December 30, 2009

Los Angeles Sol - The Offseason So Far

When Last We Left Them...

Los Angeles won the WPS regular season title with a 12-3-5 record and 41 points, well ahead of the rest of the league. By early June, they had opened up a double digit lead on the field, posting shutouts in 8 of their first 9 games. They were led by three great international players on offense, Marta, Camille Abily, and Aya Miyama. These three combined for 18 goals and 10 assists for the season. Karina LeBlanc was unbeatable in goal and a strong defense led by veteran Shannon Boxx at defensive mid kept opponents in check.

However, with not much to play for, they struggled down the stretch. A loss to Athletica in early July put their championship celebration on hold for two weeks. A scoreless tie against Gold Pride on July 23rd clinched it for them, but they appeared to be losing momentum. The Sol managed only a 1-2-1 record over their last 4 matches and then had a two week layoff before hosting the WPS Championship. They just never looked sharp in that match, surrendering an early goal to Sky Blue, followed quickly by a red card to Allison Falk. The 1-0 loss was a disappointing ending to a great season for Los Angeles.

Roster Moves

Los Angeles retained several great players from their 2009 roster, but little beyond that. At the present time, they have only 9 players signed for the 2010 season. Those players are Marta, Abily, Miyama, Boxx, LeBlanc, Brittany Bock, Stephanie Cox, Johanna Frisk, and Manya Makoski. It remains to be seen if they will re-sign any of their own free agents such as Aly Wagner or McCall Zerboni.

The Sol lost defender Sharolta Nonen and all-purpose player Katie Larkin to Atlanta in the expansion draft. Nonen, a veteran of the Canadian National Team and the WUSA Atlanta Beat, was a late season signing for Los Angeles after their defensive ranks were depleted for various reasons. She appeared in only two matches for the Sol. Larkin was a 3rd round draft choice for LA in 2009 and showed a lot of potential, but she rarely cracked the starting lineup of the talented Sol. She proved to be very versatile, even filling in at defense when needed. Larkin didn't score, but played in 14 matches and started 5.

In early October, Los Angeles traded defender Allison Falk and backup keeper Val Henderson to the Philadelphia Independence, for a 1st and a 3rd round draft pick. Falk, the Sol's 2nd round pick from 2009, started 16 games for Los Angeles and was considered to be one of the best young defenders in the league. Her absence will leave a pretty big hole in the Sol's back line. Henderson got very little chance to play because of LeBlanc's brilliance. But when she did, she sparkled with a shutout against Gold Pride in her only match. Additionally, free agent Lyndsey Patterson, who saw action in one match for LA, was signed by Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles has been very quiet, making no major acquisitions. They are in good position to make a lot of noise at the draft. They have possession of the 5th, 8th, and 9th overall picks.

Current Roster

Goalkeepers (1)-Karina LeBlanc.
Defenders (4)-Brittany Bock, Stephanie Cox, Johanna Frisk, Manya Makoski.
Midfielders (3)-Camille Abily, Shannon Boxx, Aya Miyama.
Forwards (1)-Marta.

Additions- None
Subtractions- Sharolta Nonen (drafted by Atlanta), Katie Larkin (drafted by Atlanta), Allison Falk (traded to Philadelphia), Valerie Henderson (traded to Philadelphia), Lyndsey Patterson (signed by Philadelphia).

Other Free Agents from 2009 roster-Liz Bogus, Brittany Cameron, Martina Franko, Han Duan, Keri Sanchez, Lisa Sari, Julia Schnugg, Christie Shaner, Aly Wagner, and McCall Zerboni.
Internationals-Abily, Frisk, Marta, and Miyama with 1 slot open.
Draft Choices (in first 3 rounds)-Nos. 5, 8, 9, 20, and 22.

Needs to Address

Los Angeles has three things going for them. They have a lot of talent, a lot of draft picks, and some versatility. Brittany Bock can play any position on the field and Manya Makoski can play defender or midfielder. But there are still holes to fill. I would think that their first need would be defender. With Franko, Falk, and Nonen gone, they really need a center back. I'm guessing that LA will use their final international opening for a scorer, leaving the draft as the means to fill their defensive needs. Would LA possibly package a couple of their draft picks to move up to the top spot in the draft?

Los Angeles also needs a scorer and probably more than one. Brittany Bock could move up to forward. Bock and Marta seemed to have pretty good chemistry when they paired together up front, but their 5th international player will probably be the key here. Will Laura Del Rio be the missing piece of the puzzle or do they have someone else in mind?

The other needs for the Sol could probably be filled by re-signing some of their own players. Brittany Cameron, last year's developmental keeper for the Sol, could move into the backup position, although the Sol could opt for one of the top college keepers instead. And then at midfield, there is the question as to whether Aly Wagner and/or McCall Zerboni might be back to complement the already strong group of Boxx, Abily, and Miyama.

It's almost as though Los Angeles is banking on this year's draft being stronger than last year's. They've lost three talented young players from that 2009 draft in Falk, Henderson, and Larkin. In addition, they got Bock, Zerboni, Cameron, and Sari in the draft. Will their 2010 draft class be as talented as the 2009 class was? The Sol will definitely be a team to watch on draft day.


Anonymous said...

They really need some good defenders. I cannot believe they let Falk go...an already experienced defender for a potential yet inexperienced defender from the draft.

Bock is a good makeshift defender but she is not a defender. They need someone who's natural position is defence.