January 26, 2011

Beat's Draft Strategy Is Puzzling

Let me preface this review of Atlanta Beat's 2011 draft by saying that it is not a negative reflection on the players they drafted. I truly believe that Kylie Wright and Meghan Lenczyk will ultimately help the Beat. But when you have as many holes in your roster as Atlanta did going into this draft, do you really think it's a good idea to trade a current draft pick and a national team player for a selection in the future?

To me, WPS is all about here and now. We've lost four teams in under a year. Two of those teams did at least have some great successes in the short time they were around. WPS is also about building a fan base. A 2012 draft selection isn't going to put anyone in the stands nor win any matches in 2011. Johanna Rasmussen and Christen Press (or Lauren Fowlkes or Meghan Klingenberg, etc., etc.) most certainly could have.

Rasmussen was arguably the Beat's most consistent player last season and certainly one of their best players. The Beat had already traded away their top scorer when they sent Eni Aluko to Sky Blue, with two other offensive players in Tobin Heath and Angie Kerr, for the very draft choice they traded away here (and the pick they chose Wright with).

So in essence, the combination of the two trades meant Atlanta gave up Rasmussen, Aluko, Heath, Kerr, and Press for Wright, a 2012 selection, and "future considerations." Three very good national team players, plus Kerr, plus a top rookie. Isn't the object of a draft to fill holes, not create new ones?

After the trade, I have no problem with the players Atlanta finally selected in the draft. But surely, Press, Fowlkes, or Klingenberg could have helped this team out a lot.

But on to the players Atlanta did choose. Kylie Wright, midfielder out of UCLA, was chosen with the 7th overall pick in the draft. Wright is an excellent defensive player that could step in and help the Beat right away. She has been a regular with the US U-23 team. She is durable as well, making 89 starts in her career at UCLA.

Wright has very good skills and has a team-first attitude on the pitch. She also has good size and will win more than her share of 50-50 balls.

With the 15th overall selection, the Beat chose Meghan Lenczyk, forward from Virginia. After Morgan and Press, Lenczyk could certainly lay her claim to being the third best forward in this year's draft. She scored 36 career goals for the Cavaliers and had 13 assists.

Lenczyk has good height and size which should cause opponents problems on free kicks and corners. She can also score with either foot.

With many holes to fill and few picks to fill them, Atlanta did very well with their two selections, but trading away one of the top selections for a team that has so many needs is puzzling. I'd give the Beat fairly high marks for their selections, but low grades for their approach to this draft.