VANCOUVER, British Columbia – With offseason movement in full swing, the coaches of Canada, Mexico and the United States have tough decisions to make as they contemplate who will be representing them as subsidized players for the 2014 NWSL season.
John Herdman revealed when his decisions will be made and also reckons that he will be giving out a few early Christmas presents to the 16 Canadian players who earn a contract for the NWSL next season.
“Dec. 22, we’ve got the deadline so a couple of Christmas presents for some players probably.”
An NWSL spokesman said that there is no official deadline, but Canada gave the league the date of Dec. 22 for when the federation will be ready to submit their list. Mexico and the U.S. have similarly timed dates targeted, and the league hopes to have allocations completed in January.
Canada Soccer will officially confirm Canada’s participation in the Tournament of Sao Paulo’s City 2013 on Thursday. Canada will play Scotland, Chile, and host country Brazil between Dec. 11-22. With his timeline less than a month away Herdman is hoping his players step up their game when they get to Brazil.
“Timeline Dec. 22, so these games are big important games for players,” Herdman said. “Look they’re carrying a bit of pressure coming into this and some players know they’re scrapping for contracts, every minute on the pitch counts for them.”
Herdman was not interested in sharing any of his allocation decisions with the media.
Sky Blue FC left back Melanie Booth announced her retirement earlier this month and that will create at least one spot for Herdman to fill. Western New York Flash players Bryanna McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson played in only 14 combined games last season and weren’t called up for Canada’s recent matches against Korea Republic or Mexico. Both could be players who won’t be allocated for next season, but that is yet to be determined. A healthy Brittany Baxter could be a player who makes the jump to the NWSL. The in-form Baxter missed last season after undergoing surgery following the 2013 Cyprus Cup.
Canadian defender Emily Zurrer was allocated to the Seattle Reign FC last season and she wasn’t on the pitch as much as she would have liked to have been. The Vancouver native was in and out of Seattle coach Laura Harvey’s lineup for much of the 2013 season, and started only six of 22 games. Zurrer is weighing her playing options for next season.
“That’s definitely something I’ve thought about and I love playing in North America, and I think it’s the best case scenario to be able to play in front of family and friends… but for me I didn’t have the best season in the NWSL last year,” Zurrer said. “Talking with John, I’m just trying to figure out exactly where I’m going to be in the best environment for me and to be in the best situation. I want to improve as a player and I want to be somewhere where I can do that. Either the NWSL or Europe might be an option for me (next) year. I think it would be good for me just to play in a different league for at least a season and I’ve played in Europe before and I felt like it really helped me improve my game.”
Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe and fullback Marie-Eve Nault enjoyed playing in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan league for Örebro this past season, and Zurrer hasn’t ruled out a move to Sweden next spring.
“That wouldn’t be a bad option,” she said. “I definitely have some friends there and I know they love it so I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to that.”
Zurrer, who part owns and operates the Sweet Ride FroYo food truck in Vancouver, doesn’t seem worried about whether she might be an allocated player for Canada in 2014. The 26-year-old is confident that she will find a team that will best suit her playing style, and ability to grow as a professional footballer even if that means playing in Europe.
“Allocations are just kind of far in the back of my mind. I’ve been talking to a few teams in Europe now, so right now I think that’s the biggest idea in my mind is to go to Europe, but honestly I won’t know until next month.”
Rachel Melhado is a player who could end up playing in the NWSL in 2014. The Mississauga, Ontario, center back was called up for Canada’s match against Mexico and despite only having one cap at the senior level, the 21-year-old is hoping she has a future in the NWSL.
“I just finished my last year as a senior in college at Louisville so playing in the NWSL would be awesome,” she said. “It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to in the near future.”
Melissa Tancredi is expected to join the NWSL and rejoin Canada after finishing chiropractic school in June.
Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar was quick to confirm that he will be making changes to his upcoming NWSL allocation list and new faces will be representing Mexico in the NWSL next year. Cuellar was also eager to point out the lack of playing time he believes his players received last season in the NWSL, a concern he expressed throughout the fall.
“Yes definitely, and also we need to pay attention to what the girls want and who wants to be there,” Cuellar said Sunday after Mexico’s scoreless draw with Canada. “And not just that but also what the coaches have to say regarding the players that we would like to allocate. The experience last year wasn’t that great because we didn’t have enough minutes for our players, so we need to see if it’s worth it or not. We have all the positions, we have the budget in place, and we will have to decide in the next few days.”
Cuellar would like to see more input and involvement from the NWSL coaches. He feels that his players were allocated to teams that didn’t know them very well. The 59-year-old wasn’t willing to reveal his player allocation list.
“I think the coaches need to make a big part of the decision about which of our players they like and which fits into their style of playing,” Cuellar said. “I understand that last time they were just allocated to them and they didn’t know them, and maybe the style or their capacities were not good enough for them to play. We need better input from the (NWSL) coaches in order to make the selection.”
While the former NASL San Jose Earthquakes midfielder still continues to express his concern over the amount of playing time his players have or haven’t received in the NWSL, his counterpart John Herdman has a different opinion on the matter.
“Not really, no not really. I think that the core of the players were playing, and playing regularly,” Herdman said. “If anything there’s a couple of players you wanted to see on the pitch more but that’s the prerogative of the coach and that’s the one thing I can’t influence in the NWSL.”
Mexico captain Alina Garciamendez did not play in the inaugural season of the NWSL. She was allocated to the Washington Spirit and her rights were recently traded to Seattle Reign FC, but she currently plays in Germany for FFC Frankfurt. Garciamendez was unclear about her 2014 plans.
“I don’t know, right now I’m finishing up the season with my team in Frankfurt and we’ll see. I’ve only been focusing on Frankfurt.”
As the end of December approaches, Canada, Mexico, and the United States will have some major decisions to make as they try to figure out which of their players can benefit and grow the most by playing in the NWSL.
There have a been some indications on U.S. subsidized players, including Keelin Winters and Lori Lindsey being dropped from U.S. Soccer contracts to standard NWSL player contracts. Players such as Christen Press, Whitney Engen and Yael Averbuch have expressed interest in returning stateside, so there will likely be additions for the United States as well.
Additional reporting from Jeff Kassouf.
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