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Spirit’s Parsons monitoring expansion developments

Mark Parsons and the Spirit hold the No. 1 pick in the NWSL draft. Could that change with Houston expansion? (Photo Copyright Amanda McCormick | www.amandamccormick8.com)

The Spirit have been sitting on the No. 1 pick in the NWSL college draft for a few months, but that position could change suddenly if the Houston Dynamo decide to join the league next year and are granted the top pick as their WPS forbearers were.

“I’ll be honest I have to be very interested in seeing how that plays out,” Washington Spirit coach and GM Mark Parsons said Tuesday, while acknowledging he has no more information about Houston’s expansion bid than the general public.  “Over the last three months, situations change continuously.  We have had to be prepared when we’re scouting and looking at college players that of or any reason the players we were looking at for a draft pick, if that player isn’t available where else would we go.”

However things play out with potential expansion, the Spirit will be looking to make good on their 1st round pick.  As things stand today they will not pick again until No. 23 with further picks at No. 25 and 27.  Parsons said that even at No. 1 there are many variables still in play before the club can make a final decision on who to take.

“We have a clear picture on what we’d like to do, but it could change,” Parsons said.  “It could change with regards to signings or allocations.”

And with that, Parsons uttered the magic word: allocation.  Past leagues used allocation to stock club rosters and the teams took it from there.  In NWSL, U.S. Soccer is paying the freight on the subsidized players and thus teams are in a holding pattern until the 2014 spots are doled out.

Parsons confirmed on Tuesday that Lori Lindsey will no longer be part of the allocated player pool, but she will play for the Spirit in 2014 on a standard player contract.  He also expects Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris back, and is hopeful that Harris is fully recovered from meniscus surgery in time for preseason.

“That’s quite challenging,” Parsons said of trying to manage the offseason without knowledge of who the Spirit’s allocated players will be (Canada also has two allocations per team and Mexico is expected back with one per team).  “We have been very prepared, not from the end of the season, but really as soon as I took over, we have been preparing for this stage.”

Already the Spirit have been active since the end of the season.  They selected Nikki Marshall in the waiver draft and then flipped her to Seattle for Renae Cuellar.  They later yielded Christine Nairn in the same trade after the Reign agreed to terms with Kim Little, whose discovery rights were sent to the Reign.

The jewel so far is Nairn, a versatile, attacking player who thrived as a rookie despite playing several different positions for a Reign team that was not very good.

“I’ve had some conversations with Christine already,” Parsons began, “and we’ve both agreed that the level she reached last season in Seattle is just the minimum that we want to see next year.  It’s got to be our priority as a club and me as a coach to support her and give her the environment where she continues her growth.  She should be someone that we see in the national team again.

“I’m not putting pressure on her to achieve that, I just think that the kind of chances we’ve seen from Tom and wanting to play more technical soccer, to achieve that you’re going to need players like Christine so I think she’s going to be someone that really gets that push and opportunity to do that.”

Parsons stopped short of saying where he would like Nairn to play, instead citing her versatility in wake of the uncertainty surrounding allocation.

Cuellar has no such positional flexibility.  She is a forward.  She is also one of Mexico’s subsidized players, meaning she could end up as a standard contract player.  Cuellar scored 5 goals 11 matches for FC Kansas City but none in 7 games after being traded to Seattle mid-season.  Parsons would like to add another quality striker to turn around the worst finishing team in NWSL.

“It’s among the priorities,” he said.  “If you go back to last season we really created the same chances (as our opponents) in some games.  It is down to having someone who can score it in the back of the net.  It’s a priority.  We’re very strong about we will have another striker in addition to what we currently have.

“We have Renae to give us a lot of power and excitement up there, but we definitely want to have at least one more striker with a proven goal-scoring record.  Every single team needs to have that if they’re going to succeed.”

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