January 23, 2011

Independence Draft Early, Often, and Well

After a 2010 draft that saw Philadelphia have only one selection in the first three rounds, it had to seem like Christmas to coach Paul Riley with seven selections in the 2011 WPS Draft. The Independence had four picks out of the first eleven and they made the most of their selections.

Not that Philadelphia needed a lot. They certainly had a solid roster coming into this draft. But Riley set down his goals heading into the draft as a couple of midfielders and a center back and he concentrated those positions with his selections.

With the second overall selection, Philadelphia chose midfielder Sinead Farrelly out of the University of Virginia. Widely considered to have the best overall skills in the draft, Farrelly is probably the midfielder that can step in and start from day one. She's well-rounded both offensively and defensively.

Farrelly scored 30 career goals for the Cavaliers and assisted on 22 more. She led the team in scoring in both her junior and senior seasons. Farrelly will join her former Virginia teammate, Nikki Krzysik, on the Independence.

With the fifth overall selection, Riley had to feel fortunate that Lauren Fowlkes fell right to him. Fowlkes was considered the best central defender in the draft and helped lead Notre Dame to a national title in her senior season. She has good size and is very strong in the air. In addition, she can play defensive mid if need be.

To start the second round, Philly chose forward Jennifer Stoltenberg out of Oregon. Often overshadowed in a conference with national powers UCLA and Stanford, Stoltenberg scored 33 career goals for the Ducks. She tied the school's points record in her sophomore season and then broke it in both her junior and senior years. She has good speed and versatility.

I have to admit that I found Philadelphia's pick at the 11th overall position to be a bit curious. For the second year in a row, they drafted Wake Forest defender Caitlin Farrell. Farrell apparently elected to finish her studies and not try out for the Independence last year. I'm surprised that Philly didn't just wait until after the draft and sign her as a free agent, since most of the teams were concentrating on this year's seniors, but I guess they felt that they couldn't chance it.

At 5-9, Farrell has good size and is strong in the air, both of which come in handy for a central defender. She has experience in Europe with FC Twente and on the US U-23 team.

At the 15th position, the Independence chose Lauren Barnes of UCLA. She is a very highly regarded defender, who some people thought might go in the first round of the draft. The left-footer is excellent on free kicks and a solid all around performer. She has experience on the US U-23 team as well.

Philadelphia again tapped into Wake Forest's pool of talent in choosing midfielder Bianca D'Agostino with the 18th selection. D'Agostino started her college career at Penn State before transferring to Wake. She tallied 13 career assists while at Wake Forest and is considered to be very good with the ball at her feet.

With their final selection at 23rd overall, the Independence selected midfielder Teresa Rynier out of James Madison. Perhaps most impressive about Rynier is her 53 career assists, as she hit double-digits in that category each and every season at James Madison. Her hometown is Leola, Pennsylvania, which is about 70 miles from Philadelphia.

With very few roster spots open, competition in the Independence preseason camp ought to be fierce. Give Philly high grades on this draft.