Tomorrow the Saint Louis Athletica players become free agents. The players won’t be drafted away, rather they’ll be sold to the highest bidder. I’m not saying this order of events will unfold, merely that this would be how each WPS team’s lingering needs would be met.
In a perfect world the Atlanta Beat would be granted VIP access to the SLA fire sale and FC Gold Pride would be at the very end of the queue.
But after all, this is a world that has seen the Saint Louis Athletica die at the hands of two sketchy brothers who couldn’t even operate a Subway and Papa John’s franchise over in the UK without being embezzled. That is not a joke. This is also a world where in which someone at the AC St. Louis front office thought it would be a grand idea to offer heartbroken SLA fans discounted AC Saint Louis tickets for the rest of the season. Yeah, because funding the very organization that helped take down your club makes everything better. Right.
Anyways, on to the dispersing:
Eniola Aluko – Chicago Red Stars – Many people have suggested that the league’s top goal scorer ought to head to either Atlanta or Boston. But in your author’s likely erroneous mind, Chicago could do the most with Eni’s assets. Atlanta’s problem is distribution. The Beat needs that player in the midfield who can dictate the run of play (any guesses who that could be, hint hint), not a striker. Boston has Lauren Cheney, Kelly Smith and two other forwards who should score. It would just be unfair for them to have another striker for DiCicco to ruin. Chicago, on the other hand, has a very young strike force and a midfield that loves to create and get forward. Their problem is finishing which Aluko can do probably better than anyone. Imagine her getting the final pass from the likes of Cristiane, Rapinoe or Carney. And the stylish, trick-laden Nogueira would find her strike foil in the clinical Aluko.
Shannon Boxx – Atlanta Beat – You cannot build a team around the likes of Angie Kerr, McCall Zerboni, Johanna Rasmussen, Mami Yamaguchi, Sophia Mundy and the unproven Tobin Heath and expect it to do well against the of other WPS teams. Atlanta’s midfield has been invisible this season. Thus, it’s critical for the Beat to pick up perhaps the best midfielder in like, the free world duh. Someone who has the leadership and experience to help solidify the midfield and feed passes into Bachmann’s wonderfully talented feet.
Hope Solo – Atlanta Beat Honestly, the goalkeeping in this league has been pretty outstanding all year long. But Atlanta has the additional problem of having two #2’s and having zero #1’s. Allison Whitworth and Brett Maron are just fine as back-ups but as starters? Despite Solo’s rocky year (she actually leads the league in most goals conceded!), that kind of world-class pedigree will only augment a pretty strong back four that includes Hope’s old pal McNeill and Robinson.
Lori Chalupny – Boston Breakers Boston’s midfield has also been fairly unproductive this season. Since the full back positions are pretty much solidified with Scott and Cox, look to Lori to perhaps man Lilly’s opposite flank and join in the attack with Smith, Cheney, etc. Boston should take advantage of Chalupny’s toughness, versatility and creativity.
Aya Miyama – Boston Breakers Ditto everything that was said above about the anemic midfield. If a revamped midfield doesn’t get the goals coming in Boston, there is something seriously wrong.
Lindsay Tarpley – Sky Blue FC I’m still arguing whether or not Tarp would be better suited in Piscataway or in Kennesaw, but SBFC already have about 10 forwards and what’s another USWNT member to them. But really, with Kai’s fitness issues, Landstrom’s continued struggles with the learning curve and their three other green college draftees, Tarpley could be exactly the speedy forward needed to receive passes out of the talent-ridden midfield.
Ashlyn Harris – Washington Freedom UNC’s star goalkeeper has game, and enough of it keep Erin McLeod on the hot seat. Harris could also be a more suitable back-up to an aging Briana Scurry.
Tina Ellertson – Philadelphia Independence I’m not entirely sold on the play of Sara Larsson just yet and Ellertson could bring the experience and size needed to really shore up Philadelphia’s back line. But to be fair, I’m really reaching with this one.
Anita Asante – Atlanta Beat This one isn’t such a reach. Asante was wonderful with Rampone in the center of defense last year, and could again be wonderful with the extremely athletic Kia McNeill in Atlanta. Imagine a back line of Robinson, McNeill, Asante, Larkin with Solo tending the net. Few teams will get past that.
Niki Cross – Chicago Red Stars I’ve always been impressed with the size and tenacity of Cross the few times I’ve seen her play but she could do well to further develop with Chicago’s other young players.
Carolyn Blank – Philadelphia Independence Sarah Senty is not the answer at left back for Philadelphia, and the young Blank has impressed so far this year (albeit at right back). She’s also a target during set pieces and a utility midfielder that can help link up play. Exactly the player the Independence needs.
Elise Weber – Sky Blue FC The dependable Weber could slot in at left back and free up Trotter to be a striker. But that would also leave Keeley Downing and Danielle Johnson out in the cold.
Kendall Fletcher – FC Gold Pride Center back pairings are really, really strong everywhere in this league and the only real question mark is over Candace Chapman’s fitness. Fletcher could serve as an under-study to the Canadian international who did play 90 minutes this weekend. It’s honestly hard to see where Fletcher would both be needed and could start.
Tina DiMartino – Atlanta Beat The Beat would need either Boxx or Chalupny before selecting DiMartino, but she’s another young talent with a lot of creative promise.
Others – Elaine, Madelaine Edlund, Kristina Larsen, Veronica Perez, Kati Jo Spisak, Sarah Teegarden, Sarah Wagenfuhr, Erin Walter.
Things are likely to get extremely interesting over the next week or so as the seven remaining WPS squads are likely only to get stronger. Also, not every player is going to get picked up which is another element of the sad reality that comes with having a franchise fold.
We’ll also get a look at just which WPS teams have the most financial muscle. Hopefully the competitive balance will remain somewhat in tact and no one team will horde all of the talent. But that’s the budding socialist in me talking.
** Note to the Atlanta Beat organization: Break the flipping bank. You have a top-class stadium. Fill it with top-class athletes. If you do this, you can fill that top-class stadium with people who are willing to pay money to watch a good team. You were wrong in choosing to build a team with young role players. Now you have a chance to fix that. Choose wisely.