January 14, 2010

A Final Preview of the WPS Draft

A year ago, I sat in an overcrowded room at America's Center in Saint Louis and watched as WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci announced Amy Rodriguez as the 1st selection in the 2009 WPS Draft. It was an exciting day to be sure and a landmark day in the history of the league. Tomorrow, the drama will be in Philadelphia for the 2010 WPS draft.

Looking back at my mock draft from last year, I wasn't very accurate. My 2009 mock draft was as follows:

1. Boston-Amy Rodriguez (everyone got this one right).
2. Chicago-Carrie Dew (Chicago chose Megan Rapinoe instead. Dew was drafted in the 2nd round by FC Gold Pride).
3. FC Gold Pride-Megan Rapinoe (With Rapinoe gone, FCGP selected Tina DiMartino. I had DiMartino pegged for Washington at the 8th pick).
4. Sky Blue FC-Yael Averbuch (my 2nd correct pick in the 1st round).
5. Los Angeles-Kerri Hanks (LA took Hanks' teammate Brittany Bock instead).
6. Saint Louis-Brittany Bock (I had the 5th and 6th picks switched).
7. Washington-Nikki Krzysik (Washington chose Allie Long who I thought would be picked in the 2nd round. Krzysik was picked at no. 13 by Chicago).

I am hoping I will do better this year, but I'm not counting on it. There are a lot of question marks, primarily what Boston will do at number two. Then there is always the possibility of a trade or two. So here is my final pre-draft analysis of the 1st round:

1. Atlanta Beat-Tobin Heath, MF, North Carolina
Atlanta desperately needs defenders and this is their only selection in the first two rounds. Still, it's hard to see them passing on Heath, pretty much the consensus as the most talented player in this year's draft. I think she is the type of player who will have immediate impact and will make the players around her better. There are other possibilities, although they are probably long shots. Atlanta could take Kelley O'Hara who is from the Atlanta area or they could trade down to pick up some additional picks in the opening rounds. Still, I think it's Heath.

2. Boston Breakers-Lauren Cheney, F, UCLA
Here is where things get complicated, because Boston could go a lot of different directions. They also need defenders to go with LePeilbet and Scott. The best available center back is Whitney Engen of North Carolina. But like the 1st pick, Cheney may be too good to pass up. She's a strong forward who can get a shot off in tight space. Cheney strikes me as being very composed and she has a lot of national team experience. She is equally adept at passing or scoring. Boston could take Engen or even possibly Kelley O'Hara, but I think they take Cheney.

3. FC Gold Pride-Kelley O'Hara, F, Stanford
Gold Pride was the lowest scoring team in the league last year and O'Hara could give them a boost on offense. I think she would pair very well with Sinclair. She's fast and tenacious. O'Hara has big time scoring ability (26 in her senior year at Stanford). I don't think this pick can go any other way, unless either Atlanta or Boston pulls a surprise.

4. Chicago Red Stars-Casey Nogueira, F, North Carolina
The Red Stars also had trouble scoring last year and could stand to add a forward, but the signing of Cristiane and Asllani may change their thinking. Also, if Boston would opt for Engen, then Cheney or O'Hara could fall to this position. Nogueira is one of the greatest clutch players in women's soccer. But she has been inconsistent and at times, a bit of an enigma. The potential is there for her to be a star, but she might be a risky selection. However, she could be the kind of player that Emma Hayes could bring off the bench late in the game to make a difference.

5. Los Angeles Sol-Whitney Engen, D, North Carolina
With Franko and Falk gone, the Sol need to solidify their central defense and Engen could be the answer. By many accounts, she is far and away the best defender in this year's draft. She is a very solid defender, who is one of the toughest tacklers in college soccer. I still think there is a chance that Los Angeles packages some of their picks to move up. They have 6 of the first 25 selections.

6. Sky Blue FC-Brittany Taylor, D, Connecticut
Rampone's pregnancy and Asante's injury make center back more of a priority than it ordinarily would have been for Sky Blue. In 2009, Taylor played for Sky Blue's affiliate, Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues and that connection could well be a factor here. That aside, Taylor is a talented center back who was recently called up for the US National Team camp. This seems like the perfect fit.

7. Washington-Ali Riley, D, Stanford
This selection is a tough one to gauge. Washington needs to shore up it's defense which gave up a league high 32 goals last season. Riley would give them an outside left back who plays solid defensively, but can also be dangerous making forward runs up the flank. She has international experience with New Zealand. The other direction Washington might go is for a defensive mid and Becky Edwards. I could see either being a possibility, but Riley's two-way ability gives her the edge.

8. Los Angeles-Nikki Washington, MF/F, North Carolina
If it hadn't been for her injury last fall, Washington very well could have been in the top 5. She can be extremely dangerous from the right side. I feel she is one of the most exciting midfielders in college soccer. Injuries always leave a big question mark, but Los Angeles has plenty of selections and Washington is well worth the gamble.

9. Los Angeles-Kaley Fountain, F/D, Wake Forest
This is probably my biggest long shot. I just love her versatility and I think she could be another Brittany Bock, who played several different positions for LA last year. She scored 11 goals and 10 assists last year at Wake, but has also played a lot of defender over her career.

10. FC Gold Pride-Becky Edwards, D/MF, Florida State
Defensive midfielder is one of Gold Pride's biggest needs and Edwards is the top player at that position. She is a top notch college defender, who has good vision and distributes well. She spent most of her college career on the back line, but moved up to defensive mid as a senior.

11. Boston-Nikki Marshall, F/D, Colorado
Marshall is very good offensive player from Colorado, but she may well fit into Boston's back line picture. She started all 6 games at the 2008 U-20 World Cup as a center back. The coach of that team was none other than Tony DiCicco. I can see them being reunited tomorrow.

My 2nd round:
12. FC Gold Pride-Kelsey Davis, GK, Portland.....A tough call between Davis or Naeher. Very athletic keeper in the mold of Hope Solo. Extensive junior national team experience. Career goals against under 0.45 at Portland.
13. Philadelphia Independence-Katie Schoepfer, F, Penn State.....Philly needs a scorer and Schoepfer will provide that. Scored 9 goals in just 6 games for U-23 team in 2009. A good target forward.
14. Los Angeles Sol-Gina DiMartino, MF/F, Boston College.....The Sol get their 2nd DiMartino in a week. Like her sister Tina, great with the ball at her feet and an excellent passer.
15. Chicago Red Stars-Alyssa Naeher, GK, Penn State.....The Red Stars need a backup for Jonsson. Starting keeper for the 2008 U-20 World Cup champions. Decent size and excellent agility. Just called up to USWNT camp.
16. Boston Breakers-Ashlyn Harris, GK, North Carolina.....Boston also needs a keeper and they get Harris. Aggressive keeper who shut out 5 opponents in 6 NCAA tournament games in 2009.
17. Saint Louis Athletica-Kristi Eveland, D, North Carolina.....Barcellos addresses playoff weakness against Sky Blue by getting a solid right back. Great speed and size and can be a weapon on corners with her heading ability.
18. Washington Freedom-Carolyn Blank, MF, West Virginia.....A tough, aggressive defensive mid that will enable the Freedom to move Homare Sawa into the attack where she can be most effective.
19. Saint Louis Athletica-Kiersten Dallstream, F, Washington State.....Athletica adds an offensive threat to team with Aluko and Edlund. Scored 13 goals and 7 assists in 2009. Versatile...played outside defender with 2008 U-20 team.
20. FC Gold Pride-Kat Reynolds, D/F, Santa Clara.....Gold Pride also gets a versatile player who can play several positions. Adds depth defensively for FCGP.

Good luck to all players, coaches, general managers, and fans at tomorrow's draft.