December 6, 2009

FC Gold Pride-The Offseason So Far

We're now about 6 weeks away from the 2010 WPS draft and it might be a good time to catch up on what each WPS team has been doing since the season ended in August. Offseason, of course, refers to that part of the year when no matches are being played, but that doesn't mean that coaches aren't busy. Front offices and coaching staffs have been logging heavy mileage, scouting international talent as well as the NCAA Tournament in search of players that will help them in the coming season. In addition, teams had to make decisions regarding player options and contracts, as well as who to protect for the expansion draft which was held in September.

So let's take a look at what has happened since August and what lies ahead for each team. We'll start with FC Gold Pride.

When Last We Left Them...

FC Gold Pride finished last in the regular season table with just 18 points. The season started out promisingly enough, with Gold Pride going 3-3-1 over their first 7 games. If there was a turning point in the season, it was the May 24th match against Los Angeles. Not only did they lose that match 2-0, but they also lost defender Kandace Wilson for the season after a collision with Marta very late in that contest. FCGP managed only 2 points over their next 7 games, being outscored 12-4 over that time. They had problems scoring, with Christine Sinclair being the only player to score on anything other than a penalty kick from May 3 through August 1. And for a team that seemed to have a decent back line, they gave up the 2nd most goals in the WPS.

Gold Pride did manage a fairly strong finish, playing the role of spoiler late in the season. A combined 3 ties against Saint Louis and Los Angeles and a victory over Washington proved that they could play with the league's top teams.

Roster Moves

Gold Pride retained 12 players from their 2009 team, including leading scorers Sinclair and Tiffeny Milbrett, US National Team players Rachel Buehler and Nicole Barnhart, last year's 1st round draft pick Tina DiMartino, injured defender Wilson, and international star Eriko Arakawa.

The expansion draft saw the Atlanta Beat choosing Leigh Ann Robinson as the first overall pick in that draft. Robinson had started 15 games and scored a goal for Gold Pride. Considering she was only a 6th round pick, Robinson made a nice contribution for Gold Pride in 2009.

Gold Pride quickly made a splash in the free agent market, signing former Boston Breaker defender Candace Chapman and the versatile Niki Cross from Saint Louis in October. Both were part-time starters with their former teams.

Chapman saw action in 11 matches, starting 8 for the Breakers. She gives Gold Pride international experience at defense. The former Notre Dame star has 65 caps for the Canadian National Team and has both World Cup and Olympic experience. She will help solidify a back line that already includes Rachel Buehler, Kandace Wilson, Carrie Dew, and Kristen Graczyk.

Cross saw very little action early in the season as a defender for Athletica. However, a late season move to forward gave her a chance for more playing time and she responded by scoring a goal against Gold Pride in a late July matchup. Like Chapman, Cross played in 11 and started 8 games. She also saw 30 minutes of action in Athletica's playoff loss to Sky Blue. She brings size and speed, as well as a wickedly hard shot, to the Bay Area. It will be interesting to see where Coach Albertin Montoya plans to use her on the field.

At the end of October, Gold Pride made a significant trade, sending highly regarded backup keeper Allison Whitworth and their 3rd round pick to the expansion Atlanta Beat for two top 12 picks in the 2010 draft. This gives FCGP 4 of the first 14 picks in the upcoming draft and the opportunity to build the team with youth.

So far, the most significant loss for Gold Pride is Leslie Osborne, who was signed away by the Boston Breakers as a free agent. Osborne will certainly be missed in the midfield, where she started 18 matches for the Pride. While she didn't score, she was certainly a defensive presence for FCGP. Additionally, they lost Tiffany Weimer, also through a free agent signing by Boston.

Current Roster

Goalkeepers (1)-Nicole Barnhart.
Defenders (6)-Rachel Buehler, Candace Chapman, Niki Cross, Carrie Dew, Kristen Graczyk, Kandace Wilson.
Midfielders (4)-Eriko Arakawa, Brandi Chastain, Tina DiMartino, Kimberly Yokers.
Forwards (2)-Tiffeny Milbrett, Christine Sinclair.

Additions-Chapman and Cross.
Subtractions-Leigh Ann Robinson (drafted by Atlanta), Leslie Osborne (signed by Boston), Tiffany Weimer (signed by Boston), Allison Whitworth (traded to Atlanta).

Other Free Agents from 2009 roster-Marisa Abegg, Adriane, Erika, Formiga, Lindsay Massengale, Meagan McCray, and Sissi.

Internationals (3)-Arakawa, Chapman, Sinclair, with 2 slots open.
Draft Picks (in first 3 rounds)-Nos. 3, 10, 12, and 14.

Needs to Address

The number one need for Gold Pride has to be scoring. FCGP scored the fewest goals of any WPS team in 2009. For much of the season, Sinclair was the lone threat up front for Bay Area. She finished with 6 goals and went on to star in the WPS All-Star match, scoring two 2nd half goals and barely missing a hat trick. The only other Gold Pride player that hit the back of the net more than once was ageless Tiffeny Milbrett. In spite of having a talented midfield, they got very little scoring from that group. Obviously, this is one area that must be addressed in the offseason, either via the draft or free agency, possibly with one of their remaining international slots.

The loss of Osborne leaves a gaping hole in the Gold Pride midfield. Arakawa is talented and experienced and DiMartino shows a lot of promise, but FCGP is pretty thin past that. Their midfielders always impressed me with their passing and ball movement until they got in the final third, where things always seemed to break down. Chastain seemed to provide a bit of a spark late in the season, but she turns 42 next year. I don't know if there is any possibility of re-signing Formiga, but if not, that would be another major blow to their midfield situation. Formiga's 2010 option was waived by Gold Pride and she finished the season hobbled by injuries.

Gold Pride will also need a backup keeper after trading Whitworth to Atlanta. One would think that the college draft would solve this problem, given the number of talented senior goalkeepers in the college ranks and the number of high draft choices that Gold Pride has to work with.

Personally, I enjoyed watching Gold Pride play last year. They passed the ball well and were very competitive, but it never seemed to translate into goals and wins. They will have the opportunity to build through the draft and they still have two internationals spots to fill, which could have a major impact on their 2010 season.