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June 3, 2009

WPS Draft Revisited-Los Angeles Sol


On January 16, 2009, a few friends and I found our way to Room 276 at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri to watch the first ever WPS draft. I remember it being one of the coldest days of the year, but there was still an overflow crowd on hand that spilled out into the hallway. The futures of 70 players would begin that day. The league had previously completed a WNT player allocation, a 4-round international draft, and a 4-round general draft that didn't include any of the college seniors playing in 2008. The 70 players chosen that day were of different ages, many still in college, some just out of college, some veterans of the W-League and WPSL, a few with international experience, and even a few WUSA veterans.

Now five months later, nearly halfway through the inaugural WPS season, I thought it would be a good time to look back and analyze how the seven teams fared in that draft. For this installment, I'll start with the Los Angeles Sol since they are the first team to play half of their games. Over the next 3 weeks, I will go through the other six WPS teams.

Los Angeles Sol

Who They Drafted
1st round (#5)-Brittany Bock, Notre Dame; 2nd round (#10)-Allison Falk, Stanford; 3rd round (#19) Katie Larkin, Brigham Young; 4th round (#24) Greer Barnes, West Virginia; 5th round (#33) Val Henderson, UCLA; 6th round (#38) Katie Hooker, Denver; 7th round (#47) McCall Zerboni, UCLA; 8th round (#52) Brittany Cameron, San Diego; 9th round (#61) Erica Janke, Cal State-Fullerton; 10th round (#66) Lisa Sari, Portland.

Strategy
By the time Los Angeles made their first pick, they already had a number of talented USWNT and international players, especially on the offensive end. With that in mind, they concentrated on defensive players early on. They also went young...very young. Six of their 10 picks had just completed their college eligibility less than two months earlier. They selected more players from the senior class than any other team. Three more of their picks concluded their college careers in 2006 or 2007. Only Katie Hooker was older than 25. The Sol also seemed to have a preference for players who played their college soccer on the west coast. Only two of their picks, Brittany Bock and Greer Barnes, were from eastern schools.

Current WPS Status
For Los Angeles, 8 of their 10 picks are still on the roster, 2 were released.

Full time starters (2)-Bock, Falk
Part time starters & other full roster players (3)-Larkin, Henderson, Sari
Developmental players (3)-Barnes, Zerboni, Cameron
Released (2)-Hooker, Janke

What They've Done
Bock-9 G, 9 GS, 801 Min, 1 goal, 2 points, 7 shots, 2 SOG
Falk-9 G, 9 GS, 810 Min, 1 goal, 2 points, 3 shots, 2 SOG
Larkin-8 G, 2 GS, 308 Min, 1 shot
Sari-3 G, 1 GS, 116 Min
Zerboni-3 G, 10 Min

Henderson-1 G, 1 GS, 90 Min, 4 Saves, 1 Shutout, 0.00 GA

Barnes and Cameron have not played.

Total Offensive Output-32 G, 21 GS, 2045 Min, 2 goals, 0 assists, 4 points, 11 shots, 4 SOG.
Total Goalkeeper Output-1 G, 1 GS, 90 Min, 4 Saves, 1 Shutout, 0.00 GA.

G=Games; GS=Games Started; Min=Minutes; SOG=Shots on Goal; GA=Goals Against Average.

The Players
Brittany Bock-Bock may have been the best all-around player in the draft. She is certainly one of the most versatile. After spending most of her Notre Dame career as a forward/midfielder, she started the season at center back for the Sol. She is capable of playing anywhere on the field. Bock isn't the type of player that is going to wow you with any one play, but if you watch her over the course of a game, you will begin to appreciate her talent. She plays physical when necessary and isn't afraid to go up strong for a header. She scored a goal against the Boston Breakers in a losing cause. She is a solid starter for the best team in the league and good enough for Pia Sundhage to take a look at her for the US National Team.

Allison Falk-Falk will forever be remembered as the player that scored the first goal in WPS history. But it has been solid defense which has earned Falk her starting position on LA's league-leading defense. For a tall player, Falk is surprisingly agile. Her height makes her a force on corner kicks and set pieces at both ends of the field. In the games I've seen her, I've lost count of how many times she headed a dangerous cross out of trouble. As she gains strength, she will get even better. She will make an occasional mistake, the hand ball in Saint Louis and an errant header late in the 2nd Sky Blue game, but she is almost always in good position. When pressured, she generally makes the safe play. Falk could be a solid center back for years to come.

Katie Larkin-Larkin started the season as an attacking mid/wing/forward type of player, basically the position she played at Brigham Young. However, she recently showed versatility, moving to outside defender and handled the assignment quite well. Larkin could probably be starting for some teams on a regular basis, but the Sol are loaded with talented midfielders and forwards, so the fact that she is getting serious playing time indicates that she has talent.

Val Henderson-She finally got a chance to start against FC Gold Pride and looked very good. She made a couple of very nice saves and picked up right where LeBlanc left off. Henderson spent a season with Pali Blues of the W-League and has extensive international experience with the US U-23 team and her experience showed in her start for the Sol. It will be interesting to see how many players each team is allowed to protect for next year's expansion draft. If not protected, she will surely be on Philadelphia or Atlanta's radar.

Lisa Sari-Considering she was the 66th pick in the draft, Sari has contributed quite well. She started and played the full 90 as a holding midfielder against Gold Pride and also saw playing time against Saint Louis and in the first Gold Pride game.

McCall Zerboni-The former UCLA midfielder is listed as a developmental player and has seen brief action in three games, but is gradually seeing more playing time.

Greer Barnes-Barnes has yet to see any action. I honestly thought she might go in the 2nd or 3rd round. I was surprised when she didn't go until the 4th round and equally surprised when she was listed as a developmental player.

Brittany Cameron-Cameron is a developmental player and will find it hard to get playing time behind LeBlanc and Henderson. Her best chance is probably the expansion draft if Philly or Atlanta drafts her or if they would draft Henderson, thus opening up the backup spot behind LeBlanc. She had a great career at San Diego, showing improvement each season.

Summary
Los Angeles did very well at the top of the draft. Their first two picks are already solid starters and their 3rd pick, Larkin, is a key contributor. Consider this, in their opener against Washington and Abby Wambach, the Sol started two not quite 22-year-old center backs. Bock and Falk were those two players. Val Henderson was an excellent 5th round pick for a backup keeper. Sari, Zerboni, and Cameron were good picks for depth and Barnes may eventually develop. Los Angeles is among the bottom of the league in offensive output out of their draft picks, but that speaks more to the extraordinary talent they already had, rather than to the quality of the players they drafted. Overall, this was a strong draft.

2 comments:

WPS Fan said...

Thank you.

I was waiting for someone to analyze the draft.

S.G. on June 4, 2009 at 5:15 AM said...

KC,

Great work, my friend.

Looking forward to the other six teams and your thoughts on their drafts.