The Lowdown went down low last week, buried under a cavalcade of news from World Cup schedules to collective bargaining agreements. But we’re back and pleased to report that with the new agreement between US Soccer and its players, things are full steam ahead for the NWSL to launch three weekends from now.
This week we caught up with the goings on in Kansas City and Washington.
The perfect storm?
Through all of the announcements about players being injured, pregnant, opting for Europe, or retiring, FC Kansas City has avoided losing any of their big players to extended absences. Of their seven allocated players only virtual unknown Marilyn Diaz is not scheduled to be with the team for Opening Day after the Federation of Mexican Football (FMF) pulled her funding. FC Kansas City even just locked-in Casey Loyd (nee Nogueira) for the season.
“We’re fortunate enough that besides a few bumps and bruises we have not had any major injuries right now,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “All the players are ready to play. They’re very excited to be here and all looking forward to the first game. Almost everything is going as planned.”
About the only thing that has not gone right for the Blues has been the weather in Kansas City which has forced most of their training sessions indoors.
“Hopefully it’s going to clear up soon and be a little warmer,” Melissa Henderson said.
Andonovski was an unknown to most women’s soccer fans when FC Kansas City hired him late last year. But he has put together what looks like a solid club and early reviews from his player are positive.
“He brings out the best in everybody,” Henderson said. “And he’s a great person that you know you can go to. It’s not every day as a player you have a coach you know you can talk to and really bring your problems to in terms of the team. He’s very approachable and a very smart coach.”
Desiree Scott echoed those sentiments.
“He’s really supportive,” Scott said. “There is open communication to see what works and what the players want. He’s very open to that. He works us as well and it’s preseason. He wants us to hurt right now so we can be a team that can be in the championship.”
The club will continue to train twice a day through April 6. After that they will slide into a game-week routine ahead of the league opener at home against Portland Thorns FC on April 13.
And when they emerge from training camp to play?
“I think we’ll be a team that wants to try to keep possession,” Scott said. “And we’ll be a team that is going to get stuck in with the tackles and be very, very aggressive looking to get in on the attack.”
The team’s shape and lineup though, are still a work in progress.
“As of right now it’s really hard to tell,” Andonovski said. “A lot of the players have been very good so there are some decisions that will have to be made close to the first game.”
Young attackers progressing in D.C.
In Washington, D.C., the Spirit have been building their group of goal-scorers after being handed a decidedly defensive national team allocation. They drafted Tiffany McCarty with their first pick in the college draft and Stephanie Ochs with the first overall pick in the supplemental draft.
“They all have a lot to learn and we have generally a young team that we’re trying to build and develop,” head coach Mike Jorden said. “It’s going to be a learning curve for a lot of the younger ones and they’ve found that out already.”
Still, Jorden is pleased with how preseason has gone so far as it hits the two-week mark where players are starting to feel the effects of heavy training.
“Overall it’s going pretty well,” he said.
“It was known coming in that we have a young front line,” said Ochs, who won the WPSL Elite championship with the Flash last summer. “I think as a whole we’ve tried to put that aside and just focus on working hard and meshing well together and working off each other. I think as long as we learn to work well together and now how to read each other, I think that we’ll be fine.”
Jorden singled out Ochs as a player who has impressed since camp started.
“She came in fit. I think that she’s been a pleasant surprise in both preseason matches and at all training sessions,” Jorden said. “I think that one day she will definitely get the call from the full national team.”
And Jorden is another coach who is still figuring out what his team will look like come Opening Day.
“It’s really too early to tell,” Jorden said. “We’re experimenting with different looks. We’ll be playing a couple of systems and hopefully by the Virginia game we’ll be set on what we’re doing and what we’re looking like.”
– Nikki Krzysik will play for the San Diego Sea Lions of WPSL and not the Seattle Reign FC who drafted her. According to Krzysik’s agent, the Reign will retain her rights for the 2014 NWSL season.
– Brittany Cameron appears to have the inside track to the No. 1 goalkeeping spot over Ashley Baker, at least until Jillian Loyden gets back from a broken hand. Cameron started in Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Boston.
– The Spirit are still waiting on Candace Chapman, who has been making progress in rehabbing a knee injury. The club is cautiously optimistic she will be ready for the season opener.