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On the Clock: Chicago Red Stars

The Chicago Red Stars missed out on the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer playoffs after a disappointing season that left them with 20 pts. in 20 games and second from bottom in the league table.

Chicago’s United States Women’s National Team allocations did not play out as expected, and they certainly played a role in the team’s struggles.  The departure of U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd to Sky Blue FC exemplifies this, but U.S. forward Lindsay Tarpley disappointed as well, and defender Kate Markgraf did not even see the field due to her pregnancy.

The team maintains that it is committed to re-signing free agent and 2009 WPS All-Star Cristiane, but there has been no news on her in months and she still remains a free agent.  It could be a case of final details being worked out, but serious questions have to be raised about such a high profile player remaining a free agent.  The Red Stars may need to look at the 2010 WPS Draft as an opportunity to replace Cristiane should she not return to Chicago.

Granted, Brittany Klein, Megan Rapinoe and Ella Masar emerged as surprisingly great talents in 2009.

Head Coach Emma Hayes said that she will be looking for the best available talent, and has a pretty good idea of what she wants.  Hayes foresees the top five draft picks being (in no particular order) Lauren Cheney, Kelley O’Hara, Casey Nogueira, Tobin Heath and Whitney Engen.  With the No. 4-overall pick, Chicago will have the opportunity to select one of those players.  The only question is who?

“I think we will definitely end up with one of the top five picks I mentioned,” Hayes said.

It does not get much clearer than that, but the order in which these players will be selected is anything but clear.  Hayes admits that Boston’s selection at No. 2 could change a lot, so the Red Stars will be forced to see what happens with the first three selections (which belong to Atlanta, Boston and FC Gold Pride, respectively).

Truly, a lot could ride on the Boston selection.  I believe (and speculation is always dangerous when it comes to drafts with all the surprises that pop up) that Cheney and Engen will end up in either Boston or Chicago.  The one that does not go to Boston could end up in Chicago, but that is just this journalist’s gut feeling.  I don’t think Nogueira rates higher than the other four aforementioned players in Chicago’s book (or mine, for that matter).

After the No. 4 pick, the Red Stars select again at No. 15 and No. 24, as well as the later rounds.  There, Hayes will be looking to add depth to the squad.

“I will be looking for a girl who has got good versatility,” she said.

However, as deep as this draft has been touted to be, do not think that it is automatic for a draftee to make an immediate impact.  There will be 65 selections in Friday’s draft, but rosters will continue to change right up until first kick.

“I’ll be brutally honest and say it is hard to find 60 players that can play at this level,” Hayes said.  “There are maybe 30 that will make rosters.”

Hayes also promised that the Red Stars will be taking local talent with their later round draft picks, so college soccer fans in the Chicagoland area will have something to look forward to.

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

Tomorrow: “On the Clock: Philadelphia Independence”

Part One: Sky Blue FC
Part Two: Los Angeles Sol
Part Three: Atlanta Beat
Part Four: Boston Breakers
Part Five: FC Gold Pride

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.

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