Uncategorized - January 9, 2012

Lauletta’s League Lowdown: Draft Day this Friday

I think every team will be looking at the forwards and would anticipate many forwards going in the early parts of the draft.
— Philadelphia Independence head coach Paul Riley

There are only two days a year that every team is happy. One is opening day just before the first whistle. The other is draft day when, regardless of who goes where, every coach will tell you they got who and what they wanted to set the club heading in the right direction.

The 2012 draft, set for Friday afternoon at the Kansas City Convention Center, will have a different feel than WPS drafts of the past. With the field of teams down to five, jobs will be tough to come by. Additionally, many of the US National Team players are out of contract, and speculation is abound as to where or if many of them will sign.

The good news for coaches is that it seems there is a deep group of available players who can fill the net. As strong as the top of the 2010 draft was, it did not produce a lights out goal scorer (talk to us in 2013 when Lauren Cheney gets a full season under her belt.)

The Beat own the first pick Friday and will be looking to extract themselves from their position as permanent residents of the bottom position on the WPS table. The club has enjoyed a productive off-season signing Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Buehler, Rebecca Moros, and Val Henderson among new signees (WPS has not officially announced any of these signings.) Still the Beat ended last season on a two-month goalless drought and a scorer will be a prime target. The Beat at one time had three first round picks but dealt two of them away to Sky Blue FC and the Western New York Flash.

“I would probably say Melissa Henderson of Notre Dame,” said Tim Grainey, who covers women’s soccer for soccer365.com, about the best player on the board. “She’s a good goal scorer, a player that can play multiple positions, and she’s a leader.”

Besides Henderson, top available forwards include Sydney Leroux (UCLA), Lindsay Taylor (Stanford), and Stephanie Ochs (San Diego). Leroux was a prolific goalscorer in college and won the golden boot at the 2008 U-20 World Cup, which the United States won. Sarah Hagen, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has signed to play in Germany.

“We’re looking to get a forward in the first or second round,” said Philadelphia Independence coach Paul Riley, who owns the fifth pick and later will have three picks in a row. “That’s at the top of our agenda. I think every team will be looking at the forwards and would anticipate many forwards going in the early parts of the draft.”

The midfielders are highlighted by Hermann winner Teresa Noyola. The Palo Alto, CA native scored the biggest goal in the history of Stanford’s program, a 53rd minute header in the National Championship match that gave the Cardinal an elusive title after four unsuccessful trips to the College Cup (including the three prior years.) Noyola plays for the Mexican National Team.

Grainey thinks Katy Frierson from Auburn could be a sleeper in midfield.

“She works hard and has very good skills, sort of a European skill set on the ball,” he said of Frierson.

Another player from a lesser-known soccer program is Ingrid Wells, who wrapped up a successful career at Georgetown by being named a first-team All American.

“She was one of those players that really sort of helped a middling program really get to the next level,” Grainey said. “She’s a good defender with good ball skills.”

Camille Levin will be looking to follow in Ali Riley’s footsteps as a Stanford defender making a big impact as a rookie. Lizzy Simonin from Memphis was a first-team All American and Coco Goodson from UC-Irvine is a well-regarded defender.

In goal, Bianca Henninger is almost universally considered the best keeper available. However, there is a surplus of strong goalkeepers in WPS (even if Hope Solo bypasses the season) so playing time for any rookie goalkeeper figures to be an issue.

The fourth WPS draft will be streamed on womensprosoccer.com Friday at 2pm EST.

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