Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dan Borislow (Sort-Of) Made Me Rewrite This Five Times – On Idealism, Reality and the Washington Freedom

Like everyone else, when new Washington Freedom majority investor Dan Borislow revealed some of his intentions for the team, I was a bit worried. I may have even sent an expletive laden email to All White Kit’s own Jenna Pel. But then a funny thing happened to me. I came to terms with Dan Borislow, even started sort-of-defending him and the trip to Crazy Town he was taking with the Freedom and all of WPS in tow. And so I set out to write something about how we needed to accept what Borislow was doing, to put our idealism aside and face the reality that WPS is at its core, a business.

I was going to do that, and then Dan Borislow just kept talking – each new quote more ridiculous than the last.

I had planned to write about how the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer draft served as something of an unveiling for the team once known as the Washington Freedom. That it wasn’t until just before the draft that the name change from Washington Freedom to magicTalk SC, first reported by The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf, was officially confirmed by the league – and it that was entering the draft room that confirmed rumors of former Sky Blue FC assistant Mike Lyons and former Freedom and US National Team goalkeeper Briana Scurry as the team’s General Manager.

Much has been made Dan Borislow’s plans for the team. As Beau Dure reported, no one is left in the team’s front office, part of a massive restructuring that also includes renaming the team and playing a split home schedule in Florida and the Washington DC area. That part was gonna be just to catch you up.

Then I was going to go on to mention that WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas was on hand in Baltimore for the draft and that as far as Borislow’s intentions for the team’s move and the fact that as of now, they have no concrete place to play in either market, Eileraas had this to say, “I think sports team owners are a colorful bunch and they come in with their own view of how to run a team, and there is a learning curve and ultimately they shape the team in the way that they shape it and that’s really up to them to figure that out.” Eileraas added, “The reality is that it’s gonna be in this state of two territories for a very short time. I think he’s gonna make up his mind of whether he wants to move the team permanently to Florida and then it’ll have a home in Florida and it’ll really effectively be a new team.”

I figured I’d bring up that, yes, Borislow may be a bit clueless, and that his statement that the move to Florida is in part because of “some of the Hispanic players in the league” seems a bit nonsensical considering the actual amount of Latina players in WPS (you could count them on one hand, and have fingers left over). Two of the “Hispanic players” in the league are presumably Amy Rodriguez, who’s under contract with the Independence and Stephanie Cox, who recently re-signed with the Boston Breakers. Then there’s Monica Ocampo, who’s currently a free agent but was completely unimpressive in 2010 with the Atlanta Beat. That there are also limits on internationals and unless Erin McLeod does some sort of disappearing act, that leaves the team with five international slots for the upcoming season.
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And then there was this…

Overlooked in yesterday’s news of  the weirdness surrounding Santos’ loan deal, another possible departure from WPS’ front office, and the suggestion of a Marta/Wambach swap was this quote from magicTalk SC owner Dan Borislow. The following gem was buried in a seemingly inocuous story about the struggles of women’s pro sports from a DC area publication.

 

“You look at when women’s soccer was really doing well and had high visibility here, you have to look at the [World Cup] and the Olympics,” he says. “Like with figure skating, and gymnastics, it’s always the international competitions that get people interested. It’s not [U.S] clubs playing [U.S.] clubs. We can’t have a team from Boston playing a team from Philadelphia. That won’t work. But if I have a team in the U.S. play a team in China, or a team in Russia, that’s what the spectators in the U.S. would rather have.”

 

So wait, he wants to see WPS club teams pitted against international club teams? Or even National Teams? Perhaps he was taken out of context or maybe he was referring to the postseason international tournament he had alluded to in the interview with Our Game.

Regardless, perhaps he’d be interested in knowing that on average, the Philadelphia Independence attracted more people to their games in WPS last season (2,965) than the USWNT did for that cross-town friendly in October (2,505). The USWNT’s opponent that night? China. The Independence’s opponent in the team’s second highest gate all season (4,011) next to its inaugural game (6,028)? The Boston Breakers.

 

Meanwhile, Lauren Barker and I had a phone chat last night to discuss the recent whacky WPS goings-on. We might end up recording our conversations and releasing them in podcast form one day. Here’s a small sampling of what to expect:

On the Western New York Flash’s Shocking New Signing

Well, this is a mild surprise. The Western New York Flash just dispatched a press release stating the team has acquired Marta. You know the one. The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year. WPS’ MVP and leading goal scorer in 2009 and 2010. The apple of Dan Borislow’s eye. Yeah, her. 

The Flash has gotten really good at releasing really awesome bits of news in well, a flash. But this is something else. The acquisition of Marta – particularly given the mortality rate of the WPS teams she’s previously suited up for – shows just how seriously the team is approaching the 2011 season. Owner Joe Sahlen and co. clearly believe that there is still a worthwhile reason to pour money into this league. That’s particularly noteworthy, given how many investors took their money and ran for the hills in recent months. It’s also worth pointing out that such confidence is being exhibited by an expansion team, one that has yet to endure the trials and tribulations of a league that had been bludgeoned to within mere inches of its life just three months ago. 

This also ensures that the world’s best player will remain stateside this year. You can’t have the best league in the world without having the best player in the world ply her trade in it. If there’s a year that WPS can get any mileage off that “best league in the world” title, it’s this year: a World Cup year. If Marta lights up the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup like she did in 2007, having her in this country – even if it’s in Rochester, New York of all places – could prove to be a real boon for WPS. 

Moreover, the signing means that a WPS team was willing to assume the third year of Marta’s contract. In 2009, Marta signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Sol. After the team folded, she was still on the hook for the remaining two years of that contract which, sources say, the league then shouldered.

The longer Marta remained without a home in WPS, the more the league was made to look quite silly for consummating such a costly long-term arrangement. Perhaps a foreign team (and she and her agent have been talking about returning to the Damallsvenskan a lot lately) would not have been so loathe to sign her if the team had not been forced to buy out her contract with WPS.

The exact amount of that contract varies upon the person you talk to. PUMA is reportedly responsible for a supplemental part of Marta’s wages. The percentage amount isn’t clear, but it must be substantial to broach the $500,000 number The Equalizer is reporting.

From what All White Kit understands, the league/team is accountable for an amount that is not totally outrageous, and is probably befitting of the best player in the world. However, it’s a rate that is probably definitely too exorbitant for a few foreign clubs and the bulk of WPS teams to bear. Excluding the Flash apparently.

Two weeks ago, a source in Sweden suggested that Damallsvenskan clubs weren’t interested in assuming Marta’s third year, instead opting to sit back and wait until she became a legitimate free agent in 2012. The source indicated that they foresaw the commencement of a bidding war for 2012 and beyond, starting at a substantially lower rate than her present deal.

That might be a tangential point now, but it is perhaps illustrious of the lengths Western New York were willing to go to land the best player in the world.

 

The celerity of the announcement and the discretion that surrounded it leads one to believe this was something that materialized quite quickly. There was absolutely no indication the team was poised to make such a signing, neither from the outside, nor the inside.

A lot of bad things have surfaced without warning over the course of WPS’ brief history. Getting blindsided by good news is a rarity for followers of this league, and may it continue.

One also has to wonder what Dan Borislow is thinking right about now. Just this past Saturday he was apparently still set on bringing Marta to the Maryland SoccerPlex or to South Florida or wherever. So much for that legendary team. So much for trying to attract Brazilians in the South Florida market all in the name of Marta. He’ll just have to suffice with the likes of Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Lindsay Tarpley, Ella Masar, Becky Sauerbrunn, maybe Shannon Boxx, and the best selection of collegiate players culled by any team in the 2011 WPS Draft. (P.S. if he is still hell-bent on signing a potential crossover Latina player, why not try seeing what Maribel Dominguez is up to?)

In terms of what Marta will bring to the team, well, how about a WPS Championship appearance for starters. The Los Angeles Sol was thwarted by upstarts Sky Blue FC in 2009 but FC Gold Pride’s demolition job of the Philadelphia Independence in September was pure class. The team already had arguably the best squad in the league prior to tonight’s announcement with seven FC Gold Pride refugees. The addition of Marta almost makes it unfair. That forward line is going to consist of Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan, and Marta. My God.

And to think that just 18 months ago, the Buffalo Flash was coming off a decent first season in the second-division W-League. The team played its games at Orchard Park High School in Orchard Park, New York, 15 miles south-east of Buffalo.

That team just became one of the best in the world.

An Interview with WNY Flash Team President Alex Sahlen

The Western New York Flash have already made an impact in WPS and the team has yet to kick a ball. As it turns out, the team’s investment in the league made the sudden foldings of FC Gold Pride and the Chicago Red Stars less fatal and helped ensure a third WPS season. Beyond that, the Flash have assembled a squad that will almost certainly contend for top honors in 2011. Talk about a great first impression. 

Team President Alex Sahlen chatted with AWK on Friday morning about said exemplary squad, the team’s plans to court Canadian fans, the transition from the W-League to WPS, how recent league unrest has affected the team’s offseason planning, and why Rochester is more attractive of a destination than perhaps otherwise thought. 

Acquiring goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was an early sign of the team's ambition and acumen.

 

 AWK: During the 2011 WPS Draft, [WNY Flash Technical Director] Emma Hayes mentioned that the team has recently signed a few internationals to round the squad. What are the status of those internationals and are they internationals that have been in the league before? 

AS: One of them has. We just finished up the contracts so we should probably be releasing that early [this] week. 

  

AWK: Any hints as to what continent they might be coming from? 

AS: If anyone was a fan of the Buffalo Flash you’ve seen them before so that’s a hint. 

  

AWK: Alex Morgan ended up going first overall which wasn’t a surprise. How long ago did the team arrive on that decision? 

AS: Obviously from talking to people over the last six months about certain college players and catching games. I think the first time was when she scored the goal against China. It was an impressive goal and right away we said that that’s someone that we want. She’s an explosive talent, she knows where the net is, she’s a really good athlete. [WNY Flash head coach] Aaran [Lines] met with her and she’s a great girl on top of it so that kind of sealed the deal. 

  

AWK: From the standpoint of a supporter of women’s soccer, what do you think Alex Morgan can do for the sport? 

AS: I think she’s a great role model. She did really well in school, she’s a good-looking girl, she’s friendly, she’s really articulate, she’s down to earth. I think that a lot of younger girls can relate to her and look up to her. 

  

AWK: The Flash has put together a really outstanding squad from top to bottom so far. Is there one person behind player acquisitions or is it more of a collaborative effort between yourself, Aaran and Emma? 

AS: Aaran knows what he wants pretty much. Emma has been helping him get that basically. It’s been the two of them working together closely with contracts and offers and they’ve done a great job together making everything happen. 

I watch every Sunday and now that the league has had games online I’ve been watching the games online. I mean in the beginning when we were driving down to each game trying to see if we wanted to join the league they’d be like “who’s this player?” and I’d just spit it out. I think Aaran really started looking at the players more. We would watch it just for the comparison because we had a good W-League team but August, September is when we really started nailing down who’s who and who could play where and the top players. 

  

AWK: Are there any marketing plans to try and entice Canadian fans to make the trip to see the team? 

AS: Yeah, definitely. Obviously we have a few Canadian players signed. We have a lot of teams come down from Canada for tournaments and use our facility and we have a few connections there. I had a coach email me and say “you should have a Canada Day, we’d love that, our whole team would come down” so I think that’s definitely something we’re planning on doing. I don’t know how often they’re going to want to come. It’s probably a two and a half hour drive from Toronto to Rochester but if we have one or two games to highlight our Canadian players I’m definitely sure they would come down. 

  

AWK: It seems like the Flash has the highest concentration of Canadian players in WPS. Was this a conscious decision? 

AS: Not really, we just went with what they did on the field and spoke to them, liked their character. I think some of them like Candace Chapman, she’s from Toronto, maybe she wanted to be closer to home. That could be a reason. 

  

AWK: Initial plans saw the team split their home games between Buffalo and Rochester. Will the home games only be in Rochester now? 

AS: Yeah. 

  

AWK: Is that just because the logistics couldn’t be worked out in Buffalo? 

AS: There’s just not a suitable venue in Buffalo and [soccer fans] in Rochester call themselves ‘Soccer Town USA’. Everyone there is really excited about it. Jeff DiVeronica from the Democrat and Chronicle is great for us. We’re on the front page, we’re in the paper all the time. We get a lot of media there and they’re all really excited. And it’s an amazing stadium so we’re looking forward to playing in it. 

  

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Notables for January 24th, 2011

  • Thanks to Kevin McCauley, technical issues with audio interviews from the 2011 WPS Draft have finally been sorted. Each interview still sounds like they were done in a tin can but that’s mostly my fault, not his. You can download each interview by right clicking and pressing ‘save target as’.

 

  • Atlanta Beat head coach James Galanis discusses the status of Hope Solo, that trade, and the team’s game plan this offseason. (Note: Heather Mitts was the big signing he had alluded to in the interview)

 

  • Philadelphia Independence head coach Paul Riley talks about the boat load of new Indy players and why they must be quick studies.

 

  • Finally, Western New York Flash Technical Director Emma Hayes chats about new international players, assembling the squad, and the Chicago Red Stars’ hiatus.  

 

  • The USWNT rebounded from its 2-1 loss to Sweden on Friday by coming back to defeat Canada with the same score line early yesterday morning (some video highlights here). Lindsay Tarpley and Lauren Cheney exchanged assists and goals and Alex Morgan appeared to be an active threat, which can only mean one thing:  Carli Lloyd was named Woman of the Match.

 

  • Meghan Klingenberg earned her first international cap in the match. With Sydney Leroux’s appearance against Sweden in mind, Pia Sundhage has given first senior caps to a total of 15 players during her time as head coach. Six of those players appeared in the China game(Buehler, Taylor, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Klingenberg, and Morgan) and two were on the bench (Heath and Leroux). Meanwhile, Ashlyn Harris is wondering what she’s doing wrong.

 

  • China also recovered from its loss against Canada in the first game to come from behind to defeat Sweden 2-1. According to this report, China’s performance was a big improvement from the team’s disappointing outings in the Asian Games in months previous. The article also states coach Li Xiaopeng is more interested in developing players than winning matches at this point, particularly after missing out on qualifying for the Women’s World Cup for the first time in the team’s history.

 

  • These two results have made everything a little whacky. All four teams are tied on three points apiece and every team seems to have the exact same goal difference (crazy!), although both Canada and China have scored four goals to the USWNT and Sweden’s three. The USWNT will win the tournament if the team defeats China and Sweden and Canada draw. The WNT Blog outlines the many scenarios that could take place and some of them are straight up ridiculous. The USWNT play hosts China at 5:35 AM ET tomorrow.

 

  • Lost in the shuffle of getting back into the groove of things, last Monday FIFA announced the two official bidding nations for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada is no surprise. Zimbabwe is. Although Zimbabwe has not yet secured a government guarantee for their bid, the BBC points out that President Robert Mugabe is the senior patron of women’s soccer in the country (!!!).  Bid books are due by February 11 and FIFA’s ExCo will vote at a March 2-3 meeting.

 

 

  • Our Game is also reporting the field for the 2011 Cyprus Cup is expanding to 12 teams. Five teams that will be appearing in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup will take part in the tournament in March. Hope Powell discusses England’s schedule post-Cyprus Cup on BBC Sport.

 

  • Yael Averbuch checks in from China with her second New York Times Goal blog post of the year. No wonder she hasn’t been tweeting lately.

 

  • Rumor of the day: Overlooked Texas A&M and U-23 goalkeeper Kristin Arnold has found a home with Sky Blue FC.

 

 

  • Thought this story isn’t quite in our wheelhouse, it does concern women and soccer. Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray have come under fire for making blatantly sexist comments about female linesman Sian Massey ahead of the Wolves/Liverpool game on Saturday. Sky has taken disciplinary action by dropping the duo from covering tonight’s Bolton/Chelsea match. Imagine what would have happened if she had gotten the offside call wrong.

 

  • A one-match suspension seems to be incredibly lenient punishment for such unbridled sexism. On January 5, ESPN college football analyst Ron Franklin was fired for calling a female colleague “sweet baby” and then a curse word after she protested. Admittedly, Keys and Gray probably mean a lot more to Sky than Franklin did to ESPN but that only makes their off-the-mic conversation more reprehensible. As someone of the female persuasion, I’m not sure what I’m more bothered by: the sexism or the sheer idiocy of their comments. But I’ll just leave it at that. I have curtains to upholster and the offside rule to study.

 

 

  • Notre Dame’s win over Stanford in the 2010 NCAA College Cup Overall factored in to the team’s respective standings in the Capital One Cup. There are 59 Division I schools who have earned points in either the men’s or women’s standings this fall.  Following the Spring season, two schools (one men’s, one women’s) will be crowned a Capital One Cup winner and be awarded a trophy and $200,000 scholarship for post-graduate education in July at the ESPYs. You can view the current standings here.

 

  • Player development has become a hot button topic in USWNT corners recently. The fresh faces used in the Four Nations tournament and the creation of the positions of Technical Director and Developmental Director over the USWNT youth teams shows progress. Regardless, there will inevitably be talented players who slip through the cracks in a country as expansive as the U.S. All White Kit is eager to help promote young players who have excelled at the youth levels and are right on the cusp of breaking into the National Team. We are happy to shine a spotlight on their success and achievements, with an eye towards the future and to ensure that the accomplishments of outstanding youth players do not go overlooked.

 

  • 17 year-old Lauren Bohaboy is one such example. Last weekend Lauren was honored at the NSCAA Convention as the California High School Player of the Year. She was also selected to the High School All-America for the second consecutive year and to the Youth All-America. Lauren plays for the So Cal Blues – the #1 ranked youth team in the country – and over the past 3 1/2 years has scored 131 goals and recorded 150 assists, representing 60% of the goals her team has scored. Lauren also plays soccer for her high school Santa Margarita and has been just as prolific. She led the team to the Trinity League Championship this season and finished the year with 28 goals, more than 60% of her team’s total goals. She also holds a 3.8 GPA and is a California Scholarship Federation and Honor Roll member.

  • Lauren will be attending to Notre Dame next fall and will hope to lead the Fighting Irish to a second straight National Championship. Best of luck Lauren and may this just be the beginning of a long and decorated career.

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If you would like to see an outstanding American youth player aged 16-18 featured here, feel free to contact me at jennaawk[at]gmail[dot]com.

A Collection of USWNT Four Nations Tournament Stats

The USWNT is set to compete in its seventh edition of the Four Nations Tournament in a few hours. The team will face Sweden, Canada, and China at ungodly hours (not that the games are viewable anyway). What follows is a litany of statistics to accompany U.S. Soccer’s history of the event.

Some folks have wondered whether U.S. Soccer kept a gigantic database of USWNT stats and historical data anywhere. I was quite pleased to find out that they do. A friend was generous enough to steal donate a duplicate copy of the 2010 U.S. Soccer Media Guide. It’s fast become the one item I would try to salvage in a house fire. So thanks, U.S. Soccer Media Guide. Without you this post – and probably dozens more like it to come - would not exist. 

 

  • Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tina DiMartino, and Tobin Heath all earned their respective first senior caps in the 2008 edition of the Four Nations. That was also the last time the USWNT competed in the tournament.

 

  • It was also a first for Pia Sundhage, as she made her USWNT head coaching debut in that tournament. The team won all three games and conceded just one goal.

 

  • Neither of selected goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart nor Ashlyn Harris has ever appeared in a Four Nations game.

 

  • 10 of the 23 players selected in this year’s squad are set to make their Four Nations debuts. The list includes USWNT staples including the aforementioned Nicole Barnhart, Rachel Buehler, Lori Lindsey, and Megan Rapinoe.

 

  • Lindsay Tarpley is far and away the leading USWNT goal-scorer in the Four Nations. Tarpley has seven goals in 11 games, four more than Tiffeny Milbrett who is second all-time with a total of three goals.

 

  • Four players have a total of two goals in the tournament. They are Amy Rodriguez, Heather O’Reilly, Shannon Boxx, and Tisha Venturini. (The U.S. Soccer piece about the history of the tournament claims that Cheney scored a brace in the 4-1 win against Finland. However, both the official match report and the U.S. Soccer Media Guide Book attribute the brace to Tarpley instead.)

 

  • Abby Wambach has appeared eight times in the tournament but has scored just one goal. A heel injury will prevent her from adding to that total this time around.

 

  • Similarly, Mia Hamm’s only Four Nations appearances came in the inaugural 1998 edition and she also has one goal to her name.

 

  • Michelle Akers never appeared in the tournament.

 

  • In 2010, Pia Sundhage doled out first international caps to a total of six players, just two less than the eight total players who earned their first respective caps in the two preceding years of the Sundhage era. In other words, six players were capped for the first time in 2010. Eight players were given first caps between 2008 and 2009. (The six players last year were Schnur, Morgan, Taylor, O’Hara, Huffman, and Loyden.)

 

  • With that in mind, three players have the opportunity to earn their first USWNT caps in this tournament. They are Ashlyn Harris, Sydney Leroux, and Meghan Klingenberg.

 

  • Shannon Boxx and Nicole Barnhart are the only two players still out of contract (as far as we know, at least). Alex Morgan and Meghan Klingenberg are the only recent draftees and Sydney Leroux is the only collegian.

 

  • Briana Scurry is the most capped USWNT goalkeeper in the tournament with nine total appearances. Both Hope Solo and LaKeysia Beene have four appearances apiece while Siri Mullinix has one.

 

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Chris’ 2011 WPS Draft Grades

Atlanta Beat

7. Kylie Wright, M, UCLA
14. Meghan Lenczyk, F, Virginia

Grade: CHUPACABRAChupacabra. I have no clue any more about the Beat. I’m running out of rationalizations as to the Beat’s “plan” going forward for 2011 and beyond, mainly because the actions in rebuilding the team are so rarely matching the rhetoric being spewed by the front office these days. We’ve been told the Beat are going with a youth movement. Yet they go and sign Cat Whitehill (29), Keeley Dowling (28), and trade for Heather Mitts (32), to join Tina Ellertson (28) meaning the team will likely have the oldest defense in the league by some margin. We’ve been told the Beat are going to be cost conscious as evidenced by their gutting of last year’s roster, but then see the acquisitions of the aforementioned Whitehill, Miits, and Carli Lloyd, none of whom likely came at a discount.

And then came draft day. Where after the front office had touted Christen Press in the media all the way up to the big afternoon, the team blanched at the opportunity to actually draft Press and traded the pick away along with Johanna Rasmussen for the ever popular 2012 Draft Pick in Beat trades. Beat fans were left scratching their heads once again as the present was mortgaged for a lionized version of the future that may never actually come to fruition. Besides the optics to a success starved fanbase, the actual trade value looks mindbogglingly tilted towards the Artist Formerly Known As The Washington Freedom. Odds are that next year’s pick from the Freedom won’t be as high as the one just traded away, and that’s even before discussing the complete giveaway of Rasmussen, one of the only Beat players to emerge with her reputation intact after last year’s debacle. The least the Beat could have done was receive a couple of the Freedom’s later 2010 picks in return.

The picks themselves weren’t too objectionable. Wright is a pick that won’t set the blood racing but could provide a much needed balance to a team that will likely have to get used to Lloyd’s aversion in playing defense in the center of midfield. The Lenczyk pick is slightly more risky given the fact that the Virginia product was hardly the most consistent performer at her alma matter. The claims that Lenczyk will provide a nice target forward seem a little misplaced as well seeing as how target forwards depend on other attacking players to get into the mix to get on the end of their knockdowns and flicks. The Beat look woefully short of those ancillary attackers at the moment. Asking a first-year forward to spearhead an attack is a very tough ask. Amy Rodriguez couldn’t do it. Neither could Lauren Cheney. Lenczyk isn’t anywhere near that class of player.

Bottom line is that the Beat came into the draft needing to haggle their way into more draft picks to help flesh out the roster. They ended up with fewer picks and a hatful of questions before training camp opens up.

Boston Breakers

6. Keelin Winters, M, Portland
12. Whitney Palmer, F, Oklahoma
19. Katherine Sheeleigh, F, Harvard
24. Tanya Taylor, F, UC-Irvine

Grade: B-. You almost have to defer to Tony DiCicco’s judgment in these situations as he certainly showed a nice eye for talent last year picking up breakout star Jordan Angeli and solid contributor Taryn Hemmings in the later rounds last year. In any event, DiCicco was bound to take Keelin Winters come hell or high water even with the glaring need in defense once the World Cup rolls around. I had thought that the Breakers would somehow finagle a trade down to get both Winters and Elli Reed, but DiCicco was forced to reach a little bit for Winters with the sixth pick. I’m not sure Winters will ever be a superstar, but she’s a gamer with great IQ out on the pitch and will almost surely force her way on the field in some capacity this season.

The other picks are a little less solid upon initial glance. Palmer can run like the wind but is far from a finished product and is hardly the most clinical finisher in front of goal. I can see her having some issues adapting to the WPS game, requiring DiCicco to show a little patience in her development. Sheeleigh was a star at the Ivy League level but could of probably been had in the tryout process if the Breakers really wanted her. Taylor has to prove she wasn’t just a one-year wonder at Irvine. There’s a lot of upside in the final three picks but a lot of downside too. It would’ve been nice to have seen the needs at defense addressed.

Philadelphia Independence

2. Sinead Farrelly, M, Virginia
5. Lauren Fowlkes, D, Notre Dame
9. Jennifer Stoltenberg, F/D, Oregon
11. Caitlin Farrell, D, Wake Forest
15. Lauren Barnes, D, UCLA
18. Bianca D’Agostino, M, Wake Forest
23. Teresa Rynier, M, James Madison

Grade: B. Philly had the most picks in the draft, and it might have driven them a little bit scatterbrained in the end. Getting Farrelly and Fowlkes in the top five was half gameplan, half luck as the Irish defender fell into their laps thanks to the shuffling above. That’s half of the good for Philly, and really, the other half came from getting Barnes down at the fifteenth slot. Barnes had been a possibility at the fifth spot if Fowlkes had been taken, so Paul Riley was likely giddy to see the UCLA defender slip down to him late. Barnes figures to see time as a utility defender and will now likely have a fire under her after her freefall.

It was the four other picks that kept the Independence from receiving top marks. Stoltenberg is a major risk at #9. It may be a case of a great player being shackled by a bad team, but she didn’t do a whole lot of winning at Oregon and may lack the big match pedigree to excel at the highest level. Farrell was another bizarre pick. Philly clearly fancied her, but was there widespread interest in the former FC Twente and Wake Forest player? Her draft position would seem to indicate so, but I’m not really sure they couldn’t have had her in free agency. I’m not very bullish on either D’Agostino or Rynier’s prospects of making it onto a very crowded Independence roster. Both seem like limited upside prospects to me and could struggle.

(The Artist Formerly Known As The) Washington Freedom

3. Meghan Klingenberg, M/D, North Carolina
4. Christen Press, F, Stanford
10. Omolyn Davis, M/F, George Mason
17. Amanda DaCosta, M, Florida State
22. Katie Fraine, GK, Florida

Grade: A-. Jackpot! They may not have a settled home, name, or roster, but the Freedom came out of Baltimore with some mighty promising rookies. Before a pick was even made, the Freedom came out winners in getting Johanna Rasmussen in a trade with the Beat. Then getting Klingenberg and Press with back-to-back picks made the deal even sweeter. Klingenberg should become a fan favorite in fast order with her non-stop motor and tenacity, while Press could excel in a situation where she won’t be feeling the pressure to do it all offensively herself.

But the real masterstrokes of the draft may be the magic Brianna Scurry pulled off in the middle rounds in picking up Omolyn Davis and Amanda DaCosta. While the selection of Davis may have had some scratching their heads, canny followers of the college game and W-League know that Davis was a star on the Freedom Futures last season and was criminally overlooked at George Mason. With a great blend of size and pace coupled with great one-on-one ability, Davis was well worth the pick and international slot she’ll take up and could combine with Press to form a great “little and large” rookie combo up front. DaCosta might have been steaming after being snubbed by so many teams and dropping into the second half of the draft. The Florida State midfielder isn’t going to wow anyone with her physical attributes but is a pure battler and now will have a point to prove to the five other teams who overlooked her.

The only thing keeping the grade from going higher is the odd pick of Fraine with their last selection. The Gators keeper was highly overrated, and passing over Texas A&M’s Krisin Arnold was puzzling.

Sky Blue FC

16. Alyssa Mautz, M, Texas A&M
21. Lauren Alkek, D, Oklahoma

Grade: C. You can’t really fault Sky Blue with their picks as having their first pick in the sixteenth slot really handcuffed them as to what they could do. In the second half of the draft, you’re really trying to scoop up players that can fit your system. I’m not sure that either Mautz or Alkek will be contenders for the final roster though. Mautz was a nice player for A&M for four years but may have stagnated developmentally-wise and the Aggies’ system has hardly produced a litany of WPS contributors. Alkek was straight out of left field. She didn’t even make my initial draft of my Big Board, but the Sky Blue brass apparently thinks they’ve found an unheralded gem.

Western New York Flash

1. Alex Morgan, F, California
8. Elli Reed, D, Portland
13. Rose Augustin, M, Notre Dame
20. Ashleigh Bowers, GK, Niagara

Grade: B+. Can’t really quibble too much with a draft in which you pick up perhaps the best U.S. forward prospect in a decade. Morgan should be an immediate threat up front and will benefit greatly from a partnership with Christine Sinclair. Getting Reed late in the first was a big move as well as the Portland full-back has a lot of upside and should also be a contributor right off the bat and could be vital when the Flash’s stars are away on World Cup duty. Augustin blew up in her senior season and was a major reason the Irish were crowned national champs but may be in a for a bit of tinkering as to her desired position in the pros. She might function effectively in the hole behind Morgan and Sinclair, with her long-range shooting always a threat.

Bowers seems like a wasted pick, not because of any slights on the Niagara keeper’s talents, but because the Flash almost certainly would have landed her as an undrafted free agent.

All-Undrafted Team – Here’s hoping each of these eleven get a shot to shine in training camp:

GK – Kristin Arnold – Texas A&M
D – Cassie Dickerson – Ohio State
D – Jessica Tsao – Portland
D/M – Megan Jesolva – Cal
D/M – Courtney Wetzel – Oregon State
D/M – Kacey Richards – UConn
M – Ashlee Elliott – Florida
M – Tiffany Tovino – Hofstra
M – Vendula Strnadova – Memphis
M/F – Katie Bethke – Minnesota
F – Danielle Toney – Penn State

*Live* Updates and Analysis From The 2011 WPS Draft

Sinead Farrelly

Sinead Farrelly Is Expected To Be A Top 3 Pick In Friday's WPS Draft

[Note: Please Refresh This Page Throughout The Day for Continued Updates and Analysis As Picks (and trades) Come In]

11:45 AM – Jenna is reporting that the Beat have traded Johanna Rasmussen to the Artist Formerly Known As The Washington Freedom for…we’re still working on that right now. Hopefully for my sanity as a weary Beat fan, for more than a bag of soccer balls.

1:01 PM – The hour has come…or not apparently as the webcast hasn’t started on time.

1:17 PM – We’re still in a holding pattern because of webcast technical difficulties. You could start a “WPS, This Is Your Life” joke right about now.

ROUND ONE

1 – WNY – Alex Morgan – F – Cal

Look up ‘complete forward’ in the dictionary and you might find a picture of Morgan. She’s not bursting with power like Wambach or Sinclair but can hold her own in the wars and possesses a nice degree of speed and change of pace. She’s already shown an ability to score at the international level and has shown a flair for the dramatic with her goal against Italy and who can forget that wild hat track for Cal against USC? You hesitate to call anyone can’t miss, but Morgan’s as close as it gets, and the partnership up front with Christine Sinclair will be explosive.

2 – PHI – Sinead Farrelly – M – Virginia

Hardly an upset as time had passed on as the word was Philly were seriously looking at Farrelly to boost the midfield. After the rumors that Del Rio and Boquete were to be signed, this pick became almost inevitable as Philly had enough depth up front. Farrelly is a rampaging midfielder who can get among the goals as well as dish them out. Also has the ability to belt them from long range. Should step in immediately as a starter.

3 – WAS – Meghan Klingenberg – M/D – North Carolina

This pick was a part of the trade that brought Rasmussen to Washington. You figured that Klingenberg was going to be a hot commodity in this draft, especially after her recent recall to the full national team. I figured Washington may have wanted to trade up for her, and they clearly were fearing someone jumping up and taking Klingenberg ahead of them. Klingenberg is a bit undersized but will not stop running and could be used either as a left midfielder or as a left-back as she was in the U20 World Cup of 2008.

4 – WAS – Christen Press – F – Stanford

Wow. The Artist Formerly Known As The Washington Freedom may have a team. This is an absolutely perfect situation for Press as she won’t be counted on as being the prime source of goals. I think Press would be best as a player playing off a bigger forward and Press combining with Wambach could reinvigorate a Freedom offense that looked short of ideas last season.

5 – PHI – Lauren Fowlkes – D/M – Notre Dame

Speaking of great picks, how jazzed are Philly to get Fowlkes at the five spot? Tremendously versatile, Fowlkes can step in at center-back, defensive midfielder, or as a target forward. I think she’ll be first used in the center of defense but could switch around as needed. This is a great value as I had Fowlkes second on my big board.

6 – BOS – Keelin Winters – M/D – Portland

She’ll never beat a stopwatch, but Winters is like a metronome in midfield, winning the ball and distributing it. DiCicco loves Winters after the U20 World Cup experience and while the Breakers may have pressing needs at full-back, I think they were afraid Winters wasn’t going to be there for their next pick. She also has been being experimented with at full-back in recent U23 camps, although I don’t see her filling that role in the WPS. Also a great leader.

7 – ATL – Kylie Wright – M – UCLA

Shock upon shocks, it’s a big time reach. Wright is a strong, solid midfielder, but she’s not going to be able to turn a team around by herself. Atlanta really needed someone to balance out the midfield with Carli Lloyd’s non-existent offense. But Wright could’ve been around in the second round also, which makes this pick a not very good one for value.

8 – WNY – Elli Reed – D/M – Portland

A wonderful pick at this spot. Reed’s a bombs away full-back/winger who could step in immediately at full-back or make the transition to midfield wide player if the need arose. She also has experience on that U20 World Cup winning team that has produced so many of the players being taken highly in this draft. WNY coach Aaron Lines may have indicated that he was looking primarily at offense, but Reed was just too good a value to pass up at this spot, and going forward, Reed could help keep the Flash offense ticking over.

ROUND TWO

9 – PHI – Jen Stoltenberg – F/D – Oregon

I’m speechless. I had a free agent grade on Stoltenberg. She produced but was on some awful, awful Oregon teams. I don’t know if Philly plans to use her as a forward or a defender, but I’d think the latter was more likely with the glut of forwards on the team. With the talent available though, I just don’t understand this pick.

10 – WSH – Omolyn Davis – M/F – George Mason

Wow. WOW. I really, really liked Davis going into this draft as a sleeper, but I didn’t think she’d go this high. She’s a Jamaican international, so she may take up an international slot, but the Freedom know her from their W-League team where she starred. She’s built like a tank with great power and pace and can crush players one-on-one. She played on some pretty tame George Mason squads so she didn’t get a lot of pub, but I think this pick could end up looking like a stroke of genius later on.

11 – PHI – Caitlin Farrell – D – FC Twente (Wake Forest)

One of the quirks of the WPS Draft. Farrell’s already been drafted last year but didn’t make the cut. Farrell has already graduated from Wake a little bit ago but played abroad for FC Twente this past season. I just don’t know if they couldn’t have taken her as a free agent though, especially with players like Barnes and Da Costa still on the board.

12 – BOS – Whitney Palmer – F – Oklahoma

Pace to burn and could be a force out wide. She probably was hurt a little by being on so many weak Oklahoma teams, but they did come back around this season which probably thrust her into the limelight at just the right time. She could be a great wild card off the bench for the Breakers.

ROUND THREE

13 – WNY – Rose Augustin – M/F – Notre Dame

Augustin had a breakout season in 2010 in helping the Irish to the national team. I’m not sure if she’s an attacking midfielder or a forward at the next level, but she’s two footed and can absolutely drill a ball from range. Not the quickest but still can be a contributor.

14 – ATL – Meghan Lenczyk – F – Virginia

It certainly makes sense from a need standpoint, but I question the logic in trading Rasmussen and presumably Press to Washington to take Lenczyk. She’s a big forward with upside, but she also has a tendency to disappear from matches at inopportune moments. Then again, when she gets on a hot streak, she’s nearly unplayable.

15 – PHI – Lauren Barnes – D – UCLA

May not necessarily be a need after drafting Fowlkes, but this is a crazy value at this spot. Barnes has inexplicably slipped down to this spot, and Riley said before that he was looking at Fowlkes OR Barnes in the first round with their second pick in the first round. To get her in the third round? Highway robbery. Barnes can play across the back line and should be a good utility defender for Philly.

16 – SBFC – Alyssa Mautz – M/F – Texas A&M

And finally Sky Blue gets a chance to pick. Mautz is another player from DiCicco’s U20 reign but never really turned into a world beater at A&M. She’s probably a bit of a tweener in the pros between midfielder and forward. Can hit a ball from range. Aggies don’t have a real good history of turning out pros recently though.

17 – WSH – Amanda DaCosta – M – Florida State

Insane value. DaCosta had a first round grade in my book and was the unsung hero in midfield on these past great Florida State teams. Probably not an out-and-out attacking midfielder but can do a little bit of everything in midfield. Very odd to see her drop so far after Kassouf reported about a lot of interest in her yesterday. Not the biggest in the center of midfield but plays above her size. Great pick.

18 – PHI – Bianca D’Agostino – M – Wake Forest

Not a big fan. D’Agostino just seems like a player that has plateaued at the college level and won’t get much better. And given the massive size of Philly’s roster and some of the players taken, she faces an uphill battle to make the roster.

19 – BOS – Katherine Sheeleigh – F – Harvard

Sheeleigh was a star at the Ivy League level for Harvard, and being from the area, DiCicco obviously has a decent idea of who he’s drafting. The forward crop past the first few players is pretty even, so this pick may not seem to be as much of a reach as it would seem on paper.

ROUND FOUR

20 – WNY – Ashleigh Bowers – GK – Niagara

Huh? Bowers has got a shot, but why spend a draft pick on a player that you could’ve signed as an undrafted free agent after the draft?

21 – SBFC – Lauren Alkek – D – Oklahoma

Another “huh?” pick. Alkek didn’t even make my initial Big Board early in the process. She could’ve been had in free agency. Why not take Tsao, Dickerson, Jesolva, etc.?

22 – WSH – Katie Fraine – GK – Florida

No really, Dean Linke, Katie Fraine is not a good one. Fraine’s developmental curve essentially stopped as a redshirt freshman with Florida, and she’s still guilty of awful, awful errors in goal, such as when she dropped a Vanderbilt shot over the line in this year’s SEC Tournament. Subpar concentration can be overlooked when you’re playing the likes of Arkansas or Mississippi State but will be punished harshly at the professional level.

23 – PHI – Teresa Rynier – M – James Madison

Rynier’s a midfield battler who was a big part of some pretty successful James Madison teams over the past few seasons. Considering she’s local, it’s a pick that makes a lot of sense for Philly, even though she faces an uphill battle to work her way on a bloated roster.

24 – BOS – Tanya Taylor – F – UC Irvine

Taylor’s a bit of a late bloomer who didn’t show much her first three years at Irvine but then promptly exploded as did her team in 2010. Now the challenge becomes keeping that form up without CoCo Goodson beside her eating up space. Nice size and speed.

Be sure to check in later over the next few days as we wrap up the draft and give out draft grades for each team!

AWK’s General 2011 Draft Preview

The 2011 WPS season kicks off tomorrow – in a sense, at least – as the league will usher in a new class of 24 players. Below Chris has given the lowdown on the best players available and where they might land. Here’s a general outlook on each team and how tomorrow could affect their seasons, for better or for worse.

The Draft will only consist of four rounds this year, a decrease from ten in 2009 and seven in 2010. The downsize makes sense considering there are only six teams to start with. Additionally, 72% of the draftees who remained for the duration of the 2009 season came from the first five rounds while 85% of the 2010 draftees who remained for the entire season came from the top four rounds. 

Check back here tomorrow for live analysis of each pick courtesy of Chris. Lauren Barker and I are here in Baltimore taking in the sights and sounds of the NSCAA Convention. And trying to find where Stringer Bell got shot.

 

Overall pick (round)

 

Atlanta Beat

3 (1), 7 (1), 14 (3)

Key losses: Aluko, McNeill, Zerboni

(Subjective) key gains: Lloyd, Whitehill

The Atlanta Beat benefited tremendously from the mid-season folding of the Saint Louis Athletica last year as several big names including Hope Solo, Eniola Aluko and Lori Chalupny found themselves in Kennesaw. Head coach Gareth O’Sullivan’s team was not able to produce results that reflected the quality of its Atlantica players, however, and was shown the door before the conclusion of the 2010 season. Despite the influx of talent, the Beat ended the season the way it had begun and finished dead last.

Thus far, the Beat have done little to inspire confidence for the 2011 season. In addition to General Manager Shawn McGee, the team has parted ways with several high draft picks and big names like Aluko, Kerr and last year’s #1 overall Draft pick Tobin Heath in a trade with Sky Blue FC. Cost-cutting appeared to be the motive behind the trade but questions were raised when the team then ushered in the likes of Carli Lloyd and Cat Whitehill. Lloyd has yet to make a substantial impact in WPS and Whitehill is in the twilight of her career, with her USWNT days seemingly now behind her.

As of now, the team has a skeleton of a squad. Retaining the likes of Chalupny, Tina Ellertson and Johanna Rasmussen is a positive starting point, however, and the fact that those players will very likely remain in Georgia throughout the World Cup is a major boon for head coach James Galanis.

The team has just three Draft picks, two of which are in the first round. An out-and-out goal-scorer will be of an interest to the team and as Chris says, they might be compelled to roll the dice on Stanford alum Christen Press.

Heading into their second season, the team is still looking to a mold an identity. Drafting three quality players is an excellent way to kick off the year with optimism – something that was in short supply last year.

 

Boston Breakers

Picks: 6 (1), 12 (2), 19 (3), 24 (4)

Key losses: Lilly, Tarpley

Key gains: Buehler, O’Hara

Other than a few small modifications, the squad that appeared in the Super Semifinal last season has been relatiely untouched. The retention of top-class players like Kelly Smith, Amy LePeilbet, Alex Scott, and Leslie Osborne will likely be critical to the team’s success this year. The sudden retirement of winger Kristine Lilly may have had more of an effect on the team set-up had Kelley O’Hara not signed with the club weeks prior.

A major bug-a-boo for Boston is the World Cup and the toll it will take on the Tony DiCicco’s squad. All five players mentioned may very well be absent during the summer. Throw in the likes of Lauren Cheney, Stephanie Cox and possibly Jordan Angeli and Boston will be without what practically amounts to a starting eleven.

General Manager Andy Crossley conceded that management took a calculated risk in assembling this season’s squad. The team will need the same kind of foresight in its Draft selections. Rather than using the Draft to fill gaping holes, the Breakers will have to use its four picks to help with the team’s depth issues. The team will need reinforcements at the wide positions in both defense and midfield and might have to invest in a forward, given the yet unproven status of Nikki Washington, who holds the distinction of being associated with five of the ten teams that have ever existed in WPS.

The Boston Breakers have the personnel to field a Championship caliber team – if only it wasn’t a World Cup year. They must seek players who can step up and sustain a title pursuit in the absence of much of the squad.

 

Philadelphia Independence

2 (1), 5 (1), 11 (2), 15 (3), 23 (4)

Key losses: Seger

Key gains: Rapinoe, McNeill, Kai

The Independence was the league’s biggest shock last year as Paul Riley guided a team full of first-year internationals, cast-offs and bit part players to the WPS Championship. It was a credit to the outstanding play of several squad members and Riley’s ability as a coach to inspire and motivate his team.

Riley and co. have seemingly retained the core of that squad with Sweden international Caroline Seger being perhaps the only notable departure. The team has added Tasha Kai from Sky Blue FC who will be looked upon to bang in goals in the absence of World Cup bound Amy Rodriguez. Megan Rapinoe will add another dimension to the team’s attack out wide, even if she won’t be a full-timer. The team has also bolstered its center-back pairing as Kia McNeill will add athleticism to Allison’s Falk physical presence.

On paper, Philalphia has an excellent balance of first-teamers and squad players. And yet the team still has five Draft picks at its disposal. Center midfield, goalkeeper and outside mid are areas that could be addressed.

Philadelphia is in the midst of assembling yet another fantastic squad. Only this time it won’t be such a surprise.

 

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2011 WPS Mock Draft – In Which Philly Has Roughly A Million Picks and Everyone Wonders Where All The Wide Players Went

Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan and Some of Her 2008 U20 World Cup Winning Teammates Figure To Be Among The High Draft Picks in Friday's WPS Draft

I actually had this one done a day or two earlier…and then Jeff Kassouf had to blow my mind with today’s post that Philly were going with a central defender at the #5 pick. I’d laugh if they were lying, but had to adjust everything accordingly. This is also a somewhat sane take on the Draft. Trust me, there could be some weird goings on tomorrow afternoon…

Picks 4-24 after the jump.

Round One

1 – WNY – Alex Morgan – F – Cal

A no brainer. Morgan is far and away the top rated prospect of the 2011 class and should immediately form a potent partnership up front with Christine Sinclair. Morgan’s already shown her skill at the highest level internationally, meaning the acclimation period that other high striker picks like Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Cheney have gone through should be minimized. The only problem from the Flash’s standpoint is what happens when Morgan and Sinclair are both gone for the World Cup?

2 – PHI – Sinead Farrelly – M – Virginia

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Philly coach Paul Riley probably showed his cards a little too much earlier in the week when talking up Farrelly and Christen Press in the same sentence. Ex-Independence GM Terry Foley also probably revealed a bit too much when talking up Farrelly as well. As a local product, Farrelly makes sense, as well as from a team need standpoint since the team has enough fast strikers as is. This is a prime spot to trade down from with one of the other teams desperate to take Press at this spot. But does anyone have the assets to make it worth Philly’s while?

3 – ATL – Christen Press – F – Stanford

It may fill a need, but I think a marriage between the Beat and Press would be just about the worst case scenario for all involved. The Beat are woefully thin on the ground as far as talent goes, especially up front, where, at the moment, the only real scoring option would seem to be Johanna Rasmussen, a winger by trade. With practically no proven strikers on the free agent market still, that means that much of the goalscoring onus would fall on Press. Press is a talented player, but not one that can make something out of nothing while taking on a wave of defenders. She’s probably best as a ‘second banana’ type playing off a bigger forward. But if Press falls to #3 and the Beat, what choice do they have?
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