The transition from collegiate soccer to professional soccer can be difficult. Even to the best of the best—as was evident by the struggles of the top draft pick, Amy Rodriguez, to find the back of the net in the 2009 WPS season.
The comfort level for a different style of play, national and international players as teammates, and adjustments to new coaches and surroundings can dictate the transition.
And yet, fans have come to expect strong performances from the top first round picks.
The second WPS season opened with all eight teams playing a game each. Of the four games, the match between New Jersey Sky Blue FC and Chicago Red Stars was broadcast live on the Fox Soccer Channel and got the most attention from fans and writers alike.
I was curious to find out how the top draft picks fared in their WPS debut matches.
Second draft pick Lauren Cheney not only contributed to the Boston Breakers win against the Washington Freedom, but she scored the first goal of the 2010 WPS season. Meanwhile, top overall draft pick Tobin Heath could not deliver a victory for Atlanta Beat.
With no head-turning stars on the Atlanta Beat, Heath is in a tough spot. Fans expectations of her to shoulder the responsibility of the team could be daunting despite her success at the collegiate level and on the U.S. Women's National Team.
Heath's teammates from the University of North Carolina, Casey Nogueira and Whitney Engen, did not have stellar debuts either. Both play for the Chicago Red Stars.
Engen started the game and defended well, but was over zealous on many occasions. She was substituted in the second half to bring an attacker on the pitch when coach Emma Hayes changed the formation. Nogueira came in as a substitute in the 77th minute, but did not bring any spark off the bench.
Kelly O'Hara, a star player at Stanford now playing for FC Gold Pride, was reported to have had plenty of opportunities. Even with Marta playing along her side, though, her team fell to Saint Louis Athletica.
Despite what appeared to be an opportunistic goal by Tasha Kai of Sky Blue FC, credit goes to the Sky Blue defensive line for preserving that lead by holding off Christiane of the Chicago Red Stars.
Brittany Taylor was spectacular in her one to one duels with Cristiane. Taylor, a graduate of the University of Connecticut and a sixth pick in the first round WPS draft, showed tremendous patience and was unfazed with Cristiane's prowess on the ball. She held her ground and did not give Cristiane any space and time.
With only one week behind us, it is premature to rate or rank the first round picks of the 2010 WPS Draft. However, let's hope that this batch will show their mettle soon and give us more than nine goals that we saw from the first round picks in the 2009 WPS season.
Photo Credit: WPS