-I’m using the version of the draft order that I came up with, because I think I’m right. So there. I’ll switch things around if WPS’ official draft order comes out and says otherwise.
-I tried to take into account player signings and team needs, but it’s a bit hard with some official rosters looking sparse at the moment. The final mock closer to the actual draft should be a little better in this respect.
-Players having committed to playing overseas are not included (obviously). So no Ingrid Wells.
1 – Atlanta – Sydney Leroux – F – UCLA
Common logic would dictate that a club that has been starving for a true #1 between the pipes since the beginning of their existence would take one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the past decade with the first pick of the draft. Then again, common logic and the Atlanta Beat have never really gone hand in hand, and the tea leaves seem to be pointing to last season’s basement club taking UCLA’s Sydney Leroux with the first overall pick of the draft.
Leroux in many ways resembles former Tar Heel forward Casey Nogueira at this point in her career. The Bruin starlet has shown her brilliance at the U20 level in 2008’s U20 World Cup triumph as well as at club level but has also shown some maddening inconsistency in some of her most important college matches. Leroux’s shown a frustrating tendency to disappear at times in crunch encounters, something that she’ll need top coaching to alleviate if she wants to become an impact player not only in WPS but with the USWNT as well.
On paper a Press and Leroux combo up top could be dynamite if Leroux plays up to her potential. But even if she does, who the hell is going to play in goal for this team?
2 – Sky Blue FC – Bianca Henninger – GK – Santa Clara
If Atlanta does pass up on Henninger, it’d be a blessing and a curse for Sky Blue, who’d be forced into an excruciating decision between the Santa Clara goalkeeper and Melissa Henderson at the two spot. Given SBFC’s history of foreign flops, Jim Gabarra and co. may not want to bet too heavily on Manon Melis and Gemma Davison up front, meaning the first WPS champs could be looking for more firepower up front. It’s a line of thought that could lead SBFC to Notre Dame’s Henderson at this spot.
But Sky Blue also has some serious questions in between the pipes to be addressed. While the team does have Karina LeBlanc signed, the Canadian is likely to miss a large chunk of the season on international duty if the Canadian WNT qualifies for the Olympics. Regardless of that fact, LeBlanc also hasn’t played at club level consistently in well over a year, something that may be giving SBFC fans some pause heading into the new season, especially with no backup signed to the roster as of yet.
Henninger is far and away the top goalkeeper in this season’s class and perhaps the best netminding prospect to come out in a long time. The Santa Clara product has fantastic reflexes, great penalty stopping ability, and a strong command of her area for someone so young. Henninger also has the confidence and mindset to dominate in between the pipes, making a her prime candidate to take over the #1 spot in goal for the USWNT when Hope Solo hangs them up. Nitpickers would quibble with Henninger’s size, as she’s a few inches below the ideal height for a modern keeper, but she’s not let it trouble her so far in her burgeoning career.
3 – Boston – Melissa Henderson – F – Notre Dame
Boston will be doing cartwheels if Henderson falls all the way to #3 and into their clutches. Even if Lauren Cheney does return to the Breakers, she’ll be preoccupied with Olympic duty in all likelihood, as will the fading Kelly Smith. With the only other signed forward options right now utility player Taryn Hemmings, the decidedly average Katie Schoepfer, and unproven Megan Mischler, the Breakers need another attacking option in the worst way.
Henderson has been a steady force for Notre Dame for the better part of the past four seasons at the college level and has a blend of power and pace that has seen her elevated into the mix for the USWNT in recent months, a move that many feel has been long overdue. At the height of her powers, Henderson is a complete forward, plenty capable of leading the line for a WPS side. In truth, her senior year was not Henderson’s best season, with some noted struggles in some big matches for the Irish. But WPS teams probably won’t hold that against her as they search for the next big thing up front.
If Leroux and Henderson go 1-2, Boston faces a very tough decision. Picking Henninger would likely cause some serious ripples after Alyssa Naeher’s successful stint in Germany, while Sarah Hagen’s a very different type of forward than either Leroux or Henderson.
4 – Philadelphia – Sarah Hagen – F – Wisconsin-Milwaukee
On paper, this seems to be a bit of an odd fit, as Hagen doesn’t fit the mold of what Paul Riley’s forwards usually exhibit, i.e. blistering pace. But perhaps that’s the point, as the hulking Wisconsin-Milwaukee forward would certainly give the Independence more options in terms of personnel up front. Hagen would have some way to go to dislodge either Amy Rodriguez or Natasha Kai in attack (presuming both are back with Philly this year), but the big striker would certainly function as a great target up front if the Independence need to switch it up and start bombing crosses into the area.
Hagen has overcome no small degree of adversity in her life, beating cancer to turn into one of the nation’s top prospects in attack, potentially one that could fill the Wambach role on the USWNT if all goes according to plan. For the past four seasons, the forward they affectionately call “Apple” has been terrorizing college defenses and burning up the record books in the process. Quite likely the Horizon League’s best player in conference history, Hagen has proven to be an irrepressible force in the air for the Panthers, always a danger to score on headers. Hagen has proven to be no flat track bully either, coming in with an impressive strike rate for the U.S. U23 team.
If Riley decides to throw a curveball with this pick, look for Camille Levin as a likely option to compete for a starting spot at full-back.
5 – Western New York – Teresa Noyola – M – Stanford
Defending champions they may be, but Western New York still has to fill some holes if they want to lift the title again in 2012. Priority #1 might be finding a replacement for midfield dynamo Caroline Seger who was, at times, unstoppable last year. With Seger back in Europe, the Flash have a yawning gap in midfield that needs to be addressed. Fortunately for the defending champs, this season’s draft class has no shortage of midfield playmakers to turn to. While Ingrid Wells would’ve been an option at this spot, her decision to play in Sweden appears to make Teresa Noyola the frontrunner here.
Noyola has excelled over the past four seasons with the Card en route to lifting the national title this season in Kennesaw. Once one of the U.S.’ top prospects at youth international level, Noyola saw her opportunities to represent the full USWNT dwindle, eventually making the decision to turn out for Mexico, and was involved in the nation’s 2011 WWC journey in Germany. After, Noyola came back stateside and engineered Stanford’s all-conquering effort to finally lift the national title that had eluded them for so long. Besides her obvious strength in creating opportunities, Noyola has shown improvement in front of goal and no small degree of intelligence on the pitch, including for the goal that won Stanford the title against Duke. Concerns about Noyola’s to keep up with the pace of the professional game may still linger for some, but the midfielder did little wrong in her senior season. Given the right environment and team style, Noyola could yet reach the stardom predicted of her before she stepped foot in Palo Alto.
6 – Atlanta – Camille Levin – D – Stanford
The Beat may have strengthened their full-back corps with the addition of Rebecca Moros, but Atlanta would likely jump on the chance to add one of the college game’s fast risers at full-back this year. This is a very weak year for full-backs though, meaning Cami Levin’s value is even higher than some might think at first glance. Levin was a fine player heading into this season but elevated her game enormously as a senior, especially in the NCAA Tournament as Stanford claimed a championship. Possessing a tireless motor and no shortage of workrate, Levin, like ex-college teammate Ali Riley, could be a terror up and down the flanks for her new team. Levin’s versatility is also a major asset for whoever drafts her. The Card star was also key in her time at attacking midfielder, using her dribbling and offensive ability to slice through stubborn defenses and could feature there again, or even out wide as an attacker.
7 – Western New York – Stephanie Ochs – F – San Diego
Having three of the first eight picks in a talent rich draft certainly affords the defending league champs to stockpile some great young players, especially helpful considering the team figures to suffer some blows come the Olympics. Nowhere will this be more felt than up front, where the club could lose both Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, while Marta looks unlikely to return to upstate New York as well. The club did sign Spanish striker Adriana, but she was erratic at times with Sky Blue FC last year, and relying on Brittany Bock and McCall Zerboni to fill gaps up top is only a stopgap option. Ochs may have raised her stock as much as anyone down the stretch for the Toreros. The San Diego forward didn’t do it with her goalscoring as much as her creating, as she tallied assists on USD’s last six goals of the season and had assists in ten of the Torero’s last twelve matches. That’s not to say Ochs is a shrinking violet in front of goal, as she scored eight times in each of the past two seasons. Her multifaceted repertoire would make her a real asset for the Flash here.
Western New York could also look to Stanford’s Lindsay Taylor at this slot.
8 – Western New York – Jessica Schuveiller – D/M – Notre Dame
Having lost Candace Chapman and Rebecca Moros to free agency already, Western New York will likely be looking to add to their defensive ranks which they could do with Notre Dame’s Jessica Schuveiller. In what was a brutally disappointing season for Notre Dame in 2011, Schuveiller was by almost all accounts the Irish’s shining light on the pitch. With injury and inconsistency wrecking Notre Dame’s season, Schuveiller often took her side upon her back and spurred them on as best she could. A tenacious and heady defender, with great leadership qualities, Schuveiller was also called upon to play in midfield in 2011 to try and inject some life into what had become a stagnant offense. She adapted to her new role in fine fashion and also showed a nose for goal that should help her in the pros as well. Even if she doesn’t see the pitch immediately, her drive and versatility should make her a coveted asset in this year’s draft.
9 – Sky Blue FC – Lindsay Taylor – F – Stanford
Having filled a need at goalkeeper with their first pick, SBFC would then be thrilled to be able to fill their other glaring hole with one of the draft class’ top forwards in Taylor. As has been the custom the past few season’s for Stanford and their senior strikers, Taylor exploded in her final year on The Farm, finally putting her sometimes inconsistent ways to bed and emerging as one of the nation’s top attacking threats. With great pace, a laser-like shot, and tremendous finishing instincts, there’s no reason why Taylor’s game can’t translate at the next level. There may be some inevitable growing pains as she tries to acclimate to the jump in competition level, but really, who can you not say that about as a rookie? If SBFC can come away with both Taylor and Henninger, they’ll likely be ecstatic.
10 – Sky Blue FC – Melinda Mercado – D – Oklahoma State
SBFC did well to retain Anita Asante and add Candace Chapman to their defense in the offseason, but with both potentially gone for the Olympics, the New Jersey outfit needs to add even more pieces to the puzzle on the backline if they want to compete for a title. Oklahoma State’s Mercado is one of the best of a nice class of center-backs from which WPS squads get to choose from this season. Mercado has been the star attraction for the past four seasons on a Cowgirl backline that has rounded into one of the best in the nation as OSU has competed for honors consistently. A fantastic athlete who even moonlighted on the Cowgirl basketball team briefly a few years ago, Mercado figures to be a pillar of strength in the center of defense while remaining a big threat in the box on set pieces as well.
11 – Philadelphia – CoCo Goodson – D – UC Irvine
An absolute mountain of a woman, UC Irvine’s CoCo Goodson has been a major part of the rise of the Anteaters into a force to be reckoned with on the national stage the past two seasons. After impressing early in her college career at Texas, Goodson made the move to the burgeoning Big West power and immediately showed she had a very bright future ahead of herself with some fabulous performances for Scott Juniper’s club. A physical, imposing center-back, Goodson could fit in nicely with Philadelphia’s traditionally take no prisoners approach to defense. Goodson has also seen time in the attack at college level and obviously makes an appealing target for set pieces or as a target forward in desperate situations. The UCI star also strikes a ball with real venom, meaning she could be an asset offensively as well as defensively for any team that drafts her.
12 – Philadelphia – Tori Huster – M – Florida State
With Veronica Boquete back for 2012 along with the acquisition of Lori Chalupny, Philly would appear to be stacked in midfield barring any surprise defections in the rest of the offseason. But with Philly’s need of competition at full-back likely not worth the value at this slot, the Independence might instead look to build on their depth with midfield dynamo Huster. An energizer bunny between the boxes, Huster was the engine that made Florida State’s College Cup team tick this season and for the three before those in Tallahassee. Though she may never make it rain goals or assists, Huster is guaranteed to never stop running, making her a prime candidate to be a super sub at the professional level. Wherever she lands, it’d hardly be shocking to see the Seminole midfielder turn into a fan favorite with her workrate and motor.
13 – Boston – Jillian Mastroianni – GK – Boston College
Like just about every team in the WPS this season, Boston’s in the market for a good backup keeper (or two). With massive depth from the incoming class of collegiate keepers, the Breakers should have their pick of many qualified netminders. Getting local product Mastroianni at this slot would be good value, with the vastly experienced Boston College keeper having been a steady presence in between the pipes for all four of her seasons with the Eagles. Mastroianni’s a bit unfortunate to be in the same goalkeeping class as Bianca Henninger, as in most years, she’d be the top goalkeeping prospect, with plenty of talent and experience at both college and youth international level. Capable of dominating a game when in form, Mastroianni’s probably a little more consistency away from being a contender for a starting job at the professional level. As is, she stands a good chance of rounding into a fine backup keeper with some nice upside to work with.
14 – Philadelphia – Kate Deines – M/D – Washington
Holding the most picks of any team for the upcoming draft, Philly will likely be home to a crowded field in the battle for a roster spot on Paul Riley’s squad. Odds are, the Independence boss will be looking for some versatility among his new recruits, and Husky talisman Deines has that in spades. Though she seems most comfortable directing traffic in midfield, Deines also has proven capable on the backline when needed in a pinch at UW, a role she could well see herself repeating in the pros. Deines has great size, standing at 5’9″, and plenty of experience at a high level in college, having started eighty-six matches for the Huskies in her college career. The Washington native has also shown a nose for goal through her time in Seattle with twenty-one goals in four years in the Emerald City. Deines is another who may be slipping under the radar after her Huskies missed out on the NCAA Tournament in her senior season but might just make her name yet at the professional level as one of this year’s dark horses.
15 – Sky Blue FC – Katy Frierson – M – Auburn
Having fortified every other area of the pitch, Sky Blue might turn towards adding to a midfield that currently only features youngsters Carolyn Blank and Amanda DaCosta at the moment. Few will benefit from Ingrid Wells’ sojourn to Europe more than Frierson, who becomes a much hotter commodity with the elite playmaker field shrunk by one in this draft class. The list of criticisms against Frierson shrunk this year as the midfielder finally got her hands on a trophy, leading Auburn to the SEC Tournament title in Orange Beach, winning three matches in five days. With tremendous vision and an ability to play the killer ball, Frierson has proven to be hard to handle for collegiate defenses over the past four years. The Homewood native isn’t just about serving up her teammates though, as she strikes a ball pretty well herself and is capable of lacing shots into the goal from distance as well as being a great set piece taker, be it from free kicks or from corners. Despite being a reasonable 5’5″, Frierson is still of slight build and may have to adapt to being harassed by some of the more physical midfielders at this level. But if she does, she has all the technical tools and smarts to be a factor as a professional.
16 – Boston – Toni Pressley – D – Florida State
Pressley has been one of the nation’s most promising center-backs for some time now but left a bad last impression in her final collegiate game in a calamitous display against Stanford in the College Cup semi-final defeat for FSU. The powerful central defender looked slow to react to danger and generally awkward in the face of Stanford’s multifaceted attacking threat. Physically, Pressley is as solid as they get, big enough and powerful enough to give the biggest forwards a hard time. But her imposing strength may also be her Achilles’ heel, as her unchecked aggression has caused her to rely on brute force rather than finesse at times, much to her detriment. Pressley still has loads of talent and the potential to turn into a contender for a USWNT spot, but she isn’t a sure thing and will need the right coaching and the right situation if she is to truly come close to hitting her peak as a professional.
17 – Philadelphia – Courtney Barg – M – Notre Dame
Having a ton of picks in this draft means Philadelphia can roll the dice on some high risk, high reward players with their later selections. There’s no question that Notre Dame’s Barg fits into this category after another injury hit season in South Bend. When she’s healthy, Barg is a real difference maker as a defensive midfielder and is head and shoulders the top option in that realm in what looks like a thin class for midfield stoppers. The problem is, Barg has missed massive chunks of the past two seasons with injuries, raising serious questions about her durability going forward. Barg getting healthy in 2010 was a big catalyst to Notre Dame’s dominant run down the stretch to an eventual national title, and her continued absence this season harmed the Irish’s hopes for a repeat. If Riley and co. can keep her off the training table, she could pay major dividends down the road for the Independence.
18 – Western New York – Natalie Kulla – GK – Marquette
Western New York needs an understudy for current starter Ashlyn Harris, with neither Brittany Cameron nor Ashleigh Bowers, last year’s backups, under contract. Kulla would likely be an upgrade over either after starring with Marquette in the Golden Eagles’ successes of recent seasons. A towering figure at 6’0″, Kulla has the physical tools to round into a potential starter at professional level with the right coaching. Twice the Big East’s Goalkeeper of the Year, Kulla has also been jockeying with the likes of Henninger, Mastroianni, and Adrianna Franch at U23 level for the U.S. Kulla’s probably a bit more of a raw talent than the aforementioned keepers but has no less potential. Kulla may fly a bit under the radar come draft day, but don’t rule her out as potentially becoming the best keeper from this class if everything breaks right.
19 – Sky Blue FC – Laura Heyboer – F – Michigan State
Though SBFC would’ve already taken a forward according to this mock draft, there are plenty of quality strikers on hand for a team that could need to come away with multiple attacking options from this draft. Heyboer would represent excellent value at this spot after a strong senior season for the Spartans. After suffering a double leg break in 2009, Heyboer looked to still be far from her best as a junior in 2010 with just ten goals to her name. But Heyboer rebounded in a big way last year, going out with a bang for the Spartans. Eighteen goals and nine assists was an impressive haul for the MSU offensive talisman and enough to vault her back up into the realm of draft hopefuls. Besides any lingering effects from the devastating injury as a sophomore, the only other worry would seem to be a lack of big match pedigree after Michigan State missed out on the NCAA Tournament and a final chance for Heyboer to make a lasting impression in November for WPS teams.
20 – Boston – Jessica Luscinski – M/F – Boston University
The Breakers haven’t been shy about drafting in talent from local collegiate sides and could again find a gem with the under the radar Luscinski. A major part of Boston University’s fantastic success over the past few seasons, Luscinski again made a major impact for the Terriers despite missing four matches this season through injury. That BU side was as different as night and day with and without Luscinski in the lineup, only underlining her importance to the America East titans. Luscinski was afforded a chance to strut her stuff early on as a senior in a showdown with Boston College at the beginning of the season and was by many accounts the best player on the pitch in BU’s draw with the much more fancied Eagles. Though she won the America East Striker of The Year Award as a junior and senior, Luscinski could also feature in the midfield as a pro, such is her versatility.
21 – Philadelphia – Danielle Foxhoven – F – Portland
Another pick with a degree of risk attached to it, Foxhoven nonetheless would be a masterstroke of a draft pick if she can return to the form that made her such a deadly threat in front of goal as a freshman and sophomore. Through two seasons, Foxhoven had scored forty-one goals and looked for all the world to have the potential to go down as one of the college game’s all-time greats. But then, the goals dried up abruptly and Foxhoven, like the fortunes of her club, sank back away from stardom. Eight goals as a junior was a middling return, and Foxhoven was unable to top that total as a senior this past season. While the blatant downturn in goalscoring form has to be concerning to say the least, the talent is still obvious for all to see, with her virtuoso performance against Florida State in the regular season an example. While Foxhoven looks like a boom or bust pick, Paul Riley tends to have a way of getting the best out of many of his players, making this an intriguing potential pick for the Independence.
22 – Western New York – Allysha Chapman – D/M – LSU
With Ali Riley likely gone for Olympic duty and Rebecca Moros having signed with the Atlanta Beat, Western New York might be in the frame for a full-back or two as they begin their WPS title defense. Chapman projects out wide in defense despite playing much of her college career as a defensive midfielder for the Tigers. The Canadian looks undersized to stay in the middle of the midfield at the professional level though, making a move to the backline, where she played much of her junior year, optimal for all involved. Chapman has made a name for herself in Baton Rouge with her crunching tackles but has also shown a real ability offensively as well for LSU. The Tiger senior showed an explosive first step in her time at full-back in college and could be a good fit for a system that relies heavily on its wide defenders motoring forward.
23 – Atlanta – Natalie Garcia – D – San Diego
It’s a looooooong way from pick #6 (or pick #4) to the Beat’s third and final pick of the draft. Atlanta could well be looking to just take one of the best players available at this point and hope they unearth a diamond in the rough. In a class with plenty of promising center-backs, Garcia stands out as a potential difference maker. The Mexican international was a huge part of San Diego’s WCC title run this season and has been a steadying presence for the Toreros in recent successful campaigns. Garcia has also been one of the stars of Mexico’s ascent to relevancy in CONCACAF in the past few years and could be the nation’s rock at the back for many years to come. If she continues to grow as a player, she could have a big impact at club level as well, which would be music to the ears of Atlanta, who needs depth at defense.