Women’s Allocation: Who Got the Best Deal?
By Kara McDermott
On Friday, the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League announced the allocated national players from the US, Canada and Mexico whose salaries will be covered by their respective federations. Players were given the opportunity to submit preferences, but the final decision went to the league.
All in all, those decisions kept a stern eye on league parity. However, many eyes will be green in light of Portland’s acquisitions.
Western New York also is showing early signs of a highly competitive offensive lineup, but Seattle benefits from a wider range. Teams still have a long way to go to flesh out their squads and develop their own tactical strategies, but the stage is certainly set for plenty of entertainment for the supporters, particularly along the West Coast.
Seattle Reign FC
Seattle did not gain the glitz of flashy forwards, but instead took away the best goalkeeper in the pool and a solid outside midfielder with Megan Rapinoe and the return of an ‘A-Rod’ Amy Rodriguez to the Seattle sports scene. Rodriguez and Rapinoe both are sparks on the outside and could go far in establishing a distinctive midfield style for the Reign in this league.
Kaylyn Kyle, visually one of the most recognizable players on the Canadian squad for her long shock of blond hair, is an up-and-comer with plenty of speed in the midfield. At 24, she has spent several years on the U-20 team before joining the senior squad in 2008. The league should provide her opportunity to break into the starting line-up for her national squad (she has been mostly utilized as a second-half sub to freshen the midfield).
Another northern gain comes from Vancouver Whitecaps’ Emily Zurrer, a consistent central defender for the national team. Though initially named to the Olympic squad in 2012, she had to sit out the tournament with a hamstring injury.
Joining her on the backline will be Jenny Ruiz of Mexico. At 29, she is the second oldest player on the notoriously youthful squad. Though a member of the national squad since 2003 her professional experience has been slim. She was a member of the Bay Area Breeze (part of the second-tier WPSL) in 2012.
Most notably, Seattle has retained the league’s top goalkeeper, Hope Solo. They’re going to need her when they face their I-5 rivals.
Portland Thorns FC
The Portland Thorns certainly secured themselves a fantastic front line. Alex Morgan is built for speed and penetrating plays. Paired with Canadian stalwart Christine Sinclair, whose on field intensity can lift an entire team in battle, these two players could be one of the most dangerous combinations in the league.
The Thorns also gained Tobin Heath, a creative long-legged outside midfielder that showed signs of an impending breakthrough during the US team’s post- Olympics victory tour. She definitely dazzled in the exhibition against the Republic of Ireland in Portland, a relatively dull affair in other tactical respects.
They will start their season with a skilled and experienced goalkeeper in Karina LeBlanc of Canada, who has been on the national circuit since 1998 and played in four World Cups.
Western New York Flash
Another interesting partnership could be a central midfield from New York built on Carli Lloyd and Veronica Perez. Lloyd is currently on a high US pedestal, having scored twice in the final of the Olympics for gold. Perez, though slight in stature, has a long range shot that simply was not rivaled in the USL where she has been playing with the Seattle Sounders Women.
Both can take shots from anywhere on the field and create dangerous playmaking. Add in American powerhouse Abby Wambach, and her head, and you have the makings of a soup-pot offense: just dump it in and watch it simmer.
The Boston Breakers will also be benefitting from a Seattle product as they have snatched up Sydney Leroux to play forward.
Outside midfielder Heather O’Reilly, with long-term experience on the national stage, can control the wing and has an effective cross to complement Leroux’s speed and box-crashing style.
The Breakers, which in an earlier life was headed by now-retired USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage, also picked up Cecilia Santiago who played as the first string goalkeeper for Mexico in the last World Cup at just 16 years old.
Chicago Red Stars
The Chicago Red Stars were granted local product Keelin Winters formerly of the Seattle Sounders Women and Shannon Boxx for their central midfield. These two are players are foundation players to build upon. Both are skilled playmakers, but even more, they can shut down the middle lane to force teams to attack down the sides where they will be met by US defender Amy LePeillbet. Look to Maribel Dominguez of Mexico to create sparks up front.
Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC, which has always been a major competitor in the USL, is missing many of the flashy names, but they gain experience and a confident backline. Back-up US goalkeeper Jill Loyden will have venerable veteran Christie Rampone as a sweeper and Kelley O’Hara and Melanie Booth of Canada to round out the defense.
The Washington Spirit will gain plenty of loyalty from their supporters with two fan favorites: Lori Lindsey and Ali Krieger of the US. The former is a central midfielder known for her possession of the ball and sense of humor. Krieger, who missed out of the Olympics after tearing her ACL in qualifying, will be back to shore up the defense. She also has had the infinite advantage of having played professionally in Germany and the US.
And speaking of spirit, Washington picked up Diana Matheson of Canada as a forward about as petite and fast as they come.
At just over 5 feet, she returns as the conquering hero of the Olympics, having scored the winning goal in the bronze medal match against France in second-half stoppage time.
FC Kansas City
As far as stability is concerned, FC Kansas City took the lion’s share. They start with Nicole Barnhart in goal, Solo’s top back-up on the US team.
Her teammate Lauren Cheney and Canadian Desiree Scott are consistent players for the center midfield. Becky Sauerbrunn (USA) has a quiet strength for the defense. Their front line will have two talented forwards from Mexico used to playing with each other: Renae Cuellar and Marylin Diaz.