The Canadian Soccer Association and NWSL finally got around to announcing the allocated players that Canada will send to the league for the season. The CSA will fund 11 players spread around to six different teams for 2016. And with last month’s announcement about the new mechanism for bringing new allocations into the league, this appears to be the final round of randomly placed allocations.
Canadians have long been an important part of United States pro leagues, from Charmaine Hooper with the old Atlanta Beat in WUSA to Christine Sinclair with Portland Thorns FC. Although most will miss time if Canada beats Costa Rica on Friday to win an Olympic berth, the current group of 11 could have a major say in how the NWSL table shakes out this season. Here is a look.
Boston Breakers: None
Nkem Ezurike was allocated last year but she has signed to play this season in Sweden and does not appear to be in the mix for an Olympic roster spot. The Breakers have yet to have much luck in terms of Canadian players.
Chicago Red Stars: None
The Red Stars had four Canadians allocated their way in 2015 and that number has been reduced to none for 2016. Among those on the squad last year, only Rachel Quon stands a chance to return. Karina LeBlanc retired and Adriana Leon was traded to the Flash. The Equalizer confirmed this week that Melissa Tancredi, who recently signed for KIF Örebro in Sweden, will not play for the Red Stars this season.
Houston Dash: Janine Beckie, Allysha Chapman
The Dash got Beckie through the draft in a process similar to how the Thorns acquired U.S. defender Emily Sonnett, who is also allocated. Dash coach Randy Waldrum is giddy about the prospect of how Beckie will fit into the attack and while Trinidad and Tobago might not be the stiffest opponent, she did score in the Olympic qualifying tournament. The Dash are desperately in need of some variety up top and are hoping that Beckie is able to provide some. Chapman returns as a solid outside back option. World Cup commitments limited her to five appearances last year but she could hold things down at left back in 2016. Gone from last year’s list are Erin McLeod, who will play in Europe, and Lauren Sesselmann, whose future is uncertain.
FC Kansas City: Desiree Scott
Scott was the surprise of the announcement, returning to Kansas City after two seasons at Notts County. In 2013, Scott was among the best midfielders in NWSL. She teamed up with Jen Buczkowski to form a nearly impenetrable defensive shield above the front line. Scott is not really an offensive threat but plays a good connecting ball. Her role this season could vary, though. If it turns out Buczkowski is really only going to be available until school starts, the Blues might dabble with Scott playing as a single holding midfielder. Either way, her return is a boon for the two-time defending champions who figure to need every defensive edge they can get this season. FC Kansas City has not had an allocated Canadian since Scott and Sesselmann in 2013.
Orlando Pride: Josee Belanger, Kaylyn Kyle
Belanger was another massive get for the first-year expansion team. She will immediately be one of the best outside backs in the league and one of the most aggressive as well. The Pride have still never even had a formal training session so it is next to impossible to speculate about how they will look once the games start, but it’s a decent bet Belanger will be seen streaking up and down the right flank. Kyle was acquired via trade and will be part of the midfield, likely in a more defensive role. If she suits up in a match for the Pride, Kyle will be the first player to play for five different teams. She started in Seattle before spending time in Boston, Houston, and Portland.
Portland Thorns FC: Christine Sinclair
One of two players to be allocated by Canada to the same NWSL club every year, Sinclair is showing at Olympic qualifying that her tank is not yet empty. Now the second-leading scorer in international history, Sinclair will be looking to mesh her game with lots of new faces in Portland this summer. Thorns’ fans should be mostly pleased that the injury she suffered last time she played for the club turned out to be far less serious than it looked at the time.
Seattle Reign FC: None
The Reign have been off the market in terms of Canadians for two years now. Even in 2014, their lone allocation from Canada, Carmelina Moscato, played a total of 12 minutes. They had Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer in 2013 and it did not go very well. Not to worry though, the Reign are among the pre-season favorites.
Sky Blue FC: None
Jonelle Filigno was not allocated back to Sky Blue and I was told earlier this week that her plans have not been finalized. Sky Blue’s best Canadian by far remains Sophie Schmidt, who was a two-year wonder in their midfield before leaving NWSL to play in Germany.
Washington Spirit: Stephanie Labbe, Diana Matheson, Shelina Zadorsky
Matheson is the other Canadian returning to the same team for a fourth season. After spending much of 2015 in recovery mode from a torn ACL and subsequent foot injury, look for Matheson to be a major force again in 2016. Her chemistry with Crystal Dunn will be fun to watch develop. Zadorsky adds some flair and versatility to the Spirit defense that had a rapid learning curve with two rookies manning the right side last year. Labbe was actually allocated to the Red Stars and then traded for Amanda DaCosta. The guess is that Labbe will go to camp with the inside track on starting over Kelsey Wys.
Western New York Flash: Sabrina D’Angelo, Adriana Leon
Neither are new to the league, but D’Angelo is new to allocation and Leon is new to the Flash. D’Angelo showed some signs of being very good during an up-and-down rookie season. The retirement of Chantel Jones means that D’Angelo is planted as the firm number one keeper in Western New York heading into the season. Leon adds speed and wide play to a team that is already quite fast. She is not on the qualifying roster which means she is likely to be in the club the entire season. Leon never seemed to take off in Chicago but is still only 23 so her best days could be in front of her.
— Sky Blue fans watching Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying can only be thrilled they have landed Raquel Rodriguez in the draft. She looks like the real deal.
— I expect there to be a head coach in Western New York by the end of the week. And there could be a league schedule as well.
— Speaking of the Flash, the club has already surpassed sponsorship revenue from 2015.