At first blush: Assessing the teams after NWSL allocation

Dan Lauletta January 12, 2013 32

The allocations are finally in and the eight NWSL teams now have a good idea what they will look like when the inaugural season kicks off sometime this Spring. Here’s a look at who wound up where.

Boston Breakers
USA: Sydney Leroux, Heather Mitts, Heather O’Reilly
CAN: Adriana Leon, Rhian Wilkinson
MEX: Anisa Guajardo, Cecilia Santiago

Outlook: The Breakers came up aces landing one of the brightest young Americans scorers when Leroux was shipped east. Mitts and O’Reilly were reasonable guesses to land in Beantown since Mitts was popular there in WPS and O’Reilly’s husband is based there. Leon, 20, and Guajardo are young players with US college experience. Olympic vet Wilkinson will be a strong defensive building block. Santiago gives the Breakers one of two Mexican keepers in the pool.

Chicago Red Stars
USA: Shannon Boxx, Amy LePeilbet, Keelin Winters
CAN: Erin McLeod, Carmelina Moscato
MEX: Maribel Dominguez, Dinora Garza

Outlook: It is safe to say the Red Stars will be swimming upstream as they dive into free agency and the draft. Boxx returns to the Midwest where she played at Notre Dame, but she is also 35 and on the back end of her career. Winters is and up-and-comer with less national team experience than anyone else in the pot. LePeilbet, when healthy, is as good a center back as there will be in NWSL, the key being “when healthy.” On the positive side, McLeod should allow coach Rory Dames to rest easily when it comes to the keeper position and 34-year old Maribel Dominguez is a proven scorer. Moscato has played in Europe and with the Whitecaps. Garza assisted on one of Mexico’s three goals at the 2011 World Cup.

FC Kansas City
USA: Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney, Becky Sauerbrunn
CAN: Desiree Scott, Lauren Sesselman
MEX: Renae Cuellar, Marylin Diaz

Outlook: Cheney (Indianapolis) and Sauerbrunn (St. Louis) make sense in Kansas City as two players with Midwest roots (even if not directly involved with KC). Barnhart should be thinking about being in goal for the 2015 World Cup and should be highly motivated to make her mark in NWSL. Sesselman’s name should be familiar to anyone who followed WPS. Cuellar scored a dozen goals for Oklahoma last fall and became the first player from that program to be named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Diaz may need an introduction to U.S. soccer fans but does have international experience with Mexico. Scott already has more than 50 caps for Canada.

Portland Thorns FC
USA: Rachel Beuhler, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan
CAN: Karina LeBlanc, Christine Sinclair
MEX: Luz Saucedo, Marlene Sandoval

Outlook: Before anyone sends any hardware to Portland, it was only 11 years ago when the San Diego Spirit were viewed as early WUSA favorites when they were the only team to be allocated three full-time U.S. national team starters. They not only missed the playoffs, they were dreadful. That said there is no question the Thorns got the best group of allocated players starting with World Cup stars Morgan and Sinclair. Behind them, Buehler anchoring the defense in front of LeBlanc should make their goal difficult to penetrate. Heath will be in the midfield trying to connect those parts. Saucedo and Sandoval are also defenders.

Seattle Reign FC
USA: Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez, Hope Solo
CAN: Kaylyn Kyle, Emily Zurrer
MEX: Jenny Ruiz, Teresa Noyola

Outlook: The Portland-Seattle rivalry should have no trouble spilling into the women’s game with a deep group of allocated players on the way to the Emerald City as well. Rapinoe had the highest arc of any player besides Morgan since the World Cup. Solo needs no introduction as the best goalkeeper on the planet and Rodriguez has her moments of inconsistency but is still able to finish from anywhere on the field. Noyola won the Hermann Trophy in 2011 and was a high WPS draft pick in ’12. Kyle has 65 appearances with the Canadian national team and has been in the system there since she was 14. Zurrer is a center back just coming into her prime years and Ruiz is a Mexican veteran at 29 who scored the bronze medal winning goal two years ago at the Pan Am Games.

Sky Blue FC
USA: Jill Loyden, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone
CAN: Sophie Schmidt, Melanie Booth
MEX: Monica Ocampo, Lydia Rangel

Outlook: Rampone is the last woman standing from the ’99 World Cup squad yet she still stands tall as a very good — even if no longer great — central defender. O’Hara is a former Hermann winner who has developed into one of the more versatile players in international soccer. Loyden looked like she might sneak into the U.S. no. 2 spot before a disappointing 2011 put her off track. Ocampo, formerly of the Atlanta Beat (WPS), scored against England in the World Cup. Schmidt is closing in on 100 caps and won’t be 25 until the end of June. Booth is a defender with 44 caps dating back over a decade. Rangel will turn 21 just ahead of training camp.

Washington Spirit
USA: Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Lori Lindsey
CAN: Robin Gayle, Diana Matheson
MEX: Alina Garciamendez, Teresa Worbis

Three familiar faces return to Washington as Harris, Krieger, and Lindsey all played for the old Washington Freedom. They will combine with Garciamendez (part of Stanford’s 2011 national championship team ) and Gayle to give the Spirit a decidedly defensive core. Matheson however, scored one of Canada’s most famous goals to beat France and secure the Olympic bronze. Worbis is another Mexican veteran at 29.

Western New York Flash
USA: Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach
CAN: Bryana McCarthy, Jodi-Ann Robinson
MEX: Veronica Perez, Pamela Tajonar

Outlook: Bucking speculation Wambach would land in Portland, she was sent back home where she will be a certain drawing card at Sahlen’s Stadium alongside Lloyd, who has had a suspect club career surrounding a glorious run with the national team. Perez might be the best known Mexican player. She starred at the University of Washington and most recently played in budding women’s soccer hotbed Iceland. Tajonar is the other Mexican keeper. On the Canadian front, McCarthy is more developmental with only four caps at age 21 while Robinson is capped 50 times over, mostly as a reserve. The Flash were the team shortchanged a player due to only 23 U.S. players being subsidized at this point.

  • randomhookup

    Tajonar is the other Mexican keeper. On the Canadian front, Tajonar is
    more developmental with only four caps at age 21 while Robinson is
    capped 50 times over, mostly as a reserve.

    Should that 2nd “Tajonar” be McCarthy?

  • LCLondoner

    If Cuellar can have a breakout year as a forward, I quite fancy KC’s allocation. A strong keeper, excellent defense/midfield in Broon and Scott, and (hopefully renewed) offensive creativity from Cheney. They could use a bit more pace, though. The best that can be said about Chicago is that Winters has a real opportunity to shine . . .

    • Steglitz49

      Agreed, KC and Boston are the dark horses to watch. Let’s hope it will not be boring with a bunch of sea-otters and beavers running away with it from the start.

    • Katreus

      I wonder if allocting Boxx and Winters was an intentional move – Boxx is widely considered one of the best DMs (historically) and Winters an up and coming one. Much like Rampone will help Ohara (if Ohara stays in defense), Boxx could mentor Winters.

      • Steglitz49

        “Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?”, ironized Axel Oxenstierna, the great statesman, to his son who was worried about some negotiation he was about to handle.

        I think both Oxenstierna and Gyllenstierna, both Christina and Johan, would apply the same label to the NWSL allocations. “Don’t worry; be happy!”

  • Daniel Reasoner

    it will be interesting too to see how much influence the WNT has regarding scheduling–camps, friendlies, etc. and how that will affect rosters down the road.

    • Steglitz49

      The team owners should flex their muscles and demand that FIFA rules apply, at least after the first season.

      • Daniel Reasoner

        what, are you saying the North Americans aren’t following FIFA rules? now that would be a surprise.

        • Steglitz49

          Verily. Once the league becomes 12 teams, time will be short. If relegation play-offs are introduced, even less time.

          The NWSL ought to be the most sought after league to play in in the world.

          With both the WC-15 and Rio-16, there will be no top International competition after Euro-13 in the EU time-zone for 4 years (till Euro-17). No doubt UEFA will push the ladies’ CL even more and, maybe, the Algarve and Cyprus cups will be raised up, though I doubt it. Thus, there is some chance for NWSL to claw back lost ground though without some sort of domestic team Cup-competition it will be hard.

          • randomhookup

            No likelihood of relegation. There isn’t really a 2nd tier league tied into this setup and moving to WPSL/W-League isn’t in the cards. (And I’ve said before the cup competition isn’t going to happen either — not enough teams willing to lose money to play).

          • Steglitz49

            It is easy to forget that it is cup competitions that excite the crowds. World Cup, FA cup or CL. The league has its place but the cups have a special place. Indeed, UEFA has been criticized for not providing a cup-winners’ cup for the ladies’ domestic cups.

            The CL is a cup competition based on the performance in the leagues during the previous season. The FA cup is what made soccer the people’s and thereby the world’s game.

            As time goes by and the ladies’ CL becomes more entrenched the chance of winning it will be most attractive as witness this year Ms Rapinoe and Ohno. The “Commander”, writing in the entry about Lyon on Equaliser, claims that Lyon spends on their ladies 4-5% of their spending on their men. Once the truly wealthy clubs with women’s sides pick up the gauntlet, who could afford to play in the NWSL?

          • randomhookup

            You bring that up, but there is zero history of top level cup competition in the US, just like Euro leagues don’t usually have playoffs. All top NA leagues use playoffs to decide the title. It’s too late to change that trend.

            A US league wouldn’t have credibility without the “tournament” at the end of the season. That will not change.

          • Steglitz49

            The ball is round, Sepp Herberger used to say, and I think we look at the ball from different angles. Soccer differs from the four big NA sports in that it not only developed outside NA, it requires nothing but a ball to play and its laws are very simple. There are no complex tables of statistics in soccer.

            Seeing that the game is so alien to American culture, maybe it is worth considering importing all the pieces of the soccer jigsaw? Brazil and Argentina are also big countries by geography and population. They may well be better models than the geographically tiny countries in Europe.

            OK. This is about women’s soccer but the estimated global
            viewing audience for the 2005 men’s FA cup final of Arsenal
            beating Man Utd was 485 million. A domestic cup competition. It will be interesting to see how the ladies’ CL final fares in London this May because 2 years ago it was poorly attended.

          • Steglitz49

            FIFA, UEFA and the other regional FAs do not micromanage how countries run their soccer, so the NWSL can act within reason. Given how many play this game in USA (and also Mexico and Canada) the structures will have to evolve to accommodate demand.

            FIFA and NWSL seem to have in common that they are run by people with a business and marketing background, while UEFA is still much in the hands of former male players (eg Platini) and sports-administrators. FIFA has understood that a simple way to grow the game is to grow it among women. No doubt they are responding to the actuality rather than leading from the front. UEFA’s efforts with the ladies’ CL looks like an aberration or PR. Some argue that the small steps for women soccer in EU are responses to political pressure behind the scenes. The various FAs in European countries do not care two figs about women’s soccer, but neither seems the Japanese FA, so what else is new?

        • randomhookup

          FIFA rules for scheduling… Because so few of USWNT players are overseas, they would schedule camps & friendlies for whenever they wanted, ignoring the FIFA calendar. That frustrated a few of the players (e.g., Press) who wanted to be released to get a chance at the NT, and frustrated teams who didn’t want frustrated players.

          • Steglitz49

            The standardized rules were brought in to protect weaker countries because the teams were not releasing their (expensive) players for WC and regional (eg Euro, Africa etc) qualifying matches. These commonly agreed rules have established a level playing field, although every so often certain clubs rail against them but so far no-one has taken any notice of their poorly disguised self-interest.

            It would, indeed, be a pity if excellent players abroad were hamstrung or disadvantaged by short-sighted local ideas contrary to what the rest of the world in the world’s game work by.

            “Life is a tree of peaches, and I am the one who reaches for the ones with cream” sang Louis Armstrong, America’s greatest musician. Should not the Lindsey Horans and Sarah Hagens and Christen Presses and whoever reaches for their choicest peaches have the same chances as other US citizens? Kumagai and Ogimi and now Ohno all play abroad knowing that they have a fair chance of being selected to represent the world champions.

  • USWNT junkie

    Portland is stacked, but how will they work together with the free agents… That will be interesting!!

    • hercircumstance

      If Portland has trouble attracting free agents I’ll be very surprised. You can get a lot of bang for your buck in the areas they need to buy. The most expensive types of players like two world class forwards (plus the gift of a play maker in Tobin) are being paid by the NTs thus off the books. They even got a good GK which is another gift. Their free agent pool of money will be more than enough for the other roles. It’s funny to me people are pretending they are at any kind of disadvantage.

      I’m not sure what Portland did to deserve so many gifts when they weren’t an at-risk city to begin with, but if the goal was to level the playing field to start the league off right that went out the window sometime last week.

      It would be like the NBA starting a new league and intentionally allocating the Miami Heat vs the Bobcats on day one. The starting blocks are way different for a number of teams for no reason and with a cap on spending teams needing to buy an offense or a face for their team will blow a lot of their cap attempting that.

      • randomhookup

        It’s also possible the players really drove this. Suppose Morgan & Sinclair said this was the only place they would play, otherwise they go to Europe. Better to let them have their way than let them walk.

        I’m sure it will work out in the end. Even the WPS’s WNY Flash with Marta, Sinclair, Morgan & others had to go to PKs to win the championship in 2011.

  • Kernel Thai

    1 Stunned to see Morgan and Sinclair (3 & 5) in FIFA POTY fall to the same team.
    2 Also think KC did pretty well…possibly the best for overall talent as opposed to impact players
    3 If nothing else comes of this it will be a positive having O’Hara and Rampone on the back line together. O’Hara has a ton of upside and there is no one better for her to learn the defensive ropes from than Rampone.

  • Short_Change

    A bit of an understated write up on Desiree Scott given the calibre of player. It’s Rhiann Wikinson not Wilkerson.

    • whack attack

      Wilkinson, actually.

      • Short_Change

        Yeah but mine was a typo I swear, ;-)

  • sol1711

    ich muss es ihr noch mal sagen, spielerinnen zu clubs zuzuweisen, ohne das die spielerinnen frei wählen können, ist sozialismus.

    da sind aber nur die alten nationalspielerinnen die man schon kennt, was ist mit euren jungen spielerinnen, sollen die nicht gefördert werden.

    diese liga ist tot, noch bevor sie den spielbetrieb aufgenommen hat.

    die jungen spielerinnen, sarah hagen, amber brooks, christen press und alysha naeher müssen ins ausland gehen, was ihnen im übrigen hervorragend bekommt, um spielen zu können.

    und wie ein cnn moderator zu sagen pflegt, usa are dooooooooomed.

    • Steglitz49

      The organizers were faced with a difficult task. Two previous attempts to run a ladies’ league in USA based of free market principles — which you advocate — failed. In making this third attempt, which admittedly looks more like a giant training camp to provide players for WC-15 & Rio-16 for Mexico, Canada and USA, the organizers have borrowed from the NFL.

      To create an equal starting gate, the designated players (DPs) had to be spread out between the teams. It has been noted by several commentators that the allocation committee slipped up in not considering the overall impact of who ended up where.

      That so many old players are DPs seems to be a reflection of the need to market this league. Name recognition. Your are right that there may probably be 6 (perhaps even 10) players that ought not to to be DPs.

      If each team is allowed and willing to sign 2 non-North-american players each, this will be an excellent place to play soccer. The league likely will soon be expanded to 12 teams if it is a success but regionalized leagues are a must in such a huge place, and also a cup-competition.

      Whether this league can survive beyond 2016 is a good question. As long as women show solidarity with their sisters and go and stand on the terraces attendance will not be a problem. At the same time the teams must be mindful that it is not enough to turn up and play their match and go home. They need to look at how the teams with good attendances in Japan, Korea and in some European countries work.

      FIFA understood as soon as Kumagai slammed in the last penalty that for women’s soccer to flourish a USA pro-league was a must. FIFA immediately took steps to make that possible and ensure that USA soccer would not lose heart and abandon their ladies’. It is now up to the American people to make it work.

      • randomhookup

        I’ll admit that the 2 previous leagues also allocated NT players on the first go round. Easiest way to start a league — somewhat level playing field. Then let the inequities rule.

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  • Vertigo

    Might some players from Japan be in the league? I know some other foreign players like Marta and Abily will be too expensive, but maybe some Japanese? They’re fun to watch.

    • Steglitz49

      It is a capital idea because several (maybe all) of the Japanese players in Europe have part of their salaries paid in Japan from Japanese sources. They earn more than their €uro paycheck. Maybe some rising young players can come over subsidized to gain experience in the NWSL. If they were to do some college degree they could be funded through the education — ie be true free agents because they would play in the NWSL for free.

      Nevertheless,as you say, the established stars are quite expensive. Ohno is said to be getting $115k per year from Lyon (Otaki who comes on as a substitute is said to be getting $60-75k). I have not seen figures for Kumagai and Ogimi but I doubt that they earn less.

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