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:
Ashlyn Harris (GK) – After overcoming a series of injuries, Harris won three NCAA titles with the North Carolina Tarheels. She was picked 19th in the 2010 WPS draft by the St. Louis Athletica, then signed with the Washington Freedom when the Athletica dissolved. With Briana Scurry unavailable due to a concussion, she took over as the starting goalkeeper when Erin McLeod tore her ACL in a July 24 match and played the remaining eight games. The Freedom had lost three in a row at that point and were out of playoff position, but they went 4-3-2 with her in the net, good enough to earn the final playoff spot. For that match they went on the road against Philadelphia, where Harris made a succession of sensational saves to keep a clean sheet for almost 120 minutes, until an Amy Rodriguez goal in the waning seconds of overtime spoiled her chance to win it for the Freedom on penalty kicks.
When the Freedom moved south, Harris moved north to the Western New York Flash, where the team went 13-2-2 and captured both the regular-season title and the championship. Harris made the final play in WPS history, saving a Laura del Rio penalty kick attempt that gave the Flash the championship. She was also named WPS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Summary: This is a steal. Looking long-term, Harris is arguably the best goalkeeper in the allocation, significantly younger than those ahead of her on the USWNT depth chart, Solo and Barnhart.
9 pm edit: It’s been pointed out to me that Harris has a two-year contract (signed June 2012) with the German team FCR 2001 Duisburg, so her availability for the Spirit may be limited. This may not be as much of a steal as it first seemed.
Ali Krieger (DF/MF) – Back in 2004, the post-WUSA Washington Freedom had an exhibition match at RFK Stadium. Short on WUSA veterans, they filled in with a couple of local teenagers. The Freedom would score seven goals, three by one of these teens playing attacking midfielder. I’ve kept my eye on Ali Krieger ever since. She played for the W-League Freedom in 2007 as a holding midfielder, making a key play in the opening seconds of the championship match that led to a demoralizing first-minute goal in a game they would win easily. She returned to the WPS Freedom in 2009 on a rehab assignment and played a solid right back for most of the season.
She got her first cap for the national team in 2008, then became a regular in 2010, just in time for World Cup Qualifying. In the 2011 Women’s World Cup, she played all 600 minutes, scoring the decisive penalty kick to end the US-Brazil thriller in the US’s favor. She missed the Olympics after tearing her ACL and MCL but would otherwise have been part of the gold medal team.
Summary: If Krieger – who grew up in northern Virginia – had been allocated elsewhere, I’d have torn up my season tickets. She’ll be an outstanding performer and possibly a league all-star at either midfielder or defender.
Lori Lindsey (MF) – Lindsey, playing for Virginia, won the ACC’s Player of the Year two years running, the first player to do so since Mia Hamm. She was picked fourth in the WUSA draft by the San Diego Spirit in 2002, then was traded to the Freedom in 2003 and was part of their championship team that year. She captained the Freedom’s 2007 W-League championship team and was also part of the play that led to the early goal in the final. She was the Freedom’s third pick (17th overall) in the 2008 WPS General Draft and played 18 matches for them. She was left unprotected for the 2010 expansion draft and was the first player picked by the Philadelphia Independence, playing regularly for them the next two seasons.
She started getting regular national team callups in 2009 and in 2010 led the team in assists with seven. She was an alternate on the 2012 Olympic squad but did not get to play.
Summary: Lindsey is not a speedster but has great vision and great touch on the ball. She’ll be a strong leader for this team.
Robyn Gayle (DF) – Gayle was captain of the NCAA champion North Carolina Tarheels in 2006 and was named Defensive MVP of the College Cup the same year. She went on to play for the elite W-League teams the Ottawa Fury and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
She’s first appeared on the Canadian National Team in 2006 and has accumulated 47 caps. She played 87 minutes in the first two matches of the 2012 Olympics before suffering an injury that kept her out the rest of the way.
Summary: Gayle is arguably the #5 defender for Canada and with the Spirit will get the chance to prove if she can be a starter.
Diana Matheson (MF) – Matheson played for Princeton, being named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2007 and Princeton Women’s Athlete of the Year in 2008. Her club play has been in Norway for Team Strømmen in Oslo.
Matheson debuted for Canada in 2003, when she was 19, and she’s been a mainstay ever since, with 140 appearances and 12 goals, including the winning (and only goal) in the 2012 Olympic bronze medal match. Despite being just barely over five feet tall, she’s held her own on a team that’s been known for its physicality.
Summary: Matheson is a mainstay on the Canadian national team and a solid pickup for the Spirit.
Alina Garciamendez (DF) – Garciamendez was born in Los Gatos, CA, and grew up in the Dallas, TX, area. She’s finishing up at Stanford, where she’s played in a school-record one hundred matches and helped lead the team to the NCAA championship in 2011. This past year she was a semifinalist for the MAC Herman Trophy.
She joined the Mexican national team system in 2008 and served as captain of its U-20 team in 2010. She also rose to the full national team that year and was a starter in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Summary: At 21, Garciamendez is the youngest player allocated to the Spirit and would have been eligible for the college draft had she not been part of the allocation. She seems like just the sort of player who needs this level of experience to shine.
1/13 edit: My AWK colleage Chris Henderson ranks her seventh among current college seniors, commenting “Possessor of great technical skills on the ball … Garciamendez also possesses the brute strength and physicality to muscle around opposing top-level defenders. … Likely one of the betting favorites for NWSL Rookie of the Year with the Washington Spirit.”
Teresa Guadalupe Worbis (MF) – Worbis is from Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico. She joined Mexico’s U-20 team in 2002 and the senior team in 2003, playing for them in the 2004 Olympics and the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Summary: At 29 and with ten years of international experience, Worbis should be able to provide leadership to the team. There’s not much information about her online, so there isn’t much else to say.
Final Thoughts: If the Spirit are building from the back forward, they have a great start: a top goalkeeper, one of the best defenders in the world, and two more promising back line players. Meanwhile, Lindsey, Matheson, and Worbis are a good start on a midfield. Obviously, what’s lacking is a forward or two. How about bringing Lisa De Vanna back from Australia and re-signing Lianne Sanderson? Works for me!