Will any new players be arriving from Europe?
There’s a case to be made that players whose national teams will be competing in the World Cup will stay on home shores next season. That, however, only figures for four countries (England, Sweden, Norway and France. Germany doesn’t count). The fifth will be decided in due course but it will likely either be Italy or Switzerland. That leaves the bulk of the European continent. In other words, there are plenty of players who won’t be competing in next summer’s World Cup and thus will presumably be eligible to play in WPS. This includes nations like the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Spain and Denmark (assuming they don’t beat Switzerland tomorrow). Players from the listed countries have done reasonably well in WPS thus far, even if they are well underrated like Laura Kalmari or Johanna Rasmussen. The Western New York franchise should not be discouraged from looking towards Europe for players, despite the fact that players from more “prominent” national teams will likely be staying home.
Moreover, the climate of Western New York could be favorable to European players. American coaches seem to think that European players have a hard time acclimating to the temperatures stateside. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the WNY franchise will be the northern-most in WPS so that shouldn’t be an issue.
Will Abby Wambach return to her hometown?
This is the million dollar question and will tie in to the query below. If Western New York wants to make a real splash, it will do everything in its power to woo the native upstate New Yorker, who also happens to be the best striker in the women’s game. The Washington Freedom seem to be in a state of transition with the departure of both Sonia Bompastor and Jim Gabarra. The union between the Freedom front office and Gabarra didn’t seem to end well, at least according to this piece in The Washington Post. Wambach will have a choice to make: will she desert the only professional team she has ever suited up and in doing so, avoid the cloud of uncertainty that hovers over the club or will she elect to stay and offer a steady hand in the rebuilding process?
Who will be the team’s first ever draft pick?
If Wambach (and presumably Sarah Huffman) decide to make way for Western New York, the Freedom should receive nothing less than the #1 overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft, plus a few more in the lower rounds. Picks in the Expansion Draft could also be part of the package, if possible. Chris Henderson assures us that Cal forward Alex Morgan will be the proverbial chosen one “unless hell freezes over or an ACL snaps”.
Western New York will have two options, both of which have to do with building from the top down. They can choose to hold on to the #1 pick, draft Morgan and hopes she evades the curse that has struck former #1 picks Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath. Alex Morgan’s inclusion in the USWNT senior side this year speaks to her potential. She has to prove it first (the lessons of over-valuing a young A-Rod are still fresh) but if everything goes according to plan, she could be something special – due to both her goal-scoring prowess and well, you know. The breakout star of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is one of those rare college draftees who team owners and GM’s dream of building a franchise around.
As has been mentioned, the franchise could instead decide to go for Wambach whose star quality would do an expansion team wonders.
If Western New York is able to nab Wambach, however, the Freedom probably wouldn’t mind receiving Morgan as a consolation prize. This scenario is far afield and could possibly never materialize but it’s one worth thinking about. Western New York will have to present one hell of a deal to a Washington Freedom side whose identity is currently in the balance.