Bianca Sierra, coach Parsons’ Player of the Match
In a match that was less about the score and more about developing team cohesion and checking out players trying to make the roster, the Washington Spirit nevertheless downed the North Carolina Tarheels, 2-0, on two second-half goals.
The opening roster had a lot of the marquee players sitting:
Forwards – Adams, Cuellar, Weimer
Midfielders – Angeli, Averbuch, Nairn
Defenders – Sierra, Pressley, Huster, Morris
GK – Jones
Carolina had somewhat the better of play in the first half, though with some impressive moments from some Spirit players. UNC’s midfielder Cameron Castleberry in particular is probably going to have nightmares about Bianca Sierra and Toni Pressley for some time to come. Sierra was all over her at every opportunity, and even when she managed to intercept a poorly-aimed Pressley pass and go in on goal, Toni just caught up to her and shouldered her off the ball as if she wasn’t there.
A little less than a year ago, I wrote a pretty annoyed screed directed towards the NWSL after Portland signed goalkeeper Adelaide Gay despite it seemingly running contrary to the stated roster rules. While the league eventually untangled the knot its vague declarations of what was and what wasn’t kosher in regards to team building produced, it didn’t come before fans and some in the media alike were tearing their hair out trying to wonder if the league was just making things up as it went along.
To an extent, the league has been much better with getting league information, specifically rules and regulations for the coming season, out to the public at-large. Roster rules, competition rules, and even media standards are all produced in great detail on the official league website, answering a good many question that were bound to pop up as the NWSL prepares to enter its second season of play.
At the same time though, information about preseason has lagged considerably. Unfathomably, there isn’t a master schedule of preseason matches that has been produced by the league. In particular, why hasn’t there been more promotion centrally by the league for both the Chicago and FC Kansas City match played in the suburbs of Saint Louis and the Portland Thorns’ trip to Arizona? Though the markets of Saint Louis and Phoenix probably aren’t en vogue with greater league ambitions of more partnerships with MLS clubs, what if greater league promotion of the exhibitions led to large crowds? Led to interest from potential owners with deep pockets? The clearest way forward in expansion at this point seems to be in expanding the league’s footprint both in the Midwest and on the West Coast. Franchises in Saint Louis and Phoenix may seem whimsical at first blush, but I’m not sure many pictured Houston being in the league at this time last year, nor a franchise of a pro league in Kansas City a few years ago. Opportunity lost?
But I digress. Information posted from the league on the official website has been scattershot at best, and it’s rather difficult to discern just how exactly the league is choosing what stories/releases to reproduce on the site. By my count, Sky Blue FC and WNY Flash were the only team with multiple stories on the preseason since players reported, while Boston, Houston, Portland, and FC Kansas City have no details about the preseason through stories on the official league site. Obviously, as anyone who’s been following twitter can attest to, Houston has been very active in accounting its preseason activity, while FC Kansas City was the first team to post a preseason roster last week. Boston and Portland have also been active in detailing some of their preseason activities, even through the veil of secrecy sitting on Providence Park right now (I’ll get to that in a bit).
Jordan Angeli and Tiffany Weimer: Saviors of the Spirit?
Last season the Spirit’s leading goal-scorer, Diana Matheson, scored four goals from the run of play – the same number as all the forwards combined. Today new acquisition Tiffany Weimer matched that total in one eighty-minute scrimmage (though it may probably helped that the scrimmage was 9v9 on a reduced-size field). That was just one sign that 2014 won’t be like 2013.
Another was the return of Jordan Angeli, who opened the scoring by firing a shot from twenty yards out into the lower right corner to give the white team the initial lead. Angeli was a revelation in 2010, as a rookie for the Boston Breakers scoring seven goals – second on the team only to the legendary Kelly Smith – and earning Player of the Month honors in July. But she tore her ACL in her first game of 2011 (though not before scoring a goal) and has taken until now to recover. She was drafted by the Spirit last year but wasn’t able to play for them.
Torri Allen – D – Georgia – Former U.S. youth international had a respectable college career with Georgia but didn’t develop into a star as might have been expected after strong youth career. Played center-back at college level but too small (5’4″) to play centrally at this level. Might have the athleticism to make a move out wide but still got turned too easily by elite attackers in the SEC. Tough road to make it with a seasoned Flash defense.
Ally Lee – D – Jacksonville – Small school star was one of the Atlantic Sun’s best defenders in recent memory after four seasons with the Dolphins, including A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year honors for the best JU side in some time. Nice size for a center-back, especially one from a small conference school. Flash aren’t hard up for defenders though, especially rookies, meaning she might be a developmental prospect at best this season.
Kristen Meier – MF – Seattle Reign (Wake Forest) – Another player with local ties having been born in Syracuse, though she played club ball and attended college in the Southeast. Meier was a late charger in 2012 and was justly rewarded by being selected by Seattle in the 2013 rookie draft, though she played sporadically, getting released at the end of the season. Versatility in being able to play in defense and midfield could be key to sticking here.
Haley Palmer – D – San Diego State – Massive left-back stands at 5’9″ and is unsurprisingly a converted forward. Physical and athletic as you might expect and has been one of the Mountain West’s best defenders in recent memory, taking home two straight league Defensive Player of the Year awards. SDSU’s slight step backwards this year might have kept her from being drafted, but left-backs don’t fall off of trees, so I’d be surprised if she’s not on someone’s roster this year.
Jordan Angeli – MF – Boston Breakers (Santa Clara) – It’s all a question of health. If the knee injuries haven’t taken too much of a toll, and if she’s still the player she was with Boston, Angeli will make this team without too much trouble. Of course, Angeli hasn’t played competitively in almost three calendar years thanks to said knee injuries, meaning she still has to prove she can still hack it at this level. A Spirit midfield needing some bite and experience certainly could use her talents.
Madeline Barker – MF – Georgia – Right-winger did little for first three seasons of her collegiate career before scoring eight goals as a senior. Efficiency numbers were really bad though, which probably blunts the impact of her breakthrough season. Battling for a spot as an attacker, but there are about nine or ten other seasoned pros in the way, making her odds of making it here pretty low.
Jordan Clark – MF – Karlsruhe (GER) (Akron) – Last seen with a club being relegated from the third tier of the German league. Yikes. Was an above average MAC midfielder with Akron for four years but has history of knee injuries and a lot of competition for spots in midfield working against her. Size could help but still a longshot to crack this roster.
Gloria Douglas – F – Virginia – Runs like the wind but can’t hit the broad side of a barn in large stretches. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Douglas had three goals on fifty-three shots and put a ghastly thirty-four percent of her shots on target as a senior, though she was trusted enough to be a starter for the Cavs for much of 2013. Spirit aren’t exactly replete with consistent scorers, but it’s hard imagining her not being a long-term project to be developed on the reserve squad.
Adelaide Gay – GK – Portland Thorns (North Carolina) – Won a national title with North Carolina in 2012 and perhaps got an unexpected shot at this level after being picked up by Portland in the preseason. Eyebrows were certainly raised when she was skipped over for starting duty when Karina LeBlanc was away though, and the odds of the former Tar Heel usurping Chantel Jones for the #2 slot here are slim.
Sky Blue FC
Rachel Breton – MF – Rutgers – More proof that college form isn’t necessarily everything. Breton wasn’t much more than an average player with the Scarlet Knights but persevered and got her just reward as a member of SBFC’s reserve team last season, getting a call-up as an amateur player. She has experience in the system, but the competition for a spot this year is greater, so there’re no guarantees.
Caroline Brown – F – Tennessee – Looked like a potential star after a breakout season as a sophomore but has tailed off a bit since. Struggled with injury a season later and had difficulties gelling with fellow UT forward Hannah Wilkinson since. Can operate as a center forward or right winger and had her most efficient season in front of goal as a senior, though her shots on goal percentage was poor. Faces a tough road to a roster spot on this team though.
Ashley Clarke – MF – Seton Hall – Local native probably deserved more than to be buried on some abysmal Seton Hall teams but still managed to shine brightly during her final two seasons. Became first Pirate to win All-Region honors since 1999(!) as a senior. Fifteen assists the past two seasons at SHU, and SBFC really needs some midfield depth, so she’s got a decent shot.
Tricia DiPaolo – MF – Rutgers – Would be among the more unlikely stories to emerge in the short history of the NWSL if she makes it. Missed three full seasons with ACL injuries at Rutgers but received a rare seventh year of eligibility in 2013. Stayed healthy the past two seasons and probably played her best soccer of her career as a senior. Can her knees hold up given the physicality of this level? If they can, she’s got an outside shot at a spot.
Amanda Dutra – MF – Portland Thorns (Portland State) – Another player who was on the periphery last season, having been an amateur call-up for the Thorns mid-season. Was a star at Big Sky level in college for a formidable Portland State program, though her numbers weren’t spectacular. The smattering of pro experience, even in a training setting, could give her a small leg up towards sealing a roster spot.
Yirlania Arroyo Fonseca – GK – Arenosos (CRC) – One-time #1 in goal for Costa Rica has since been displaced in the full national team for last year’s Central American Games, which the team won over Nicaragua. Already has a lot against her with two starting calibre keepers in front of her and her international status making her odds of sticking on this roster very slim indeed.
Tori Adame – MF/D – North Texas – Played left-back for a North Texas team that had no problems bullying smaller opposition in the region for ages. Might play as a left-winger at this level, but she wasn’t exactly a superstar for the Mean Green despite taking the captaincy as a senior. Might have a shot if she moves back to left-back, but I wouldn’t count on her making it as an attacker considering all of Seattle’s firepower this year.
Jamie Arthurs – GK – Western Washington – Lower division superstar for Vikings of Western Washington shattered plenty of records as a senior for club’s run to the Division II Sweet Sixteen. Lack of experience at higher level works against her, but given uncertain nature of backup position for Reign, she has a small chance of beating out Kopmeyer for #2 role.
Nicholette DiGiacomo – MF – Denver – One of the best players to go undrafted after an all-conquering career with the rampant Pioneers. Center midfielder finished with thirty-two goals and thirty-nine assists, including a famous hat trick in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Maryland in 2012. Figured she’d be in demand as an undrafted free agent, but this is as tough a place as any to make it as an attacking midfielder.
Macy Jo Harrison – D – UNLV – Another reserve player from last season being given a chance to get promoted to the full squad. Had a stuttering start to her college career at Oregon State before a transfer to UNLV revitalized her game. Played as an attacking midfielder at college level but likely gets a shot at full-back at this level. A longshot, despite club’s questions on defense.
Jenny LaPonte – D – Boston Breakers (Santa Clara) – Former youth international had a star crossed career in college with SCU, battling through serious knee injuries later in her tenure with the Broncos. Is quality if she’s healthy and was a reserve with the Breakers last season, so she’s got a smattering of top level experience. Remains to be seen if she’s still got the wheels post-injuries to be viable at this level.
Tesa McKibben – F – Saint Francis (PA) – Finished college career with a whopping seventy goals, netting twenty as a senior and netting at least fourteen in each of her final four college seasons (she took a medical redshirt after three games in 2009). Hard to argue with production, but lack of pedigree against top opposition and poor efficiency numbers probably kept her from being drafted. Team might need a true center forward or two for depth, so she’s got a shot.
Taryne Boudreau – MF/D – Houston Aces (LSU) – Former Canadian youth international stayed local in competing with the Aces following her LSU career. Form was temperamental throughout her stay in Baton Rouge but was great as a senior with twelve goals in 2011. Has a rocket of a shot. Versatility helps her chances, though she’ll probably be a defensive midfielder at this level. Still a longshot due to international status.
Sara Campbell – F – Seattle Sounders (Montana) – Former star forward with Montana collegiately joins up from W-League Sounders, where she played eleven games last season. Scoring record there (four goals in 2013) and at previous stop in Sweden wasn’t great, but she’s versatile and experienced, so she has a slight chance of sticking around.
Haley Carter – GK – Navy – I haven’t been able to find out much info on Carter, though I think she was discussed by Randy Waldrum on the Keeper Notes podcast. She’s an alum of the Naval Academy and a former Marine Corps officer, but I can’t find any record of her in the NCAA’s records. If she makes it, Carter’s obviously a great story, but she’s the longest of longshots.
Karenee Demery – F – Cal State Stanislaus – Division II scoring machine for Cal State Stanislaus isn’t exactly a newcomer to the scene having been given a look at U23 level under Waldrum before. Tallied a career best twenty-one goals as a senior for Warriors en route to NSCAA DII Player of the Year honors. Upside is through the roof, and Waldrum may want to keep her in Houston, knowing someone else may well gamble on that upside should he let her go.
Lindsay Elston – MF – Washington – Former U.S. youth international looked like a Hermann Trophy contender for the first half of 2012…and then opponents figured out that the Huskies didn’t have anyone else on offense that could hit the broad side of a barn. Zero goals on forty-eight shots this year saw her tumble out of the draft, but she still has a lot of upside now that she isn’t carrying an offense on her back. Could be a real steal for a team needing midfield depth.
FC Kansas City
Molly Dreska – MF – Maryland – Employee from Sporting Kansas City of MLS made it through tryouts for the second straight year. Local status obviously helps out if the club needs an amateur player but faces a steep climb towards a regular roster spot considering club’s numbers in midfield
Missy Geha – MF – Kansas – You may know her as the color commentary voice on FC Kansas City broadcasts. Not particularly a standout on the playing field, but it helps to have a reliable option if need be on heavy international days. Doesn’t figure to get much run otherwise though as club has tons of midfield options.
Caroline Kastor – F – Kansas – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Great junior season, so-so senior season. Looked like a solid prospect for the 2014 draft after eleven goals as a junior but tailed off to an inefficient six goals on fifty-eight shots this past year. Judging by the results of her first two seasons, I’d say 2013 was more representative of her overall skill. Faces a hard road to a roster spot here.
Sara Keane – GK – West Virginia – Former U.S. youth international enjoyed a solid, if not unspectacular, career with the Mountaineers. Long injury history early in her career a worry, though she’s been healthy recently. Doesn’t possess great athleticism and struggles in traffic sometimes, but might round into a decent backup, though perhaps maybe not here.
Chicago Red Stars
Jessy Battelli – D – Denver – Not the typical dominator from day one that usually touches down in Denver but still rounded into a hell of a center-back for the Pioneers, concluding her college career with Summit League Defensive Player of the Year honors. Red Stars need all defensive help they can get, so she’s got a good shot at sticking.
Micaela Castain – F – Washington State – Bizarrely enough went undrafted despite being the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year after a fantastic senior season for the Cougars. Usage numbers are middling but she’s continually improved throughout her career, and Dames usually gets best out of players, so she’s got a real chance to stick as depth.
Heather Cooke – D – Landsbro (SWE) (Loyola (MD)) – Well, let me put it this way. She couldn’t make Washington’s roster last season despite the Spirit having a wretched backline for much of the season. Filipino international has found a decent situation though and has an outside chance of sticking at depth challenged Chicago.
Florence Dadson – F – Robert Morris University – Trying to make history as first African player to make a NWSL roster. Ghanian youth international is a three-time NAIA All-American and scored a ridiculous thirty goals from twenty-one games this past season. Step up in class is huge, but upside might be worth the roster spot.