The Lowdown: My team could be good if…

Dan Lauletta February 7, 2017 83
Kealia Ohai had a glorious second half last season. Her continued prodction will be key for the Dash in '17. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Kealia Ohai had a glorious second half last season. Her continued prodction will be key for the Dash in ’17. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Remember soccer? Let’s talk about it for a bit. We’re about three weeks from really heating up on the women’s side with the SheBelieves Cup starting March 1 followed by NWSL preseason and a regular season highlighted by the new business and television deal with A+E Networks and Lifetime.

We still have a long way to go before we see the 20-woman rosters that will kick off NWSL season in mid-April, but it’s not too early to start speculating about which players will have important roles. So let’s go through the teams and look at one player on each whose performance will be key to that team achieving its goals. Note this is not a list of the best players, best acquisitions, or anything else besides a player I think could swing each team one way or another.

Boston Breakers, Megan Oyster: A year ago Oyster looked to be on the fast track to a USWNT call-up, but a few spotty performances before the Olympic break led to her benching on a deep Washington Spirit team. She ended on a personal high note with a surprise start and strong performance in the NWSL Championship but was ultimately part of the purge at the Plex.

In Boston, Oyster will be vital if the Breakers are to be respectable in the back, something they rarely were in 2016. This is especially true in light of Monday’s news that Whitney Engen will not be back in NWSL this year. Oyster at her best reads the game well, is calm on the ball and can distribute. If that happens and she can shepherd the rest of the back four, the Breakers will have a chance to keep more matches close so their newfound plethora of attacking players can put their stamp on the game and the season.

Chicago Red Stars, Sofia Huerta: One of the more under-the-radar pushes late in the second half of last season came from Sofia Huerta. The sometimes up-and-down forward was one of the reasons the Red Stars finished so strong emerging as a solid attacking alternative to Christen Press.

The Red Stars are right on the verge of being a trophy team but there were too many times last season when Press was the only forward who was going to score. Huerta is part of a bigger group that includes Stephanie McCaffrey and Jen Hoy, but Huerta probably has the most upside and potential.

FC Kansas City, Christina Gibbons: A rookie? Yes, a rookie. Gibbons figures to plug right in as an outside back and help the Blues generate better two-way play from that spot. After Leigh Ann Robinson retired and Rebecca Moros was traded, outside back became something of a flat position for FCKC in what was their first ever non-playoff season in 2016. We don’t want to put too much pressure on Gibbons, but she was in January camp with the U.S. and will have Becky Sauerbrunn to lean on in Kansas City.

This easily could have been an Amy Rodriguez/Sydney Leroux combo play since that pair are on the way back from maternity leave to try and bolster a team that struggled to score last season. But steadier two-way play from the outside back position will help FC Kansas City get back to a more effective version of Vlatko ball.

Houston Dash, Kealia Ohai: The most important element of the 2017 Dash is probably how well the back line clicks, but for one individual player I landed on Ohai. Her 2016 was unique in that she couldn’t score on a bet in the first half, and then all of a sudden could barely go a full game without a goal. By season’s end Ohai was on the Best XI and suiting up for the national team. She began 2017 in Jill Ellis’s January camp.

The two questions for Ohai are—can she contribute over the course of an entire season, especially when a tear like the one from last year is unlikely? And can she find any magic with Carli Lloyd? If both of these things happen, the Dash will become the type of team that is next to impossible to put away, and it will allow them to spend much more time on the front foot. Sure if the back line combination falters it won’t likely matter, but in terms of one specific player I’d call Ohai the most important.

North Carolina Courage, Sam Mewis: This was a hard one because this team is loaded and I expect someone to be traded before the season starts. It won’t be Mewis though, who is on the verge of being one of the best midfielders on the planet. The arrival of Debinha should allow Mewis to play a more consistently deeper role, which should emphasize her effectiveness. Maybe Debinha should have been here instead, but it’s tough to get a read on new internationals and Mewis is likely to be a key part regardless. This team has too much talent not to be good, but I think we’re on the verge of seeing something really special out of Mewis.

Orlando Pride, Kristen Edmonds: The Pride have some talent, but the roster construction has been odd and they continue to mortgage future assets. They’ll start the season without Alex Morgan (Europe) or Rachel Hill (school) and could struggle again to figure out midfield. Enter Edmonds, who played everywhere for the team in 2016, was the club’s best player for stretches and earned a call-up to the U.S.

Unlike in their expansion season, the Pride are very likely to be better at the end of the season than at the start. Edmonds will be the most important player if they are to stay afloat until that happens.

Portland Thorns FC, Emily Sonnett: This was tough because the Thorns are so good and so deep. Sonnett had a lot on her plate leading up to and during 2016 and appeared a bit worn out after the Olympics. I’m expecting more teams, especially ones with speed, will try to sit and counter, and Sonnet will be organizing things at the back.

Other questions in Portland include whether Tobin Heath can do an encore of her amazing 2016, if the miles will ever catch up with Christine Sinclair and if the goalkeeper position will emerge as a problem. But a step forward for Sonnett will go a long way toward making the Thorns a bear to play against in 2017.

Seattle Reign FC, Rachel Corsie:  Right now I have the Reign tabbed as the most fascinating team in 2017. They keep adding parts that could make them very good while at the same time farther distancing themselves from the Shield teams in ’14 and ’15. The defense is where cracks could emerge. A year after Steph Cox retired, Kendall Fletcher elected to stay in Australia to go to school and Hope Solo looks less and less likely to be around.

Corsie missed the back end of 2016 with an injury, but her versatility on the back line and experience under Laura Harvey will make her key as the two-time Coach of the Year figures out the best combination for the new season.

Sky Blue FC, Daphne Corboz: The most glaring element missing from Sky Blue in 2016 was a playmaking presence in the attacking midfield spot. Enter Corboz whose forte is just that. It remains to be seen just how Christy Holly will use her, but Corboz could have a field day distributing to Samantha Kerr, Leah Galton, and maybe Tasha Kai and Kelley O’Hara.

Sky Blue bound Daphne Corboz is a key addition for the New Jersey club.

Sky Blue bound Daphne Corboz is a key addition for the New Jersey club.

We’ll also find out if Rookie of the Year Raquel Rodriguez plays a more aggressive role in the midfield, but if Corboz can be the counterbalance to Sarah Killion as a holding player, Rodriguez could run amuck in her second pro season.

Washington Spirit, Joanna Lohman: Following a season that nearly ended in a championship, the Spirit are in flux on and off the field. To that end, who knows how they’ll look or play this season. Lohman, who will be 35 in June, enjoyed her best season in 2016, and she’ll have to do it this year without Christine Nairn or Diana Matheson.  The Spirit really have question marks on all four lines, but another solid season from Lohman will help keep things stable in the middle of the park.

  • Ethan

    If Edmonds improves on her passing game and elements of her defensive game not related to work rate without having her goal production go down, she will be critical for Orlando.

    • sandrae gunter

      Orlando going forward is shallow, very shallow. Great looking back 5 and Edmonds and that’s it

  • Arcie Tillydee

    Good article! I have to mention, however, that while I agree that Emily Sonnett’s progression will be very important for the Thorns this season, she doesn’t really do a lot of directing traffic in the back. That’s been something Emily Menges has been doing a lot of (Menges often gets the armband when Sincy’s not on the pitch).

  • Timber Dave

    Thanks, Dan. I follow only my home team (the Thorns) closely, so it’s good to hear about critical, but sometimes overlooked, players on other ones.

    As for those Thorns, I think you’re right to pick a defender. If the defense is solid, the attackers — Heath, Long, Sinclair, et al. — will have free rein to do their thing. A lot will depend on both Sonnett and Emily Menges this year, particularly if, as you suggest, other teams play defend-and-counter against them.

  • sandrae gunter

    The Pride may need a miracle this year, they don’t seem to know what they are doing. I say they need to trade but what do they have to trade that’s valuable? i think they were lucky to get Kreiger so cheap and NCC may just wanted to help by trading Intl player like Kennedy for Witteman. Why they used an intl spot to bring Camilla back to NWSL is beyond me, trading for Ubogagu? her plus Hagen = No Goals…. Trading that much for Rachel Hill (Who won’t go there till after she finishes school).

    Their back five may be one of the best in the league (on paper at least) but the have a load of defensive players, very little “Midfield Specific” and no real goal scorers. They would scare anyone at this moment

    • Steglitz49

      As long as they play on natural grass, the Pride can have their own very “Miracle on Grass”. I guess there are no Swedes in their line-up but maybe a turnip or two.

    • mockmook

      As you say, they are shallow.

      But, if everyone is healthy, perhaps Driesse becomes the key for them. She is THE center-mid specific player.

      I think ORL can score and defend if they can make a functioning midfield.

      • Bruce

        I’m rooting for Driesse, but not convinced that her game will translate to the NWSL.

  • guest

    Curious to see what happens with Ohai… she seems easily shut down by competent defenses.

    • Steglitz49

      Sounds like the USWNT when they bombed in Brasilia.

  • Som Termanni

    USC grad Savannah Levin, sister of the Pride’s Cami Levin who declared for but was not selected in the NWSL draft, signs with Kopparbergs/Göteborg in the Damallsvenskan, where Cami played in 2012 and 2013. The club finished 5th in 2016.

    Story in Aftonbladet: http://www.aftonbladet.se/sportbladet/fotboll/a/ogXoK/kopparbergs-goteborg-varvar-amerikanska

    • Steglitz49

      Göteborg is a great soccer academy. Hope cut her teeth ther during a season and became friends with Lotta Schelin. With Cami also played Yael, Christen and Ingrid.

      Göteborg is considered the soccer capital of Sweden. The statue of Gunnar Gren — the Gre of the Grenoli — greets visitors as they approach the arena, which is the national stadium for the Swedish WNT.

      I don’t know what Nordahl got named after himself but Liedholm got a rose and a wine. Gren was Il professore, Nordahl Il Cannoniere but Liedholm was Il Barone.

      • Bakkar

        Göteborg is or was a great soccer academy?

        • Steglitz49

          The WoSo club in Göteborg has never had problems getting good players from all over the world and is one of the few WoSo clubs that seem to write contracts that earns the club transfer fees.

          The Gbg WoSo club is sponsored by a chap who owns a small brewery and cider company.

  • Som Termanni

    The Chicago Red Stars tweaked their logo and released new merchandise. Going with “My Kind of Town”/MKOT as their new slogan: http://chicagoredstars.com/mkot-merchandise/

  • GT

    I was happy to see Sky Blue pick up Corboz, but someone indicated that she had two “mediocre” years in England so I’m not sure if she’ll even start. By the way, for those of you who have seen her play, how does she compare to Katie Freels. And what is the status of Katie Freels and Lindsi Cutshall. We were lead to believe that they were taking a year off. Are they returning?

    • Steglitz49

      In 2016 Man City won the FAWSL1 and they won the Conti Cup. I don’t know how much Daphne contributed to those wins but she was with Man City so her contribution counts for something even if the years were “mediocre”.

      • Texan

        The Conti Cup? Did they also win the Daffy Duck Cup and the Trunken Lumberjack Cup?

        • Steglitz49

          A typical snide WoSo own goal from an ignoramus. Why does WoSo always have to shoot itself in its feet?

          The Conti Cup is the nickname for the FA WSL Cup. Its official name is the FA WSL Continental Tyres Cup after its German sponsor.

          The Conti Cup is a league cup competition in English WoSo. It started as the eight teams in the FA WSL, but since the WSL’s expansion to 2 divisions, it has been 18 teams but the format is continually evolving.

      • GT

        I’m just going by the commenters feedback. Have you seen her play? How good is she?

        • Steglitz49

          She has a place to read Medicine, like RVH before her. That is that which matters. Daphne will earn more as an MD than as a WoSo.

          • GT

            Good for her. That is fantastic.

    • guest

      how long can you defer med school? for most mortals it’s 2 years

      • GT

        Who are you talking about?

      • GT

        Oh now I see, it’s Corboz. Good for her.

    • VaFan51

      I saw Corboz play a couple of times in college, including an NCAA playoff match in which she seriously sliced up VaTech. She is absolutely excellent in small spaces, with quick feet and serious technical skills — the kind that are good for a few ooh’s-and-ah’s in every game.
      The only question would be if she can be influential over the expanse of the pitch and the match. She certainly has the soccer head and feet for it and probably would prosper with a coach who values a possession-oriented game.

  • VaFan51

    Nice article, and especially appreciated during this woso drought.
    I might have gone with Erika Tymrak for FCKC. She made such a splash as a rookie and continues to have intermittent spells where she is all-but-unstoppable on offense, and I hope she has not plateaued. I still wonder if she would be more effective in the middle, where her shiftiness makes her really dangerous in front of goal. She should be ready for one of those growth-spurts in quality — it needs to happen soon.

    • ry

      Other than the fact that Tymrak has been super disappointing in the W-League?

      • Bruce

        She’s been ok, not stellar.

      • VaFan51

        My point in mentioning her as a key for KC is that I hope that Tymrak 2.0 will kick in at some point, becoming a more consistent and dangerous two-way player. Goodness knows she has the skills. My exemplar of that is Tobin Heath, who went from mostly entertaining to truly dynamic over the course of a year or so. It may be largely a maturation process, but is also depends on the player’s dedication to improvement.

    • mockmook

      I have a sneaky suspicion that Tymrak may “start” on the bench.

      Personally, I’d love to see her given a shot a Forward.

    • TsovLoj

      On a similar note, whatever happened to 2013 Mana Shim?

  • Som Termanni

    Apologies for the old news, but I didn’t see it on EQ or elsewhere and it likely got lost in the A+E/Lifetime hype. DFB (Germany’s federation) bundled Frauen Bundesliga rights for a new multi-year TV deal that will put women’s matches on free and paid TV networks: http://www.dfb.de/news/detail/dfb-vergibt-medienrechte-an-sporta-und-deutsche-telekom-ag-160995/

  • Som Termanni

    Former WNY Flash assistant Daniel Clitnovici was named assistant coach at Villanova: http://www.villanova.com/sports/w-soccer/spec-rel/020717aaa.html

    McLain was Flash’s ECNL coaching director, and the Flash senior team’s interim head coach for the 2016 draft. He was also head coach of the Colorado Rapids Women from 2011-14, and won W-League’s Coach of the Year award in 2014 for leading the expansion Colorado Pride to an inaugural season finals.

    He was at Ohio State last year, where he was an assistant coach. NWSL draft picks Lindsey Agnew and Nichelle Prince were on his teams.

    • Som Termanni

      Clitnovici was with the Flash academy, not Chris McLain, who’s Villanova’s head coach.

  • wosofan

    How did you manage to find a bad photo of Ohai?

  • Som Termanni

    A+E CEO Nancy Dubuc talks some more with Multichannel News: http://www.multichannel.com/blog/picture/why-lifetime-kicking-it-women-s-soccer/410698

    > “Sports are great dramatic stories, and if those stories are served up in an entertaining, relatable and passionate way, women crave those authentic stories about aspiration and competition,” Dubuc said. “We see a tremendous amount of overlap with our audience. If you’re going to be a media brand, not just a linear television brand, you have to make sure you’re speaking to all women and all interests.”

    • Breakers fan

      I keep hearing this new buzzword “linear” in relation to tv. Bugs me. What the hell does it mean?

      • Bruce

        Linear media is produced to be consumed (watched) in a predetermined progression, like a television series or soccer season.

        The idea of making the NWSL a non-linear media brand is about opening new revenue streams: merchandise, licensing and other media that aren’t dependent on today’s match.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgRFQJCHcPw

        • Som Termanni

          Another way of putting it: the opposites of linear TV are DVRs, on-demand TV, and Netflix-style streaming services.

          Ratings are more important to linear TV–eyeballs on a specific show at a specific time turn into ad rates–but engagement is more important for non-linear/on-demand content. People binge a show, then obsess over it, re-watch it, theorize, write fanfiction/make fanart.

          For sports, non-linear content is still kind of nascent, but it’s getting there. The NFL’s done a good job with compressed matches and seasons, and bringing in journalists, players, and coaches to revisit major games of the past; if NWSL Media is more NFL Films than SUM and works around re-telling the on-pitch drama from a full weekend slate with quality photography and production values, that approach could be really compelling.

          MLS does OK with more generic online compilations that make up for the lack of mainstream sports network highlight features. In Europe, teams tend to do the heavy lifting with lots of behind-the-scenes features, skills competitions, and retrospectives.

          The NWSL is an interesting test case for that since it has four years of content that much of the Lifetime audience has never seen and can catch up on. Imagine having analysts take apart an entire season, or even an entire franchise history, from draft to postseason in retrospective and explaining why a team succeeded (or failed). Or maybe Wambach going in depth about the 2013 championship match, or Parlow Cone on that entire season. There’s good stuff in there if Lifetime goes for the on-pitch stories over the off-pitch drama.

          • Som Termanni

            (Which also reminds me–I wonder if the Lifetime deal includes footage that Fox aired. If not, that gets a bit more difficult to do.)

          • Lorehead

            I’m pretty skeptical of theories that women are from Venus and want stories, but one thing WoSo has going for it is that the players are so easy to relate to. Nadia Nadim already has a documentary crew filming her for Danish TV, and Lifetime could reuse a lot of the footage. That kind of sense of getting to know the people is a big part of this site’s coverage.

  • wosofan

    I would say Carli Lloyd is the key for Houston, she is supposed to be the “best player in the world” and now it is time to prove it at the club level.

  • Som Termanni

    WSL 2 side Watford, which notoriously forfeited a FA Cup match against Doncaster over coaching instability, has hired Keith Boanas. Boanas led Charlton Ladies to three consecutive FA Cup finals and two league cups in the pre-WSL WPL between 2003-2006. Their first match under Boanas is Sunday vs. Aston Villa. https://www.vavel.com/en/football/womens-football/752198-keith-boanas-appointed-as-watford-ladies-head-coach.html

    • Steglitz49

      During 2009-2016 he managed the Estonian WNT. He is married to a former WoSo player who used to keep goal for England.

  • Som Termanni

    FC Barcelona is pursuing FC Dallas Women (WPSL) midfielder Bri Barreiro, while FCDW tries to re-sign Mexico’s Monica Alvarado. They’ve already secured Mexico’s captain, Alina Garciamendez: http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/soccer/soccer/2017/02/07/fcd-women-barcelona-eye-fc-dallas-midfielder-fifa-player-year-coming-plano?f=r

    • Som Termanni

      (FCDW is coached by Randy Waldrum’s son Ben. Their teams will play each other in a Dash-FCDW preseason friendly in March.)

    • Steglitz49

      One assumes that Barca can make it Bri’s worthwhile. Might as well have a couple of years in Catalunya.

    • TsovLoj

      You know, for Barcelona looking for a metro to set up an NWSL team in, DFW wouldn’t be a bad one…

  • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

    My team could be good if….

    Danielle Colaprico was pushed up so that she’d be more involved in the CRS attack.

    • mockmook

      Who do you drop or push back?

      • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

        Drop back DiBernardo. She has more power in her legs for strikes from distance and is a better “on the move” dribbler. Colaprico better close control, low center of gravity for defensive dribbles, and a better passing touch.

        I don’t put that much stock on DiBernardo’s assist total. Only three I would consider “quality” and two of those came from corner kicks to Huerta.

    • Bruce

      Yes, let’s play possibly the best holding midfielder in the league out of position.

      • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

        …to a position where she played with great aplomb in college. I give her credit for improving from last tear, but I don’t get why you would keep her there when you can put her in a spot where she could more productive. Also, if you paid attention to how Rory Dames talks up Morgan Proffitt as a DM- he may be already considering that option.

        • DNG

          I don’t know that Colaprico herself would be a lot more productive but the Red Stars as a team probably would be if she played in a more free role. I don’t see Colaprico scoring a ton of goals this year at any position. Maybe some more assists.

          • Bruce

            We agree on that much, at least.

            She started the season in Adelaide at a pure 10 before being moved back to a holding position. She just didn’t look comfortable as an AMF.

          • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

            I don’t expect her to get a lot of goals, but what has DiBernardo done in terms of scoring. I think Colaprico is tougher in close quarters than DiBernardo. I can see 3 to 5 goals a year from tap-ins and rebounds. I can see the same, if not more assist, than DiBernardo. I also see these assist a lot cleaner. Some of DiBernardo’s assist simply the by-product of being the person who happened to pass the ball to Press when she (Press) made and amazing shot. I can also Colaprico making more assertive attacks in the penalty area- DiBernardo is absolutely lousy at inducing penalties.

          • DNG

            I don’t deny that DiBernardo is probably not going to be a very productive player from the 10. I might play both her and Colaprico as B2B CMs. Colaprico also has good passing range so it may be a benefit to the team if she sits a bit deeper. I think I’d look to some combination of Press, Huerta, McCaffrey and Vasconcellos for the majority of my goals and play them up front while tasking Colaprico, DiBernardo and Proffitt with controlling the midfield.

          • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

            Here is my “fantasy lineup”:

            http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=dx1p9

            The reason, I don’t have Proffit at DM is value pace for this orientation. However, more to the point of this thread, I see Colaprico at RM.

          • mockmook

            If you want pace at DM, put Gilliland there (but there are much more important aspects of a Defensive Mid, like defense).

          • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

            However, when you have two defensive players that contribute to the offense (Gilliland- frequently, Johnston- occasionally), that DM has to be a gap filler. The DM would be a short term fullback when Gilliland attacks the box and an emergency centerback if Johnston crashes the box and Johnson/Proffitt have to cover JJ’s position thus the DM has to cover J/P position.

      • DNG

        I wouldn’t call her the best holding mid in the league. I don’t think she’s as good as Henry and like I’ve said before I think Colaprico can play any of the CM positions well. It seems like Dames drafted Proffitt with the specific goal of making Colaprico into more of a box to box as oppose to tying her down to the 6.

        • Bruce

          Dames has always played a diamond-four. Could he change that? Sure. But it would be a lot easier simply to plug the hole in an otherwise strong line-up from last season.

          • DNG

            He can still play a diamond. Colaprico would play RCM or LCM. Dibernardo would play RCM, LCM or ACM. Press or Huerta could probably slot into that ACM spot as well.

          • Bruce

            Ugh. Hate that idea. We’ll see, though.

          • DNG

            I think their midfield will be very good but they could still struggle for goals like last year unless Vasconcellos has a big rookie year and Huerta and McCaffrey improve this year. I don’t know if they will be able to match the Thorns starting MF but they should have one of the best MFs in the league.

  • mockmook

    “Remember soccer? Let’s talk about it for a bit.”

    Yeah, whose fault is that, Dan?

  • mockmook

    My picks:

    ** Boston Breakers, Rose Lavelle:
    If Lavelle can get help Boston possess the ball, many of their other problems will be solved.

    ** Chicago Red Stars, Morgan Proffitt:
    If she can become their rock at DM, then all their attacking players become twice as lethal.

    ** FC Kansas City, Shea Groom:
    KC is solid everywhere. So, they need spectacular somewhere — perhaps this is the year of Groom.

    ** Houston Dash, Janine Van Wyk:
    Houston has attacking and mids out the wazoo — they need a reliable defense. It has to start with Van Wyk.

    ** North Carolina Courage, Abby Erceg:
    Erceg will be the DM (not S.Mewii). Erceg needs to keep her 2016 form or it could all fall apart for NCC

    ** Orlando Pride, Nickolette Driesse:
    As I wrote to sg, Driesse will be THE only real center-mid on the team. So, it’s all up to her to make this work.

    ** Portland Thorns FC, Dagný Brynjarsdóttir:
    Needs to step up her game — must be the GREAT Icelandic if they want the Championship.

    ** Seattle Reign FC, xxxxxxxxx:
    Who will play DM? That will be the key player.
    And, Rapinoe must come back in form or she will drag down the offense.

    ** Sky Blue FC, xxxxxxxxx:
    Who will play GK for SBFC?
    That person must be as solid as the rest of the team will be.

    ** Washington Spirit, Kristie Mewii:
    MUST be disciplined and effective for Washington to have a prayer.

    • Bruce

      Brynjarsdóttir looks to be out of action for the foreseeable future. Bad break.

      Boston – Oyster to stop 1000 forays into the box.
      Chicago – Vasconcelos to roam the left & keep DiB and CP in place.
      FCKC – ARod and/or Syd ’cause 18 goals last year weren’t enough.
      Houston – Van Wyk for the leadership the team has been missing.
      NCFC – Erceg because apparently everyone else plays forward.
      Orlando – No one can help them at this point.
      Portland – Heath to carry the load for the league’s slowest team.
      Seattle – Fishlock to fill the void Little left.
      Sky Blue – Sam Kerr to win the Golden Boot.
      Washington – Trump to distract fans from their internal drama.

      • GT

        I love the last one.

    • DNG

      Hard for me to see Brynjarsdottir as a key player for Portland. She’s injured to start the season and bench player when they have their full team(adjust bet to games started when healthy?). I’ll go with Horan but I like Dan’s pick of Sonnett too. Menges also deserves a shout. No matter who Seattle’s DM turns out to be, and it could be (Fishlock), Jess Fishlock at age 30 is the engine of that team. I have to believe that Arod and or Leroux will be the key players for FCKC. Groom might actually have a more difficult time scoring if pushed out wide this year. Sam Kerr for SBFC and I like the rest of your choices. DM seems to suit Erceg a little better than CB. Houston will be very good if they can sure up their defense.

      • Som Termanni

        Thorns need Betos to play consistently. Franch is too good to stay on the bench, and while Betos hasn’t played poorly enough to bench her, she’s had lapses. Especially in distribution and goal kicks.

    • Steglitz49

      Sam Mewis and Kristie Mewis. Their names en in an “s”.

    • guest

      If K Mewis “must be disciplined …” is required, then Washington is out of luck

      • mockmook

        SOME players do learn from their mistakes. We shall see if she learned anything.

      • Breakers fan

        ^^

        Ironically, written in the tone and manner of someone who knows what the hell he’s talking about.

        In one of the last 7 years she “took too many shots”. But even in that one year, as has been discussed here ad infinitum, she led the team in scoring and total points, was, I’m almost certain, told by the coach, Tom Durkin, who liked her a lot, to take shots,on a team who didn’t have a lot of offensive punch. Were some of those ill-advised – sure, but I wasn’t bothered, as a fan of the team, to see her taking most of them. In the other 6 years – 4 at BC, 2 more with the Breakers, this wasn’t a problem at all. But, watch – next year if she takes one long distance shot that isn’t hit well, the pages here will open up with deeply offended righteous indignation while the same act by others will pass by without notice.

  • xanthophobe

    Great piece. My picks:

    Boston: Megan Oyster–Their defense has been a mess the past few years and now they’ve lost Engen. Oyster needs to step up.

    Chicago: Vanessa DiBernardo–she’s been on the verge of a breakthrough for a while. I think she has the skills and smarts to be a great #10, something not so many teams have. A lot of talk is about the finishers, but I think DiBernardo might hold the key to CRS’s success (I did consider putting Press here, if only because she’s getting her first full season in Chicago without any breaks)

    Kansas City: Amy Rodriguez–Can she make another great comeback? Seems very very possible.

    Houston: Morgan Brian–She hasn’t been at the club level what some expected her to be, but this is her first full pro season with no breaks, so let’s see what she can do (Van Wyk was a very close second for me here)

    North Carolina–Samantha Mewis: The type of player you can build a franchise around.

    Orlando–Kristen Edmonds: Had a breakout season last year, but can she keep up the momentum?

    Portland–Emily Menges: Same as Edmonds, can she continue her strong form?

    Seattle–Lauren Barnes: The steadiest piece of the Reign defense over the first four years is going to need to be a true leader on the back line

    Sky Blue–Christie Rampone: Likely going to be dealing with a very young backline, which means a lot of pressure on her–she’s superhuman so I assume she’ll continue her ways.

    Washington–Katie Stengel: They’ve lost so much fire power and Stengel will have a chance to really step up.

    • Breakers fan

      I add Amanda Frisbie to the chorus of also-appropriate Megan Oyster mentions. Liked mockmook’s Lavelle pick below. I wonder even more about how Morgan Andrews will do. And of Dowie, Haavi, Onumonu and Purce, who will emerge as the best forward(s) among them?