NWSL: Dash take just one USWNT player in surprising expansion draft

Klingenberg anthem PPL ISI

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By CAITLIN MURRAY

Well, that certainly wasn’t in anyone’s mock draft.

In Friday’s National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft, the Houston Dash could’ve selected two players from the U.S. Women’s National Team roster but opted for just one – defender Meghan Klingenberg.

Klingenberg, 25, may be a good long-term choice with plenty of upward potential, but she has just six caps with the USWNT since 2011. Perhaps more interesting though, Klingenberg could miss part of the 2014 NWSL season if she follows the precedent of other abroad players and decides to finish her club team’s Champion’s League run first.

The USWNT has the most talented player pool in the world, so why not take a second player like Kelley O’Hara, who can play nearly any position at the top level, or Rachel Buehler, a stalwart of the back line that Dash could build a team around?

The answer lies partly in the draft rules. If Dash took an allocated USWNT player, they couldn’t take a second player from that team. O’Hara’s Sky Blue FC and the Buehler’s Portland Thorns simply had too much talent for the Dash to limit themselves to one pick. The Boston Breakers’ lack of other strong options may have been partly why Klingenberg was selected at all.

Sky Blue left exposed Brittany Bock, a strong midfielder known for versatility who played under Dash coach Randy Waldrum at Notre Dame. (It probably isn’t without significance that Bock was selected first.) Sky Blue also offered up Danesha Adams, one of few experienced attacking options for the Dash, a team that went into the draft with zero forwards.

With the Thorns as reigning champion holding a deep roster, Dash’s best move was probably to extract two picks. They went for Becky Edwards, who was set to be called up to the USWNT last year before a season-ending injury, and Meleana Shim, a young tryout player who’s showed she could have a promising future with more development.

The rest of the Dash’s USWNT options were goalkeepers, which is one position they didn’t need, and players who have all been out for the past year or so due to injuries or pregnancies. When weighed against the non-USWNT players up for grabs, the choice is clear.

But other decisions are harder to make sense of from the outside looking in.

The Western New York Flash, who won the regular season title last year, somehow came out untouched with quality players like midfielder Angela Salem and forward Veronica Perez staying put. Meanwhile, Tiffany McCarty and Kika Toulouse, both who had tough seasons last year, were plucked from the Washington Spirit, a team that went a dismal 3-14-5 last season. Though both had played under Waldrum on the U.S. U-23 squad, there wasn’t any expectation they’d be selected.

But the Dash came out with a balanced squad after picking five defenders, two midfielders and three forwards – enough to make some deals. Indeed, all signs say the Dash – and the rest of the league’s clubs – are already wheeling and dealing with the new NWSL roster rules announced Friday.

The cap on international players was bumped up to three per team from two. But even more important, no longer do allocated players need to be traded for other allocated players from the same federation. The trading floor is now wide open and USWNT players in particular will become bigger bargaining chips.

It wasn’t the draft list that fans or media alike expected, but it’s probably not over yet. Heading into the college draft next week with 10 new trade-ready players, it appears the Dash are just getting started.

HOUSTON DASH EXPANSION DRAFT SELECTIONS

1 – Brittany Bock (Sky Blue FC)

2 – Tiffany McCarty (Washington Spirit)

3 – Lauren Sesselmann (FC Kansas City)

4 – Meleana Shim (Portland Thorns)

5 – Ella Masar (Chicago Red Stars)

6 – Meghan Klingenberg (Boston Breakers)

7 – Arianna Romero (Seattle Reign)

8 – Becky Edwards (Portland Thorns)

9 – Danesha Adams (Sky Blue FC)

10 – Gabriella Toulouse (Washington Spirit)

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What do you think of the Dash’s selections? Are you surprised? Are they building a good squad? How will the new roster rules affect the teams? How might teams use them?

Share your thoughts below.

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12 Responses to NWSL: Dash take just one USWNT player in surprising expansion draft

  1. Zach says:

    But why wouldn’t Dash take Cox from Seattle?

    • Charlie says:

      Cox is also a defender. I think if you pick of defender you might go with the young one who has a long future ahead.

      How long was Cox out having a baby? She seems to be back in form but I think Kling is strong in some ways and Seattle had more picks to choose from.

  2. VP says:

    Perez is an amazing player, would love to see her back in Seattle soon. Surprised she’s not taken if available.

  3. kernel thai says:

    LePeilbet, Lepeilbet, LePeilbet Unless there was a deal in place with Chicago, possibly relating to the McLeod deal, why didnt Houston take LePeilbet. First of all she is free….free. Secondly, taking LePeilbet only blocked them from Maser, not a player like Edwards or Bock. Third having her doesnt stop them from trading for an allocated player down the road as those rules have changed. Mainly, who r the Dash bringing in to play back line. They may not see Klingenberg or Engen until June. LePeilbet would have been an experienced anchor at CB and paired nicely with Engen when she arrived. Of course when their discovery players hit maybe it becomes clear, but for now this is the big mystery for me.

    • Charlie says:

      LePeilbet missed all of 2013 after a major surgery. She was a bit of an unknown. Plus, I think not selecting Masar would’ve been a mistake. Dash need forwards and IMO still do. I’m not sure Adams is the answer they need.

  4. Bean says:

    I’ll have to trust in Waldrum, and Ching. I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind all of the picks.

  5. Charlie says:

    I think it’s a fine strategy.. but I think Houston are going to want a “big name” who can be the focal point of their marketing and stuff. They have a solid group now but def no Alex Morgans in it.

    • orangecleats says:

      A “big name” can definitely help gather some attention but a team doesn’t necessarily need it to be successful. What they need to focus on is building a team that can play well together and follow the style coach Waldrum seems to favor, possession oriented, high-pressure game. Not that they should turn away a “big name” player if she were available but the truth is those that are well-known outside of soccer circles are numbered (and taken, right now). Having a “solid group” (as you put it) is more important than having one star player.
      Of course, there will be lots of movement between now and the start of the season so we’ll have to see what the Dash’s roster will look like in the end. But I wouldn’t worry about them not having an Alex Morgan, what they need is to put together a good overall performance on the field and the Houston fans will appreciate it and support the team.

  6. Diane says:

    If they knew the restriction for trading allocated players was going to be lifted, they had no reason to pick any other allocated players. If the restriction stood, I would expect they would have selected another USWNT player if only for trading purposes.

  7. Doc says:

    I think Masar and Adams are excellent choices. I’ve had the opportunity to see both play in person and they bring a lot to any team. As a Sky Blue supporter, I hate to see Adams leave but I’m sure she’ll get plenty of minutes at Houston.

    On a different subject, I’d REALLY like to see all the women’s teams playing at soccer-specific stadiums. Playing on a surface lined for American football looks bush-league.

    Also like to see women’s teams linking with MLS teams, perhaps having each match as a double-bill. I know I’d pay extra to see it.

    • orangecleats says:

      You are so right about playing in soccer-specific stadiums! I understand that there are many factors that play a role in finding a venue but I definitely think it should be a priority. Like FCKC did for next season, moving to a smaller venue is of course not ideal but it is a better quality field and that’s what matters most. Anyway, where they played last year was bad in every way and just had to change.
      As for partnerships with MLS teams, that can be beneficial in many cases but let’s not dismiss the idea that women’s teams can stand on their own. (I’m not saying that’s you, but people do think like that).
      An important thing for me is that the MLS isn’t perfect itself, especially in terms of rules/transparency, and the women’s league should be careful in adopting those ideas that work and not copying everything the MLS does. With more MLS teams involved I’m afraid this might not be the case. However, since the league is still new, I’m confident that it’ll steadily grow into its identity and establish its legitimacy – MLS involvement or not.