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2012 WPS Draft: Team Needs, Who Needs What?

posted by All White Kit
Friday, January 13, 2012 at 3:11am EST

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(Check back in late Thursday night/early Friday morning for AWK’s final mock draft and throughout the day on Friday for analysis and other goodies from the WPS Draft.)

Atlanta

Goalkeeper

The Beat solved their hole at goalkeeper today with the signing of former Philly netminder Val Henderson, who should finally get her day in the sun as the undisputed starter for a WPS side. Behind her, Allison Lipsher is a good #3 and a passable #2, meaning the Beat should still be in the market for a strong backup, but the market is dwindling. With so few draft picks to their name and needs elsewhere for depth, the Beat may be resigned to looking for a free agent, be it a veteran with WPS experience or one of the undrafted rookie variety.

Defenders

After snapping up virtually all of Boston’s starting defense from last season in free agency, the Beat look like a club with a chance of running out with one of the league’s top defenses…for likely half the season. Atlanta will probably be dealing with the same issues the Breakers did last season trying to juggle a backline dealing with international duty, perhaps even playing two entirely different units for separate halves of the season. The cupboard isn’t completely bare with Rebecca Moros and Katherine Reynolds, both who impressed last season for WNY and Atlanta respectively, in addition to Lauren Fowlkes, a very promising talent before last season’s nightmare. But the pending absences of most of this unit means the Beat will likely be looking for one or two more defenders to bolster the ranks.

Midfielders

Help likely needed in this area depending on how the Beat choose to play tactically. A flat four in a 4-4-2 would likely see the team lineup with O’Hara-Lloyd-Averbuch-Washington across the middle of the park, with just depth needed for when the USWNT’ers are away. A 4-3-3 would be more complicated, with Lloyd likely incompatible with any of this class’ playmaking midfielders. In that case, the team would likely be looking for a runner to join Lloyd and Averbuch in midfield, such as Florida State’s Tori Huster, who might be had at #10. Whatever the tactical approach, the Beat still need numbers, especially given the likely absences of O’Hara and Lloyd.

Forwards

The Beat signed a potential #1 option up top by inking Christen Press, who’ll be hoping to avoid a sophomore slump after taking home WPS Rookie of The Year honors last season. Kelley O’Hara gives the team another forward option, though she could be used out wide as a winger in a 4-3-3 or as a wide midfielder in a 4-4-2, as could Nikki Washington. This group still needs a few more options, one of which looks like it’ll be Sydney Leroux with the first overall pick in the draft.

Boston

Goalkeeper

Alyssa Naeher looks to be well entrenched as the team’s starting goalkeeper after a successful loan spell in Germany. There is a distinct need behind her though, with Kati Jo Spisak the only other signed keeper on the roster. She’s probably no better than a #3 option though, meaning the Breakers need to either go aggressively at the few remaining quality offerings on the free agent market or strike in the draft. Bianca Henninger at #3 might be a bit of a long-shot option, but local product Jillian Mastroianni at #11 or #16 looks more feasible.

Defenders

An unquestioned area of need for the Breakers. Alex Scott is the standout on this backline but will be gone for the Olympics, raising major questions about this unit. Cat Whitehill still has a little left in the tank based on last season’s performances and should add some veteran leadership to this team, while Taryn Hemmings has proven capable on the backline in stretches. The only other defender on the roster at the moment though is Elli Reed, who has potential but is still very green at this level. You wonder if Meghan Klingenberg could see some time at full-back as well, but even if that’s the case, this group needs serious reinforcements. At least one of the Breakers’ picks at #11, 16, or 20 and maybe more should be a defender.

Midfielders

Relatively speaking, this is the overwhelming strength of the side at current. A 4-2-3-1 could feature Leslie Osborne and Keelin Winters as a double pivot with an attacking midfield band of Meghan Klingenberg, Kelly Smith, and Heather O’Reilly, a fearsome group to say the least. Depth will obviously be needed with Smith and O’Reilly departing for the Olympics, with the former also slowing down due to age as of late. But on the whole, there are much greater concerns elsewhere, meaning any midfield draftees would likely be taken with one of the Breakers’ later picks.

Forwards

They need help and lots of it. Heather O’Reilly’s not a natural forward, and Kelly Smith is noticeably slowing down and may be used in midfield anyway. Taryn Hemmings might be needed on the backline. Katie Schoepfer got an extended audition last season but failed to display a consistent cutting edge, while Megan Mischler is still very green. Re-signing Lauren Cheney would ease fears greatly, but even if they do, the Breakers still need more than one new face to add to the attack. With their need so great, it’d hardly be a surprise if the Breakers reached slightly for someone like Lindsay Taylor or Stephanie Ochs with their first pick of the draft.

Philadelphia

Goalkeeper

This looks like a real area of concern for the Independence. Though the team has said they expect Nicole Barnhart back, the lack of official news on the re-signing is probably causing some hand-wringing up in Pennsylvania right about now. Regardless of whether the USWNT backup keeper is back, Philly needs a netminder for when she’ll be off on Olympic duty now that Val Henderson is down in Atlanta. Given that fact, and with free agent options dwindling, would the Independence be able to pass on Bianca Henninger if she made a sensational fall to the #5 spot? Jillian Mastroianni would also be an option at either of the #12, 13, or 14 picks the team owns.

Defenders

We here at AWK World Headquarters have been having a devil of a time trying to wrap our head around who’s signed officially and not signed officially in Philly, with the notion that some of those unsigned players are expected back according to Independence brass complicating matters. Kia McNeill and Estelle Johnson, starters last season, are both officially back, while Frida Magnusdottir also returns from a sojourn in Iceland. While Nikki Krzysik and Leigh Ann Robinson are both expected to return, nothing is set in stone. If they do come back, the Independence will have last season’s strong unit back intact and needing just a little depth which they might be able to fill with some of their middle round picks. If they don’t? Well, things get much more complicated, especially with the Independence’s draft record.

Midfielders

The Independence’s midfield looks relatively settled at the moment with returnees Jen Buczkowski, Sinead Farrelly, and Veronica Boquete being joined by former Atlanta Beat star Lori Chalupny to give Paul Riley a deadly quartet in midfield. Given a little of the uncertainty in attack though, Vero may be moved from her spot in the hole behind the strikers to being one of the team’s main forwards. That’s when she returns from playing in Sweden of course, with the Spaniard set to miss a chunk of action while playing in Europe. Re-signing Christina DiMartino would add even more depth, and you’d figure Riley will add at least a few young midfield prospects through the draft with one or two of his many, many picks on Friday.

Forwards

Another interesting case of who’s signed and who isn’t at the moment for the Independence. Vero’s obviously the big hitter of the group if she’s chosen to play up front, but she might feature in a withdrawn role in midfield and will be playing in Sweden for part of the season at any rate. Tasha Kai was in fine form and healthy last season and has the potential to win the WPS Golden Boot if she can conjure up more of the same. The big question is whether Amy Rodriguez will be back and in what form she’ll be in after last season’s step back. The team also has mercurial Danesha Adams and target forward Meghan Lenczyk for depth, though Paul Riley’s identified this as a need position still going into the draft and made it clear he wants another forward in the first few rounds of the draft.

Sky Blue FC

Goalkeeper

You could argue that SBFC has the greatest need of any of the five teams for a strong goalkeeper. The inaugural league champs may have signed Karina LeBlanc in the offseason, but she hasn’t played consistent first-team football in well over a year and is likely to miss a large chunk of the season on international duty. With other bids for experienced backups looking like they’ve failed up to this point, Jim Gabarra’s team is going to have to scramble to fill that void. With five picks, SBFC has plenty of opportunities to add a keeper, the question is when they’ll strike though. Pulling the trigger on Bianca Henninger at #2 or #4 doesn’t seem like a terrible idea, though this team also has plenty of other needs to address.

Defenders

Like Atlanta, SBFC has the makings of a strong defense when at full strength, with the Olympics potentially wreaking havoc on those plans. The team is likely to be without Anita Asante, Candace Chapman, and Becky Sauerbrunn for much of the season, leaving just Nikki Marshall among signed players to hold down the fort. You’d have to guess the team didn’t just trade up with the Beat without this need in mind, though they also have to be mindful of some very real needs elsewhere. Cami Levin would be an option at the four slot, while one of any number of this class’ center-backs could be had at #9.

Midfielders

A group that seemingly screams solid but unspectacular at the moment. Though rumored to be inking some veteran reinforcements, Sky Blue at the moment is fitted with young, promising talent in the middle of the park. While Carolyn Blank and Beverly Goebel have certainly proven themselves capable professionals so far, this unit seems to be missing a true midfield schemer at the moment to help open things up. If Jim Gabarra doesn’t look to solve that problem via the free agent route, he could make use of the team’s fourth pick to pick up Teresa Noyola. If he chooses to wait, Katy Frierson at #9 would become an option as well. With both depth and standout talent very necessary, it’s ta fairly safe bet that one of the team’s three picks in the top nine will be to reinforce this area, with more additions later on in the draft also possible.

Forwards

With the only signed forwards being Gemma Davison and Manon Melis, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is a position of need going into Friday’s draft. Though this team has a whole lot of holes to fill at the moment, there’s perhaps no greater need than forward at the moment, meaning Melissa Henderson is a likely target should Atlanta take Sydney Leroux at #1. With four other picks to play with, you wouldn’t count out Gabarra’s side taking another forward later on to bolster the ranks further.

Western New York

Goalkeeper

The Flash look relatively settled at goalkeeper with Ashlyn Harris at #1 and Brittany Cameron at #2. You wouldn’t rule out the team using their #18 or 22 pick on a developmental option at #3, but the position doesn’t seem to be a huge concern at the moment.

Defenders

The Flash have one of the league’s best center-backs in Whitney Engen and one of the best full-backs in Ali Riley. Other than that, it’s a bit thin at the moment. Brittany Bock could fill in at center-back in a pinch, while McCall Zerboni was used at full-back at times last season. New signing Manya Makoski also figures to be in the mix as well. But this group still probably needs two to three more players. Picking at #6, 7, 8 invites an opportunity to fill that need, but it’s questionable whether anybody on the board would be worth the pick if Cami Levin isn’t miraculously still on the board. There will still likely be defensive quality on the board in the later rounds though, meaning WNY should still be able to add a contributor to their ranks.

Midfielders

The defending WPS champions look to be in pretty good shape in the midfield despite the loss of attacking midfield dynamo Caroline Seger. The potent duo of Brittany Bock and Becky Edwards both return and should again be more than capable of stifling opposing midfields this season. Also back is McCall Zerboni, who could see action almost anywhere in the field such is her versatility and energy. Added to the mix are Lori Lindsey and Allie Long, neither of whom are sure things to replace what Seger brought to the table but both of whom are veteran campaigners who should be able to do a professional job for the club. With Lindsey a possibility for the Olympic team, the Flash still need to add some depth, but it doesn’t look like a massive priority given needs elsewhere right now.

Forwards

WNY has the looks of a fantastic frontline when everyone’s present and accounted for, but like last year, this group is going to have cope without Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair for long stretches due to international duty. Adriana showed potential in fits and starts last season and could be much improved with another season in the U.S. under her belt. McCall Zerboni and Brittany Bock were also shoehorned up front at times last season to fine effect, though the Flash probably want to have a few more out-and-out forwards in reserve just in case. With most of the top forwards likely to be off the board by the time they pick, it might be a case of reading and reacting for WNY as they look to add to their striking corps.

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