after grabbing FSU striker Tiffany McCarty with the second pick of the draft. Back from Germany, Ali Krieger should provide defensive cover for the Spirit with Lori Lindsay leading from the midfield.
A lot of midfield talent was available in the draft and FC Kansas City took two good ones. The presence of Kristie Mewis from B.C. and Erika Tymrak from Florida may allow FCKC to move U.S. attacking mid Lauren Cheney back to her old forward spot for the alphabet team. The leagues website is reporting that KC may be on the verge of signing two top free agents, Sinead Farrelly and Melissa Henderson. Both were first round picks in the WPS. Farrelly is yet another midfielder and Henderson plays up top.
Sky Blue FC have a defensive look at the moment with allocation picks led by U.S. captain Christie Rampone, defender Kelley O’Hara and Hope Solo back up Jill Loyden. Sky Blue went defense first in the draft as well, picking Lindsi Lisonbee-Cutshall. a defender from BYU with the first pick, d/m Kendall Johnson from Portland, and goalkeeper Ashley Baker, out of Georgia, before finishing up by taking forward Rebecca Kaplan from Maryland.
The Boston Breakers did well in the allocation process, picking up some talented offensive players. The two Heather’s, Mitts and O’Reilly, can push it up the wing, with O’Reilly one of the best at getting to the endline and making her cross. Sydney Leroux is a dynamic young forward that could explode with starters minutes, after sitting behind the two best forwards in the world on the national team. Canadian defender Rhian Wilkinson will provide experience and leadership at the back. It will be interesting to see if Mexico’s very young goalkeeper, Cecilia Santiago starts. Santiago is the youngest keeper to start in the World Cup. She was just 16 when she played in the 2011 Cup.
Boston added Casey Short, a d/m from FSU and hard tackling midfielder Mariah Nogueria from Stanford with their first two picks. Two more midfielders followed, Jo Drogotta, from Florida, who can score and Penn State captain Maddy Evans.
Franch will be expected to step right in as the goalkeeper for WNY, which will be led by attackers Wambach and Lloyd. Second round draft pick Amy Barczuk, a midfielder with Colorado, plays defense for the U.S. U23’s, so she could revert if needed in Rochester. B.C. forward Vicki DiMartino will try to find a role, but with Mexican national teamer Veronica Perez joining Wambach up front, it may depend on formations. The Flash added defender Jaclyn Logue, a three year captain from Wake Forest, with their last pick.
Portland received most of the post allocation accolades, but their North Western rivals Seattle also emerged strong, and followed up with a good draft. Landing Penn State’s accomplished midfielder Christine Nairn with the seventh pick may turn out to be a steal. Nairn has earned two full national team caps, has had tremendous U.S. Youth success and tallied 17 goals and 12 assists in leading Penn State to the 2012 national final, where they lost to North Carolina.
Seattle also claimed midfielders Mallory Schaffer from William and Mary and Kristy Meier out of Wake Forest, before adding Michigan goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. Schaffer notched 41 career goals, so between Nairn and Schaffer, the Reign will have a chance to weather Megan Rapinoe’s absence while she plays in France. Hope Solo and Amy Rodriguez are two more allocations who will make Seattle difficult to deal with.
Everyone seemed to want to play for Portland, and when the allocations were announced it seemed as if almost everyone did. The Thorns scooped up superstar forwards Alex Morgan and Canada’s Christine Sinclair, as well as U.S. national teamers Rachel Buehler to lead the defense, and Tobin Heath to pull the strings. Portland were instant favorites to win the first NWSL Championship.
So how did they do in the draft? First round pick Kathryn Williamson is an accomplished defender from Florida, although a knee injury limited Williamson to just eight games this season. Williamson may have caught Portland’s eye while winning the W League last summer, where she also picked up the MVP award for her work in the Final Four.
UCF forward Nicolette Radovic has a knack for game winning goals, she had five in 2012, so she could prove a good late game sub. The Thorns took a gamble with the 24th pick, selecting North Carolina midfielder Amber Brooks. Brooks won a national championship this year, but she will be playing with FC Bayern Frauen until at least May. If she signs Portland will have made a shrewd move. Portland also had the final pick of the draft, using it to select Pepperdine goalkeeper Roxanne Parker, who represented South Africa in the 2012 Olympics.
Teams have until the end of the month to sign four free agents, after which the unsigned players will be put into a free agent draft. Oh, and if you think you can fill one of those slots, at least one team, the Boston Breakers is holding open tryouts. March 4th will be the date, go to their website for details.