Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
Well, that certainly wasn’t in anyone’s mock draft.
In Friday’s National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft, the Houston Dash could’ve selected two players from the U.S. Women’s National Team roster but opted for just one – defender Meghan Klingenberg.
Klingenberg, 25, may be a good long-term choice with plenty of upward potential, but she has just six caps with the USWNT since 2011. Perhaps more interesting though, Klingenberg could miss part of the 2014 NWSL season if she follows the precedent of other abroad players and decides to finish her club team’s Champion’s League run first.
The USWNT has the most talented player pool in the world, so why not take a second player like Kelley O’Hara, who can play nearly any position at the top level, or Rachel Buehler, a stalwart of the back line that Dash could build a team around?
The answer lies partly in the draft rules. If Dash took an allocated USWNT player, they couldn’t take a second player from that team. O’Hara’s Sky Blue FC and the Buehler’s Portland Thorns simply had too much talent for the Dash to limit themselves to one pick. The Boston Breakers’ lack of other strong options may have been partly why Klingenberg was selected at all.
Sky Blue left exposed Brittany Bock, a strong midfielder known for versatility who played under Dash coach Randy Waldrum at Notre Dame. (It probably isn’t without significance that Bock was selected first.) Sky Blue also offered up Danesha Adams, one of few experienced attacking options for the Dash, a team that went into the draft with zero forwards.
With the Thorns as reigning champion holding a deep roster, Dash’s best move was probably to extract two picks. They went for Becky Edwards, who was set to be called up to the USWNT last year before a season-ending injury, and Meleana Shim, a young tryout player who’s showed she could have a promising future with more development.
The rest of the Dash’s USWNT options were goalkeepers, which is one position they didn’t need, and players who have all been out for the past year or so due to injuries or pregnancies. When weighed against the non-USWNT players up for grabs, the choice is clear.
But other decisions are harder to make sense of from the outside looking in.
The Western New York Flash, who won the regular season title last year, somehow came out untouched with quality players like midfielder Angela Salem and forward Veronica Perez staying put. Meanwhile, Tiffany McCarty and Kika Toulouse, both who had tough seasons last year, were plucked from the Washington Spirit, a team that went a dismal 3-14-5 last season. Though both had played under Waldrum on the U.S. U-23 squad, there wasn’t any expectation they’d be selected.
But the Dash came out with a balanced squad after picking five defenders, two midfielders and three forwards – enough to make some deals. Indeed, all signs say the Dash – and the rest of the league’s clubs – are already wheeling and dealing with the new NWSL roster rules announced Friday.
The cap on international players was bumped up to three per team from two. But even more important, no longer do allocated players need to be traded for other allocated players from the same federation. The trading floor is now wide open and USWNT players in particular will become bigger bargaining chips.
It wasn’t the draft list that fans or media alike expected, but it’s probably not over yet. Heading into the college draft next week with 10 new trade-ready players, it appears the Dash are just getting started.
HOUSTON DASH EXPANSION DRAFT SELECTIONS
1 – Brittany Bock (Sky Blue FC)
2 – Tiffany McCarty (Washington Spirit)
3 – Lauren Sesselmann (FC Kansas City)
4 – Meleana Shim (Portland Thorns)
5 – Ella Masar (Chicago Red Stars)
6 – Meghan Klingenberg (Boston Breakers)
7 – Arianna Romero (Seattle Reign)
8 – Becky Edwards (Portland Thorns)
9 – Danesha Adams (Sky Blue FC)
10 – Gabriella Toulouse (Washington Spirit)
What do you think of the Dash’s selections? Are you surprised? Are they building a good squad? How will the new roster rules affect the teams? How might teams use them?
Share your thoughts below.