Women's Professional Soccer: Recapping The Offseason Thus Far

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Women's Professional Soccer:  Recapping The Offseason Thus Far
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Rosters Are Reshaped

As the offseason began for Women’s Professional Soccer this fall and early winter, there was plenty of shuffling of rosters as free agency began and both the Chicago Red Stars and FC Gold Pride folded in the span of months of each other.

The Philadelphia Independence took advantage of free agency, signing former Chicago Red Stars midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Tasha Kai, a fan favorite at Sky Blue FC, takes a ride down the Jersey Turnpike and over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Independence as well, where she will likely be Amy Rodriguez’s running mate up top. 

The Independence bolstered their defense with the likes of Leigh Ann Robinson and Kia McNeil, both of whom come from the Atlanta Beat.

The Boston Breakers also took advantage of free agency, particularly those of the two folded teams, signing a pair of players from last year’s WPS champions in Kelley O’Hara and Rachel Buehler. 

Nikki Washington, who spent last year tied to four teams (LA Sol, Sky Blue FC, St. Louis Athletica and Chicago Red Stars) also signed with the Breakers, giving them another option on the wing or up top. With the signings of Kelley O’Hara and Nikki Washington, the Breakers now have three of last year’s top five draft picks on their roster (second: Cheney, third: O'Hara and fifth: Washington).

Harry How/Getty Images
Averbuch (right) was added to the Western New York Flash

UPDATED: The Boston Breakers announced on January 12 that they have added former Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Kelsey Davis to their roster.

The expansion Western New York Flash signed their first two players in the expansion draft in November 2010, choosing Washington Freedom midfielder Beverly Goebel and Atlanta Beat defender Kaley Fountain to start building their roster. They continued to take advantage of free agency, signing Washington Freedom keeper Ashlyn Harris.

The next group of players included four members of the 2010 Champion FC Gold Pride in goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, defenders Kandace Wilson, Candace Chapman and WPS Rookie of the Year Ali Riley and forward Christine Sinclair. 

The defense was solidified further with the signings of Brittany Bock, who spent last season with the Washington Freedom and Whitney Engen, who enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with the Chicago Red Stars.

The Flash then turned their attention to their midfield, signing McCall Zerboni who spent the last two seasons in LA and Atlanta respectively and Sky Blue FC midfielder Yael Averbuch. They also acquired Caroline Seger from the Independence in exchange for Western New York’s first pick in the second round (No. 9 overall).

Sky Blue FC has bolstered its roster this offseason in hopes of returning to the postseason and ultimately to reclaim the WPS championship. 

Tobin Heath was part of a blockbuster deal between Sky Blue FC and the Atlanta Beat

The offseason started off strong for the inaugural champions as they signed Anita Asante, who spent the first half of the 2010 campaign with Sky Blue FC on the injured list before being traded to St. Louis, being picked up by Chicago and then traded to Washington before the season concluded.

Freedom midfielder Allie Long signed with Sky Blue FC and was quickly joined in the midfield by Carolyn Blank. Swedish international Therese Sjogran also joins an already talented and dangerous midfield. Sjogran, who is a two time Swedish player of the year, is on loan from LdB FC Malmö for the season as par t of an affiliation with the Swedish club.

Former University of North Carolina teammates Casey Nogueira and Kristi Eveland both signed with Sky Blue FC through free agency and waivers respectively. The New Jersey based club also signed defenders Carrie Dew (FC Gold Pride) and Michelle Wenino (developmental player for Chicago Red Stars).

But perhaps the most pivotal signing was a blockbuster trade between Sky Blue FC and the Atlanta Beat that landed English forward Eniola Aluko, midfielder Angie Kerr and New Jersey native Tobin Heath in the Garden State. In exchange, the Beat received Sky Blue FC’s first round draft picks (No. 3 and 7) in the 2011 draft and “future considerations.”

The attacking firepower brought on thus far will look to spark an offense that scored a league low 20 goals in 2010.

The Atlanta Beat are a team that lost a significant group of players in the offseason. The trade with Sky Blue FC gave up three top players, but it is yet to be seen as to whether that transaction will wind up helping or hindering the team in 2011.

The Beat did begin to shore up its defensive woes in signing US Women’s National team and former Freedom defender Cat Whitehill, defender Keeley Downing, who spent two seasons on the backline of Sky Blue FC and Philadelphia Independence defender Katherine Reynolds. 

Offensively, the Beat inked midfielder Carli Lloyd and forward India Trotter just a week after the Heath/Aluko/Kerr trade. Both spent last season with Sky Blue FC and should bring some offensive firepower to a team that scored just 20 goals in 24 matches last season.

Notable Moves

Players aren’t the only ones who have been shuffling. Several personnel moves have taken place in the last three months.

  • Jim Gabarra stepped down as the Washington Freedom’s head coach on September 28, 2010. It is a position he held since the inaugural WUSA season back in 2001. On October 7, 2010, Gabarra was announced as Sky Blue FC’s new head coach. Interim head coach Rick Stainton will remain on board as an assistant.
  • Mark Washo announced on November 23, 2010 that he was stepping down from his position of full-time President and General Manager of the Washington Freedom.
  • The trend of GMs stepping down continued into December as Sky Blue FC General Manager Gerry Marrone announced that he was stepping down on December 15, 2010. Director of Operations Gioia DiFlumeri was announced as the new General Manager.
  • Shawn McGee announced that he would be stepping down from his position as General Manager of the Atlanta Beat on January 5, 2011.  Owner T. Fitz Johnson has stepped into the General Manager position while Director of Operation Kristin Lettiere will join him as assistant GM.

 

Washington Freedom…Magic TALK FC?

The Washington Freedom have an owner—that’s the good news. The team was saved financially from folding by Dan Borislow of magicJack internet phone company.  

They do not, however, have a coach, nor do they have a general manager. 

With the draft approaching quickly, one can only wonder what is going on in DC (or Miami for that matter). Prior to the announcement of new owner, the Freedom came to terms with eight players: Abby Wambach, Nikki Marshall, Becky Sauerbrunn, Erin McCleod, Kristi Eveland, Jill Gilbeau, Christie Welsh and Beverly Goebel. 

Goebel was drafted by the expansion Western New York Flash in November while Welsh, Eveland, and Gilbeau were waived this past weekend. This leaves just four players officially re-signed for the upcoming 2011 season.

Right now, there are two of Borislow’s plans that are still in the works and neither of them seem to be sitting favorably with Freedom fans.

The first is a proposed splitting of home games between the Maryland SoccerPlex and an undetermined complex in the South Florida/Miami area. This move has reportedly already been approved by WPS. 

With just 18 games on the schedule this year, that leaves nine potential home games. It is unclear at this point how the split is going to break down. 

The second is a plan to rename the franchise altogether to something along the lines of either magicTALK FC or SC. While the owner of the team does hold ultimate power over a name change, pending league approval, 2011 would be the ten year anniversary of the Washington Freedom brand. 

Why change something that has become a fixture in women’s professional/semi-professional soccer over the last decade?

Oh, and last time I checked, teams weren’t named after corporations. Using the magicJack brand as a jersey sponsor has come up several times and theoretically, seems like a bit of a better option, at least until a permanent move to South Florida forces a name change.

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