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Mock drafts: Who should the Dash draft?

Lori Lindsey (foreground) captained the Spirit in 2013. Now she is exposed to the Dash for Friday's Expansion Draft. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Everyone loves a mock draft.  With the list of protected players now known (a step WPS, regretfully, never took) it’s time for every NWSL fan to begin speculating as to which 10 players the Dash will grab as the guts of the team they will put on the field in 2014.

A few caveats to these mockups.  One is that discovery players were ignored.  All of the clubs know all of the names that have been disguised on the list and most of them are unprotected.  If the Dash think they can sign one or more they could well take them.  Another is the trade market.  It is more than feasible to think the Dash will work out arrangements to draft players and then trade them.   There are too many trade variables to account for so we did not factor that in either.  The third is the salary cap, and again salary figures are not made public so there is no way to know if any certain group of players is going to be too expensive.  Also as you can see we went light on the Dash taking Canadian and Mexican allocations, but it may turn out they decide the savings of not having to pay those players outweighs going with a slightly better player.

Our lists are vastly different, but there is one thing we all did agree on.  It must be an awful lot of fun to be hanging out in that Houston Dash “war room” hashing all this stuff out.  We also agree that while this is a fun game to play ahead of the real deal this Friday, we’re mostly just guessing and fully expect some surprises when the Dash start picking players for real.

Here are our mock drafts for the Houston Dash in the NWSL Expansion Draft set for Friday:

Dan Lauletta

Breakers – Meghan Klingenberg

Two main reasons for going here.  One is that Klingenberg is lightning fast and that is just not something that is easy to find.  The other is that the Breakers have the weakest list of players so grabbing Klingenbrg makes sense.  The only other players on the Breakers list worth taking a shot at are Jazmyne Avant and Melissa Ortiz.  The latter is a goal scorer, and those are tough to come by, but there are better opportunities elsewhere on the board.

Chicago Red Stars – Ella Masar

Masar is a popular player who has no problem coming off the bench and is capable of producing when she does.  There are also indications she could have value on the trade market so that could add to her value.

FC Kansas City – Bianca Henninger

Henninger is the perfect complement to the veteran Erin McLeod.  She’ll make a very good backup and looks to be good enough to ascend to the first team before long.  There is a groundswell of support for the Dash nabbing Casey Loyd (nee Nogueira) since she is from Texas.  She had a part-time role for the Blues and was not one of their harder workers, a chronic complaint dating to her college days.  I’d pass.

Portland Thorns FC – Rachel Buehler

The Thorns were one of the teams forced to expose a coveted U.S. player and they went with Buehler over Tobin Heath (the Alex Morgan to Houston talk can and should end now.)  Putting Buehler next to Whitney Engen will put the Dash into the discussion for best center back pairing in NWSL.  Plus with Engen not coming right away, Buehler can hold things down in her absence.  This pick will also be a significant blow to the league champions.

Seattle Reign FC – Kiersten Dallstream

Dallstream can play several different positions, an important asset for an expansion team.  One of those positions is outside back which appears thin in terms of player availability.

Sky Blue FC – Brittany Bock, Danesha Adams (Kendall Johnson pulled back)

Bock was a big star for Waldrum at Notre Dame and is a physical force in midfield when healthy.  That is a big flag for Bock but she is good enough to take the chance on assuming the Dash don’t go  for the U.S. player here—Kelley O’Hara or Jill Loyden.  Adams is a hard-working forward who can take set pieces.    Figuring on Sky Blue snapping back Johnson who they have been high on since last training camp.

Washington Spirit – Candace Chapman

Depth defender battled knee injuries through 2013 and is a bit of a stab.  Solid when healthy though and serves an outstanding long ball out of the back.

Western New York Flash – Angela Salem, Vicki DiMartino (Estelle Johnson pulled back)

Unless the Dash decide to take Becky Edwards and leave Rachel Buehler on the table then Angela Salem is easily the best option for a defensive midfielder.  DiMartino is a young forward who should develop into a starter and players who can score or be direct contributors to scoring are difficult to come by.

HOW I SETTLED ON THESE TEN:  It seems that coming to a final, overall list, requires developing some sort of theory as to how the expansion draft should be attacked.

To me the two areas to figure out were which U.S. players to take and who to make the focal point at defensive midfield.  Angela Salem and Becky Edwards are the two best defensive mids on the board.  I went with Salem and then Rachel Buehler from Portland.  An alternative would have been to put Edwards on the Dash and use Kelley O’Hara from Sky Blue as another U.S. player.

When figuring this out the Dash will also have to be thinking about the second players from whichever team they take the non-U.S. player.  So in this draft I have them getting Brittany Bock and Danesha Adams from Sky Blue.  In the Edwards/O’Hara version it would be a second player from Portland, maybe Maleana Shim or Jessica McDonald.

There is also the variable of what order the Dash make their selections.  For example let’s say they take Edwards and then Estelle Johnson.  Do the Flash pull back Angela Salem, or do they pull back someone else and dare the Dash to take both Edwards and Salem? Remember trades are possible so doubling up on a certain position could mean nothing more than trying to accrue as much value as possible ahead of the college draft.

Finally a word on Meghan Klingenberg.  I included her mostly through process of elimination.  The only alternative I see is taking Jazmyne Avant off the Breakers and then Stephanie Cox from the Reign which makes sense in that it would mean two outside backs.  But even though seven teams exposed a U.S. allocation there are only four real choices.  The Dash just traded for a keeper so they’re not about to take Nicole Barnhart or Ashlyn Harris.  And the Red Stars exposed two but Any LePeilbet is recovering from knee surgery and is a far riskier play than Buehler, and Shannon Boxx is pregnant.

Jeff Kassouf –

Boston: Jazmyne Avant
Chicago: Ella Masar (A needed forward)
FC Kansas City: Nicole Barnhart (USA – best available on KC list)
Portland: Rachel Buehler (USA)
Seattle: Kate Deines, Alina Garciamendez (Mexico – worth a shot)
Sky Blue FC: Brittany Bock
Washington: Lori Lindsey (leadership for new team)
Western New York: Angela Salem (no-brainer), Estelle Johnson (if still available)

Quick take: The big debate for me (trying to be in Randy Waldrum’s head) is whether to take Buehler as a U.S. player and then get Bock, who played for Waldrum at Notre Dame, or to take Becky Edwards from Portland and also get Mana Shim or Nikki Washington, and then get Kelley O’Hara as a U.S. player from Sky Blue. To me, the opportunity to get Buehler and pair her with Whitney Engen, in addition to Bock reuniting with Waldrum, is how I see it going. My mock draft gives Houston a solid core defensively and in the midfield, but leaves them in need of attacking options. They’ll need to find those elsewhere, anyway, because there aren’t many available Friday.

Meg Linehan

Boston Breakers: Jazmyne Avant
Chicago Red Stars
: Ella Masar
FC Kansas City: Bianca Henninger
Seattle Reign FC
: Kate Deines, Mariah Nogueira
Portland Thorns FC
: Rachel Buehler
Sky Blue FC:
Kelley O’Hara
Washington Spirit: Lori Lindsey
Western New York Flash:
Angela Salem, Veronica Perez

Quick take: The big priority if I were drafting would be defensive options.  Picking Kelley O’Hara and Rachel Buehler means ending the season with a backline of three U.S. defenders once Whitney Engen arrives.  In picking Deines from Seattle, that’s a solid solution until Engen gets back, and Nogueira and WNY’s Angela Salem can split time as defensive-minded midfielders.  Lori Lindsey from the Washington Spirit and Rachel Buehler add instant veteran leadership.  Ella Masar is the offensive pick-up here, though I’ve had quite the internal debate over weighing Buehler against a double-tap of offense from Thorns FC in Mana Shim and Tiffany Weimer.  (If that were the case, I’d skip Boston’s Avant and head for Meghan Klingenberg as the 2nd U.S. pick-up, if nothing else to hopefully use as future trade bait.)

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