Monthly Archives: January 2013

NWSL – Where We Stand Entering Free Agency

(Note: I’ve generally included free agent signings that have be widely reported as happening in this analysis, though nothing has been made official yet.)

In lieu of draft grades or anything, I decided to take a bigger look at what each team has in each area of the pitch and what needs still exist heading into the free agency period. I’ll probably analyze free agency signings themselves once the deadline to make them passes this week, with a supplemental draft preview if the league bothers to release the names of participants.

Boston Breakers

Goalkeepers – While, in a sense, the Breakers not taking a goalkeeper in the draft was something of a vote of confidence towards Mexican international Cecilia Santiago, there’s little questioning that the club needs some veteran competition for the teenager. While Santiago has made big strides at international level, she’s still just a teenager, and entrusting the club’s hopes between the pipes to one so young would be a very risky proposition. The problem, of course, is that there’s not much in the way of starting calibre goalkeeping out there in the open market. Val Henderson is obviously the big name left unallocated, and Boston would likely afford her the most playing time right off the bat in all likelihood. The quality of options drops decidedly after her though, and the Breakers could be left sweating a bit if they don’t pick up the former UCLA star as a free agent.

Defenders – No subtlety here, the Breakers need center-backs. As in more than one central defender. Unless they plan a likely ill-advised conversion of another player on the roster, Boston’s got no center-backs on the roster, which has to be a bit of a worry considering a gap or two elsewhere. Kia McNeill has plenty of local ties and would certainly make a lot of sense, but she’d still be just half the equation, and Boston might still need more than two central defenders for the sake of depth. It looks a little better out wide, as first round pick Casey Short figures to get every chance of winning the left-back job. On the opposite flank, Heather Mitts looks most likely to feature at right-back, with Rhian Wilkinson capable of spelling her if necessary or featuring further up the pitch. If Boston can solve that center-back problem, they could have a very solid defensive core.

Midfielders – The Boston midfield should have plenty of teeth after the club took three defensive midfielders in the draft, but where is the creative spark going to come from? Heather O’Reilly is still a player packing much endeavor on the flank and should be able to whip inviting crosses into the forwards, but the club still needs to address a noted need for an interior playmaker that just doesn’t seem to be on the roster right now. Mariah Nogueira should play the role of destroyer-in-chief in the center of the park and filled a need on draft day. Jo Dragotta and Maddy Evans are both hustle players that can also do a lot of the hard running in midfield, but neither figures to be the player to help unlock defenses with incisive passing in the attacking third. O’Reilly takes care of one flank, but the Breakers still need someone to work on the left side, though that need probably plays second fiddle to finding a playmaker to run the show.

Forwards – The Breakers have a great lead gun in the form of Leroux to lead the line, but there’s little else that’s certain at this point. The club’s other two strikers on the roster at current are Canadian international Adriana Leon and Mexican international Anisa Guajardo, both fresh out of the college ranks. Both have shown signs of greatness at both international and college level, but neither is anything close to a complete product at this point. The club would probably be best served with easing both into the professional ranks as super subs to begin with, but if they can’t add some depth and quality to the attacking cadre, they might not have a choice in the matter. At any rate, experienced additions up top should be a priority for the club. Leroux’s the relative veteran head of the bunch, but she’s just twenty-two and doesn’t even have an actual professional match on her resume, having played last year with the amateur Seattle Sounders Women in the W-League.
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NWSL – Chris’ (Not So) Live 2013 Draft Analysis

(Keep updating this page throughout the afternoon for draft analysis)

LIVE! From the AWK Fortress O’ Doom, it’s Chris’ NWSL Draft reaction and analysis as he inches his way up the league’s official Twitter feed and tries to resist the urge to look at spoilers! It’s the annual tradition where yours truly gleefully questions league general managers’ sanity/logic/stubborn insistence of not following my beliefs of how things should be done. So kick back, enjoy, and stop asking me where I was when this thing actually happened!

I glanced at the previous WPS Drafts to get in the mood again, and boy, some of those were on the crazy train. Remember when Briana Scurry and Brandi Chastain was drafted in the 2009 draft? Remember when the Beat took one player in 2010 that actually ended up playing a game for them? Remember when Philadelphia took the same player two years in a row? Remember when the Beat ended up with Kylie Wright in a draft round that featured Alex Morgan, Sinead Farrelly, Meghan Klingenberg, Christen Press, and Keelin Winters? Sadly, the 2012 WPS Draft ended up being less crazy than all the others and somewhat less fun to cover.

This year looks oh so different though. There’s generally little agreement as to how to rank a lot of the top prospects, and I’m taking the fact that I was basically the only major source of a mock draft as an indicator that nobody generally knows what the hell is going to happen. Well, except for the fact that I’m going to stick my head in an oven if Mewis doesn’t go first. I’m not sure I can handle being wrong on that first pick two years in a row.

Let’s begin…

ROUND ONE

1 – Chicago – Zakiya Bywaters – M/F – UCLA

Wait, what? I’d run to the oven if I wasn’t in utter shock.

I don’t think I can quantify how bizarre this is for a first overall pick. I had Bywaters as a potential option in the second round, but taking her with the top pick borders on insanity. She’d be a great complimentary piece for a club with a lot more attacking talent on paper, but I’m just not sure what role she fills for the club so bereft of other attacking options right off the bat. If they wanted a playmaker, Mewis and Nairn were on the board. If they wanted a true finisher, Caroline Miller and Tiffany McCarty were much better options. Bywaters is not going to be a pure playmaker, as if she plays in the midfield, it’s going to have to be on the wing. If she plays as a forward, it’s difficult envisioning her as a 5’1″ center forward, meaning she’s likely going to have to be stationed out wide. Yeah, she scored fifteen goals as a senior, but she also had only scored eight COMBINED in three previous years. The Red Stars had two main functional problems entering this draft: they didn’t have a reliable top level goalscoring threat, and they didn’t have someone to get the forwards the ball. You could argue that they didn’t solve either problem with the first overall pick in the draft. That’s stunning.
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NWSL – 2013 Mock Draft v2.0

There’s been unofficial twitter confirmation that Portland’s Kendall Johnson, who just completed her redshirt junior season for the club, has entered tomorrow’s NWSL Draft. Obviously, she’ll be a hot commodity and a likely first round pick. We’ve updated our mock draft accordingly, though there’s been just one change to the first round.

ROUND ONE

1. Chicago – Kristen Mewis – M/F – Boston College
2. Washington – Christine Nairn – M – Penn State
3. FC Kansas City – Adrianna “AD” Franch – GK – Oklahoma State
4. Sky Blue FC – Caroline Miller – F – Virginia
5. Boston – Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall – D – BYU
6. Western New York – Kendall Johnson – D – Portland
7. Seattle – Tiffany McCarty – F – Florida State
8. Portland – Rachel Quon – D – Stanford
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NWSL – 2013 Mock Draft

Unless we get some major tips on what clubs may be doing in the early rounds, this will probably be the only mock draft we run before Friday.

Because of the bizarre decision to hold the draft at 9 AM EST, we’re probably not going to be covering the draft in real-time this year. I’ll be doing a retro live diary, akin to the ones I had for the College Cup, to be posted later in the day though. Other analysis to surely follow through the days and weeks leading up to training camps.

Round One

1. Chicago – Kristen Mewis – M/F – Boston College

The Red Stars hit the veritable draft jackpot with the first pick. They need an attacking midfielder to help balance out the sudden plethora of defensive midfielders on the club with the reported signing of Leslie Osborne. Mewis is this draft’s top player and should be a nice building block for the club going forward and can play as a forward in a pinch.

2. Washington – Christine Nairn – M – Penn State

Like Chicago, the Spirit needs offense both up front and in midfield. It’ll probably be a tough decision, as forwards Caroline Miller and Tiffany McCarty both have local ties, but so does Nairn, and she grades out as a slightly better prospect. She’s a playmaker with excellent scoring ability from range and should help the offense out right away.

3. FC Kansas City – Adrianna “AD” Franch – GK – Oklahoma State

I’m not sure how much sense this makes theoretically, as FCKC already has Nicole Barnhart on the roster and arguably needs to draft a keeper least out of the eight squads coming into this draft. But Franch has regional ties, and we hear they’re enamored with her, so they could end up with the league’s best goalkeeping situation by a mile, even if there are much greater needs on paper.

4. Sky Blue FC – Caroline Miller – F – Virginia

They’d probably prefer taking a playmaker with their first pick, but Erika Tymrak would be a slight reach here, so I’ve got them going after another big need and picking up Miller for the frontline. A potential frontline with Miller, Kelley O’Hara and Monica Ocampo could be a whole lot of fun to watch.

5. Boston – Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall – D – BYU

If that’s how things shake down above them, Boston faces an excruciating decision between grabbing a playmaker in Tymrak and fortifying the middle of their defense. I think they’ll opt for the latter, figuring that at this stage, throwing another young piece into the offensive mix might be one too many youthful ingredients. Lisonbee Cutshall’s a complete defender and the best center-back available in the draft class by some distance now with Alina Garciamendez having been allocated.

6. Western New York – Mariah Nogueira – M – Stanford

This is a pretty terrible spot to fall into for Western New York. Tymrak would be the best on the board at this point, but a pure playmaker doesn’t seem likely to mesh well with Carli Lloyd in the midfield. The club really doesn’t need a striker early, lessening the chances of taking Tiffany McCarty, while Rachel Quon is a natural right-back, which is already filled by Bry McCarthy. That points to potentially reaching a bit for Mariah Nogueira, who’d be a great counterweight for Lloyd in midfield. If trades are feasible in this draft, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Flash traded up to go after a more desirable target or down to try and accrue more picks.

7. Seattle – Tiffany McCarty – F – Florida State

The Reign need forwards, and McCarty’s the best one left on the board by a country mile. She’s not the big target forward Laura Harvey probably desires, but McCarty’s still shown she can lead a line and could be dynamite in concert with an on-form Amy Rodriguez.

8. Portland – Rachel Quon – D – Stanford

The Thorns have plenty of punch already in the attack, so they’d go with the best defender on the board in Rachel Quon. In addition to being a solid defender out wide, Quon can help stretch the attack laterally with her forward forays, which might be necessary with two forwards most comfortably working through the middle in Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan
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NWSL – Allocation Breakdown, Team Needs, & Potential Draft Targets

Boston Breakers

What They Got – Firepower. Though Heather O’Reilly is probably considered the anchor player for the Breakers, it’ll be Sydney Leroux that is likely to take upon much of the scoring burden this season. A super sub at international level, Leroux will be counted upon for goals right off the bat. Given the youth around her, she may also have to serve as a mentor to some of the club’s younger forwards. Canadian Adriana Leon and Mexican Anisa Guajardo are both packed with upside, but neither are anything close to a polished product at the moment and may be more apt to a role off the bench early on. O’Reilly should provide energy and endeavor from the flank, with her experience likely to be needed as well in stabilizing a young core.

Mitts returns to Boston after having been displaced by Alex Scott during her earlier stint with the club. She proved she’s still got something in the tank during her days with the Beat and recent run with the USWNT and should be the prohibitive favorite to man the right-back spot despite the presence of Canadian Rhian Wilkinson. Capable of playing in many roles, Wilkinson could be the club’s Swiss army knife in 2013, filling needs wherever they may arise on the pitch. Goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago is talented but still incredibly young and, at best, needs a mentor, and at worst needs some veteran competition between the pipes.

What They Need – The Breakers’ needs aren’t all going to be filled through the draft. For instance, they could probably do without another young keeper with Cecilia Santiago already on the roster. Boston will probably be in the market for a veteran stopper who could, ideally, come in as a starter while Santiago is groomed for the future. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty short list, with the likeliest candidates being Alyssa Naeher, if they can lure her back from Germany, or Val Henderson. Boston probably doesn’t need too many more young strikers as well, with Leroux, Leon, and Guajardo already all on deck.

Getting those forwards the ball looks to be paramount, and while Heather O’Reilly should help out with that in some respects, a true #10 is in order. Kristen Mewis and Christine Nairn are probably too good to pass up if the club gets one of the top picks, while Erika Tymrak wouldn’t be such a bad consolation prize. The Breakers also need some size and strength in the middle of defense, but options there look sparse after the loss of Alina Garciamendez to the allocation process. It’s slim pickings after Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, and the club could end up taking a flyer on someone in the later rounds. A defensive midfield enforcer is also needed, with Mariah Nogueira and Holly King both solid mid-round targets. A full-back in the later rounds to groom to replace Mitts could also be in order, but it doesn’t seem like the highest priority.

Potential Early Round Targets – Kristen Mewis, Christine Nairn, Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, Erika Tymrak, Mariah Nogueira, Holly King, Kathryn Williamson, Ally Miller

Potential Late Round Targets – Amy Barczuk, Carson Michalowski, Kylie Louw, Natalie Norris, Bri Rodriguez, Betsy Hassett, Erica Hollenberg, Domenica Hodak, Alex Balcer

Potential Local/Undrafted Free Agent Targets – Victoria DiMartino, Jenna Roncarati, Amelia Pereira, Jillian Kinter, Jessica Morrow
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NWSL Draft – 2013 Big Board v1.0 – Mewis, Nairn, Franch Top The Board

Here it is, in all its excess, the 2013 NWSL Draft Big Board. Fair warning, this does NOT take into account who’s declared for the draft, so a good many of these players may not even have tossed their hat into the ring. Allocated players and players who have already signed overseas have been included for reference’s sake.

1. Kristen Mewis – M/F – Boston College

After terrorizing ACC defenses for four seasons, Mewis will look to take her act to the next level as the top ranked draft prospect in this 2013 class. Possessor of a million dollar left foot, silky dribbling skill, and deceptive strength, Mewis was on the fringe of the U.S. Olympic Team that took gold in London and will likely have a very bright future indeed in the midfield for Tom Sermanni’s side, with the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada a very real possibility. Tremendous touch on set pieces, especially with dazzling free kick ability. Naturally, that touch also makes Mewis a deadly threat from range as well, which should come in handy more professionally as she figures to play a more withdrawn role than in the college ranks. Has embraced a more vocal leadership role as a senior and is a tenacious competitor on the pitch both for club and at youth international levels for the U.S. Extremely versatile player who has played on defense, in midfield, and up front for the Eagles depending on need. Scored sixteen goals on just seventy-six shots as she was looked upon for goals with her frontline teammates at BC often erratic in form. Projects as an attacking midfielder at the next level who can both serve as a playmaker and as a dangerous threat for goals. As complete a player as it gets in this draft class and a potential star at the next level for whoever is lucky enough to wind up with her.

2. Christine Nairn – M – Penn State

At one time a young phenom who was capped by the full USWNT before stepping foot onto the pitch in a college game, it’s been a long and winding road for Nairn to arrive at the top of the collegiate game despite respectable stats for much of her career at PSU. After a disappointing 2010 season, began to reach the heights once expected of her as a junior, with thirteen assists for the Nittany Lions. Heavy offensive burden was placed on her shoulders to begin 2012 with Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram away at the U20 World Cup, and Nairn delivered, helping her club to an explosive start. One thing missing from her resume coming into 2012 was a deep postseason run, and Nairn again obliged, helping take her club to the national title game. Netted seventeen goals and twelve assists in a brilliant senior campaign, with just three of those strikes coming from the penalty spot. Possesses tremendous long-range shooting ability and will punish teams that don’t close her down with little hesitation. That ability has gotten her in trouble at times though, as she has, at times, is prone to making the wrong decision when shooting instead of looking for the pass. When the decision is right though, she’s capable of magical passes with her feet. Some questions over her fitness earlier in her collegiate career have seemingly been answered, though it remains to be seen how she’ll hold up through the grind of a professional season. Has all the potential to round into a special player at the next level.

3. Adrianna “AD” Franch – GK – Oklahoma State

The best goalkeeper in this draft class by a mile and one of the best few to come out in the past decade. A virtual unknown coming into Stillwater, Franch leaves as one of the key figures that helped turn the Big XII side into a regional powerhouse that also pushed for honors nationally with a new golden age of recruits. Starting keeper right off the bat for the Cowgirls, Franch soon was able to cut her teeth with the U.S. U20 and U23 teams before being called into camp for the full WNT last year. Amazing reflexes allow her to make out-of-this-world reaction saves that have contributed to a long and eye-popping highlight reel. Fearless in the air coming for high balls and crosses and willing to plow through anything in her way to secure the ball. A gifted and confident penalty kick saver. Likely the only rookie goalkeeper in this class that will be able to immediately challenge for a starting spot for an NWSL club. Already a keeper of great repute and one that could grow into a pillar of strength in goal for the USWNT.
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Washington Spirit Allocation – First Thoughts

I sat down last night and scored the USWNT allocation based on players I wanted here in Washington (and players I didn’t want), with each player getting one (no, thanks), two (meh), three (cool), or four (awesome!) stars. The result for the Spirit – Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, and Lori Lindsey – is worth eleven stars out of a possible twelve, and the more I think about having Ashlyn Harris the more I’m thinking twelve out of twelve. My only disappointment is losing Becky Sauerbrunn, who’ll be sticking closer to her St. Louis home by playing for FC Kansas City. As for the rest, I was hoping to get Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod back, but obviously we don’t need both her and Harris. Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on the allocated players:
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NCAA Soccer – 2012 AWK Award WINNERS

First of all, thanks to everyone who sent back a ballot and who voted in the fan vote. Participation was up in both this season, which is a nice sign.

AWK Coach of the Year – Anson Dorrance (North Carolina)
AWK Rookie of the Year – Cari Roccaro (Notre Dame)
AWK Golden Glove – Adrianna “AD” Franch (Oklahoma State)
AWK Defender of the Year – Alina Garciamendez (Stanford)
AWK Midfielder of the Year – Crystal Dunn (North Carolina)
AWK Forward of the Year – Maya Hayes (Penn State)

A few notes:

-Largest margin of victory? Coach of the Year

-It took the second tiebreaker for Alina Garciamendez to be named Defender of the Year, as she and Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall finished level on voting points and first place votes.

-The unofficial award for best fan support goes to Duke’s Cassie Pecht, who nabbed more votes herself than there were TOTAL votes in the other categories. Well done Duke fans.

NWSL – Let’s Play Mock Allocation

So I basically took ninety minutes to crank this out. I divided the U.S. allocations into three pools based on perceived value/talent and the Canada/Mexico allocations into two pools based on the same thing. What I got seems pretty reasonable, IMO. Some quick notes:

-In this scenario, Portland gets both Rapinoe and Sinclair but pays the price for getting, arguably, two of the five most coveted players. They’d only get two U.S. players in this scenario.

-Everyone obviously gets one GK only.

-Have you looked at potential forward depth? Yikes.

Boston Breakers

1. Heather O’Reilly – M
2. Lauren Cheney – M
3. Amy LePeilbet – D
4. Carmelina Moscato – D
5. Melanie Booth – D
6. Maribel Dominguez Castelan – F
7. Pamela Tajonar Alonso – GK

What They’d Still Need – Proven goalkeeper, young legs and talent up front, defensive midfielder.

Chicago Red Stars

1. Alex Morgan – F
2. Rachel Buehler – D
3. Jillian Loyden – GK
4. Sophie Schmidt – M
5. Emily Zurrer – D
6. Teresa Noyola Bayardo – M
7. Anisa Raquel Guajardo Braff – F

What They’d Still Need – Width in midfield (potentially), pace in defense.
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