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The Lowdown: Sky Blue, Red Stars look to contend

A return to for for Amy LePeilbet will be key if the Red Stars are to be a playoff side in 2014. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Today’s Lowdown is the final quick run-through the NWSL rosters and the final installment of the year.  As we get ready to ring in 2014 there are still several significant items on the table.  Notably, the Houston Dash need players, and they need a mechanism for acquiring them.  There are also the matters of allocation and the draft order.  Look for a jam-packed first half of January.

Sky Blue FC

GK:  Brittany Cameron, Jill Loyden

OUTLOOK:  Cameron’s play earned her a glance from the national team where Loyden remains ahead of her on the depth chart despite not being able to sustain the starting role in New Jersey.  Club clearly played better in front of Cameron.  Intriguing duo if neither winds up in Houston.

D:  Lindsi Lisonbee-Cutshall, Caitlin Foord, CoCo Goodson, Kendall Johnson, Christie Rampone, Maddie Thompson

OUTLOOK:  The unit of Foord-Goodson-Rampone-Johnson was mighty good until Foord got hurt and sent things into a bit of upheaval.  Rampone remains one of the best center backs on the planet so this looks like a strong area heading to 2014.  There is also the matter of whether Kelley O’Hara will return to left back.

M:   Brittany Bock, Katy Freels, Taylor Lytle, Ashley Nick, Nayeli Rangel, Sophie Schmidt

OUTLOOK:  Nick was a great find, signing straight out of Pali Blues’ W-League championship.  She is currently playing overseas and committed to NWSL.  It will be interesting to see if there is room for her and Bock.  Freels is underrated and one of the best passers in NWSL.  Rangel is likely to be purged with a reduction in Mexican allocations.

F:  Danesha Adams, Monica Ocampo, Kelley O’Hara

OUTLOOK:  Mark finding a goal-scorer as the top priority for Jim Gabarra.  Lisa De Vanna was the club’s most dangerous forward early last season but she is not expected to return.  Ocampo wound up leading Sky Blue in goals but they wait official word on whether Mexico will subsidize her again.  O’Hara gets a pass for 2013 for being hurt most of the time but she’ll need to be better if she winds up back up top.

OVERALL OUTLOOK:  There were times in 2013 that Sky Blue was the best team in NWSL.  Injuries deprived them of a chance to prove it in August.  They have had a quiet off-season and will need more than one attacking player in order to have a chance at repeating their playoff season.

[MORE outlooks:  WNY & SeattlePortland & WashingtonKansas City & Boston]

Chicago Red Stars

GK:  Erin McLeod, Taylor Vancil

OUTLOOK:  McLeod was a bit up and down last season though her coach staunchly stood by her the entire season.  Vancil impressed as a rookie and figures to be the No. 1 keeper in Chicago before too much longer.

D:  Taryn Hemmings, Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Quon, Jackie Santacaterina, Casey Short, Lydia Vandenburgh, Michele Wenino

OUTLOOK:  A bit of a star-crossed group.  LePeilbet has been back in national team camp after missing 2013 with a torn ACL.  Hemmings was one of the breakout players of 2013 but her season ended prematurely with her own torn ACL.  She is due back for 2014, but it takes time to get back.  German Sonja Fuss, who helped stabilize the back line after arriving mid-season, will not be back.  Short, acquired from the Breakers, is another who did not play in 2013 following knee surgery.  Santacaterina had offseason hip surgery and will be up against it to be ready for opening day.

M:  Shannon Boxx, Zakiya Bywaters, Lori Chalupny, Dinora Garza, Alyssa Mautz, Leslie Osborne, Julianne Stich

OUTLOOK:  More questions.  Boxx is pregnant and a return date is not know.  Bywaters spent much of her rookie season injured.  Garza seems an unlikely candidate to survive Mexico’s reduction in player allocations.  Still it’s a decent group especially defensively, but adding an attacking presence to take pressure off Chalupny would help.

F:  Maribel Dominguez, Jen Hoy, Adriana Leon, Ella Masar

OUTLOOK:  Don’t sleep on Jen Hoy.  She came out of the Ivy League, missed the first half of the season to complete her degree, got injured, and still emerged as a legitimate goal scoring threat down the stretch.  Inka Grings did not work out as the go-to finisher so look for Rory Dames to try and find one before the season opens.  Masar remains a solid forward who can produce as a starter or off the bench.

OVERALL OUTLOOK:  The 2013 Red Stars overcame a litany of injuries, a lack of experience, and a dreadful start, to finish .500 and help alter the final order of finish among playoff teams.  They are owed a U.S. allocation from the Keelin Winters trade and they may get another to replace Boxx.  They also own the No. 2 and 3 picks in the draft next month.  If their luck turns they could be very good in 2014.

UP NEXT:  Everyone have a happy new year.  Looking forward to more Lowdowns on the other side.

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