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On the Clock: Philadelphia Independence

America’s greatest soccer minds will convene in Philadelphia this weekend for the annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention, where the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft and 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer Draft will take place.  The city is buzzing about the Philadelphia Union and the Philadelphia Independence, and rightly so.  Both on and off the field, the teams are doing things right.

The Equalizer’s focus, of course, is on the Independence.  Head Coach Paul Riley has helped bring in talent like Heather Mitts, Amy Rodriguez and Caroline Seger.  With the right draft, Philadelphia could find itself in a position to make an immediate impact on the league in 2010.

Philadelphia and Saint Louis Athletica are the only two teams that do not have first round selections, so the Independence will have to make the most of its No. 13 selection.  Riley said that his top priority is finding a forward or attacking midfielder.  With all the international flare that Philadelphia has, he said that he is “a bit worried when the attacking players get called up” to their national teams.  The team will need depth to make up for their absences.

Trading up to fill this need is a strong possibility for Philadelphia, but of course the deal would have to be right.  It is unlikely that Riley would look to get rid of any major pieces of the puzzle that he began assembling months ago.  He feels that there are a a lot of underrated players in this draft that others may be overlooking.

“Everyone watches the big games so they all see these big players,” Riley said.  “I think there are a lot of sleeper players out there.”

Riley said he will be looking for a “needle in the haystack” with so much quality in this draft.  Names like Gina DiMartino and Kelly Henderson could be of interest, as Riley has experience coaching them with previous clubs (such as the WPSL’s Long Island Fury).  As a Downington, Penn. native, Florida State defender/midfielder Becky Edwards is also on the team’s radar.

He also brings up a point that could play into some team’s decisions.  Some players – potentially including Henderson – may look to finish up their degrees at school through May before coming over to their teams.  It is strictly hypothetical and situational, but a valid point of concern.

Expect the Independence to pick up a back-up goalkeeper in the later rounds, as Val Henderson is the only one currently on the roster.

The 2010 WPS Draft is only one step on the road to the inaugural season for Philadelphia, and with it taking place in the City of Brotherly Love, Riley wants it to be known that Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union is not the only team making noise.

“Everybody will have to stand up and notice that there are two teams in Philly,” he said.

This feature is the seventh 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: Washington Freedom”

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

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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