Mock drafts: Who should the Dash draft?

The Equalizer Staff January 8, 2014 74

Lori Lindsey (foreground) captained the Spirit in 2013. Now she is exposed to the Dash for Friday's Expansion Draft. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Everyone loves a mock draft.  With the list of protected players now known (a step WPS, regretfully, never took) it’s time for every NWSL fan to begin speculating as to which 10 players the Dash will grab as the guts of the team they will put on the field in 2014.

A few caveats to these mockups.  One is that discovery players were ignored.  All of the clubs know all of the names that have been disguised on the list and most of them are unprotected.  If the Dash think they can sign one or more they could well take them.  Another is the trade market.  It is more than feasible to think the Dash will work out arrangements to draft players and then trade them.   There are too many trade variables to account for so we did not factor that in either.  The third is the salary cap, and again salary figures are not made public so there is no way to know if any certain group of players is going to be too expensive.  Also as you can see we went light on the Dash taking Canadian and Mexican allocations, but it may turn out they decide the savings of not having to pay those players outweighs going with a slightly better player.

Our lists are vastly different, but there is one thing we all did agree on.  It must be an awful lot of fun to be hanging out in that Houston Dash “war room” hashing all this stuff out.  We also agree that while this is a fun game to play ahead of the real deal this Friday, we’re mostly just guessing and fully expect some surprises when the Dash start picking players for real.

Here are our mock drafts for the Houston Dash in the NWSL Expansion Draft set for Friday:

Dan Lauletta

Breakers – Meghan Klingenberg

Two main reasons for going here.  One is that Klingenberg is lightning fast and that is just not something that is easy to find.  The other is that the Breakers have the weakest list of players so grabbing Klingenbrg makes sense.  The only other players on the Breakers list worth taking a shot at are Jazmyne Avant and Melissa Ortiz.  The latter is a goal scorer, and those are tough to come by, but there are better opportunities elsewhere on the board.

Chicago Red Stars – Ella Masar

Masar is a popular player who has no problem coming off the bench and is capable of producing when she does.  There are also indications she could have value on the trade market so that could add to her value.

FC Kansas City – Bianca Henninger

Henninger is the perfect complement to the veteran Erin McLeod.  She’ll make a very good backup and looks to be good enough to ascend to the first team before long.  There is a groundswell of support for the Dash nabbing Casey Loyd (nee Nogueira) since she is from Texas.  She had a part-time role for the Blues and was not one of their harder workers, a chronic complaint dating to her college days.  I’d pass.

Portland Thorns FC – Rachel Buehler

The Thorns were one of the teams forced to expose a coveted U.S. player and they went with Buehler over Tobin Heath (the Alex Morgan to Houston talk can and should end now.)  Putting Buehler next to Whitney Engen will put the Dash into the discussion for best center back pairing in NWSL.  Plus with Engen not coming right away, Buehler can hold things down in her absence.  This pick will also be a significant blow to the league champions.

Seattle Reign FC – Kiersten Dallstream

Dallstream can play several different positions, an important asset for an expansion team.  One of those positions is outside back which appears thin in terms of player availability.

Sky Blue FC – Brittany Bock, Danesha Adams (Kendall Johnson pulled back)

Bock was a big star for Waldrum at Notre Dame and is a physical force in midfield when healthy.  That is a big flag for Bock but she is good enough to take the chance on assuming the Dash don’t go  for the U.S. player here—Kelley O’Hara or Jill Loyden.  Adams is a hard-working forward who can take set pieces.    Figuring on Sky Blue snapping back Johnson who they have been high on since last training camp.

Washington Spirit – Candace Chapman

Depth defender battled knee injuries through 2013 and is a bit of a stab.  Solid when healthy though and serves an outstanding long ball out of the back.

Western New York Flash – Angela Salem, Vicki DiMartino (Estelle Johnson pulled back)

Unless the Dash decide to take Becky Edwards and leave Rachel Buehler on the table then Angela Salem is easily the best option for a defensive midfielder.  DiMartino is a young forward who should develop into a starter and players who can score or be direct contributors to scoring are difficult to come by.

HOW I SETTLED ON THESE TEN:  It seems that coming to a final, overall list, requires developing some sort of theory as to how the expansion draft should be attacked.

To me the two areas to figure out were which U.S. players to take and who to make the focal point at defensive midfield.  Angela Salem and Becky Edwards are the two best defensive mids on the board.  I went with Salem and then Rachel Buehler from Portland.  An alternative would have been to put Edwards on the Dash and use Kelley O’Hara from Sky Blue as another U.S. player.

When figuring this out the Dash will also have to be thinking about the second players from whichever team they take the non-U.S. player.  So in this draft I have them getting Brittany Bock and Danesha Adams from Sky Blue.  In the Edwards/O’Hara version it would be a second player from Portland, maybe Maleana Shim or Jessica McDonald.

There is also the variable of what order the Dash make their selections.  For example let’s say they take Edwards and then Estelle Johnson.  Do the Flash pull back Angela Salem, or do they pull back someone else and dare the Dash to take both Edwards and Salem? Remember trades are possible so doubling up on a certain position could mean nothing more than trying to accrue as much value as possible ahead of the college draft.

Finally a word on Meghan Klingenberg.  I included her mostly through process of elimination.  The only alternative I see is taking Jazmyne Avant off the Breakers and then Stephanie Cox from the Reign which makes sense in that it would mean two outside backs.  But even though seven teams exposed a U.S. allocation there are only four real choices.  The Dash just traded for a keeper so they’re not about to take Nicole Barnhart or Ashlyn Harris.  And the Red Stars exposed two but Any LePeilbet is recovering from knee surgery and is a far riskier play than Buehler, and Shannon Boxx is pregnant.

Jeff Kassouf –

Boston: Jazmyne Avant
Chicago: Ella Masar (A needed forward)
FC Kansas City: Nicole Barnhart (USA – best available on KC list)
Portland: Rachel Buehler (USA)
Seattle: Kate Deines, Alina Garciamendez (Mexico – worth a shot)
Sky Blue FC: Brittany Bock
Washington: Lori Lindsey (leadership for new team)
Western New York: Angela Salem (no-brainer), Estelle Johnson (if still available)

Quick take: The big debate for me (trying to be in Randy Waldrum’s head) is whether to take Buehler as a U.S. player and then get Bock, who played for Waldrum at Notre Dame, or to take Becky Edwards from Portland and also get Mana Shim or Nikki Washington, and then get Kelley O’Hara as a U.S. player from Sky Blue. To me, the opportunity to get Buehler and pair her with Whitney Engen, in addition to Bock reuniting with Waldrum, is how I see it going. My mock draft gives Houston a solid core defensively and in the midfield, but leaves them in need of attacking options. They’ll need to find those elsewhere, anyway, because there aren’t many available Friday.

Meg Linehan

Boston Breakers: Jazmyne Avant
Chicago Red Stars
: Ella Masar
FC Kansas City: Bianca Henninger
Seattle Reign FC
: Kate Deines, Mariah Nogueira
Portland Thorns FC
: Rachel Buehler
Sky Blue FC:
Kelley O’Hara
Washington Spirit: Lori Lindsey
Western New York Flash:
Angela Salem, Veronica Perez

Quick take: The big priority if I were drafting would be defensive options.  Picking Kelley O’Hara and Rachel Buehler means ending the season with a backline of three U.S. defenders once Whitney Engen arrives.  In picking Deines from Seattle, that’s a solid solution until Engen gets back, and Nogueira and WNY’s Angela Salem can split time as defensive-minded midfielders.  Lori Lindsey from the Washington Spirit and Rachel Buehler add instant veteran leadership.  Ella Masar is the offensive pick-up here, though I’ve had quite the internal debate over weighing Buehler against a double-tap of offense from Thorns FC in Mana Shim and Tiffany Weimer.  (If that were the case, I’d skip Boston’s Avant and head for Meghan Klingenberg as the 2nd U.S. pick-up, if nothing else to hopefully use as future trade bait.)

  • Boston Red

    Garciamendez isn’t allocated this year and a US citizen, so her status as a Mexican isn’t really relevant. But it might be worth the gamble since she *could* be allocated down the road.

    • kernel_thai

      I dont understand why Seattle has the rights to Garciamendez. When Keelin Winters was dropped from allocation it was reported she became a free agent and elected to re-sign with Seattle. If that was true why isnt Garciamendez a free agent now?

  • LCLondoner

    With the apparent revelation from Merrit Paulson that Buehler is not leaving Portland, I think we all have to go with the Edwards + ? scenario. My picks for the Dash:
    Boston: Meghan Klingenberg
    Chicago: Ella Masar
    Kansas City: Bianca Henninger
    Portland Thorns: Becky Edwards; Tiffany Weimer
    Seattle Reign: Kate Deines
    Sky Blue: Kelley O’Hara
    Washington: Caroline Miller
    Western NY: Angela Salem; Estelle Johnson
    I think Kling and O’Hara are the standout US picks. Houston has Deines and Johnson alongside Engen. If more defense is needed before Whit arrives, they can draft Kassey Kallman. You have veteran forwards in Masar and Weimer alongside Miller. I’m assuming Thorns choose to protect Mana Shim ahead of Weimer; and Flash may well protect Johnson – in which case Houston take Dallstream.

    • nwslfan

      I like your mock picks, except that Salem and Edwards both play DM? Can they excel at another field position?

      • LCLondoner

        You’re right. In that case, I’d take Shim over Edwards. Or, possibly Lindsay over either Edwards or Salem. There’s very little creative midfield talent in the unprotected ranks.

    • Guest

      Edwards + Weimer is exactly what I’m thinking Houston should pull from Portland. No way Portland doesn’t protect Shim if they grab Edwards, and Weimer is a good attacking option. Edwards/O’Hara option seems like the better pick up as opposed to going with Bock who could not stay healthy at all last season, granted O’Hara had the ankle injury, but she has otherwise proven to be one of the fittest players around.

    • kernel_thai

      I dont see any way they get both Salem and Johnson because if Houston picks one u have to figure WNY pulls back the other one.

    • Lorehead

      Paulson said he’d take the other side of the bet (also made by all of the analysts here) that the Dash will take Buehler, but he also said that there wasn’t a deal between Portland and Houston not to. He left several good players, including some good attackers compared to who else is on the board, unprotected as an alternative to Buehler, and the team has been trying to signal how much she and her husband love Portland and don’t want to move.

      • dylan

        LOL Fine then…we draft Buehler and trade her back to Portland for Morgan and a 2nd next season…done deal. :)

  • Ben

    One think I see a lot of these lists excluding are the Canadian and Mexican allocations. There are some good options out there. Why pass on free money. My lists therefore goes like this

    1. BOS – Klingenburg
    2. Chicago – Masar
    3. FCKC – Farelly, they can get a backup from college
    4. Seattle – Moscato
    5. Seattle – Dallstream/Nogueira
    6. Portland – Shim/Weimer/Edwards
    7. Portland – Shim/Weimer/Edwards
    8. SBFC – O’Hara
    9. Washington – Lindsey/Angeli/Kai
    10. WNY – Perez

    • FCKCEvans

      For obvious reasons I prefer this scenario for KC. I would like to think that KC gets something for allowing Houston to move up to #2 in the college draft. Henninger is a great back-up and I don’t really think it’s an asset to have 2 allocated keepers in Barhart and Santiago. Guess we will have to wait and see.

    • Steglitz49

      There are alternatives in your list. Please explain why you need them, else make up your mind please.

      From KC I would pick Barnhart,

      • Ben

        They are not alternatives. For Seattle, I have Moscato going first which means Seattle than have the option to protect another player. Given that we don’t know who that might be, my pick will be first Dallstream if she is not protected bit if she is than Noquiera.
        It is similar deal with Portland. I say the pick two of Shim/Edwards/Weimer depending who Portland protects.

        P.S. If Houston is picking a GK from FCKC, it will be Henniger or Cici. I see them picking Cici if they rather someone else from WNY

        • Steglitz49

          Thanks for the explanation. Much obliged.

          I can’t see them picking Cici. I can see them picking Barnhart to mess with KC and as a bargaining chip or investment. Cici being Mexican is not so easy to trade, while Barnie should be a piece of cake.

          • FCKCEvans

            Barhart is the best KC offers but I don’t think she’s easily tradable, she’s not young. Chicago seems to be the only team needing a starting goal-keeper and rumors suggest LeBlanc goes there. KC looses a back up goalie IMO, either Henninger who Waldrums familiar with or CiCi for youth and possibility of playing time which I’m sure the Mexican federation wants.

          • Lorehead

            One plausible interpretation of Paulson’s deleted tweet is that the fan-favorite player who’ll be leaving is LeBlanc and her top-class replacement will be Angerer, but if Angerer isn’t going to Chicago, whichever team she does sign with is going to trade its starting keeper. Chicago wouldn’t have made its deal with Houston without another good keeper lined up.

  • nwslfan

    BONUS CHALLENGE- pick ‘em in order!

  • NYRick

    Houston just needs to take O’Hara first. Just that, makes it a huge success for them. How a player of her ability and age and NT experience is left unprotected (even coming off an injury) is beyond comprehension other than she wanted out.

    So Houston, just say, “thank you” and maybe go with Becky Edwards to solidify your midfield. I know both KO and Edwards are coming off injuries, but expansion teams need to take some risks too, and if these two pan out (and they most likely will get back to form), then they hit the jackpot. Plus, they have Engen to anchor their center back position.

    • newsouth

      This. Go young in year 1. They don’t have a prime forward, so they will be at the bottom of the table. that’s just how the nwsl works. once rosters are finalize, it will be a piece of cake to figure out the top 5 like last year. and i’m talking before the 1st game. give me ohara, estelle, edwards, and deines as my base 4.

      • AP

        Yes, great base 4. I agree with going young.

      • NYRick

        You see, now you have me angry at Cushing. LOL. According to your inside insight then the Dash have Press with O’Hara, Edwards, Estelle, Deines. That’s a pretty good young team to build from right off the bat.

  • STL Athletica

    Is there info on whether Natasha Kai will play in 2014?

    • athursto

      Inquiring minds. But she never tweets anymore, so who knows?!

    • Silver Frost

      She dropped out of pro soccer after a concussion in the final of the WPS 2011 season. I heard she coaches girls soccer in Las Vegas.

  • Marshall Blythe

    I think it is wishful thinking that Houston won’t take Kling…

    • Stay Pressed

      Do they really need ANOTHER player who’s not gonna be available at the start of the season though? Cause they already have that ‘problem’ with Engen.

      • Steglitz49

        If Tyresö lose in the semi-final, perish the thought, then they will not miss many games. We want, well understood, the Tyresö Three to lift the Champions League trophy.

        • newsouth

          You must be having a night cap to say, you want Press to raise any trophy.

          • Steglitz49

            There is always Kirsten to make up a threesome with Marta, Veró, Jenn etc usw. You pays your money and you makes you choice.

            The romatic final is Tyresö – Potsdam but the PR-people likely would prefer Arsenal Ladies taking on the Shewolves.

  • Jess

    Merritt Paulson said Buehler isn’t going anywhere so that leads me to think Houston will definitely take O’Hara

    • Boston Red

      And what makes him so sure?

      • Steglitz49

        Maybe he has the NWSL in his back pocket?

        • NYRick

          Hey Steg. I like it! Now you’re cooking with gas!

      • kernel_thai

        I guess they already have a deal done.

    • Silver Frost

      When did he say this? If so, then why bother with a protected player list?

  • Brad

    Tough decisions here. MP tweeted Bueh wasn’t going anyway which affects my draft. Also Kling possibly not being available until mid-season slightly worries me.

    Boston- Kling

    Chicago- Ella Masar

    FCKC- Bianca Henninger

    Portland- Shim, Weimer

    Seattle- Mariah Nogueira, Moscato (Struggled last season but playing with national team keeper could help her)

    SB- O’hara

    Washington- Lindsay

    NY- Perez

    • Sydonia

      Last Paulson Tweet was 3 Jan. 2014. Nothing about Bueldozer.

      • DNF

        He’s notorious for deleting tweets. Try: http://www.tweetbunker.com/?action=search&username=merrittpaulson

        • athursto

          I don’t know why the idea of this team owner constantly deleting tweets makes me giggle, but it does. He should be more professional, though.

      • Boston Red

        Here’s the RT:

        Caitlin Murray @wosocait

        RT @Jamiebgoldberg: My guess is that Houston drafts Buehler RT @MerrittPaulson: I will take you up on that bet. she isn’t going anywhere

      • NYRick

        Shouldn’t there be some type of tweeting gag order on an OWNER with a player draft in progress!! This is NWSL amateur hour letting him become a Jerry Jones character.

  • Rdalford

    Jeff, Dan and Meg. Interesting lists, but keep your day jobs. :-) Appreciate your writing and insights and the women’s soccer specific equalizer focus.

  • Pressured

    What are the pros and cons of playing for Houston?
    MLS Backing +
    Coach +/-
    Team Colors +
    Team Name –
    2nd Round Pick +
    No Elite Forward –
    O’hara’s Ankle?

    • JB

      Couple of things:
      1. It must be nice to cherry-pick players off other teams rosters that have distinguished themselves last year!
      2. The Dash have a great chance to be one of the Best Teams in the league if they don’t screw it up.
      3. I’m sure some of the other teams would have liked to cherry-pick rosters. i.e. Washington/Chicago/Seattle could have used some players last year!
      4. Some of these players are going to demand a high salary, with the 200k salary cap there are going to be some unhappy players! There are a few already!
      5. With time the real reasons why Coach Waldrum left UND “(The Premiere Women Soccer Coaching job in the country)” will come out.

      • Steglitz49

        #4 — provided that the NWSL teams as a bunch pull in more spectators, the cap can be raised. Anyway, where would they earn more?

        #5 — do you know something we don’t? Something that is OK in Houston but not in South Bend?

    • Steglitz49

      They can trade for an elite forward or sign someone from abroad or take a chance on one of those US citizens who has elected to play for a foreign nation.

      Else I am told that Houston is a good place to live but not to visit.

    • newsouth

      Brian Cushing +
      Christen Press –
      Kealia Ohai +

  • john

    I just realized what’s missing from these discussions. Where are Long haters and Shim lovers totell us why Portland did it backwards?

    • KT5000

      Ha! I can accept long as the DM, but as the ACM… no. Thus, it’s either Long or Edwards for me, but not both.
      I wouldn’t say I hate Long or love Shim (although those are my leanings), but I think Weimer and Edwards are more worth keeping than either. Although, Shim’s popularity with fans is well-earned and I do think she’s good, but how much will is she needed now that Brooks is in the mix? Weimer is underappreciated, perhaps. Kerr, too, at times.

    • TsovLoj

      Shim and Acevedo play the same role, and they protected the one that doesn’t cost them money. That part seems simple enough to me.

      Why they think Long’s worth protecting is a mystery to me. She got her act together a bit towards the end of the season, but she wasn’t world class by any reasonable metric. I’d have protected Wetzel instead, given that Edwards is injured.

      • Lorehead

        As I’ve mentioned, my theory is that Portland intentionally left several good players unprotected so that Houston would take two of them instead of Buehler. They can replace Shim or Wetzel or Edwards, but Buehler is a world-class player they don’t have to pay for, and if Houston takes her, they cannot sign another allocated player to replace her. They just lose that USWNT player slot without compensation.

        The motive is not so much that they couldn’t afford a higher payroll (expect to see the players get great benefits in lieu of good salaries) but putting together the best team they can under the salary cap.

        • Pressured

          Buehler, you’ve got to be kidding. She defends a 1v1 attacking player ok, but pressure her, and she kicks a medium lob right back to the other team – SHE DOES IT ALL THE TIME.

          • Lorehead

            I don’t agree with that assessment, but even if it were true, it’s still the case that the Thorns do not have to pay anything for her, but would have to pay for her replacement on the roster.

          • Pressured

            Ok. I concede to your 2nd point.

          • Silver Frost

            LOL. So true.

          • Guest

            She doesn’t cost them any money. Portland acts like they are constantly broke. Marshall anyone? They don’t need Edwards and her price tag when they have Brooks. Shim is as expendable as Foxhoven was for them. She can go too. Why not keep Buehler who is free? The refs refuse to give her red cards anyway even when she maims people. They already have the expensive players like forwards for free so they can drop some money on Angerer and one or two other internationals who won’t play there for the standard wages.

  • kernel_thai

    Im still fascinated by the whole McLeod to Houston thing. First that Houston likes McLeod better than the other GK exposed and second that Houston now has their pic of a lot of GKs and Chicago doesnt have one. Chicago might want Barnhart or Cameron or LeBlanc and Houston might be the team to make that happen.

    • Steglitz49

      Houston pick Ms Barnhart and then trade her to Chicago for Ms Press who comes when she can (after Tyresö’s Champions League campaign is over).

      • Silver Frost

        Dream on.

        • Steglitz49

          Chicago must get themselves a decent goalie. Unless Nadine Angerer is joining them, Chicago has to trade or get someone from the college draft. They have not got much to trade with, except Christen and who would want half a player?

  • Lorehead

    As for salaries, the local paper just ran an article about the second jobs Thorns are taking to make ends meet.

    • Theodora

      I can’t wait for the story about the NWSL player who works at a strip club, or escort service. Don’t laugh.

      • Lorehead

        Portland does have the most strippers per capita in the nation. And some of the men allegedly got away with things they really should be ashamed of.

        I doubt it will happen for the same reasons you don’t hear about teachers working at strip clubs. They’d get recognized and it would ruin their other career.

      • morSOC

        Some on the NT have already stripped for money. We can all ponder on the fact they were already some of the better earners.

        • Theodora

          I disagree. Being a model in the ESPN body issue is not the same as working a strip club. Go to one and you’ll see for yourself. Strip clubs are about lap dances.

          • morSOC

            Not sure what you can disagree with in my comment. NT players stripped to pose for nude photos-true. The ones who did it were among the better compensated players-true. I did not make any comparison between different ways to earn money while unclothed.

          • TN

            No, but your quote, “Some on on the NT have already stripped for money” implied that in order to be better compensated, those same players stripped to pose for nude photos–not true.

            Granted, I don’t remember seeing any boobs, vagina, or buttocks of any NT players, maybe you could point them out to me?

    • Pressured

      $12,000! That makes me angry. There were 12,000 + fans at the home games.

      • Lorehead

        The salary cap is too low.

        • Sydonia

          Yeah, they call it a pro league, but really, give me a break.

      • Guest

        What did people expect? It is common knowledge the salary cap is 200k. With so many allocated players like their expensive forwards covered by the federations the Thorns at least have more of that to use on their other players. Unlike say WNY and now Kansas City or any other team with less than 7 allocations like they do or have to make sacrifices to pay for a free agent forward that costs more than other positions to fill.

  • ForeverLOST108

    Mautz will be taken before Masar. She’s younger, went to school in Texas, and has more upside.

  • dylan

    Never stop the Morgan to Houston talk—she was protected, but don’t be surprised if there is a trade in the works—either this season or next. With future hubby in Houston it just makes sense for her to come on down to H-Town.

    • kevin

      what if he gets traded again?