Monthly Archives: March 2013

Spirit down NCAA champion North Carolina, 2-0

Player of the Match Tiffany McCarty scored and just missed getting an assist

The puzzle pieces finally started to come together for the Washington Spirit today as their attacking players collaborated well enough to score two unanswered goals on the reigning NCAA champion North Carolina Tar Heels.

That seemed an unlikely result early on as UNC – known for their high-pressure approach – had the Spirit’s makeshift defense on their heels for most of the first twenty minutes. Tar Heel star forward Kealia Ohai in particular seemed too much for the back line to handle, as her speed and deceptiveness frequently allowed her to find space.

It shouldn’t have been too surprising, what with arguably the top 4 defenders on the roster unavailable for the match: Ali Krieger and Robyn Gayle up with their respective national teams, and Candace Chapman and Kika Toulouse out with injuries. Instead, the back line was anchored by Casey Berrier – just signed a few days ago after being waived by Kansas City – and Tori Huster, who’d never played central defender before in her life. Maryland alums Danielle Hubka and Domenica Hodak completed the foursome.
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Spirit attack shoots blanks in scoreless draw with Duke

It was a goalkeepers' night, and here Harris makes one of her big saves to preserve the shutout

Despite adding in their allocation of US and Canadian internationals to last week’s winning lineup – as well as getting Holly King home for spring break – the Washington Spirit could only come close to scoring against the Duke Blue Devils and had to settle for a 0-0 draw, preserved by a couple of big saves from goalkeepers Ashlyn Harris and Chantel Jones. Continue reading

NWSL – Preseason Dossiers – Western New York Flash

(3-5-2) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (Without Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

(3-5-2) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (With Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

(4-4-2) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (Without Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

(4-4-2) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (With Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

(4-2-3-1) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (Without Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

(4-2-3-1) Projected 2013 WNY Flash Lineup (With Carli Lloyd, Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

Free Agency

Adriana – F

Flattered to deceive more often than not as a rookie in WPS in 2011 for Sky Blue FC, but more than repaid the faith shown in her by Western New York a season later while helping the Flash towards another league title by blitzing the league in front of goal. Along with another former Flash player, Veronica Boquete, looks like a key figure for the present and the future for a rapidly improving Spanish national side. Blend of power and pace makes her a handful for opposing defenders, as last year’s WPSL Elite defenses can attest to. Perfect in a center forward role, but how exactly she’ll be used with Abby Wambach ahead of her in that position on this squad could make or break the Flash’s season. Logic dictates that the right-footed Spanish international could line up as a right-winger/forward when Wambach’s patrolling up front, but those plans are hardly set in stone, especially with Carli Lloyd out for the early weeks of the season. Don’t rule out a potential two center-forward formation, which could see Adriana and Wambach punishing opposing center-backs in concert. Aaran Lines and co. will be wary of missing Adriana during the EURO’s in the Summer however, a loss the club will hope doesn’t harm the offense too much.

Sarah Huffman – M

One of the unheralded stars of the final WPS season with magicJack, Flash supporters will be hoping Huffman’s surging top-level form carries over into NWSL action. A move out to the wing for the Boca Raton club proved very profitable for Huffman, as she terrorized opposing full-backs while driving in crosses to her prolific teammates. As is the case with most of the club’s top players, Huffman’s a versatile asset, also having the ability to play in the center of midfield if needed. The veteran could be moved around depending on how aggressive Aaran Lines wants to be on the day, though the injury to Carli Lloyd certainly has depleted the ranks of the club’s central midfielders, meaning Huffman might be needed in the middle of the park early on to help stabilize the situation until Lloyd returns. If utilized on the wing, form similar to her magicJack stint could be very profitable for the Flash, with two great targets in Abby Wambach and Adriana to aim for with her crosses.

Samantha Kerr – M/F

Australian teenager has unfathomably been a part of the Matildas setup for nearly half a decade despite not having turned twenty yet. Possessing lightning pace and tenacity as a right winger, Kerr already looks like a big piece of the puzzle in the present and future for the full Australian WNT. Big breakthrough in front of goal for Sydney FC this Westfield W-League season has only raised hopes after Kerr had been a bit muted scoring-wise in her time with Perth Glory before making the switch. Role with Flash could be an interesting one considering the presence of potential right-wing rivals Adriana and Sarah Huffman on the roster. One of many who could conceivably play in the middle attacking role in central midfield while Carli Lloyd recovers from injury. At worst, Kerr figures to be a real joker in the deck to pull out in the second half, with her energy and pace figuring to give tired legs real problems late in games.
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Spirit open preseason with win over Penn State

It’s hard to know what to take away from a game like this. Training camp only opened a week ago, and out of the projected starting lineup my AWK colleague Chris Henderson put together, only four players got minutes – Kika Toulouse, Tiffany McCarty, Stephanie Ochs, and Caroline Miller. It was really more of a chance for the second tier of players to show their stuff, as head coach Mike Jorden admitted. “After one week of camp we wanted to bring some kids in and give them a shot at playing a game like this. I think we were looking for seeing individual players playing different places and moving a couple of kids around.”

Penn State head coach Erica Walsh was impressed with the Spirit roster, even as she noted that they obviously had yet to gel into a team. “I think this was a team playing against players who were trying to get onto a team. I think that was a big difference. It’s a group of individuals that are incredibly talented, and you can see that each of them has their own attributes and that this is going to be a great team once they come together.”

Second-half sub Olivia Wagner provided the lone goal in the 86th minute, an opportunistic putaway as Ariana Calderon – another sub – slipped the ball to her after a corner kick. “It was just bouncing around in the box, and that’s always dangerous, and I was able to get a foot on it, so I’m glad we finally put one away.”
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NWSL – Preseason Dossiers – Washington Spirit

Projected 2013 Washington Spirit Lineup (Questionable Starters in Parentheses)

Free Agency

Candace Chapman – D

Canadian was a shocking omission from her nation’s list of funded players and will undoubtedly be looking to get back in the good graces of John Herdman after a hamstring injury curtailed her run at the London Olympics. Did a whole lot of winning in WPS, picking up winner’s medals with FC Gold Pride and WNY Flash in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Capable as a right-back or center-back in defense, but with Ali Krieger’s presence here, Chapman figures to be deployed in central defense in all likelihood. With little in the way of other recognized center-backs until Alina Garciamendez joins mid-season, Chapman will have a hell of a task on her hand to try and stabilize the Spirit’s backline. On such a young team, Chapman’s experience and leadership should be crucial for any postseason aspirations.

Chantel Jones – GK

Veteran of the U.S. youth international system gets her first shot at the top level domestically after a stint in Iceland last year with Thor. Was wildly inconsistent early in college career before steadying a bit as a senior for a powerful Virginia side. Great size and shot stopping ability bodes well, though Jones can be hasty off her line and may need improved decision making and distribution to develop into a starter at this level. Seasoning in Europe last year likely helped her growth dramatically, and Jones will likely be the favorite to be Ashlyn Harris’ understudy this season for the Spirit.
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NWSL – Preseason Dossiers – Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue FC

Projected 2013 Sky Blue FC Starting Lineup

Free Agency

Danesha Adams – F

Well traveled forward was a budding star at both youth and college levels, combining a productive stint with UCLA with great success at U20 level for the U.S. Found professional level much harder post-UCLA though, doing very little of note with Chicago in one season before moving to Philadelphia. Wasn’t exactly prolific with the Independence but did score some big goals for the club in her two years there. Following the dissolution of the league, Adams has had reasonable success in both Norway and Sweden, most recently with Vittsjo. With questionable proven firepower on the frontline, Adams should have every chance to nail down a starting spot this year, and her production could be crucial for SBFC’s postseason aspirations.

Brittany Bock – M

Notre Dame alum has played in just about every corner of the country in a career that has seen her bounce from the heartland as a collegian to both coasts as a pro. Made a name for herself as a rookie in WPS with finalists Los Angeles before going on to collect a winner’s medal with WNY Flash in the league’s final season in 2011. Bock would play in Colorado for the Rush club in the W-League last year before a stint in Sweden. One of the league’s most versatile players, Bock can do a job at the heart of a defense or up top as a target forward, though her most likely role could be as SBFC’s defensive midfielder, shielding the defense and giving some protection to the club’s smaller playmakers. A big season for Jim Gabarra’s side could mean a long awaited recall to the full USWNT setup.

Lisa De Vanna – F

Australian can’t keep her name out of the headlines, for better or for worse, with a FFA suspension coming this past Winter after creating a furor with some incendiary comments on Twitter. Jim Gabarra will be hoping that his former charge from his days with the Washington Freedom is making headlines on the pitch this season as an important member of the club’s likely frontline. De Vanna exploded onto the scene in Sweden with AIK a half decade ago and has been a dangerous threat ever since in her homeland, the aforementioned Sweden, and the U.S. Likely to feature on the right wing for SBFC and may need to be a consistent performer on offense for the New Jersey club to challenge for the postseason places this season.
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NWSL – Rebuttal! Another Look At The Seattle-Chicago Trade

(Note: This column is meant as a counterpoint to Richard Farley’s piece examining the Seattle-Chicago trade. It’s not totally necessary to get the gist of my thoughts, but it’s still a good read nonetheless.)

Seattle’s trade with Chicago, sending a first round pick in next year’s NWSL Draft and one of their American allocations at the end of this season (almost assuredly Amy Rodriguez) to the Red Stars for Keelin Winters and a perfunctory fourth round draft pick, was both eye-raising and polarizing. There was the view from some that Seattle had gotten the much better side of the deal by adding Winters to their midfield while not having to give up anything immediately. And then there’s my view, namely that the Reign have opted for a questionable short-term gain that’s almost assuredly going to be outstripped by long-term pain come the end of this year.

It’s hard to argue against Seattle having needed to make a few proactive moves in the final weeks leading up to the preseason if they wanted to try and reverse some of the negative momentum that had been building up against them in recent weeks and months. There was the news that Amy Rodriguez, who had looked to have been the club’s lynchpin in attack, was pregnant and would miss the entire 2013 season. There was the news that midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Teresa Noyola would be fulfilling European club commitments through the early months of the season (Noyola has since managed to free herself to return by the preseason). There was the revelation that Hope Solo could miss the early weeks of the season with a wrist injury. And top supplemental draft pick Nikki Krzysik has waffled on her playing status ever since she was taken by Seattle.

Some of the above also alludes to the fact that the Reign had some gaping holes to be filled before Friday’s trade. The club is woefully inexperienced in the attack, with a score of first and second year strikers hoping to rise to the occasion. If the likes of Tiffany Cameron and Lindsay Taylor can’t prove as prolific as they were at college level, the club might have to depend on journeymen like Liz Bogus and Lyndsey Patterson or likely midfielders Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock for goals. That would be enough for most to hit the panic button, but the defense could still be a greater concern. The fact that Krzysik hasn’t committed one way or the other with the clock ticking towards camps opening should be enough to set alarm bells ringing. If the Virginia alum plays, she might be able to anchor the defense to the point that it’s passable. If not? You might want to throw gasoline on the mess, because it could get ugly. Elli Reed’s probably one of the league’s better left-backs, almost by default, but she’s still very green and probably not in a position to lead a backline yet. The likely center-back pairing of Kate Deines and Emily Zurrer has a ton of size, but I like Deines better as a midfielder, while Zurrer isn’t going to be a contender’s top option at center-back. Right-back? You might as well throw names into a hat at this point. Lauren Barnes and Elli Reed out of position, Liz Bogus, Jess Fishlock, Jenny Ruiz, or someone else could all be thrown into that spot, with it looking like a serious liability at this point.

Given that giant paragraph above, I expected Seattle to have addressed some of the areas of weakness mentioned when news of a trade first broke. The Reign do possess some intriguing assets, such as Krzysik, if she’s angling for a move closer to home, either Nairn or Noyola, if you believe two playmakers is one too many, or even Rapinoe, who could have probably fetched a king’s ransom from a club hungry for a star. Instead, Seattle mortgaged the future in a very plain way while not addressing any of their most glaring needs.
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Spirit getting ready for inaugural season

Washington Spirit pro combine: Holly King looks on as Heather Cooke and Julia Roberts vie for the ball

Every morning like clockwork the Washington Spirit’s Twitter feed updates its countdown. We’re now at 8 days till training camp opens, 42 until the team’s inaugural match, and 48 until the home opener. So what’s it been like starting up a new team?

“Hectic,” says general manager Chris Hummer. “There’s not much sleep going on. We’re starting a new league and a new team in record time. It’s really exciting, but it’s very hectic. We’re coming together, and we’ve got a good squad going in.” They did have the DC United Women’s heritage structure to build on, but that’s mostly on the operational side. They still need a roster of talented players, which head coach Mike Jorden thinks they have.

“They’re looking good. It’s exciting, and I think everyone’s looking forward to getting together for spring training next week.” Asked if the team had any holes left to fill, he said, “Not really. It’s going to be a matter of getting in a week, seeing where everyone’s at fitness-wise and health-wise and kind of going from there. Once we get into the preseason we’ll have a more clear picture of what we need.”
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