September 16, 2009

Atlanta & Philadelphia Pick First Players

The dust has settled on the WPS Expansion Draft and the Atlanta Beat and Philadelphia Independence have added the first group of players to their rosters. Atlanta chose FC Gold Pride defender, Leigh Ann Robinson, as their first pick. Philadelphia followed with Washington Freedom midfielder, Lori Lindsey.

Although both teams could select up to 9 players, neither went that far. Atlanta passed after 6 selections and Philadelphia passed after only 7 picks. This was somewhat surprising to me, given the fact that all of the players available were good enough to make the rosters of established teams in 2009. Each current team lost only two players, with the exception of Gold Pride, which lost only one. Only one international player was chosen, Sara Larsson from Saint Louis Athletica and the Swedish National Team. Both teams leaned heavily on defense, with 6 defenders being chosen.

The Selections:
1. Atlanta-Leigh Ann Robinson, FC Gold Pride, outside defender
2. Philadelphia-Lori Lindsey, Washington Freedom, midfielder
3. Philadelphia-Jen Buczkowski, Sky Blue FC, midfielder/defender
4. Atlanta-Amanda Cinalli, Saint Louis Athletica, attacking midfielder
5. Philadelphia-Nikki Krzysik, Chicago Red Starts, central defender
6. Atlanta-Katie Larkin, Los Angeles Sol, attacking midfielder/forward/outside defender
7. Philadelphia-Sue Weber, Boston Breakers, central defender
8. Atlanta-Sharolta Nonen, Los Angeles Sol, defender
9. Philadelphia-Sarah Senty, Washington Freedom, defender
10. Atlanta-Sara Larsson, Saint Louis Athletica, defender
11. Philadelphia-Danesha Adams, Chicago Red Stars, forward
12. Atlanta-Noelle Keselica, Sky Blue FC, forward
13. Philadelphia-Kelly Schmedes, Boston Breakers, attacking midfielder/forward

Biggest Surprises

The first surprise is that neither team took their full allotment of 9 players. One of the problems was probably that several of the unprotected players were internationals and with the international draft coming next week, Atlanta and Philadelphia were hesitant to use up those potential spots in this draft. Still, I've got to believe there were a couple more players available that would have helped these two teams.

There were three big surprises to me as far as unprotected players go. Lori Lindsey has just been called up for the USWNT camp and is one of the most solid midfielders in the league. Amanda Cinalli missed the first 8 games of the season due to injury, but scored two goals and added an assist for a team that struggled offensively much of the year. Sue Weber is a solid defender, who also battled injury problems for much of the season.

The other big surprise for me was that there were no goalkeepers chosen. That indicates that many teams protected two keepers. Although we don't know exactly what happened, there are two possibilities. Either most teams protected two or there was one other player available that the expansion teams wanted more and then the backup keepers were protected with the two additional protected spots. In any case, with the likes of Henderson, Loyden, Bardsley, and Whitworth as backups, I would have expected Atlanta and Philadelphia to come out of this draft with a solid keeper. Now they will have to look elsewhere to fill that position.

Atlanta Beat

Leigh Ann Robinson (23 years old, San Diego, outside defender)-Robinson was originally drafted in the 6th round (40th pick overall) of the January draft by FC Gold Pride. She started 15 games for FCGP, more than any other player in the January draft taken after the 2nd round. Robinson scored one goal, a game winner against Sky Blue in May. She possesses good speed and does well going forward from her outside defender position. Defensively, she was good, but could show some improvement. She's still very young and could become a very good player.

Amanda Cinalli (23 years old, Notre Dame, attacking midfielder)-Cinalli was taken in the 4th round of the October draft in 2008. She starred at Notre Dame where she had over 30 goals and 30 assists for her career. She's also been a mainstay on the US U-23 team. With the possible exception of Lindsey, she may have been the most talented player taken in this draft. Cinalli started every game in which she was healthy enough to play. She has very good ball skills and can score. Her two goals were both game winners, against Sky Blue and Los Angeles. Occasionally, she tries to make too many moves in traffic, but I think she has the chance to become one of the top attacking mids in WPS.

Katie Larkin (22 years old, Brigham Young, attacking mid/forward/defender)-Larkin was drafted in the 3rd round (19th pick overall) in the January draft by the Los Angeles Sol. She started only 5 games for the Sol, but that was more due to the talent on that team than it was to her ability. She possesses excellent speed. Larkin showed her versatility by filling in at outside defender when the Sol were shorthanded on the back line and handled it very well. Given the opportunity for more playing time, Larkin could blossom in Atlanta.

Sharolta Nonen (31 years old, Nebraska, defender)-Nonen is a veteran of the Canadian National Team, as well as the previous incarnation of the Atlanta Beat in the WUSA. She can boast over 60 appearances with the Canadian National Team and another positive is that she does not count against the limit on international players. Nonen played only two games for the Sol, filling in after Martina Franko had to leave the team due to pregnancy. She is a veteran and a solid defender that should anchor the back line for the Beat.

Sara Larsson (30 years old, Swedish National Team, defender)-Larsson was signed as a discovery player by Athletica. She is a member of the Swedish National Team and just finished competing in the Euros in Finland. Like Nonen, she is a veteran defender with years of international experience. She started 12 matches for Athletica, but was hampered by injuries throughout the season, which limited her playing time. She doesn't have great speed, but she should be a dependable player that can help the Beat on the back line if she stays healthy.

Noelle Keselica (25 years old, Virginia, forward)-Keselica made the Sky Blue roster as a free agent. Originally, she was designated as a developmental player, but was later promoted to the full roster. She appeared in only 5 games, logging 101 minutes for a very deep Sky Blue team. She also played 7 minutes in the WPS Championship. In addition to her WPS experience, she has played for the US junior national teams, and in the W-League and Swedish Damallsvenskan.

Philadelphia Independence

Lori Lindsey (29 years old, Virginia, midfielder)-Lindsey was drafted in the 3rd round of the October, 2008 draft. She is an excellent midfielder that makes very few mistakes. She started 18 matches for the Freedom and was a very consistent performer throughout the season. Her WPS play was strong enough to catch the eye of USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, who has called Lindsey up for the US camp later this month. Lindsey scored two goals for the Freedom, with one assist. In addition to her playing abilities, she will provide the Independence with veteran leadership on the field as well.

Jen Buczkowski (24 years old, Notre Dame, defensive midfielder/defender)-Buczkowski was drafted in the 6th round (39th pick overall) in the January draft. She is a solid midfielder, who filled in on the back line for Sky Blue in the playoffs due to Anita Asante's absence for the Euros. Buczkowski was an instrumental part of a Sky Blue defense that gave up just one goal in 3 playoff games. When playing midfield, she is a defensive specialist who rarely gets forward to shoot (she recorded only 1 shot in the regular season). She started 8 regular season games for SBFC in a very crowded and talented midfield roster for the New Jersey squad, but then started all 3 playoff matches at center back.

Nikki Krzysik (22 years old, Virginia, center defender)-Krzysik was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2nd round (13th pick overall) in the January draft. She is a physical defender who managed 5 yellow cards in just 14 matches. She gave several fine performances early in the season and started the Red Stars' first 7 games, before giving way to more experienced defenders. She could become a very good defender, but probably needs to be paired up with a speedier center back at her side.

Sue Weber (23 years old, Hofstra, center defender)-Like Lindsey, Weber was taken in the 3rd round of the October draft. She is yet another solid defender, who unfortunately was plagued by injuries for most of the season. She appeared in only 9 matches, but was the Breakers' starter at center back until injuries forced her out of the lineup. She was recently named to the Colonial Athletic Association's 25th anniversary soccer team for her play at Hofstra.

Sarah Senty (22 years old, Virginia, defender)-Senty was originally drafted in the 7th round (49th pick overall) in the January draft. She missed the first half of the season for the Freedom while she was finishing up her studies at the University of Virginia. However, she started 5 of the last 7 regular season games, as well as the playoff match for Washington. Senty was a four year starter for Virginia and is another sound back that should help the Independence become a tough defensive side.

Danesha Adams (23 years old, UCLA, forward)-Adams was drafted in the 1st round of the October draft by the Chicago Red Stars. She appeared in 12 games for the Red Stars, starting two, but she was slowed by injuries for most of the early part of the year and had to struggle to become game fit for most of the season. She didn't score, but can certainly be a powerful offensive force when healthy. She managed to get off 10 shots in limited playing time for Chicago. Adams has also been a member of the US U-23 team and has scored 6 goals for them in past seasons.

Kelly Schmedes (26 years old, Texas, attacking midfielder/forward)-Schmedes was drafted by the Boston Breakers in the 6th round (41st pick overall) of the January draft. She is a talented offensive player who scored a goal and an assist for the Breakers in 2009. Her only goal of the season was a game winner against Gold Pride in July. She has good passing skills and decent speed. Schmedes is also a hard worker who pressures opposing defenses well.

Next week, the two expansion teams will participate in the International Draft.