Requiem for the W-League

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

The New Jersey Wildcats were the W-League team to beat in the mid-2000s. This is the 2005 championship team. Recognize some familiar faces?

Where would we be without the W-League? Morgan Brian, Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy Rodriguez. Those are the only players on the world champion US National Team who never played in the W-League. Everyone else – from Carli Lloyd to Becky Sauerbrunn to Abby Wambach – honed their craft at that level before moving on up. (26 additional players for Canada and Mexico’s WWC teams also had W-League experience.)

The W-League was founded in 1995 with 19 teams from the Boston Tornado to the San Diego Lady Top Guns, with two teams folding during the course of the season. Despite several west coast teams leaving after the 1997 season to form the WPSL, the league grew to the point where by 1998 it had 34 teams in two levels. The two-table setup continued through 2001, when the league had 38 teams.

The league took a hit in 2001, when the WUSA formed and gave the best women players the opportunity to play professionally. Of the 120 players in the initial draft, at least 37 had played previously in the W-League. As for the Founders – the 24 players who formed the core of the league, based on the team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup – at least a third had played in the W-League, including Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow, Tracy Ducar, Sara Whalen, Christie Rampone, Danielle Fotopoulos, Tisha Venturini, and Siri Mullinix.
Continue reading

NWSL – Chris’ Quick Mock Orlando Pride Expansion Draft

Whipped this up in about fifteen minutes, but here you go…

1 – WSH – Ashlyn Harris – GK

Why exactly the Spirit are letting Harris walk without compensation is an absolute puzzler, but all signs point towards the Pride picking the USWNT’s #2 up to fill the void at starting goalkeeper. They’ll, of course, need good cover since Harris is likely to be with the U.S. at next year’s Olympics. Harris has played behind some shambolic defenses in her time with the Spirit, which should provide good practice considering the Pride aren’t likely to possess an airtight defense in their first year of existence.

2 – SEA – Meghan Klingenberg – D

The Pride are expected to ship this pick right to Portland. It should at least allow Seattle to keep the core of their team intact as they can’t lose another player in this draft. Klingenberg would probably shift to right-back if Steph Catley stays in Portland and move to left-back if the Australian departs. She should, at the very least, be a major upgrade to the Thorns’ defense.

3 – CHI – Taryn Hemmings – D

(Chicago protects GK Michelle Dalton.)

It’s tempting for the Pride to pick up Dalton as Harris’ understudy, but Hemmings was one of Chicago’s unsung heroes during their excellent 2015 campaign. Capable of playing in the center of defense or out wide, Hemmings should also provide some much needed veteran leadership to a squad that figures to have a good deal of youth on it in 2016.

4 – POR – Lianne Sanderson – F/MF

(Portland protects MF Meleana Shim.)

This one seems to be churning through the rumor mill as of late. If Sanderson is willing to stay in the U.S. this seems like an absolute no-brainer. Sanderson is in the prime of her career and could provide an invaluable spark to the attack when the likes of Alex Morgan are gone for the Olympics. Capable in an attacking midfield or forward role, Sanderson’s another battle tested player at this level who will be counted upon to be a big factor right away if she comes to the Pride.

5 – FCKC – Frances Silva – F

(FC Kansas City protects the rights to MF Jenna Richmond.)

Silva has looked like a player waiting for a chance to bust out as a full-time starter. She hasn’t had such a chance in an understandably crowded frontline for FCKC but has two rings and has had some great moments for the two-time champs. She’d probably be an immediate factor on the wing for Orlando and could develop into a solid starter in the league for the Pride.
Continue reading

NCAA: Maryland falls to Wisconsin, 1-0, on Senior Night

Back in the spring and summer of 2012, the Chesapeake Charge faced the likes of the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, and Western New York Flash with a roster that included five players who had yet to attend their high school senior prom at the start of the season. Three of those players – Riley Barger, Alexis Prior-Brown, and Ashley Spivey – had signed with Maryland.

It’s now coming up on four years later. Spivey transferred to Central Florida, and Prior-Brown, plagued by injuries, has used up only one year of her NCAA eligibility despite being in her fourth year of schooling. Barger, though, is one of a bumper crop of seniors who have defined an era at Maryland. She and seven others were honored this evening. The most notable names are Canadian Rachelle Beanlands , who has set Maryland records for games started and played by a goalkeeper, and defender Shannon Collins, who has started every game for Maryland (78 so far) since she joined the program. The rest: defenders Amanda Gerlitz and Kayla Shea, and midfielders Erika Joab, Maisie McCune, and Sarah Molina.

Unfortunately, it was a typical night for Maryland: the defense held out against a strong attack, but the offense was nowhere to be found. Wisconsin earned a corner kick in the 81st minute. Kinley McNicoll sent it into the goalmouth, where McKenna Meuer headed it down to Micaela Powers, who put it away. The single goal was all the Badgers needed to clinch a share of the Big Ten championship.
Continue reading

NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #81-90

81. Jackie Simpson – D (CB) – South Florida

Emergence at center-back has been a big part of USF’s rise over the past few years. A big presence on the backline at 5’8” who has proven to be useful in front of goal as well with a few goals in each of the past few seasons. Isn’t afraid to shoot either, which could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Plays for a hard nosed coach with a combative style of defense, so transition to physical nature of the pro game isn’t in question, but you wonder if she’ll have the nuance to possess if needed. Should at least get a camp look by Orlando.

82. Janae Cousineau – MF (DMC) – Texas A&M

Towering Californian has seen her draft stock tumble after a rather disappointing senior season thus far. Looked to be taking a big step forward last season after starring on A&M’s double winning side and chipping in with six goals but has flitted in and out of the starting lineup in 2015 as a senior. Defensive midfielder is a hard spot to fill in the pros, and she’s got prototypical size but has to prove she can shut down professional level playmakers. Should at the very least get a look in a pro camp.
Continue reading

NWSL – 2016 NWSL Draft Big Board #91-100

Finally! Here is the first of ten installments of the preseason/mid-season big board for the 2016 NWSL Draft. I’ve made some adjustments from my preseason board based on the season to date and will make a full revision at season’s end.

91. Amanda Hill – MF (DMC) – West Virginia

A starter here from day one and likely to either approach or break the all-time starts record for the Mountaineers by season’s end. WVU captain has seldom gotten her due in terms of awards due to unflashy nature of her game but has been a crucial part in her club’s gameplan as an unfussy defensive midfielder who has helped the Mountaineers as a vital shield in front of a stout backline. Good for the odd goal or assist but is not particularly offensive in nature. Could be a late round steal or promising camp invitee.

92. Haley Washburn – MF – Harvard

Some may wonder if the Californian has already plateaued as a player. Washburn came into Harvard with many a plaudit from her youth days thanks to her status as a U17 international with the U.S. and has perhaps struggled to meet those lofty expectations. Was a budding star after a big 2013 but came back to earth a bit last year. A calming presence on the field, Washburn will likely not be a big factor on the stat sheet. Someone the Breakers may want a look at on the reserve team for a season or two if she doesn’t catch on elsewhere.
Continue reading

NCAA: Maryland is Rutgers’ 8th Straight Shutout Victim

What happens when a resistible force meets an immovable object? Well, when the force is the Maryland Terrapins’ suspect attack, and the immovable object is the impregnable (so far) Rutgers Scarlet Knights defense, the result is a predictable 1-0 win for the visitors.

Rutgers is making headlines with their defense, which has yet to give up a goal in 8 matches this season (10 if you count preseason). But the offense wasted no time doing their part. Just over a minute in, midfielder Madison Tiernan took the ball from Maryland on the Terps’ side of midfield, brought it forward, then sent it to forward Colby Ciarrocca at the top right corner of the box. The defense converged on Ciarrocca, and she tipped the ball to her left, in front of an oncoming Samantha Valliant, who fired it in in stride past goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands.
Continue reading

Spirit fall to physical Seattle, 2-1

In a sane world, the main topic of this writeup would be the two sensational goals scored by Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe to give Seattle the win.

Instead, it all started when the Spirit announcer messed up and announced Hope Solo’s as #2 instead of #1, then quickly corrected himself. Spirit season ticket holders have gotten used to these little goofs, whether it’s introducing Robyn Gayle as Crystal Gayle, getting Ali Krieger’s number wrong, saying Mike Jorden is the head coach, or failing to announce Crystal Dunn at all.

Then early in the game, Seattle owner Bill Predmore was at the Reign bench and refused to leave when asked despite it being explicitly against the NWSL rules for him to be there. Reportedly, he threw away the phone of the poor Spirit volunteer who asked him to leave. (I’d really like to hear about some repercussions for Predmore here, particularly since some of the activity on the field by his players was at about the same level of decorum.)

Meanwhile, on the field 15 minutes in Megan Rapinoe got around right flank defender Whitney Church to send a cross in. Katherine Reynolds was able to head the ball clear at the goalmouth, but it fell right to a wide open Fishlock, who had plenty of time to collect the ball and fire it toward goal from about 25 out. It deflected slightly off a Spirit defender and went into the upper right corner past a leaping Ashlyn Harris.

Ten minutes later Reign forward Merritt Mathias won a fight for the ball in the corner of the box and kicked it out to Megan Rapinoe, who, just as wide open as Fishlock, fired it into the upper left-hand corner past a leaping Harris.
Continue reading

NCAA: Maryland loses narrowly to West Virginia, 1-0

The Maryland Terrapins endured a withering barrage of shots from the nationally ranked (#11-#15) West Virginia Mountaineers but held the visitors to a single goal in – surprisingly – the first-ever meeting of the two teams. The visitors outshot the home team 21 to 5 overall and 7 to 2 with shots on target. They also had 6 corner kicks while giving up none.

The decisive goal came in the 25th minute. Defender Carly Black sent a nice ball forward to Amandine Pierre-Louis, who found space to fire a rocket of a shot in from the edge of the penalty area on the right. Goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands was able to make the save but not hold onto the ball. She, defender Amanda Gerlitz, and forward Kailey Utley all went for the rebound, but Utley got there first and was able to tap it in.
Continue reading