Saturday, April 12, 2014

US Soccer: MLS, NASL, USL Pro & NWSL Team by Team Previews




Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 NWSL: Western New York Flash Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 10-8-4 (1st Place/Lost Finals)

Head Coach: Aaron Lines

Key Returners: Amy Wambach F (19gp 11g 8a), Carli Lloyd M (15gp 8g), Samatha Kerr F (19gp 6g 5a), Andriana Martin F (15gp 3g 1a)   

Key Newcomers: Emma Kete F (New Zealand), Lydia Williams G (Australia) 

Analysis: In past decade, no player has had a greater impact on US National Team or the creation of professional league in North America than Abby Wambach. Arguably the top player in all forms of the North American women’s professional leagues, she lead her home club, the Western New York Flash, to 1st place in the league only losing out on the championship game to Portland.

Western NY return most of their key players from last season including Carli Lloyd, Spanish National Team player Adriana Martin and Australian Samatha Kerr, and they are now joined by fellow Australian Lydia Williams. The 2015 World Cup might be Wambach’s last games as a player and it would be fitting in preparation if she could bring her hometown Rochester a NWSL championship.

2014 Prediction: Champions

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Washington Spirit Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 3-5-14 (8th Place)

Head Coach: Mark Parsons

Key Returners: Diana Matheson M (19gp 8g 3a), Lori Lindsey M (21gp 1g 2a), Robyn Gayle (14gp 1a), Ashlyn Harris G (18gp)
Key Newcomers: Christine Nairn M (22gp 3g 5a - Seattle), Ranae Cueller F (18gp 5g - Kansas City), Danesha Adams F (20gp 3g 3a - Sky Blue), Crystal Dunn D (1st pick overall)
Analysis: Despite the efforts of Canadian National Team players Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle, the Spirit struggled, finishing last in the league in 2013. The Spirt have made some improvements, including drafting Crystal Dunn with the 1st pick overall in the 2014 draft as well as adding Christine Narin, Ranae Cueller and Danesha Adams.

They will hopefully provide some goal scoring, since outside of Matheson’s eight goals last season no other player scored more than two goals for the Spirit during the 2013 season. The club also added Yael Averbuch, who has US National Team experience and Danish international Cecilie Sandvej. On paper, the Spirit are still one of the weaker teams in the league, especially in scoring, with only 22 national team goals among all the players on the roster.

2014 Prediction: 8th Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Sky Blue FC Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 10-6-6 (4th place/Lost Semi-Finals)

Head Coach: Jim Gabarra
Key Returners: Monica Ocampo F (16gp 8g 2a), Christie Rampone D (20gp 1a), Courtney Goodson D (22gp 1g 1a)
Key Newcomers: Jonelle Filigno F (CWNT), Nanase Kiryu (Japan), Maya Hayes (1st Round Pick)
Analysis: The Sky Blues are Greater New York's club in the NWSL who also participated in the WPS. The team did well last season finishing forth through the leadership of US National Team veteran Christie Rampone and the offensive play of Mexican Monica Ocampo. The Sky Blues had added to their attacking depth this off season by signing Canadian Jonelle Filigno, Japanese international Nanase Kiryu and drafting Maya Hayes who scored 71 goals in 89 games while in College at Penn State. With Seattle improving this season the competition for playoffs places should be tighter this season, which might make the Sky Blue's the odd team out.
2014 Prediction: 5th Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Seattle Reign Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 5-3-14 (7th Place)
Head Coach: Laura Harvey

Key Returners: Hope Solo G (14gp), Megan Rapinoe (12gp 5g), Jessica Fishlock M (21gp 4g), Lauren Barnes D (22gp 1a)
Key Newcomers: Sydney LeRoux F (19gp 11g 2a - Boston), Nahomi Kawasumi M (Japan), Kim Little M (Scotland), Carmelina Moscato D (10gp - Chicago)
Analysis: Seattle had an unexpectedly disappointing season last year, although partly due to injury and players missing games, but have gone out of there way this season to be one of the top teams in the league. The club still has US National Team mainstays Hope Solo, Jessica Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe, but have also added Japanase national team player Nahomi Kawasumi, Canadian Carmelina Moscato and ex-pat Sydney LeRoux, who scored 11 goals with Boston last season.

To me the most interesting signing is Kim Little who is the Christine Sinclair comparison for the Scottish National Team. Little played a number of seasons with UK powerhouse in Women's soccer Arsenal and is the star of Scotland’s Women's National team who should qualify for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.
2014 Prediction: 2nd Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Portland Thorns Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 11-5-6 (3rd Place/Won League Championship Finals)

Head Coach: Paul Riley
Key Returners: Christine Sinclair F (20gp 8g 2a), Alex Morgan F (18gp 8g 5a), Allie Long M (22gp 3g 3a), Meleana Shim M (19gp 5g 2a)

Key Newcomers: Nadine Angerer G (Germany), Michelle Betos G (7gp - Seattle)

Analysis: The NWSL benefitted greatly with Portland winning the league’s first title last season. The team is connected to MLS-club Portland Timbers, plays in the same stadium, averaged over 13,000 fans a game and they also have two of most high profile players in the women’s game in Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan who performed what was expected of them last season. The biggest concern with the Thorns this season is overall depth  they did add  experienced German keeper Nadine Angerer who has played 250 professional games. To give a comparison, Sinclair who has now played 195 games for Canada, has only played 75 games in what would be regarded a pro league.
2014 Prediction: 3rd Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: FC Kansas City Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 11-5-6 (2nd Place/Lost in Semi Finals)

Head Coach: Vlatko Andonovski

Key Returners: Lauren Holiday F (18gp 12g 9a), Erika Tymrak M (21gp 6g 4a), Merritt Mathias F (22gp 2g 3a), Jen Buczkowski M (22gp 2a), Leigh Ann Robinson D (22gp 5a)    

Key Newcomers: Amy Rodriguez F (USWNT), Liz Bogus F (20gp 1g 2a - Seattle),

Analysis: With Desiree Scott choosing to play professional soccer in England, FC Kansas City are the only team in the NWSL not to have a Canadian player on their roster. However, if given an opportunity to watch, you should, as FCKC have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league led by Lauren Holiday who is quickly becoming a key player for the US National Team and could be one of the top players during the 2015 World Cup.
In addition to Holiday there is Amy Rodriguez who has been capped over 100 times for the US Women's National team, although missed last season due the birth of her first child. Kansas City should compete as they did last season with the biggest concerns in defense, but they also have US Keeper and defender Nicole Barnhart and Becky Sauerbrunn in the team.

2014 Prediction: 4th Place

Key Players