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On the Clock: Atlanta Beat

Since September, those associated with the Atlanta Beat have known they possess the coveted No. 1 pick in the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer Draft.  They quickly made up their mind on which player they will select in that No. 1 spot, even if everyone else is after it.

“A lot of people have tried to change our minds but we are pretty sure where we are headed with it,” Beat General Manager Shawn McGee said.

By the way, they still are not telling who they will be using the top pick on.  That has been a secret for months – a secret tightly kept, but one that most assume they know.

Experts across the board expect Atlanta to draft up-and-coming U.S. Women’s National Team poster-child Tobin Heath.  At first, I was slightly hesitant to agree given the work rate of Kelly O’Hara and the fact that she is a Georgia native.  However, a recent conversation with McGee helped convince me on what everyone is already saying.

“Make no mistake,” he said.  “We are selling soccer in America and we are selling women’s soccer in America.”

McGee said that the Beat is not only looking for top talent, but also somebody that will represent the team, the brand and the community.  According to McGee, there have been several trade offers made for big-name players, but they did not fit the model that Head Coach Gareth O’Sullivan is trying to build.

“Gareth is a great evaluator of talent,” McGee said.  “He’s scoured the globe and he’s barely been in the office because he has worked unbelievably.”

The No. 1 pick, McGee insists, will make an immediate impact and be a core part of the team.  The right trade could still entice Atlanta, but it is doubtful that anything will change.

After that top choice, Atlanta selects again at No. 21 and No. 23 (and other later rounds), where the Beat will look to add depth in the back with defenders and another goalkeeper.

So, I have been convinced beyond my reasonable doubt after various phone calls that Tobin Heath will be the first name called in Philadelphia on Jan. 15.  Confirmed? No.  But that is a secret Atlanta has not let slip up.  Beyond an outside chance of Lauren Cheney, there is no other option as good as Heath that fits Atlanta’s described model.

This feature is the third of a ten part series titled “On the Clock, ” which will feature a draft preview for each WPS team and culminate with a mock draft.  Check out the full WPS Draft order here.

Tomorrow: “On the Clock: Boston Breakers”

Part One: Sky Blue FC
Part Two: Los Angeles Sol

The 2010 WPS Draft will take place on Friday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia.  Look for live and exclusive coverage from The Equalizer.

Follow me at Twitter.com/JeffKassouf

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