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

2014 NWSL: Houston Dash Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: Expansion Team
Head Coach: Randy Waldrum

Key Newcomers: Ella Masar F (20gp 3g 2a - Chicago), Erin McLeod G (16gp - Chicago), Lauren Sesselmann (19g - Kansas City), Teresa Noyola M (18gp 1g 1a - Seattle), Stephanie Ochs F (22gp 1g 2a - Washington), Kealia Ohai (1st Round Pick)
Analysis: The newest NWSL club, the Houston Dash, will be up against it as on paper they are by far the weakest team in the league going into the season. The players on the roster only combined for eight NWSL goals last season and they also collectively have the least National Team experience.

This means Canadian National Team goalkeeper Erin McLeod and defender Lauren Sesselmann will be very busy on the pitch, and also being the most experienced players in the club will have to take a leadership role as well. The team does include some players of interest for the 2015 World Cup, including Japanese defender Aya Sameshima, two of the top Mexican players in Arianna Romero and Teresa Noyola, Brazilian Rafaelle Souza, and American national team prospect Kealia Ohai.

2014 Prediction: 9th Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Chicago Red Stars Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 8-6-8 (6th Place)

Head Coach: Rory Dames

Key Returners: Lori Chalupny M (18gp 5g 4a), Jackie Sanacaterina D (18gp 3g 1a), Rachel Quon D (19gp 1a), Adriana Leon F (16gp 2g 1a)
Key Newcomers: Karina LeBlanc G (21gp - Portland), Christen Press F (USWNT), Melissa Tancredi F (CanWNT)
Analysis: This offseason, the Red Stars took advantage of one of the option the NWSL has, being a huge player pool to choose from as they brought three experienced national team players who were not playing in the NWSL last season. Christen Press has scored 11 goals with the US National Team and will be joined by two Canadians in attack with new signing Melissa Tancredi and Adriana Leon who scored 2 goals last season.

Meanwhile new signing and Canadian National Team keeper Karina LeBlanc to improve a defense that already includes Rachel Quon. With Lesilie Osburne, Lori Chalupny and potentially Shannon Box spearheading the midfield, Chicago should improve as long as new signings are able to play together as a team.

2014 Prediction: 6th Place

Key Players

2014 NWSL: Boston Breakers Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 8-8-6 (5th Place)

Head Coach: Tom Durkin
Key Returners: Lianne Sanderson M (22gp 5g 7a), Heather O'Reilly M (20gp 5g 6a), Cat Whitehill D (22gp 1g 2a), Kaylyn Kyle M (21gp 3g)  

Key Newcomers: Courtney Jones F (22g 4g 1a - Kansas City), Lisa DeVanna (16g 5g 2a - Sky Blue), Nikem Ezurike (1st Round Pick)

Analysis: With the drafting of Nkem Ezurike, the Breakers now have four Canadians in their club along with National Team veterans Rhian Wilkinson, Kaylyn Kyle, Chelsea Stewart. Boston have a strong midfield through Lianne Sanderson and Heather O'Reilly who combined for 10 goals 13 assists and 47 shots on target.

The biggest question will be how the forward line will do as the club traded top scorer Sydney Leroux and brought in Lisa DeVanna who played 81 games with Australian National Team. However, the rest of the forwards have no national team experience, so it will be interesting to see how players such as Ezurike develop. 

2014 Prediction: 7th Place

Key Players

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 NASL: Tampa Bay Rowdies Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 10-8-8 (5th Spring Season/3rd Fall Season)

Head Coach: Ricky Hill

Key Returners: Georgi Hristov M (22gp 12g 5a), Jay Needham D (20gp 2g), Frankie Sanfilippo D (25gp 2a), Diego Restrepo G (23gp), Evans Frimpong M (23gp 6g 2a)  

Key Newcomers: Brian Shriver F (22gp 13g 1a - Carolina), Darel Russel F (Toronto - MLS), Anthony Wallace D (Colorado - MLS), Christophe Lallet (Hammarby - Sweden) 

Analysis: Similar to other clubs favoured to do well this season, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have done a great job recruiting players who were highly regarded in the American youth soccer system and as potential MLS players. The Rowdies forward combination of Brian Shriver, Amani Walker, Lucky Mkosana, and Casey Townsend would be familiar to any person who follows either college or soccer at this level.

Although what will make the Rowdies successful this season are three foreign signings in the midfield with Bulgarian Georgi Hristov, who scored 12 goals and 5 assists last season, Christophe Lallet, who was a starter in Sweden Allsvenskan, and Darel Russell who has played 400 professional games including 18 last season with Toronto FC. The Rowdies have good experience and depth in all positions and will feel they have as good of chance as anybody else in lifting the 2014 Soccer Bowl.

2014 Prediction: 4th place

Key Players

2014 NASL: San Antonio Scorpions Preview, Depth Chart & Key Players

2013: 9-3-14 (3rd Spring Season/8th Fall Season)

Head Coach: Alen Macrina

Key Returners: Javier Saavedra M (22gp 1g 6a), Greg Janicki D (20gp), Pat Phelan D (20gp), Thomas Zahorksi (14gp 9g)  

Key Newcomers: Daniel Barrera M (21gp 4g 7a - Atlanta), Richard Menjivar M (21gp 2g 2a - Atlanta), Sainey Touray F (26gp 12g 5a - Harrisburg), Shaun Saiko M (17gp 2g 3a - Edmonton) 

Analysis: San Antonio had a very poor fall season and have made drastic changes over the last six months, including the manager and seven to eight of the starting eleven. It's Canadian manager Alen Marcina’s first job, although to help him the Scorpions brought in midfielders Saiko, Barrera, Menjivar and Walter Restrepo; all players who I feel deserves a deeper evaluation regarding their MLS potential. They join Saavedra and former Chivas USA player Josue Soto in one of the most interesting midfield’s in all of North American soccer.

The defense includes four former MLS players including Ex-TFC'ers Adrian Cann and Julius James, while Eric Hassli joined a forward pack that includes Touray, who scoerd 12 goals, and Zahorski’s 9 goals in 2013. Like Ottawa, the biggest question for the Scorpions is how they gel as a club although I think they will be successful and show their MLS big brother how you can build depth on a budget.

2014 Prediction: 2nd Place

Key Players