Monthly Archives: May 2014

NWSL – Fantasy Round Eight Preview

May 28, 2014. Where were you the day your fantasy team died?

OK, perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic, but for a lot of people who bet big on Portland this round (including myself), it was a veritable disaster, with the Thorns losing two matches which looked very winnable on paper. Jessica McDonald, who had been so reliable for much of the season before reverted back to her inconsistent and disappointing ways of the past. Kat Tarr’s penchant for fouls caught up with her, as she was sent off against Boston. And Nadine Angerer, captained by a big chunk of folks, was deep in the negatives after the Wednesday Night Massacre. The only good news for Portland from a fantasy standpoint is Christine Sinclair having a very good round. What does that mean in the long-term? Nobody really knows. Portland could have four new starters by the time they next step on the pitch. They’re idle this round though, so it’s time to turn your attentions elsewhere.

Amazingly, I did a good job of picking players around the Thorns in my lineup, and it resulted in me climbing into the Top 200 overall. If anything, the round should be a pretty big wakeup call for complacent fantasy owners: There’s nothing predictable about the league at times, and even the simplest rounds can go to hell with an upset or two.

This time out? Portland being off simplifies things (in a way), but with there only being five matches this round after a glut of games in previous rounds, there’s probably a whole lot less room for error if some of your players flop. Double gamers Western New York and Washington each have one tough matchup and one easier matchup on paper and should be featuring prominently in your lineup. Seattle’s got a strong matchup despite having just one game this round, while in-form Chicago might also be worth your attention despite a potentially tricky matchup against Washington.

Team Rankings

1. WNY
2. WSH
3. SEA
4. CHI
6. BOS
8. HOU

WNY Flash – The Flash’s defense has been a nightmare the past three matches after a strong start, giving up seven goals in those three games. It seems like the club is struggling badly on the road, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a midweek trip to Kansas City, but a home date with Houston on Saturday could be just the tonic they need. In goal, LYDIA WILLIAMS’ return from the Asian Cup could be the catalyst for improvement despite averaging just .25 more per match than KELSEY WYS. The nightmare scenario is the duo splitting the matches this round. Thankfully, the Flash’s first match this round is the first of the whole round, so you should have lineup info to make changes if needed. If Wys does start against Houston, I might suggest switching to either Hope Solo or Ashlyn Harris if you’ve got an allocation spot available. You probably want at least one defender from WNY in your lineup, From a point production standpoint, BRITTANY TAYLOR or KRISTEN EDMONDS are tops right now. The $64,000 Question is whether you can afford both ABBY WAMBACH and CARLI LLOYD in your lineup. Both will cost you an allocated slot, but both could bring you big points this round. If you can choose just one, I’d spring for Wambach, given Lloyd’s penchant for fouls. Anyone looking for steady production may well turn towards VICKY, averaging a cool 5.5 points a match, while SAMANTHA KERR is a sneaky pick if she starts right off the bat coming home from the Asian Cup.
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WPSL: DC-area team preview

ACF Torino USA logo

Team: ACF Torino USA
Home venues: Thomas Sprigg Wootton High School, Rockville, MD; Riverdale Baptism Sportsplex, Upper Marlboro, MD
History: Third season. Made playoffs first season but lost in first round. Finished third in division last year, out of playoffs.
Head coach: Fabio Diletti


Team: ASA Chesapeake Charge
Home venues: Carroll Field, Arundel High School, Gambrills, MD
History: Fifth season. Made playoffs first season, lost on bid to reach WPSL Final Four their second and fourth seasons, participated in WPSL-Elite as overmatched amateur team in 2012.
Head coach: Tim Wittman

The local WPSL teams have two things in common. The first is that they are co-hosting the 2014 WPSL Championship (think Final Four), set for July 25-27 this year. The other is that they both ended last season on a disappointing note – and are using that as motivation.
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Late goals preserve Spirit’s undefeated home stand

Ali Krieger moved to the unfamiliar role of central defender at the start of the homestand.

Ali Krieger moved to the unfamiliar role of central defender at the start of the homestand.

It’s interesting how one moment can change the complexion of not just a game but a series. Late in Monday’s match, I was already trying to compose a lede reflecting on the disappointment of an underachieving three-game homestand. But then Christine Nairn fired in her rocket of a shot, and suddenly all was right in the Spirit world.

That seemed to be something of a theme for the whole series. Jodie Taylor scored with under 12 minutes to go to regain the lead against Western New York. Diana Matheson put away a penalty kick in stoppage time to salvage a draw with Sky Blue. Without the late goals, Washington would have accumulated just 2 standings points instead of 7.
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Washington Spirit Reserves Win Inaugural US Women’s Amateur Championship

The Washington Spirit Reserves with the Michelle Akers Trophy.

The Washington Spirit Reserves with the Michelle Akers Trophy.

In the conclusion to an exciting weekend of soccer, the USL W-League Washington Spirit Reserves downed the WPSL Houston Aces, 2-0, to claim the first Michelle Akers trophy as the top women’s amateur team in the country. In the third place game, the host ASA Chesapeake Charge defeated the Real Salt Lake Women, 3-0. Both teams are part of the WPSL.

In the semifinals on Friday night, Houston defeated Chesapeake in a 1-1 nailbiter that went to penalty kicks, with the Aces prevailing there, 3-1. Following that, the Reserves held off RSL, 2-0.
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NWSL – Fantasy Round Seven Preview

The points haven’t been updated yet, but by my rough calculations, I managed to crack the one hundred point barrier again. I figure scoring will be down this round given the lack of clean sheets, but who knows until the final totals are out? As such, my defense and goalkeeper point totals were pretty bad, but I figure that’s the case with most teams this round. The good news is that I should have gotten double digits from all but one of my midfielders and forwards, and even Vicky got me a handful of points.

The next round is an absolute marathon, with games on four straight days and five of six days overall. There’s a little more clarity in who you should be picking though. Portland and Chicago each play two of the bottom three and have been raking in the points, so you should be stuffing as many of their players into your lineup as you feel comfortable with. FC Kansas City’s got a great matchup, Washington’s matchup is not that far behind, and Seattle’s, well, Seattle, so you may want to spring for a player or two from those sides as well. I suspect there’ll be a lot of similar looking lineups this round, so big moves up and down the leaderboard will probably have to wait for another round.

Round Seven – Team Rankings

2. CHI (@HOU, @SBFC)
3. FCKC (@BOS)
4. WSH (HOU)
5. SEA (WNY)
6. HOU (CHI, @WSH)
7. WNY (@SEA)
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Top US Amateur Teams To Compete in Maryland

Logos of teams competing

History will be made in Gambrills, MD, this weekend, as for the first time ever four champions of US women’s amateur soccer will meet to decide an overall champion, to be awarded the Michelle Akers trophy. Hosted by the Arundel Soccer Association’s Chesapeake Charge, matches will take place at Arundel High School on Friday and Sunday. (The counterpart men’s tournament takes place at the same location on Thursday and Saturday.)

The four representatives are as follows:
ASA Chesapeake Charge – 2013 USASA Amateur Cup Champions
Houston Aces – 2013 USASA Open Cup Champions
Real Salt Lake Women – WPSL representative*
Washington Spirit Reserves – W-League representative*

Any kind of matches between United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League teams and Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) teams are as rare as Abby Wambach missing a point-blank header. (The WPSL broke off from the W-League back in the late 90’s, and there’s been little in the way of rapprochement since then.) To have two such matches – and meaningful matches at that, not just exhibitions – in the same weekend underscores the momentousness of this tournament.
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W-League: Spirit Reserves open with 4-1 win over Braddock Road

Ashley Cuba is very happy to have scored twice for the Washington Spirit Reserves.

Ashley Cuba is very happy to have scored twice for the Washington Spirit Reserves.

Two months ago – recovering from an ACL tear – Ashley Cuba couldn’t play soccer at all. One week ago she wasn’t sure she was going to make the team. In this game, she came in as a halftime sub and scored two insurance goals in five minutes – plus a third that went in the net, but the flag was up. Pretty good for someone who wasn’t sure she could play without a brace, after being forced to do without because the one she had with her didn’t fit well enough.

Early on, though, it looked as if Cuba’s efforts would scarcely be needed. The Braddock Road Stars Elite back line had trouble adjusting to the speed of the Reserves and repeatedly found their passes intercepted and turned into attacks. Head coach Larry Best pointed out the personnel situation: “We’re playing with two center backs who aren’t center backs. One’s our central midfielder, and the other’s our outside back. And if you look at who our outside backs were, we’ve got high school kids. We have five or six high school kids out there. But it’s good for them. It’s a baptism of fire. They have to learn what the speed of the game is like.”
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DC-area teams preview: W-League

Amber Stobbs will return to the Spirit Reserves for 2014

Amber Stobbs will return to the Spirit Reserves for 2014.

Some things change, and some stay the same. As usual, the most promising local team is the one affiliated with the professional team. On the other hand, two of their regional adversaries have disappeared, to be replaced by a brand new team.

The promising local team is, of course, the Washington Spirit Reserves. Last year they had a very successful season, winning the Eastern Conference and going to the W-League Final Four, then taking the eventual league champion Pali Blues to overtime before falling, 1-0 3-2. They’d win the consolation game to finish in third place.
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NWSL – Fantasy Round Six Preview

Hard to be too conclusive about my performance this round, as scores haven’t been posted as I write this. I probably had a decent week with the likes of Lauren Holiday, Kim Little, Amy Rodriguez, Jessica McDonald, Kendall Fletcher and Karina LeBlanc on my squad. Unfortunately, I also wasted spots on Allie Long and Sydney Leroux who were injured and ineffective respectively. On my bench? Just Nadine Angerer and Abby Wambach, two of this round’s top scorers. D’oh.

Three clubs have double games this round, but it’s hard to trust Washington from round-to-round, while WNY’s matchups are hardly ideal. With FC Kansas City, you’ve got one great matchup against Houston and one daunting one against Seattle. FCKC was able to breach the Reign defense multiple times though, so the likes of Lauren Holiday and Amy Rodriguez still represent good value. Seattle has a tough matchup against FCKC, but the offense rolled against them last round, making them a decent bet to put up decent numbers.

All in all, it’s a moderately challenging round that should provoke some thinking amongst fantasy managers before we all cram our lineups with Portland and Chicago players next round.

FC Kansas City (vs HOU, vs SEA) – Betting on FCKC’s goalkeeper/defense is like making a deal with the devil this round. A clean sheet against a toothless Houston looks a good bet, but the Reign punished FCKC’s defense last round and will be well rested ahead of midweek. Take the risk? Maybe. I’m more comfortable of betting on either LEIGH ANN ROBINSON or NIKKI PHILLIPS with a defensive slot than using an allocation on NICOLE BARNHART, though I might take the gamble anyway. LAUREN HOLIDAY was money for FCKC’s second match despite a flat first match, and I’d bet on at least one goal this round as well, so she’s a solid captaincy bet. ERIKA TYMRAK showed what she can do in the blink of an eye against Seattle, but her lingering back injury means you should check the injury report before risking her in your lineup. AMY RODRIGUEZ put up a rare goose egg in the second match of the last round, but would you bet on her doing likewise this time out? I wouldn’t. Get her in your lineup.
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USWNT – Here Comes Your Destiny

So here we are, at a predetermined moment in history for an inevitable coronation that seems to be leaving large swaths of the USWNT’s supporters queasy. Jill Ellis, finally, is the new manager of the United States Women’s National Team. The decision to sack Tom Sermanni in the middle of a two-game series with China was clumsily timed and inarticulately explained by USSF president Sunil Gulati, who will likely see his presidency of the federation come to a head over the next two years with a vital World Cup for a men’s program that has been making halting progress forward for the better part of two decades now before next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada serves as perhaps the USWNT’s last best chance at a world championship before a venerated generation rides off into the sunset.

It’s that pressure to win that likely prompted the controversial sacking of Sermanni after the USWNT’s unsteady display in the Algarve Cup at the beginning of the year. But the circumstance of the dismissal perhaps cast an icy pall on the search to fill a job which should theoretically be one of the best in the world in women’s football. It may have also winnowed the pool of candidates, with the firing coming in the middle of the NWSL season doing the USSF no favors either. Institutional matters aside, opinion was largely divided amongst a fanbase left to argue fierily amongst itself as to whether the plug had been pulled out of necessity or out of impatience and insecurity by Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO and secretary general Dan Flynn.

The temperature of the room has plunged precipitously since Ellis’ name was seriously linked with the job she’s seemingly been groomed for for over a decade. The icy reception that the prospect of Ellis taking over in the run up to Friday’s announcement has seldom been seen before from a fanbase that has usually left the grousing until managers are settled upon their throne. The venom has come swift and hard in the face of Ellis’ candidacy likely making for uncomfortable reading for the USSF illuminati, though you suspect popular opinion ceased being a barometer of any import to those pulling the strings long ago.

Part of the problem is that when a candidate gets groomed for success for an age without taking that final step as it feels like Ellis has, the public tends to walk away with the feeling that they’re having something (or someone) shoved down their throat. For the longest time, it’s felt like all that was missing from the tale of Ellis’ ascension to the top chair in American women’s soccer has been the exclamation point that critics could be bludgeoned over the head with as they expressed doubt over her suitability for the job. When Ellis narrowly lost out in the NCAA Tournament final in 2000 to North Carolina, it seemed inevitable that that exclamation point would arrive sooner rather than later.
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