Red Stars snag U-20 WC vets Johnston, DiBernardo

Dan Lauletta January 18, 2014 44

Rory Dames will be offering direction to Julie Johnston and Vanessa DiBernardo, the No. 3 and 4 pick respectively in the NWSL Draft.

PHILADELPHIA — The buzz heading into draft day was about Crystal Dunn going No. 1 to the Spirit and about the Dash having been given the No. 2 pick as part of their roster building.

But the Red Stars held the strongest hand with consecutive picks that followed the Spirit and Dash.  Little did they know last March when they moved Keelin Winters to Seattle Reign FC for a 1st round pick they would land Julie Johnston from Santa Clara and Vanessa DiBernardo from Illinois.

“Julie was the driving force behind the (2012 U-20 World Cup winning) team,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said after the draft. “And she has shown throughout her college days that she can play anywhere on the field and play well at any position.

“We’ve had Vanessa before with us (at Chicago Eclipse Select).  Vanessa will be one of the best box-to-box players that will be in the league next year.  She should take a little bit of the pressure off of Lori (Chalupny).  We won’t have to run Lori as much.  They’ll be a good compliment together.”

[MORE: Pick-by-pick — the 2014 NWSL College Draft]

Adding to the package is that Johnson is capped by the national team and DiBernardo—who was also on the U-20 championship side—was called into camp in 2013.

Summing it up, Dames believes he just drafted, “the best defensive midfielder and the best attacking midfielder in the draft.  We were a little nervous about Julie falling to three once Houston got ahead of us.

“We have two great players and great leaders in Lori and Leslie (Osborne) that kind of play up the spine for us.  So Julie and Vanessa just made sense.  They’ll be the heir apparents there.”

The addition of Johnston and DiBernardo via the draft caps an explosive offseason for the Red Stars, who were allocated Christen Press.  That means they were able to add three significant pieces without having to move anyone.  The Red Stars are also expecting Amy LePeilbet back after missing 2013 following knee surgery.

[MORE: Dunn goes No. 1 to Washington |  Ohai lands in Houston, with family]

The 2014 Red Stats will undoubtedly be more talented than the 2013 version, but like last season much of their success could depend on how they hold up before late-arriving players are in and how players recover from injury.  Besides LePeilbet, others currently recovering from surgery are Taryn Hemmings (ACL) and Jackie Santacaterina (hip).

“Taryn got cleared to start doing turning and cutting stuff (Friday),” Dames said.  “And I believe Jackie got cleared to start doing that stuff on Wednesday.  So they’re probably both a little bit ahead of schedule.  We’ll have to see how we go into the preseason with them.  Same thing with Amy.  Amy’s cleared to be doing a lot of stuff but I don’t think she’s back on full contact yet.”

Dames is cautiously optimistic all three will be ready for opening day.  “We’ll have some question marks heading in but if we can get everybody healthy and get everybody physically there we feel pretty good about where we are.”

There are some players who definitely will not in the team in April.  Shannon Boxx is pregnant and her return date is up in the air.  Press is staying in Sweden through the end of the Champions League and Melissa Tancredi is finishing school.  Enter Hayley Brock, the Red Stars’ only other pick Friday, at No. 22 overall.

“I know Hayley back to her club days.  She wreaked a lot of havoc on my club teams,” Dames said.  “We needed a little bit of size and we needed some pace.  I know everyone is excited about Melissa and Christen, but there is still a lot of season before they come so we needed to add a forward that had some size and bite to her and Hayley fit that perfect.”

The 2013 Red Stars were hit hard by injuries and absences and never fully recovered.  The 2014 version will have some similar issues but appears far better suited to stay afloat until the team rounds out.

  • STT

    Chicago certainly had the best draft of everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rookies play out.
    I think it might be a bit much of Dames to expect Lori to not run as much, even with help; she’s just that kind of 100% player. X-D
    Also, even if Taryn and Jackie are ahead of schedule, I reeeeaaaally hope they’re not pushed to play before they’re ready. No need to re-injure.

    • Lorehead

      Agreed. And if Chicago makes it into the playoffs, they’ll be scary.

      • Silver Frost

        The last playoff spot will go down to the wire:

        1.) WNY
        2.) Seattle
        3.) Portland
        4.) KC, DC, or CHI

        I don’t see Boston or the New Brunswick Blues in the playoffs.

        • Lorehead

          WNY, Portland and Seattle are all going to be pretty stacked, although Portland and Seattle have the disadvantage of not having all their players on opening day. We don’t know yet exactly what the rosters are going to be, though.

          WNY loses Alex Sahlen for the season, had that mysterious discovery player it protected in the expansion draft, and is otherwise the same roster that won the regular season last year. The last time it announced it had signed a mystery player, she turned out to be Marta. Unlikely this time around, but wouldn’t that make Gulati’s day?

          If I were a betting man, my pick for the fourth playoff team would be Kansas City, since Chicago has upgraded its roster the most, but Kansas City is a well-run, well-coached organization that just needs to fit Amy Rodriguez into its system. What I’m guessing will happen is that Chicago will get off to a slow start and then make a strong push for that fourth playoff spot. If it surprises everyone and is already in the top half of the table before Christen Press arrives, whoever’s in fifth has a serious problem.

          Right now, the Spirit look like a long shot to me. Are Dunn/Cuellar/Averbuch/Krieger/Harris a better matchup to Holiday/Rodriguez/Tymrak/Sauerbrunn/Barnhart, Press/Tancredi/Boxx/DiBernardo/LeBlanc, or Sinclair/Morgan/Heath/Buehler/Angerer?

          • Silver Frost

            Well, poor Cuellar has amazing pace and natural ability, but I hope Harris and Krieger can knock some discipline into her. And this will be Yael’s big chance to impress on the national stage. Now or never. I didn’t say DC would win the cup, just get there. We’ll know in about 5 months.

          • Reality

            Marta just imported 4 Brazilians into Tyreso to replace the American contingent, so I think she has an investment there. Additionally, I understand she is seeking Swedish citizenship. New York is probably working on someone else.

            I agree that it’s more likely that Kansas City will get the 4th slot since they already have a good team from last year and have enhanced it. They are more stable and cohesive as a team than Chicago at this point in time. But, as you say, if Chicago manages to keep close into June, all bets are off.

          • kernel_thai

            Then Marta can play for Pia…well, probably not.

          • Reality

            That is tricky…would Sundhage consider a naturalized citizen a true Swede? Given that it is Marta, it would be tempting.

          • newsouth

            She didn’t consider brown girls true Americans, so what is she going to do with a Morena Brasilian claiming Swedish? Pia likes to keep it authentic Nordic, lol.,

          • Steglitz49

            such as Sydney Leroux?

          • newsouth

            Jill Ellis. Next? Boxx don’t count since she’s a wall fixture like Wambach, Rampone and Lloyd. Pia like her squads real Nordic.

          • Steglitz49

            There is no evidence that Pia has discriminated based on either color or youth.

            For all of Syd’s NT career Pia Sundhage was the head honcha in the US. Pia became USWNT head coach in Nov-07 (maybe formally she took over in Jan-08). Syd played for the US U-20 in 2008 and joined the senior team in 2012.

            During her time as head coach, Pia brought in 4 young players and tested several more. Some made the grade; others did not. That is the way the cookie crumbles.

          • newsouth

            favor doesn’t necessarily mean discriminate,given pia’s culture and background. many have said the team was less ethnic under pia. tasha was out the door over issues with pia. go back and look at the qualifiers and notice a woman sitting on the bench next to pia. then, look at how many caps and mins sydney had before that point. start at that point and watch sydney numbers go to through the ceiling. no ellis, no sydney on that squad. she would have been an alternate with press. you don’t have to like it but that’s how it is. boxx is within that captain bunch that will leave when they are ready.

          • Steglitz49

            Pia’s years at the helm speak their own language. During Pia’s time the US qualified for OG-08, which they won without Abby (broken leg). They went on to do the double, winning in 2012, defeating the reigning world champs.

            You would have to make a case that with a different team the US would have won WC-11. Don’t bother. Don’t waste your breath. No sane person would agree with you.

          • Rdalford

            Just FYI. Syd not only played on 2008 U20 team but was still playing U20 level in 2010 (capt of U20 team in 2010). Syd’s first USWNT cap was in 2011(I think).

          • Steglitz49

            Pia was the USNT head coach throughout that period.

            What is your point? That with Syd in the 2011 WC final, the US would have won?

            Come on! WC-11 final was not Pearl Harbor; it was Stalingrad. Just look at the stats: Japan 1 red and 1 yellow card while the US had 3 failed penalties. The Motherland Called; the Nadeshiko delivered — and the Kirin brewery made a fortune.

          • Rdalford

            My FYI post re Syd’s record was intended to support your “there is no evidence …” comment. I agree that Pia’s record speaks for itself.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you. Much obliged.

          • Reality

            Speaking of Brazilians…here are the new “fab 4” for Tyreso playing in the Swedish snow…


          • Silver Frost

            Does this mean Press and Kling are going to play with these 4 new Brazilians in CL games?

          • Reality

            Unless there was a deadline for roster changes for the CL by UEFA, I would assume that they would be allowed to play. A number of CL quarterfinalists have had changes in their lineup and can’t be expected to default to their original configuration.

          • newsouth

            Nice find, Reality! Maye and Thaisa both played for FIU in Florida. Thaisa had a good game against the USA and played well in Brasilia. I wouldn’t be surprise if she starts in the WC. They still have 16 mths or so to work with her. Maye capped earlier in the year. I know you know Faby. Hila played for Santos before they went belly up over paying too much money to Neymar. Marta is a goddess. : )

          • Silver Frost

            I was wondering why they spoke better English than Marta.

          • newsouth

            Thaisa and Maye spent 4 years in USA university. I don’t believe Faby or Rila speak better than Marta. If you noticed, they weren’t the two who were interviewed.

          • newsouth

            Ops, if i remember, marta used an interrupter, her agent, at wny. maybe she don’t like english. she seems pretty good with swedish in interview.

          • Steglitz49

            Marta came as an 18 year old to Umeå when Umeå was the team to play for. She bothered to lear the language of honor and heroines, like Lotta learnt French. The way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but to a people it is via the local lingo!

          • ask leroux

            Are we just gonna ignore the fact that you can’t play for another national team once you’ve played for one already?

          • Reality

            Can you imagine? The “patriots” on both sides will get to boo.

          • romel dias

            u forget

            Leroux/Little/Fishlock and lots of Hope!

            You havn’t seen Little in action I bet

          • Lorehead

            I haven’t seen Little, it’s true, but I’ll keep my eyes out for her this season. And, yes, as I said, Seattle has a good roster too. (You might’ve added Rapinoe.)

          • romel dias

            I’ve just posted those we Hope will start the season for us..and yes Little is just this grenade that needs one special moment to blast the game away from the opponents..

            Incredibly good on the ball..great awareness…superb vision..can dribble..will pass with either foot and can shoot with both feet! Oh la la..she is dangerous

            I can bet you that had Harvey signed up Little first…we might not have gone for Leroux…she is that dangerous

          • Steglitz49

            Sydney is pretty good herself — and getting her from Boston has weakened beantown’s finest.

          • romel dias

            True dat…and we also factor in that Leroux wanted to move to Seattle for family as well as play for Harvey! But that move cost us a lot of players 🙁

            While most Americans would give anything to have Leroux (works fantastically for the marketing aspect as well) but I am sure if Harvey had Little (her discovery rights were still with another team) she would’ve thought twice about losing all those players…

          • romel dias

            Oooh yes can now add Rapinoe 😉

        • Pressured

          I respectfully disagree. I have the preseason rankings as:
          1) Reign
          2) KC
          3) Red Stars
          4) Flash
          5) Thorns
          6) Dash
          7) Sky Blue
          8) Spirit
          9) Breakers

          • nicks42

            Thorns in 5th? Really? Why is that? I have them top 3. Also, think Dash may struggle at beginning so thinking 7th or 8th.

  • wosofan

    Johnston and DiBernardo are nice pieces, but still rookies. This team will struggle until the final month of the season, even assuming full health.

    • Reality

      Any organization that has major changes to its roster will have a transition period where they absorb new players and attempt to integrate the parts into a smoothly functioning team. The rookies need to adjust to an NWSL pro environment. LeBlanc will have to organize the defenders. The forwards will have the greatest challenge since the season will be split in 2 parts for them and the rest of the team will have to react to this. Dames has a lot of potential to work with but its going to be an up and down year. He will have to constantly experiment and employ multiple strategies depending upon circumstances and opposition. It will be an exciting and interesting team to watch.

    • Kel33

      ^ Debbie Downer inventing negativity where there is none.

  • kernel_thai

    Actually they have another talented rookie assuming Casey Short is healthy after her knee surgery. U could make the case that Johnston was the best player in the draft at CAM, DM and CB. Brock’s future may be further back but she certainly has the physical tools to be a pro player. Chicago now has a lot of good piece…hopefully Dames can make them fit together.

  • Theodora

    EQ, please update your stock photo of Rory Dames. This one is horrible.

    • TsovLoj


  • Tom F

    best possible move for the Red Stars, they’ve all ready got enough top forwards, not just with Press & Hoy, but remember Canada? with Tancardi & Leon.

  • luvdagame

    nobody is talking about bywaters.

    if she’s healthy again I expect her to be difficult for opposing teams to keep up with.

    rs should do well even before press makes her entrance.