NWSL – Where We Stand Entering Free Agency

(Note: I’ve generally included free agent signings that have be widely reported as happening in this analysis, though nothing has been made official yet.)

In lieu of draft grades or anything, I decided to take a bigger look at what each team has in each area of the pitch and what needs still exist heading into the free agency period. I’ll probably analyze free agency signings themselves once the deadline to make them passes this week, with a supplemental draft preview if the league bothers to release the names of participants.

Boston Breakers

Goalkeepers – While, in a sense, the Breakers not taking a goalkeeper in the draft was something of a vote of confidence towards Mexican international Cecilia Santiago, there’s little questioning that the club needs some veteran competition for the teenager. While Santiago has made big strides at international level, she’s still just a teenager, and entrusting the club’s hopes between the pipes to one so young would be a very risky proposition. The problem, of course, is that there’s not much in the way of starting calibre goalkeeping out there in the open market. Val Henderson is obviously the big name left unallocated, and Boston would likely afford her the most playing time right off the bat in all likelihood. The quality of options drops decidedly after her though, and the Breakers could be left sweating a bit if they don’t pick up the former UCLA star as a free agent.

Defenders – No subtlety here, the Breakers need center-backs. As in more than one central defender. Unless they plan a likely ill-advised conversion of another player on the roster, Boston’s got no center-backs on the roster, which has to be a bit of a worry considering a gap or two elsewhere. Kia McNeill has plenty of local ties and would certainly make a lot of sense, but she’d still be just half the equation, and Boston might still need more than two central defenders for the sake of depth. It looks a little better out wide, as first round pick Casey Short figures to get every chance of winning the left-back job. On the opposite flank, Heather Mitts looks most likely to feature at right-back, with Rhian Wilkinson capable of spelling her if necessary or featuring further up the pitch. If Boston can solve that center-back problem, they could have a very solid defensive core.

Midfielders – The Boston midfield should have plenty of teeth after the club took three defensive midfielders in the draft, but where is the creative spark going to come from? Heather O’Reilly is still a player packing much endeavor on the flank and should be able to whip inviting crosses into the forwards, but the club still needs to address a noted need for an interior playmaker that just doesn’t seem to be on the roster right now. Mariah Nogueira should play the role of destroyer-in-chief in the center of the park and filled a need on draft day. Jo Dragotta and Maddy Evans are both hustle players that can also do a lot of the hard running in midfield, but neither figures to be the player to help unlock defenses with incisive passing in the attacking third. O’Reilly takes care of one flank, but the Breakers still need someone to work on the left side, though that need probably plays second fiddle to finding a playmaker to run the show.

Forwards – The Breakers have a great lead gun in the form of Leroux to lead the line, but there’s little else that’s certain at this point. The club’s other two strikers on the roster at current are Canadian international Adriana Leon and Mexican international Anisa Guajardo, both fresh out of the college ranks. Both have shown signs of greatness at both international and college level, but neither is anything close to a complete product at this point. The club would probably be best served with easing both into the professional ranks as super subs to begin with, but if they can’t add some depth and quality to the attacking cadre, they might not have a choice in the matter. At any rate, experienced additions up top should be a priority for the club. Leroux’s the relative veteran head of the bunch, but she’s just twenty-two and doesn’t even have an actual professional match on her resume, having played last year with the amateur Seattle Sounders Women in the W-League.

Chicago Red Stars

Goalkeepers – The Red Stars gave a tacit nod to Erin McLeod on draft day by not spending a pick on one of the higher rated netminders that could have potentially pushed the Canadian #1 in between the pipes in Chicago. McLeod has shown well for her nation on numerous occasions, but the Penn State alum has also been prone to wild swings in form at club level in the past, something Red Star supporters won’t be keen to revisit this year. Chicago could also be in the market for an experienced backup to provide cover though, like Allison Lipsher or Brittany Cameron. The club used a third round pick on Florida State backup Taylor Vancil, which was arguably the most shocking pick of the entire draft. Vancil’s a project in goal though, and it beggars belief that the Red Stars would go into the new season with a goalkeeper who started four games her final two collegiate seasons as their #2.

Defenders – There are some quantifiable concerns within this unit. The heart of the defense would be in good shape if health wasn’t a concern with Amy LePeilbet. Lingering knee problems have kept the Arizona State alum from the first USWNT camp of the new year, and Red Stars management has to be hoping that she’ll be back healthy in time for the new season. While mostly used out wide at international level, she seems more likely to move back into her typical club role at center-back, where she was dominant in WPS. When fit, LePeilbet should join Carmelina Moscato in the middle as the preferred center-back pairing. Rory Dames will likely want cover just in case and may make an additional center-back a priority in the free agent period. Second round pick Rachel Quon looks likely to be thrown in right away at right-back, though she could also shift to left-back if they club can’t fill a void there. In any event, the Red Stars need multiple signings in this zone of the field.

Midfielders – Chicago certainly isn’t going to be needing much in the way of defensive midfielders if the proposed signing of Leslie Osborne finally goes through. The club had already been allocated a strong spine in the form of veteran Shannon Boxx and promising youngster Keelin Winters, but adding Osborne only adds to the steel in the center of the park for the Red Stars. You could argue though that the club may have tipped too far towards that end of the spectrum though, as the midfield looks very functional on paper. Winters may be called upon to get a little more involved in the offense if Dames tries to cram all three into the same lineup, but this club is still starving for a creative influence in the middle of the park. The lone real offensive personality in the midfield if the Red Stars don’t shift Zakiya Bywaters out wide here, is Mexican international Dinora Garza. Garza may be racking up the caps for her country and adding to those caps with goals for El Tri, but it’s a lot to ask for her to serve as the club’s attacking thrust in the middle at just twenty-one years of age and without extended experience at this level with a club. Finding someone who can help unlock defenses in this zone will be a key to Chicago’s fate this year.

Forwards – Much could ride on that fateful decision of taking Bywaters with the first overall pick in the draft. It goes without saying that such a decision comes with the expectation of goals from the rookie out of UCLA, though how exactly she’ll be used in the attack is still a big question. Bywaters doesn’t seem big enough to occupy a center forward role, and her talents make her an inviting option to stretch play wide before crossing or cutting back inside. If Bywaters can’t come in and make an immediate impact, this group could be in trouble, because there are other big question marks here. Maribel Dominguez was a terror in the original WUSA, but the Mexican international is now thirty-four and hasn’t tasted high level club football in ages. She still knows where the back of the net is, but Dames and the Red Stars will have to manage her minutes carefully to get the most out of her. Princeton draftee Jen Hoy had some eye-popping stats for the Tigers as a senior, including some gaudy efficiency numbers. She could be a very astute pick for the Red Stars and is likely one that will have to contribute in some part very early on. More than anything though, this club needs some more proven scoring up front to lessen the load on the rookies and the evergreen Dominguez.

Washington Spirit

Goalkeepers – As the financial meltdown of German club Duisburg continues to rumble on, so does the unsettled status of the Spirit’s starting goalkeeper, Ashlyn Harris. While the Spirit would love to get Harris back by the beginning of the new campaign, that’s certainly not guaranteed, even with the German club’s future in the balance. In any event, Harris figures to be back stateside by June at the end of the Frauen Bundesliga season if Duisburg keeps playing. The big question is what the club does if Harris is absent those first few months. The Spirit didn’t bite on a goalkeeper in the draft, meaning they probably need to reel in a creditable backup with some professional experience at this level. Allison Lipsher and Brittany Cameron are probably the top options, with Val Henderson an outside bet. Things should stabilize when Harris gets between the posts, but until then, it’s certainly a situation worth watching for Spirit supporters.

Defenders – There’s a fair degree of quality here, if not great depth at the moment. Hometown heroine Ali Krieger’s return should be a welcome boost for the Spirit, and the USWNT’s right-back should be one of the league’s best full-backs if healthy. The opposite flank looks like a question mark at the moment though, with no left-back currently on the roster at the moment. Mexican WNT center-back Alina Garciamendez looks likely to fill one of the slots in the middle for the Spirit and should be one of the league’s top rookies this year if all goes according to plan. Robyn Gayle’s had some trials and tribulations at right-back for Canada, but with Krieger there at club level, the Canadian might be shifted into the middle with Garciamendez. In any event, the Spirit probably need some cover at center-back in a best case scenario, while also creating competition for spots in the lineup.

Midfielders – Creativity’s going to be the question for this group going into the new season. The club likely took care of its need of a true destroyer in the midfield when they brought back local star Holly King, who was a shining light for the D.C. United Women in the W-League last season. King’s not just a blunt object in midfield though and is especially dangerous on set pieces. Lori Lindsey and Diana Matheson both add some much needed experience to this midfield, though Lindsey is slowing down and Matheson has been dealing with injuries as of late. The Spirit brass will be hoping that Lindsey still has some of her form with the WPS’ Independence left in her, while the feisty and crafty Matheson will try to avoid being pummeled by bigger defensive midfielders. Neither is a true playmaker though, and the club might want to see if they can find one in free agency. Width is another area that’s seemingly lacking with this group, though rookie Colleen Williams could be a solution in midfield. Williams was a forward for Dayton at college level but racked up a ton of assists and could be asked to play deeper at this level. Mexican international Guadalupe Worbis also could play a role for the club here, but she’s largely an unknown commodity at this level.

Forwards – Washington clearly needed to be in the market for forwards in the draft given their allocations, and they arguably got the two best in the class in Tiffany McCarty and Caroline Miller. McCarty was a bit of a surprise at #2, but her ability to score in big games, punctuated this season by netting in every round of the postseason Florida State played in, may have put her over the top. Miller at #10 overall was a real steal considering her form over the past two seasons, while she also showed she’s a big game performer with no end of clutch goals as an upperclassman for Virginia. Throw in the possibility of Williams being tossed up front from time to time, and you’ve got the makings of a very young and talented attacking line. Of course, the problem is that consistency may not be a virtue for such a young group. The Spirit have needs elsewhere, but picking up an experienced forward or two, even if they are just depth players, certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.

FC Kansas City

Goalkeepers – Nicole Barnhart’s going to be well entrenched as the club’s starter, though the big question is what FCKC is going to do behind her. The club looked to be a prime destination for one of this rookie class’ better netminders, but the club chose not to bring one in from the draft, meaning they’ll likely need to target one in free agency or the supplemental draft. The latter looks to be more likely considering the club appears to be targeting field players in free agency. That’s a dangerous game to play though, as the club could be left holding the bag if the best options all sign elsewhere in free agency. In any case, the most palatable outcome for the Midwestern club appears to be Barnhart staying fit and in form ahead of the new season.

Defenders – FCKC has a fair amount of quantity here, though quality in depth isn’t assured after the top few defenders on the depth chart. Becky Sauerbrunn will anchor the defense, though the big question is who will partner her in the middle of the park. Mexican international allocation Marilyn Diaz has size but is a big mystery in most regards and seems more likely as a reserve to begin with. Lauren Sesselmann showed competence in the middle for Canada and might be needed there again at club level. If she doesn’t end up in the center, the Canadian international seems likely to start at left-back for FCKC this season. Leigh Ann Robinson is expected to be confirmed as one of the club’s free agent signings and will likely end up starting at right-back for the club this season, though she is another with the size to move inside in a pinch. Nia Williams, the club’s fourth round draft pick, should add depth. This is a pretty versatile group on the whole, though adding at least one more center-back couldn’t hurt.

Midfielders – The Midwestern club have seemingly been playing “collect a playmaker” thus far. FCKC used three of their four draft picks on creative midfielders, though top pick Kristen Mewis might end up being used in a wide attacking role given the depth at the position on the club. Erika Tymrak isn’t quite as versatile, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the club can shoehorn her into the lineup given the presence of likely free agent signee Sinead Farrelly. Farrelly definitely showed her potential in WPS’ final season, and if she can shake off the rust, could be the centerpiece of a midfield with dynamic attacking potential. Third round pick Whitney Berry isn’t at the calibre of the above and will likely be used as an impact sub to begin with for the club. Balance in this zone will obviously be key, which makes the presence of Jen Buczkowski and Canadian Desiree Scott so important. Buczkowski has been a pivotal figure for Philadelphia in WPS and Chicago in WPSL Elite last year and figures to be among the first names on the team sheet this year as well. A key figure at international level, Scott has the tenacity to patrol the midfield and shield the defense, though her lack of size is a potential worry. This group looks pretty strong on paper, though some attacking midfielders who can stretch play would certainly come in handy.

Forwards – This group looks pretty much set. Lauren Cheney’s been traversing the midfield for the USWNT in recent years, but with the club’s glut of attacking and playmaking midfielders, she seems much more likely to take up a post on the frontline once more. She should have a very talented strike partner in Melissa Henderson, who was highly rated coming out of college last season before the WPS shutdown. She’ll have no shortage of motivation as she tries to force her way into the USWNT discussion with a strong season this year after only playing a handful of games for Boston last year. Mexican rookie Renae Cuellar is one of her nation’s brightest prospects and could end up being a real asset down the road. For now though, her role is likely to be a dangerous impact sub, though some stellar performances could certainly change that. Mewis can also play up front a bit if needed, with Sesselmann another last ditch option. It’s likely FCKC will use at least one of their remaining roster spots for another forward for depth purposes, though it certainly counts among the least of their needs at the moment.

Portland Thorns

Goalkeepers – I’m nowhere near as bullish on Karina LeBlanc as a lot of others seem to be, as the Canadian international hasn’t played consistent league football in ages, and lost out at international level to Erin McLeod and club level back when she was with the Independence to Val Henderson. But unless the club springs for competition in free agency, or potentially the supplemental draft, LeBlanc looks like the undisputed #1 here. With copious holes to fill elsewhere on the club, it might not be possible for the club to attract a top notch backup. Late draft pick Roxanne Barker has come of age with Pepperdine collegiately and with South Africa at international level but remains a rough diamond. Barker isn’t going to disgrace herself out there, but is still very green for this level and would be a #3 to begin this season in a perfect world for Portland. With a lot of holes to fill though, she might be pressed into backup duty for the Thorns right from the off.

Defenders – It’s not looking quite as rough as the situation in midfield, but there are still some serious worries in the Thorns defense. Rachel Buehler will occupy one slot on the backline, though just where she ends up is up in the air. She’s not really ideal for a spot at center-back given her size, but the club may not have a choice unless they plunder the free agent market for a center-back or two. They spent a first round draft pick on Kathryn Williamson, so it’s likely expected that the rookie out of Florida will also be starting on the backline. A natural center-back, Williamson’s pace and size might see her shifted out wide if the club can find some bigger central defenders. With little attacking instinct though, Williamson might still be seen in the middle if the club doesn’t want to go too conservative. Mexican allocations Marlene Sandoval and Luz Saucedo both have extensive international experience with El Tri but little in the way of big-time club experience. Sandoval has the size to potentially operate in the middle, while Saucedo is a possibility at left-back. This zone of the pitch clearly needs to be addressed with a few quality signings, but…

Midfielders – …there’s a far greater need to fortify what suddenly looks like a shaky midfield. Signing Allie Long was a big first step for the club, as the technically talented and physically imposing central midfielder should add much to the equation for the Thorns. After that? Lots of questions. The news that Tobin Heath would miss the opening months of the season while playing for Paris Saint Germain in France was a hammer blow and puts a serious dent into the creative output of this unit until her return. Given the club’s needs in midfield, it might’ve then been foolish to spend a pick on Amber Brooks, who begins the season with Bayern Munich and is not guaranteed of coming back to the U.S., even after the Frauen Bundesliga season. This is a clear priority for the club going into the free agency signing period, and there’s a very real possibility that most, and potentially all, of the club’s free agent signings could be midfielders.

Forwards – Well, there’re minimal worries here. At least for the starting unit. Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair should be electric in rekindling their partnership from the championship winning WNY Flash and should be the league’s best one-two punch up front. Where the service is going to come from is a big mystery though, especially early in the year when Heath is still in France. Adding some experienced depth would be nice, but considering the club’s pressing needs elsewhere, it’s obviously not the biggest concern for the club. The Thorns did draft Nicolette Radovcic with their second round pick in the draft. The UCF star has talent, but it might take a while for her to acclimate to the higher level of play, meaning she should be little more than an impact sub to begin the new season.

Seattle Reign

Goalkeepers – As long as Hope Solo is healthy and making headlines on the field instead of off of it, the Reign should be in great shape between the pipes. A serious shoulder injury had cast doubt over Solo’s long-term future, but sterling displays in the Women’s World Cup and Olympics have fortified her place at the top of the world goalkeeping hierarchy. She’ll likely be in between the sticks for one more World Cup/Olympic cycle and will be keen to pick up some honors at club level as well after a barren spell through her WPS days. The club drafted Michigan’s Haley Kopmeyer as an understudy with a late round pick. Vastly experienced at college level, Kopmeyer finished with a flourish as a senior, though she could still be challenged by a more experienced backup in camp if Seattle feels the need to bring one in.

Defenders – Uh oh. The club needs to bring in some quality players for the defense, to say the least. Canadian Emily Zurrer is a favorite to win one of the spots at center-back after a strong comeback during her nation’s Olympic campaign. Beyond her though, there are question marks galore. Mexico’s Jenny Ruiz has size and experience but not much of a pedigree at the highest levels of club football. And that’s it. With just two defenders on the roster prior to free agency, it’s a safe bet that a lot of the club’s time and energy during the free agency period is going to go towards adding players on the backline so Solo doesn’t face a barrage of shots in goal.

Midfielders – This group should be one of the league’s top units once it’s complete. That’s a pretty big qualifier though. The star personality, Megan Rapinoe, will miss the early months of the season in France with Lyon, a sizable blow to the Reign’s midfield. Seattle will be hoping she can come into the domestic season in the U.S. in form, as her club form has been patchy, to say the least, going back to her WPS days. Until Rapinoe returns, it’ll likely be up to the duo of Teresa Noyola and Christine Nairn, both making their pro debuts on these shores, to provide the incisive passing for the forwards. Both are pure playmakers, though Nairn has a bit more offensive game herself. Finding a way the two can operate in the same system at this level could make or break the Reign, especially early on without Rapinoe. Kaylyn Kyle figures to do a lot of the hard running in midfield, and the Canadian may have to do more defending than desired given the situation on the backline. Late round draft pick Kristen Meier has versatility, big game experience with Wake Forest, and every chance of being an impact sub right out of the blocks. With just one player on this unit over twenty-four years of age, Seattle could use a little veteran leadership, but that might not be a big priority given holes elsewhere.

Forwards – It’s all on the shoulders of Amy Rodriguez. A bust in Boston but plenty dangerous in Philadelphia for much of her second WPS tenure, Rodriguez’s play in Seattle this season figures to be crucial for her hopes both at international and club level going forward. The former USC star needs great service to be at her best, and she’ll be hoping that Noyola and Nairn could deliver the goods early and Rapinoe can come in and make an impact later. But if Rodriguez isn’t scoring, Seattle could be in trouble with their current roster makeup. The only other dedicated forward on the roster going into the free agent signing period is rookie Mallory Schaffer. Schaffer’s a talented player who tore it up with William & Mary as a collegian but isn’t going to be a big impact player out of the blocks. The Reign would love to add some additional options in the attack through free agency, but given the club’s needs in defense, mass reinforcements probably aren’t coming.

Sky Blue FC

Goalkeepers – The U.S.’ #3, Jillian Loyden has spent much of her professional career playing second fiddle, both at international and club levels. She’ll get a chance to be top dog once more in New Jersey this season though, and the Vineland native will be eager to prove she’s capable of retaining her spot in the USWNT mix despite challengers nipping on her heels on a constant basis. Loyden’s form was somewhat uneven in her last protracted starting stint with Chicago in WPS, and she’ll need to improve on that if SBFC are to contend this season. If she struggles, there’s little in the way of experience behind her. England U23 international Ashley Baker was taken in the draft by the club but is by no means likely to challenge Loyden for the starting job this season. An experienced backup in the vein of Brittany Cameron or Allison Lipsher might be in the cards for SBFC to push Baker for the backup spot in camp, though with other holes to fill, the club might have to be content with the rookie in the backup role this year.

Defenders – On paper, this could be one of the league’s best rearguards. Christie Rampone keeps plugging away at the heart of the defense, and the thought of her playing on through the next World Cup/Olympic cycle suddenly doesn’t look so outlandish. Her leadership qualities and experience will be most valued by SBFC this season though, as she’ll be helping to marshall a very young backline beside her. Her partner in central defense figures to be Lindsi Lisonbee Cutshall, who rocketed up draft boards thanks to a dominant senior season with BYU. The rookie is a towering presence on the backline who possesses excellent pace as well and could work her way into the USWNT mix with a strong debut season for the New Jersey club. Another youngster capable of making an early impact is Kendall Johnson, the rookie out of Portland unexpectedly slipping into the second round after entering into the draft early. Johnson looks likely to displace Melanie Booth from the left-back spot in the starting defense. Booth’s experience should come in handy though on a young backline and figures to be a valuable reserve at worst. The club is in need of a right-back unless they want to play someone out of position, and filling that spot figures to be a high priority in the free agent period.

Midfielders – SBFC figures to be spending much of its time in free agency and beyond in filling some holes in the middle of the park. There’s a dearth of personnel there right now, with Nayeli Rangel and Sophie Schmidt the only out and out midfielders on the roster after the draft. Rangel is a precocious talent, one of Mexico’s leading lights in the youth international ranks recently. The former U20 captain should provide some attacking verve, but placing the creative burden entirely on her shoulders would be a mistake. Canadian Schmidt was impressive for magicJack in the dying days of WPS and is also one of her nation’s most promising players for the present and future. She can do a little of everything in the middle of the park and might have to given the lack of numbers here. You figure that Kelley O’Hara and rookie Becky Kaplan could both fill in in this zone in a pinch, but both are probably needed up front to give the attack some needed punch. With that in mind, this zone should be a real focus for additions in free agency.

Forwards – O’Hara looks likeliest to spearhead the club’s attack after some debate over whether she’d continue on in her international role at left-back at club level. With Booth and Johnson on the club though, that looks unlikely. O’Hara’s never really had to carry a team’s offense on her own before, and it’ll be very interesting to see if she’s up to the challenge. The Stanford alum has seemingly been better suited as a complementary piece to an offense, but success with SBFC in the lead gun role could change those perceptions completely. Mexico’s Monica Ocampo endured a mostly miserable stint with the Atlanta Beat back in the days of WPS but is a cool finisher most of the time should she be able to get the necessary service. With the club lacking a proven playmaker though, getting that service is far from a given, which could spell trouble for Ocampo, who probably isn’t going to be creating her shot at this level with any regularity. Kaplan’s versatility is a huge asset for her making this roster, and though she finished up her college career as a forward, she could be shuttled back into midfield given the needs in that zone. There are pressing needs elsewhere, but SBFC would be well served with adding one or perhaps even two more faces into the mix up front before the season.

Western New York Flash

Goalkeepers – The Flash should be set in goal, with first round pick Adrianna “AD” Franch likely to start from day one with the club. Franch is one of the best rookies to come from the college ranks in the past decade and has the potential to be a factor at international level for the U.S. as well. The tentative backup is Mexican veteran Pamela Tajonar, who has previous experience with the Flash in their W-League days and has bounced around many leagues during her pro days. She’s probably a clear #2 though, and you wouldn’t rule out the club bringing in some competition for the backup job if they’re able to sufficiently fill other needs throughout the club as well.

Defenders – There’s talent here, but it’s all rookie talent at the moment. The right should be held down by Canadian allocation Bry McCarthy. Likely an early round pick had she been in the draft, McCarthy isn’t very big at just 5’0″ but more than makes up for it with her pace and ability to whip crosses into the area. The opposite flank could be manned by Jackie Logue, who could be a late round steal for the Flash. The big left-back has the versatility to play in multiple positions, including in the center of defense in a pinch and was a consistent standout for Wake Forest in college. The crown jewel of the defense in time could be Amy Barczuk though. Barczuk is a towering specimen from Colorado who can play just about anywhere on the pitch and is comfortable going forward with the ball at her feet, which should draw some inevitable comparisons to former Buffs star Nikki Marshall. If the club decides to bring in some more experienced center-backs, Barczuk could end up in the middle of the park. There’s tons of upside here, but this unit needs some veteran leadership, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the club use a few of their free agent spots to bring in some experienced campaigners to help balance things out.

Midfielders – This group looks thin on the ground in numbers at first glance. The obvious centerpiece is Carli Lloyd, the ultra-polarizing figure who has shined at international level for the USWNT, most notably in the Olympics. Lloyd’s form at club level has often been disappointing though, and the New Jersey native will certainly have a point or two to prove to critics at the beginning of the NWSL season. It’s sparse beyond her though right now in this zone. Canadian international Jodi-Ann Robinson is more used to being a super sub for country and has little top flight experience at club level, meaning she might be eased into the starting mix this season. Forwards Victoria DiMartino and Veronica Perez could also be candidates to move back into the midfield if the club can accrue some more forward talent. More than anything, besides depth, the club needs a little balance in the middle of the park, with a defensive midfielder sorely needed. If the club can’t bring one in in the free agency period, they could turn to Barczuk, though they’d need another center-back to be drafted in in that case.

Forwards – It’s all about Abby for the Flash. Abby Wambach proved there was still plenty left in the tank these past few seasons, starring at international level for the USWNT during their Women’s World Cup and Olympic campaigns. While there were questions about her durability before those cycles, Wambach answered them emphatically, winning the Ballon D’Or in the process last year. The main worry may be about where the service is going to come from, with a lack of a true playmaker on the roster entering into the free agency period. Beyond Wambach, depth also could be a concern, as the club isn’t exactly flush with proven scoring ability right now. Veronica Perez wrote her name into Mexican WNT lore with the goal that sent El Tri to the Women’s World Cup in 2011 and has since had stints in Iceland and with the Seattle Sounders Women. Perez seemed like a natural fit back in Seattle but was surprisingly allocated to Rochester but should have a chance to win a starting job, making a potentially interesting foil for Wambach up top. Late round draft pick Victoria DiMartino saw her reputation (and draft status) plummet after two poor years to close out her college career with Boston College. If someone can coax the form of a few years ago out of her at this level, she could be a real sleeper. She’s far from a sure thing though, and the club will want to draft in some more attacking depth before the season begins.

21 thoughts on “NWSL – Where We Stand Entering Free Agency

  1. Lauren

    I’m curious about the comment you made about Rapinoe and her club form. I wasn’t a follower of the WPS. Was she known to be out of shape while she played in the league? Was it Chicago Red Stars or MagicJack?

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      It wasn’t an indictment of her fitness in any way. It was just a statement that she was nowhere near as good for either of her WPS clubs as she has been with the USWNT over the past few years.

    2. Matt

      Rapinoe was out of shape for both Chicago and Philadelphia before getting into her groove at the WWC and then played well for MagicJack afterwords. She had a lot of illness issues that messed her fitness up and it took a long time for her to recover completely.

  2. Anna

    I think there might be a switch in Canadian assessment needed – as far as I’m aware, Matheson has no lingering injury woes at the moment while LeBlanc is probably coming back to form after being injured at the beginning of the Olympics.

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      I didn’t really mean Matheson was battling injuries right now, just that she had dealt with them over the past year.

  3. kernel thai

    I have to believe at some point the feds r going to want to know what they r paying for. It’s easy to say SBFC needs scoring and O’Hara can play wing or forward. Unfortunately, playing her there doesnt help USWNT or Kelly O’Hara. She doesnt need more experience getting forward. It’s the best part of her game. She needs to log minutes at left back learning to defend. At the end of the day, USSoccer is paying O’Hara’s salary to help win games for USWNT not SBFC. If Santiago wastes a year watching from the bench. If Cheney hones her forward skill. And a bunch of other players I cant think of. If it were my money Id want to know.

  4. Random

    Allison Lipscher tweeted on Jan 11th that she had hung up her boots. That leaves the backup gks with pro experience pool even smaller. For the poster who mentions Henninger maybe more likely for her to get a shot.

  5. VaFan

    Maybe I’m just a glass-half-empty kind of personality, but I cannot help but wonder about what happened with a lot of the American players who were Big Deals (All-American, etc.) within the past 4-5 years. So many seem to have disappeared, which makes me concerned about the U.S. talent spread in the new league and beyond.
    I know that some of these MIA’s are playing in Europe, but think of a few of the names we have not seen play in a while: Cami Levin, Christen Press, Lindsay Taylor, Ingrid Wells, Lizzy Simonin, Kayla Grimsley, Sarah Hagen, Melissa Henderson, Stephanie Ochs, Katy Frierson, Coco Goodson, Lauren Fowlkes, Meg Klingenberg (injured), Casey Nogueira, Kerri Hanks (who won the Hermann twice, OMG), etc. (Check for other names on recent year’s All-America lists.)
    It seems to me we are seeing how the absence of a vibrant big-time professional league in the U.S. so quickly removes really excellent players from the national scene, unless they make it to the high-profile WNT. There is something amiss when the players like the above get to be national figures in U.S. colleges and then have to go to another continent to excel professionally.
    Probably preaching to the converted here, but there’s a lot at stake for U.S. women’s soccer — at all levels — in the NWSL.

    1. KC

      i do know that Press is playing in Sweden, and Cami Levin is staying fit playing in southern cal with a pro team there…im guessing she will find a place in free agency

      1. Kaylin

        Cami Levin – Signed with Goteburg (Damallsvenskan) for 2013.
        Christen Press – Moved from Goteburg and now signed with Tyreso (Damallsvenskan) for 2013.
        Ingrid Wells – Played with Goteburg in 2012, but had trouble adjusting unlike her other two teammates. Doesn’t seem to have received a contract extension so no idea what she’ll do now.
        Sarah Hagen – Signed with Bayern Munich (Frauen Bundesliga) for at least the 2012-2013 season. Might’ve gotten a contract extension.
        Melissa Henderson – About to be signed with FCKC.
        Meg Klingenberg (injured) – Supposedly going to sign with a Damallsvenskan team.

  6. Foster

    I like your review so far but….but like you said the Free-Agents haven’t been posted, the Free-Agent draft hasn’t been finalized and discovery players haven’t been named. There is still a long way to go.
    One point I want to make is: Drafted College players haven’t experienced the speed, pace, aggressiveness, etc. to play at a Professional level. They are going to have to First) challenge other “Experienced Professional players” to win a spot on the team. Second) Try to win a starting position. Third) Go thru Ups/Downs of a exhausting 7 month season while maintaining their fitness, brutal practices and games. Lastly…..when they do get to play are they going to be able to handle the STRESS of playing the game in front of paying customers, owners, US Soccer personnel and players who don’t want to LOSE?

  7. Tara

    Ingrid Wells just blogged that she is finished a deal with an NWSL team. Any guesses which team? Also does that mean she’s not going back to Goteborg?

    1. Kaylin

      Good for her! Was worried a bit after that season of hers with Goteburg. (And Goteburg made sure to broadcast their intentions early for the other two Americans so prob. just worked out that the two sides decided to part ways.)

  8. dav

    The comments about the lack of Goalkeepers is interesting in light of all of the great up and coming goalkeepers that were on the horizon a couple of years ago. Henderson gets mentioned and a comment was made about Henniger. I’m assuming a number are playing overseas or retired. But it will be interesting to see if a few turn up in the NWSL. Specifically thinking of players like Karen Bardsley (playing in the UK), Kristen Arnold(?), Kelsey Davis (retired?).

  9. John

    Great analysis, which seems to point up a couple of items. If Lipscher (retired) and Cameron are the GK solution f/ half the league there are going to be gaps on each roster. This also underscores the role played by foreign players in WUSA/WPS. Remove that group and we’d have seen the same deficiencies. Just as troubling is the fact that players of the age/level of Osbourne and Mitts are the best options. Both super contributers to US soccer, but it is an indictment of our player development (and Canada/Mexico’s) when their names keep topping the list. Finally, the women playing overseas are probably wisely waiting to see how NWSL rolls. Hagen, Press, et al are in good situations and unlike WPS NWSL does not neccessarily figure to be a huge advance in level of play f/ them. Oh and another finally :), trades on non allocated players will hopefully give rosters more balance.

  10. sec

    Now Alina Garciamendez is in trial with FFC Frankfurt (photo included):


    Frankly, I’m beginning to sympathize more and more with the various teams’ general managers and coaches, as player availability keeps shifting and changing, seemingly day-by-day. No wonder the free agent process has been non-transparent, and no wonder the timing of everything keeps getting delayed — there is genuine uncertainty facing a lot of NWSL clubs, it seems. (Fortunately, the European signing window closes soon, I believe).

    I almost wonder whether the national federations/NWSL should have forced each designated/funded player to commit to a full NWSL season, as a condition of receiving year-long salary support. Instead, we have designated/funded players (e.g., Rapinoe, Heath, Garciamendez(?)) acting like free agents. Certainly, they have every right to play wherever they chose and for whomever will sign them, but they shouldn’t also enjoy the right to occupy a “federation-funded player slot.” It should go to other players (like Ingrid Wells, for example). Sure, the Euro teams will likely compensate the federations (or each NWSL team) for “borrowing” these players — more likely, Heath, Rapinoe, etc. will forego their NWSL salaries on a pro-rated basis — but it certainly undercuts the NWSL’s goal of trying to create parity and fairness and a competitive league. These players shouldn’t have it both ways: they should be made to commit and play domestically (in return for federation salary and living in the U.S.), or they should be genuinely free agents, free to go to Japan, Europe, wherever, with no assurances or support from their federations, or an NWSL “home” to fall back to in the summer. This is pretty much what players like Press, Averbuch, Hagen, and Levin, are all doing in 2013, and I don’t understand why Heath, Rapinoe, etc. get to live by a different set of rules.

  11. CT

    What IS going on with Bianca Henninger? Given the need for quality GK’s on several teams, you’d think someone would follow up on her status. Based solely on her twitter, she is well on the road to recovery after ankle surgery and eager to play in the NWSL. Those of us who watched her in college and followed her U-20 career know she has the potential to compete with the best when healthy. Any information, Chris?

    1. Chris Henderson Post author

      I’d be surprised if she isn’t signed by a team either in normal free agency or in the supplemental draft. If she lands in the right situation, I wouldn’t be shocked to see her as a starter by the end of 2013 either.


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