Breaking Down the National Women's Soccer League's (NWSL) Player Allocation
Today, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced the destination teams for the 55 national team players being subsidized by the national federations of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Each team received seven players, except the Western New York Flash, who suffered from the fact that 55 players can’t be evenly divided into eight teams. The Flash only received six players in the allocation process.
The rest of the rosters will be filled out through free agency and the college draft. The draft will take place on January 18 in Indianapolis. The draft coincides with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Indianapolis the same weekend.
Here are some thoughts on the teams and players involved in the allocation process.
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The big winner on the day was obviously the Portland Thorns who somehow managed to bag USWNT stars Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Rachel Buehler and Canadian women’s national team captain Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair and Morgan will instantly become the most feared strike partnership in the league and with one of the most creative players in the world in Heath, they should get plenty of service from the midfield.
Adding Buehler into the mix to build a defense around, the Thorns have to be the early favorite to win the league.
Western New York Flash
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Although the Western New York Flash only received six players in the allocation, they picked up two big ones in USWNT stars Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd.
Both players are coming off monster years in 2012. Lloyd was the hero of the London Olympics because of her two-goal effort in the final against Japan. Wambach won the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player in 2012 this past Monday.
It will also be interesting to see how Wambach does without Morgan, or another top-class striker, to partner her.
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The Washington Spirit picked up former USWNT players Ashlyn Harris, Lori Lindsey and Ali Krieger.
Harris played with the USWNT in the run up to the 2011 Women’s World Cup but did not make the final roster.
Lindsey made the roster in 2011 but was only played sparingly in the tournament. She was an alternate for the London Olympic squad this past summer.
Krieger started all six games for the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup and was excellent throughout the tournament. In Olympic qualifying last January, she tore her ACL in a collision with a Dominican Republic player and did not recover in time to make the London Olympic roster.
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The Boston Breakers picked up USWNT stars Sydney Leroux, Heather O’Reilly and Heather Mitts.
Because Leroux sits behind two of the best forwards in the world in Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan for the USWNT, playing in the NWSL will provide Leroux an important opportunity to get playing time and prove she is deserving of more time with the national team.
Chicago Red Stars
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The Chicago Red Stars picked up USWNT stars Shannon Boxx and Amy LePeilbet, as well as CanWNT goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
FC Kansas City
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FC Kansas City picked up USWNT backup goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, as well as U.S. internationals Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Cheney. Kansas City also picked up Canadian Women’s National Team player Laura Sesselmann.
Sauerbrunn is another player who may be pushing for more playing time under new USWNT head coach Tom Sermanni and could use the NWSL to prove she should be starting. Under former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, Sauerbrunn mostly watched as Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler played as the first-choice centre-back pairing.
It will also be interesting to see what Kansas City does with Lauren Cheney. With the USWNT over the past 18 months, Cheney has found consistent minutes as a forward, an outside midfielder, an attacking midfielder and a holding midfielder without making any of the positions truly her own.
There’s no doubt that Cheney has boatloads of talent, but former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage never seemed to find her a permanent home.
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The Seattle Reign picked up USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo and Amy Rodriguez as well as Mexican player Teresa Noyola.
Rapinoe and Solo could make the Reign instant contenders, but Rapinoe may miss the beginning of the NWSL season. This week, Rapinoe signed a short-term contract with French Club Olympique Lyon.
Rodriguez will need to play well with the Reign if she is to continue her play with the USWNT. While Rodriguez was a regular starter for the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup, she rapidly fell down the depth chart in 2012 losing her starting position to Alex Morgan and even her substitute minutes to Sydney Leroux.
Rodriguez only played 15 minutes in the 2012 London Olympics. She has also only collected one start in the U.S.’ last 23 games—and that was in a friendly in which she earned her 100th cap.
Noyola may also be familiar to U.S. soccer fans as she starred for Stanford University, winning the Hermann Award in 2011 and scoring the lone goal in the 2011 NCAA College Cup final.
Sky Blue FC
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Finally, Sky Blue FC picked up USWNT players Jill Loyden, Kelley O’Hara and USWNT captain Christie Rampone.
It will be interesting to see what Sky Blue does with O’Hara, who was an accomplished forward at Stanford University, but has been converted to left-back with the USWNT over the past year.
When O’Hara, who won the 2009 Hermann Award as the NCAA’s best player, first joined the national team, she mainly played as a reserve forward and outside midfielder. Finding a difficult time getting playing time, she made the switch to the back line after the 2011 World Cup.
O’Hara proved to be a very quick study at the position, winning a starting spot and providing the U.S. attack a spark out of the back.
O’Hara’s successful conversion also helped the U.S. stave off the disaster that easily could have developed when right-back stalwart Ali Krieger went down with an ACL injury in Olympic qualifying.
Other News and Notes
Of the 23 American players being subsidized by U.S. Soccer (the league said they would subsidize 24 players, so one more may be coming), only Keelin Winters has not been a regular part of the USWNT setup over the past two years.
Winters is a former U.S. U-20 player who captained the squad to the U-20 World Cup Championship in 2008. That squad also included Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan and Meghan Klingenberg.
Klingenberg was one of a few notable absences from the allocation process. The others included Christen Press, who was an alternate for the London Olympic squad, Whitney Engen and U.S. U-20 international and PSG forward Lindsey Horan.
Also missing was CanWNT member Melissa Tancredi. However, no one should expect Carli Lloyd, who was a victim of Tancredi’s vicious head stamp in this summer’s Olympic semifinals, to be sad Tancredi won't be playing in the league.
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