To play or not to play? NWSL players face decisions

Dan Lauletta February 8, 2013 15

One day after the NWSL Supplemental Draft, it is clear the biggest talking point involves the players who are not expected to play. The most discussed of these players has been Tina Ellertson.

Thorns FC made Ellertson the No. 8 overall pick and were immediately criticized—here and elsewhere—because Ellertson herself had announced on Twitter that she was not playing this season. Later in the day Thorns’ coach Cindy Parlow Cone told Equalizer Soccer’s Richard Farley that the club had been in touch with Ellertson prior to the draft and that they expect her to play. The veteran defender has two children and cited family as her reasoning behind skipping 2013. According to Parlow Cone, Portland’s proximity to Ellertson’s family will allow her the opportunity to balance them with soccer.

If Portland was really a possibility then it makes it quite odd that Ellertson would make the announcement only three days before the draft. Maybe she was hinting to other teams that she was not willing to pick up her life and move to the Midwest or the East Coast. Whatever her reasoning, Ellertson is a solid defender and will be an asset to the Thorns and NWSL if she laces up her cleats this summer.


In Kansas City, the Blues approached their selection of Tina DiMartino with eyes wide open. The thinking, according to team president Brian Budzinski, is that the risk/reward works in the club’s favor since they used the No. 38 pick on a player, that if on the field and fit, is certainly a starting caliber midfielder.

“Tina is a 1st round talent player,” Budzinski said. “She’s someone for us that towards the back end of the draft was a low-risk, high-reward type of pick. If she ends up not playing then we didn’t use a high pick on her. But if she does then we get a great player with a later round selection.”

The Equalizer confirmed on Thursday that DiMartino presently has no plans to play in NWSL.

FC Kansas City also drafted Casey Nogueira, who has not indicated her intentions either way. She was originally thought to be in play as a free agent signing but wound up falling to the 4th round of the Supplemental Draft where FC Kansas City took her at No. 30.

“I think other teams were concerned about the same kind of thing as with Tina,” Budzinski said. Adding that Nogueira has some current ties to the area, he said, “We feel like if Casey is going to be playing, this is the place she is going to play at. We feel very good that she’s going to play in this league this year.”


The new discovery period opened on Friday. Teams are permitted to “discover” and then sign up to four more free agents. With preseason a little over a month away, the clubs will want to get through this process as quickly as possible.

Of course the last round of free agency is not complete as of yet. We’re still waiting on FC Kansas City to make it official with Sinead Farrelly. Candace Chapman is officially signed by Washington, as reported by The Equalizer last week. That still leaves the Spirit with one more slot to fill.


The Equalizer team continues to track the proposed Reign-Flash trade, which now seems dead. No trade is imminent and that if one does happen it will not include Amy Rodriguez, the allocated U.S. forward who will miss the season due to pregnancy. A swap of Mexican internationals (Veronica Perez returning to Seattle, where she played with the Sounders, and Teresa Noyola going to the Flash, who drafted her last year before WPS folded) was on the table as part of a bigger package deal, according to sources, but the deal now looks unlikely.

Harjeet Johal of The Equalizer reached out to Veronica Perez and the talented Mexican international said she was unaware of any trade talk involving her.


Seattle did, however, announce on Friday its fifth signed free agent. Defender Elli Reed, who played for the Breakers before making the move to German club Duisburg, joins defender Kate Deines, Welsh midfielder Jess Fishlock, and forwards Lindsay Taylor and Tiffany Cameron as Seattle’s free agent acquisitions.

“I am extremely excited about this opportunity to play for Seattle Reign FC,” Reed said in a team release. “I am looking forward to learning from the experienced coaching staff and to play alongside the talented players that the club has already signed. Seattle is a city that has become known around the country for its soccer culture and I cannot wait to represent Seattle in the NWSL.”

The 23-year-old was part of Tony DiCicco’s US U-20 World Cup winning team in 2008.


Tasha Kai, taken 25th-overall by the Washington Spirit, is recovering from a knee injury, but “is expected to be available by, or soon after, the start of the NWSL season,” according to a team press release.

Additional reporting from Harjeet Johal, Richard Farley and Jeff Kassouf.

  • You guys are really on top of everything – really appreciate it. Here is one major issue I have – did Ellertson’s tweet effect the outcome of the draft? If it is only a tweet then shame on everyone for believing it – but if she actually spoke to teams other than Portland and said she wasn’t playing, then sent the tweet and now plays she is gaming the system. If that is proven I think there should be sanctions against Portland and the player.

    • Gonna track them all down and fine them or only Tina’s situation because part of it happened on twitter? It seems like that’s what a lot of players did behind the scenes. Seattle suggested it was difficult for teams to know which way players were going. We don’t even know if she will play yet. Just that if she does it will now have to be with Portland. Maybe that gives them a 50/50 chance she changes her mind since they are nearby and at least meets part of her criteria. It would be a 0% chance for other teams. She wasn’t going to move as she has a family and small kids. IMO none of them should have been put in that position anyway.

      Perhaps as players aren’t getting paid much they should have gone a player friendly route and allow them to be true free agents. Let the cap sort out the rest. If they were being paid more then whatever, but all the perks are gone so might as well have let freedom be a perk.

      • TsovLoj

        >She wasn’t going to move as she has a family and small kids. IMO none of them should have been put in that position anyway.

        Damn right. If she beat the system, good for her.

      • Steglitz49

        “Titter ye not” was a punch-line of some comedian or other. His admonition seems relevant even today with an added “w”. If you Twitter you deserve whatever you get. They are called smoke-filled rooms for a reason.

  • Andy Crossley

    Gerry – No way to tell whether she gamed the system, but if she did…good for her. And good for any player (or team) who finds a way to navigate this absurdly elaborate and bureaucratic set-up. The NWSL got too clever for their own good on this. You want good players to play and to pay them next to nothing? Then make it easy for them to sign where they please and integrate this part-time job into their lifestyle.

    • Steglitz49

      If you believe in conspiracy theories, then there may be method in the NWSL’s madness. One assumes that the NWSL is building for the future.

      Each year about 1700 girls come off the NCAA assembly line. Even if only 1% want to carry on playing soccer, that means 2 new potential recruits to each of the 8 NWSL teams.

      If you look at the accompanying piece about the “Sermanni era”, out of his roster 4 ladies play for foreign clubs and one has recently returned to USA, and that does not include players like Lindsey Horan, Sarah Hagen and Amber Brooks (to name just 3).

      In short, the NWSL management does not want to fill the NWSL teams’ places with yesterday’s players. They want opportunities for tomorrows.

  • arg

    Kaley Fountain won’t be playing, either.

  • Kernel Thai

    Another thing Seattle may have with trade value is Nikki Kryzsik. She’s from NJ and went to school at Virginia. Even if she doesnt want to move to the Pacific NW they might get nearly equal value by moving her rights to Sky Blue or Washington, assuming they cant sign her.

  • Michele

    Agree with Gerry here. If she personally told other teams she wasn’t playing to scare them off and at the same time told Portland she’d play if they drafted her that deserves to be looked at. I realize this particular draft system wasn’t very good – not even close – but when players get drafted in other sports, they go where they’re drafted or have to sit out – unless you’re Eli Manning or John Elway. I’m a NY Giants fan and I think Eli’s a great player – but I still think what he did to the Chargers was unacceptable. I’m not in any way comparing NFL money to NWSL money – so yes there are unique concerns about living and other work arrangements but is it really that much different from the lowest-paid MLS players? And this may not be a fair comparison either since the NWSL will be the highest-level league for women’s soccer in the country but there are hundreds of mid-level minor league baseball players, making minimum salaries and only getting paid for half a year, that have to deal with the same thing.

    • necron99

      There is still a difference between minor league baseball and NWSL. Minor leaguers are pursuing their dream no matter how remote of making the big leagues and getting big money. NWSL players have made the big show and living the reality that they cannot afford it. If she gamed the system, good for her, the NWSL gets what it deserves for being too smart for it’s own good. (I say this as a NWSL supporter with season tickets to more than one team.)

  • Steglitz49

    Maybe we should turn this issue around and look at it from another angle. To me it illustrates the problem of having only 8 teams in a huge country were so many young ladies play soccer to such a high standard.

    Even if soon each NWSL team can afford to pay for 30 full-time players, that is only 240 players and were NWSL increase to 12 teams, it still is only 360 paid work-places. About 1700 ladies leave the NCAA system each year. The USA needs at least 8 regional leagues of 8 to 12 teams to satisfy the desires of young hopefuls.

    For this to become reality, every seat in every NWSL stadium must be full from Day 1. Such overflowing attendance may make it possible to sell ladies’ football to the sponsors and get more funding, get mainstream media exposure and start using bigger stadia for the top billed matches. This is the job of the marketing and sales departments of the NWSL and each team, not the players.

    • Have to disagree on your last point, it is the job of everyone associated with a team, staff, players, fans, to sell tickets and fill seats. These teams don’t likely have a “department” of more than one person for any discipline.

      • Steglitz49

        Your point is well taken. I should have used more precise language.

        Your point is illustrated by the Swedish ladies’ team KIF-Örebro. Three seasons ago they won the Swedish Cup and got to lift the coveted gilded trophy and put on the golden jackets. This past season they were almost relegated.

        Worse, during the season it became known that the club was in financially dire straits. The players telephoned around to local business, companies and private individuals and got 33 who agreed to donate $1 per spectator for the next home match. The team had averaged 400 per match. That day 1027 turned up. This cleared the immediate debts, but more money was needed so at the next home game 2017 showed up.

        To compare, last season for the whole Swedish ladies’ league the median home crowd was 563 with an IQR of 339 to 989. If only 2000 had come to each KIF-Örebro match after the success in the Cup, the story might have been even more positive.

        In short, if the NWSL matches can average 2000 spectators they are already well attended — but not well enough for survival. The stadia must be full to overflowing.

        Nevertheless, if the marketing and sales people can’t hack it

  • StarCityFan

    I believe Washington has two slots left, not one.