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2012 WPS Draft Grades – Philly and Atlanta Take Top Marks

posted by All White Kit
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 5:14pm EST

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Atlanta Beat

1 – Sydney Leroux – F – UCLA
10 – Katy Frierson – M – Auburn
23 – Kate Deines – M/D – Washington

The Beat came into the draft with a couple of clear needs, to pick up a forward to help complement Christen Press and perhaps Kelley O’Hara up front, and to build some depth on what looked like a slightly thin midfield. It’s safe to say that Atlanta took major steps towards filling those needs on draft day. Leroux’s not a can’t miss prospect by any means but gives the Beat another forward with blazing speed and undeniable upside. Like Press last year, Leroux should benefit from not being tasked with taking the goalscoring duties all upon her shoulders, which should help ease the transition to the professional game.

The midfield adds Katy Frierson, a true #10 in every sense of the word to their ranks. Frierson’s an intelligent, technically sound player who will also be an asset on dead ball situations. The only potential worry is how Frierson will mesh with Carli Lloyd in the midfield, as there are questions as to whether a midfield setup with Lloyd beside a playmaker in a 4-3-3 will be defensively sound. Frierson’s going to have trouble defending bigger midfielders, while Lloyd’s most common method of defense in recent seasons has been indiscriminate fouling. That makes the play from this unit’s defensive midfielder more important than ever.

Deines is a great add at #23. She’s a gritty midfielder who was a great leader for Lesle Gallimore at Washington. Her versatility allows her to play on the backline as well, which could be key for a squad that will likely be missing a glut of defenders come the Olympics.

Grade: A-

Boston Breakers

3 – Stephanie Ochs – F – San Diego
11 – Courtney Jones – F – North Carolina
16 – Melinda Mercado – D – Oklahoma State
20 – Jessica Luscinski – M/F – Boston University

The Breakers needed a whole lot of forwards and almost as many defenders coming into Friday afternoon given the team’s losses in free agency. They clearly went for broke in trying to fill the former through the draft, though there are still major questions over the latter after Friday. Stephanie Ochs may not have the name brand as some of the other forwards in this class, but she has been a U.S. U23 mainstay in recent months and was in imperious form for San Diego down the stretch. Jones and Luscinski are less sure things, with Jones’ selection being a bit of a head scratcher in particular, with many feeling that Boston would opt for defense after taking Ochs early. Right now, the Breakers seem heavily invested in youth up front, with Kelly Smith the only attacking option with an appreciable amount of top-level experience, and she’ll be gone for the Olympics. That could lead for to some very real growing pains for first-year head coach Lisa Cole as she tries to hammer some consistency out of this group.

Mercado was pretty good value at #16 for Boston, and you’d think that she’d probably be in a position to challenge right away for significant playing time in the center of defense. But this team still has some real worries at full-back that were not addressed in the draft. Alex Scott is rock solid on one side but will be gone for the Olympics, leaving Taryn Hemmings, Elli Reed, and possibly Meghan Klingenberg to fill the gap. Mercado and Cat Whitehill are also currently the only center-back options signed, making you wonder if Boston perhaps should have used one of their picks on another defender.

Grade: B-

Sky Blue FC

2 – Melissa Henderson – F – Notre Dame
4 – Cami Levin – D – Stanford
9 – Ingrid Wells – M – Georgetown
15 – Jillian Mastroianni – GK – Boston College
19 – Laura Heyboer – F – Michigan State

If a team walks away with a draft’s best defender and one of its best two forwards, midfielders, and goalkeepers, can you question them? Well, perhaps a little considering the rather curious decision to draft Ingrid Wells with the team’s third pick in the draft at #9 overall. SBFC came into the draft with a lot of holes to fill and used a top ten pick on a player who won’t be on the pitch for them until 2013 at the earliest and who may never turn out for them. If they can bring Wells over at some point, this could be seen as this draft’s best class in a few years, but it’s still a risky move.

Sky Blue definitely addressed their need for some firepower up front though, bringing in Henderson, who many rated as Leroux’s equal or even better than the UCLA star and #1 overall pick. Heyboer’s another one to watch, having seemingly recovered her form in front of goal after recovering from a double leg break as a sophomore. She doesn’t come in with the same pedigree or sheer pace as Henderson but still has nice instincts in front of goal.

SBFC also managed to ease worries at full-back and goalkeeper with the additions of Cami Levin with the pick they traded with Atlanta for and Jillian Mastroianni, who might be thrust into action between the pipes right away when Karina LeBlanc is away with the Canadian WNT this year. Despite those additions, the team is still looking a little light on defensive depth when the Olympics rolls around, meaning the inaugural WPS champions may need to dip into the free agent market to bolster the backline further.

Grade: B

Philadelphia Independence

5 – Sarah Hagen – F – Wisconsin-Milwaukee
12 – Coco Goodson – D – UC Irvine
13 – Toni Pressley – D – Florida State
14 – Bianca Henninger – GK – Santa Clara
17 – Danielle Foxhoven – F – Portland
21 – Jasmyne Spencer – F – Maryland

For a franchise with some truly stomach turning drafts in the past few seasons, Philly may have come up trumps in 2012. While Paul Riley intimated that he had already put together the bulk of his roster for this season, he still ended up collecting a fine array of talent to work with with the hopes that some of these youngsters might make their way onto the roster this year. The common theme among Philly’s first three picks was size. Sarah Hagen will be in Munich for much of the season, but Riley seems to believe he’ll be able to convince the former Panther to come stateside for a few months after the end of the Bundesliga season. If she does, she’ll be a great target forward, something this team has seemingly lacked in prior campaigns.

Goodson and Pressley are both big, physical center-backs who’ve got a great mentor to learn from in Kia McNeill. I wouldn’t count on either getting a ton of action with McNeill and Nikki Krzysik (who’s expected to re-sign) in front of them on the depth chart, but both could be pieces for the future for Riley and co. It doesn’t hurt that both have seen time in the attack in their college careers either, making them intriguing options to be thrown on late in a contest.

The team needed a quality backup with Val Henderson moving to Atlanta and got a steal by taking Henninger at the #14 slot. Henninger’s a first-round talent who’s an absolute bargain in the middle of the draft and could eventually round into a strong starting keeper in the league. She should be in a good position to win the backup role outright in camp and could see significant minutes with Nicole Barnhart bound for the Olympics.

Foxhoven and Spencer are both shots in the dark who face an uphill climb to make the final roster. Foxhoven has the talent to compete with anyone when on top of her game but has to get more consistent to stand a chance at this level. Spencer is undersized but has tons of pace and could be an optimal super sub late in games to run at tired legs. While both have upside, Philly perhaps could have used more depth at full-back with one of these picks.

Grade: A-

WNY Flash

6 – Lindsay Taylor – F – Stanford
7 – Teresa Noyola – M – Stanford
8 – Tori Huster – M – Florida State
18 – Tahnai Annis – M/F – Florida
22 – Erica Henderson – D – West Virginia

It was a good start to the draft for Western New York and a somewhat shakier finish for the defending league champs. Taylor filled a big need for the club who will likely be missing Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan for a big chunk of the season. Likely to fill a role out wide in attack, Taylor’s pace and rocket-like shot could see her make an immediate impact as a rookie. The thought of Taylor, Morgan, and Sinclair running at defenses is a frightening proposition. Adding Teresa Noyola afterward was another strong move. It’s not like the Flash are hurting for midfielders, but Noyola could well displace the aging Lori Lindsey by the end of the season as the team’s starting attacking midfielder. Questions about her ability to adapt to the pace of this level may have seen her drop to the #7 slot, but if she can, this will look like a steal in a few years.

The aforementioned glut in midfield makes the decision to take Tori Huster with their next pick a bit odd. Huster will find minutes very hard to come by with Becky Edwards and Brittany Bock in midfield, though if Bock is moved to a target forward role, Huster could theoretically slide into midfield. For now though, Huster might be best used as a super sub.

Annis and Henderson are likely long shots to make the roster. Annis is a cagey player who has great positional sense and timing and a fearless nature that lets her win aerial battles against much taller players. But she is also still very undersized for a central midfielder, her likely role at this level, and faces steep odds at a position that has plenty of competition for places. The Flash definitely had a need for defenders coming into the draft but may have waited too long to fill that need with the next to last pick of the draft. Henderson’s a local native from Rochester and was a steady contributor for a hard working West Virginia side. But there were still a few more complete defenders like Natalie Garcia and Lizzy Simonin on the board to be had. Ultimately, the Flash may have been better served taking multiple defenders instead of adding to their stockpile of midfielders.

Grade: C+

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