December 24, 2009

Washington Freedom - The Offseason So Far

For the 4th installment on the WPS offseason...the Washington Freedom.

When Last We Left Them...

The Washington Freedom finished in 3rd place with 29 points and an 8-7-5 record. The 2009 Freedom could score a lot, leading the league with 32 goals. Unfortunately, they also gave up 32 goals, worst in the WPS. Abby Wambach and Lisa De Vanna were a dangerous combination of power and speed up front. Together, they scored 14 goals for the regular season, with De Vanna adding one in the playoffs. Sonia Bompastor added four goals of her own and was one of the best midfielders in the league.

But on the defensive side, there were problems. Early on, Washington gave up goals and lots of them. By midseason, the Freedom had installed Erin McLeod as their starting keeper and that seemed to temporarily solve the problem. Washington had a 6 game stretch where they gave up a total of just 3 goals. But late in the season, the defense gave up 4 goals in one game against Sky Blue and 3 in a key late season contest against Gold Pride. The Freedom then made a quick exit in the playoffs, losing at home to eventual champions Sky Blue by a 2-1 margin.

Roster Moves

The Freedom's offseason has been extremely quiet...no free agent signings, no trades, no nothing. Quiet that is, until yesterday when they announced the signing of 22 year old forward Lene Mykjåland, a member of the 2008 Norwegian Olympic Team. Mykjåland has spent the last 4 years with Rǿa of the Norwegian Toppserien. She scored 21 goals in 2009, leading the league and leading her team to a 3rd straight championship. With Wambach, De Vanna, and Mykjåland, the Freedom could threaten their 2009 mark of 32 goals.

The Freedom retained 14 players from their 2009 squad, including all four internationals (Bompastor, De Vanna, McLeod, and Homare Sawa). This also includes the scorers of 29 of their 32 goals (the 30th was an own goal by Gold Pride). Chances are, of all WPS teams, Washington's 2010 roster will change the least from 2009.

However, Washington did lose a couple of players in the expansion draft. Lori Lindsey, a key member of the Freedom midfield in 2009, was left unprotected and Philadelphia quickly took her off the board with their 1st choice. Lindsey's 2009 performance was impressive enough for US National Team coach Pia Sundhage to call her into camp. For the Freedom, she played in 19 games, scoring 2 goals and an assist.

Philadelphia also chose defender Sarah Senty in the expansion draft. Senty, a former University of Virginia star, joined the Freedom in June and started 5 games down the stretch. She also started Washington's playoff match and played the full 90 minutes.

Current Roster

Goalkeepers (2)-Erin McLeod, Briana Scurry.
Defenders (5)-Jill Gilbeau, Alex Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Singer, Cat Whitehill.
Midfielders (5)-Sonia Bompastor, Sarah Huffman, Allie Long, Rebecca Moros, Homare Sawa.
Forwards (3)-Lisa De Vanna, Lene Mykjåland, Abby Wambach.

Additions- Mykjåland
Subtractions- Lori Lindsey (drafted by Philadelphia), Sarah Senty (drafted by Philadelphia).

Other Free Agents from 2009 roster- Kristen DeDycker, Parrissa Eyorokon, Katie Forbis, Emily Janss, Christen Karniski, Joanna Lohman, Kati Jo Spisak.
Internationals-Bompastor, De Vanna, McLeod, Mykjåland, and Sawa.
Draft Picks (in first 3 rounds)-Nos. 7, 18, and 27.

Needs to Address

With Lindsey gone, Washington needs additional help in the midfield. Just how many depends on whether Freedom coach Jim Gabarra would rather use Sonia Bompastor on their back line. Sarah Huffman will be returning after missing the entire 2009 season, save for a brief appearance in the playoff match against Sky Blue. But most of their current midfielders would be considered to be offensive minded. I would think that a defensive mid would be a priority and perhaps a creative playmaking midfielder if Bompastor moves to defense permanently. I could certainly see the Freedom using 2 of their first 3 draft choices on midfielders.

After giving up 32 goals in 2009, defense also has to be a priority. While they would appear to have some strong defenders on their roster, including veteran Cat Whitehill, they did not perform particularly well as a unit last season. They yielded three or more goals 6 times in 2009. Amazingly, they managed a 1-3-2 record in those six games. In a league where 1-0 games are the norm, a solid defense is essential and Washington will seek to improve in this area.

In spite of all their scoring, Washington played a lot of close matches. When their opponents scored a lot, they scored a lot. But in the 4 matches in which they shut out their opponents, they scored only 3 goals. Four different times, the Freedom scored in the 89th minute or later to win or tie games. One thing that can be said about this team is that they keep you on the edge of your seat. Now that Mykjåland has been signed, it will be interesting to see if this team can make enough small changes in the rest of their squad to challenge for the top.