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NWSL allocation 2014: Team-by-team breakdown

Whitney Engen (left) will anchor the Houston Dash's defense. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The National Women’s Soccer League announced allocated players for the 2014 season on Friday.  After months of speculation, the homes of 26 U.S. Soccer subsidized players plus 16 Canadian and 8 Mexican players became known.  The most talked-about player heading into the process, Christen Press, landed in Chicago, as first reported by The Equalizer.  The Houston Dash were allocated Whitney Engen by the U.S., Melissa Tancredi by Canada, and Teresa Noyola by Mexico. The league did not announce anything regarding the Dash adding two more U.S. allocated players as part of the expansion draft process.

A league-wide “trade period” in place from Jan. 3-6. The Houston Dash have also now reportedly moved up to No. 2 in the Jan. 17 NWSL College Draft.

The 26 allocations is up three from the 23 subsidized by U.S. Soccer in 2013.  The new players are Press, Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, and Yael Averbuch from overseas and Stephanie Cox who played at the tail end of last season for Seattle.  Kristie Mewis became a subsidized player near the end of last season.  Shannon Boxx, who is pregnant and intends to play again, was also allocated again.  (Dropped from last year were Lori Lindsey, Heather Mitts (retired), and Keelin Winters.)

No U.S. or Canada player was moved from one club to another, but Mexico did not abide by that standard.  Noyola had recently disappeared from FC Kansas City’s online roster and then surfaced in Houston.  Kansas City got Cecilia Santiago in her place after Santiago spent 2013 in Boston.  Also Dinora Garza was moved from Chicago to Boston.  Mexico also allocated Arriana Romero—to Seattle—who would have been eligible for the draft.  The top available American, Crystal Dunn, was not allocated and remains at the top of most draft boards.

Here is a team-by-team breakdown of who went where on Allocation Day 2014.  We listed the teams loosely in order of how we feel about the allocations from top to bottom.  The Dash are last due to the incomplete nature of their group and it should be noted that two teams still stand to lose a U.S. player later this month.

Chicago Red Stars
USA:  Shannon Boxx, Amy Lepeilbet, Christen Press
CANADA:  Adriana Leon, Erin McLeod, Rachel Quon
MEXICO:  none

The Red Stars did not necessarily land the best allocation, but they certainly landed the biggest prize, getting Christen Press whose professional career began in WPS three years ago.  The catch is that she won’t arrive until Tyreso’s Champions League run ends (the final is May 22.)  Press will provide the legitimate scoring threat up top that the Red Stars lacked in 2013.  The other U.S. allocations here are a mixed bag.  LePeilbet is a top center back but is off ACL surgery and Boxx is pregnant and at best could play the second half of the season (sources have told Equalizer that Boxx remains committed to earning a spot on the 2015 World Cup team.)

Canada picked up Rachel Quon despite her never having appeared for any level of their national program.  It’s not an upgrade on personnel, but it will be one less quality player the Red Stars have to pay.  On the flip side the Red Stars are the only team without a Mexican allocation, but they will take the trade for Leon.  They can still sign Maribel Dominguez independently, but Dinora Garza was moved to Boston.

Portland Thorns FC
USA:  Rachel Buehler, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan
CANADA:  Karina LeBlanc, Christine Sinclair
MEXICO:  Jackie Acevedo

Save for the pending issue of Desiree Scott’s status with Kansas City, the champs are the only club to return the identical group of U.S. and Canadian players from 2013.  That should suit them just fine as all five were key contributors to the team last year.  The addition of Acevedo, who once played for the U.S. U-17 side, can only be an upgrade since neither Luz Salcedo nor Rubi Sandoval joined the Thorns after being allocated by Mexico a year ago.

Sky Blue FC
USA:  Jill Loyden, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone
CANADA:  Jonelle Foligno, Sophie Schmidt
MEXICO:  Monica Ocampo

Sky Blue tends to do things quietly and this excellent allocation is likely to fly under the radar.  All three U.S. players are back and all Loyden and O’Hara have to do is get healthy to be better than they were in 2013.  Additionally the club lost Melanie Booth to retirement and replaced her with Foligno, a young, energetic midfielder with a bright future.  Ocampo led the club in scoring and was clearly the best of the Mexican allocations.

FC Kansas City
USA:  Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, Becky Sauerbrunn
CANADA:  Desiree Scott, Lauren Sesselmann
MEXICO:  Cecilia Santiago

The Blues maintained their stranglehold on their group of four U.S. allocations.  The interesting point is that they were allocated Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann from Canada even though Scott has a contract to play with Notts County Ladies FC in England.  Officially the signing is pending international clearance and FC Kansas City recently issued a no comment on the story.  Suffice it to say the story of this group of players lies in whether the best defensive midfielder in NWSL returns to Kansas City or not.

The Mexican side was a downgrade.  Teresa Noyola went to Houston and FCKC got Cecelia Santiago.  The 19-year old played reasonably well for the Breakers early in 2013 but it does not seem likely she will surpass Barnhart of Bianca Henninger.  It could be a sign the club is preparing to leave Henninger exposed in the expansion draft.

Western New York Flash
USA:  Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach
CANADA:  Selenia Iacchelli
MEXICO:  Veronica Perez

The Flash did fairly well in 2013 with two U.S. allocations and very little contribution from their Canadians.  The U.S. duo is back, but there is no third player (Equalizer learned Thursday that because of only getting two players the Flash will be able to protect both Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach from the Houston Dash) and Canadians Bryanna McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson are gone.  The replacement, Selenia Iacchelli, who won her first cap for Canada in 2013 at 27 years old.  The World Cup is looming though so sending Iacchelli to play for the Flash is a great leap of faith from the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA.)  Perez was a strong contributor from the Mexican group but backup keeper Pamela Tajonar was not subsidized

Seattle Reign FC
USA:  Stephanie Cox, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo
CANADA:  Carmelina Moscato
MEXICO:  Arianna Romero

The big news here is that U.S. Soccer will start paying Stephanie Cox again, opening up a bit of extra cap space in the Emerald City.  Otherwise they did not get a Canadian to replace Sweden-bound Emily Zurrer.  Arianna Romero was a standout at Nebraska who will be in her first season out of college.  She will join a crowded but fluid defensive unit.  Jenny Ruiz will not be back in Seattle.  Moscato is already with her third team and had trouble getting on the field with her first two.

Boston Breakers
USA:  Heather O’Reilly, Kristie Mewis, Meghan Klingenberg
CANADA:  Kaylyn Kyle, Chelsea Stewart
MEXICO:  Dinora Garza

Meghan Klingenberg returns to Beantown to take the spot vacated when Heather Mitts retired ahead of the 2103 season.  The trio of U.S. players here will terrorize the flanks of the other eight clubs with their respective speed and work rate.  The acquisition of Klingenberg likely keeps Mewis as an outside back and also leaves the hole up top where Sydney Leroux’s goals were last season

Chelsea Stewart is an upgrade over Rhian Wilkinson while Kyle was acquired via offseason trade.  Garza—moved from the Red Stars—has to be an upgrade.  Anisa Guajardo was dropped by the Federation of Mexican Football (FMF) after not playing a single minute in 2013 and the other Mexican, teenage keeper Cecilia Santiago, was sent to Kansas City this go-round.

Washington Spirit
USA:  Yael Averbuch, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger
CANADA:  Robyn Gayle, Diana Matheson
MEXICO:  Renae Cuellar

The Spirit may have gotten the short end of the stick yet again.  Averbuch is a quality player to go with Harris and Krieger, but she does not necessarily fill a need at the SoccerPlex.  Matheson was sensational for most of last season and Gayle battled injuries.  Cuellar, acquired via offseason trade, sticks as a major scoring threat.  Gone are Lupita Worbis and Alina Garciamendez (who stayed in Europe last summer) although the Spirit are free to negotiate with them separately.

Houston Dash
USA:  Whitney Engen
CANADA:  Melissa Tancredi
MEXICO:  Teresa Noyola

All things considered the Dash made out pretty well and are still in line to add two more U.S. players.  Engen will give the defense instant credibility as one of the absolute best in the world.  Engen though, is unlikely to be with the club for the start of the season.  Tancredi won’t join the club until she finishes chiropractic school but if she finds anything close to her 2012 Olympic form, Dash fans will quickly take to her (it should be noted that Tancredi struggled during her time in WPS.)  Noyola was moved off FC Kansas City.  The former Hermann Trophy winner is still something of a work in progress but is excellent in possession.

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