NWSL Offseason: The Happenings Since September 1st

After a six week (or so) hiatus, and since the USWNT is back in camp, the time was ripe to catch up on the NWSL happenings.

Unfortunately for those who have been following the league and this column, there hasn’t been a whole lot that has happened since the Championship game in Rochester back on August 31.

But there is a good reason why I feel writing this blog post now makes a lot of sense. And that reason is because the USWNT is in camp and will be playing games shortly (Sunday against Australia in San Antonio and two matches a week later against New Zealand, one in San Francisco and the other in Columbus, plus another one in November against Brazil in Orlando). In the year that the league has been in existence, major announcements have come around the times that the USWNT has played matches, especially in those games that are broadcasted on a national network, therefore getting the word out to as many people at one time instead of those hawking social media and grasping at straws. Over the past few days there have been reports saying that national team coaches have been working on submitting lists of allocated players for the 2014 season. While we may not find out which players will be allocated/changes from last year to this year, there is a good chance that we can find out exact dates of when the public will know during the next few weeks. So that is something to stay tuned for.

Now onto the things that we do know. The news about having expansion franchises come into play for 2014 will not happen but all eight teams are looking to return for 2014, something that has never happened in the two previous domestic leagues. Of the eight teams in the NWSL, one team stands above the rest in off season maneuvering. The Boston Breakers have made player/personnel moves in the off-season:

– The Breakers first appointed Tom Durkin as the head coach on September 3rd

– A week later, Boston swapped Canadian Internationals with Seattle sending Carmelina Moscato to the Reign for Kaylyn Kyle.

– Then just on Thursday they picked up Courtney Jones from FC Kansas City and swapped first round picks for the upcoming college draft (Boston now holds FCKC’s seventh overall pick and FCKC picks up the fourth overall pick).

Both player moves were very solid for all parties concerned as the Breakers add a versatile player in Jones who can play all three lines as well as Kyle who can play the holding midfield role. Seattle picks up a solid center back in Moscato, a position they lacked depth in for the majority of the 2013 season, as they played Kyle in defense instead of her using midfield role. And for FCKC, they can use that fourth overall pick to dive into the deep pool of strikers rising from the college ranks, a position they received minimal output from after trading Renae Cuellar to Seattle last summer. Meanwhile on the coaching side, Durkin sat on the bench for the last couple of Breakers games of the season while Cat Whitehill was acting as player/coach. Durkin has had good success at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and coached the Bradenton Academics PDL team there, amassing over 100 victories during his tenure with the Academics.

We also learned early on about a waiver draft that happened in early September in which teams had the opportunity to choose from 11 players that were waived by teams after the playoffs. Only Nikki Marshall, formerly of Portland, was signed by Washington from that draft but it is unclear if Marshall will suit up for the 2014 season.

Also, there has been a lot of player movement in the NWSL as over 20 players have taken their trade overseas during the off-season. For some players, they moved overseas to get the opportunity to play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. For others it was a chance to experience playing in other leagues and surroundings. Below is a full list of all players that finished the 2013 season in the NWSL who are playing overseas:

Boston– Lianne Sanderson & Jo Lohman (Apollon Limassol, Cyprus), Kyah Simon (Western Sydney Wanderers, Australia)

Chicago– Alyssa Mautz (Zorky- Russia), Ella Masar (B93/HIK/Skjold, Denmark)

Kansas City– Erika Tymrak & Bianca Henninger (Bayern Munich, Germany), Sinaed Farrelly (Apollon Limassol, Cyprus)

Portland– Tobin Heath (PSG, France)

Seattle– Emily Van Egmond (Western Sydney Wanderers, Australia), Jess Fishlock (Glasgow City, Scotland & Melbourne Victory, Australia), Michelle Betos (Apollon Limassol, Cyprus), Elli Reed (Kristianstads, Sweden)

Sky Blue– Ashley Nick (Zorky- Russia), Caitlin Foord (Sydney FC, Australia), Lisa De Vanna (Melbourne Victory, Australia)

Western New York– Sam Kerr (Sydney FC, Australia), Amy Barczuk (Zorky, Russia)

Washington– Ali Krieger & Ashlyn Harris (Tyreso, Sweden), Lori Lindsey & Stephanie Ochs (Canberra United, Australia), Tori Huster (Western Sydney Wanderers, Australia), Jasmyne Spencer (Apollon Limassol, Cyprus), Tiffany McCarty (Albirex Niigata, Japan), Conny Pohlers (Wolfsburg, Germany)

The loan experiment for NWSL teams have paid dividends, though for the players that played for Apollon and PSG, their Champions League campaigns ended prematurely due to losing in the Round of 32. But with most of these loan spells ending either at the end of 2013 or February of 2014, they will be returning in time for the 2014 season. However there will be a couple of players, including USWNT allocated players Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, who will return to their NWSL clubs after their European season concludes. And there are also others who, after finishing the 2013 NWSL season, have signed long term contracts overseas and won’t be returning for 2014 (notable players include Chicago’s Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss as well as Western New York’s Ingrid Wells) or have decided to retire after the season like Sky Blue’s Manya Makoski. Plus there are questions about which international players who played in 2013 will be coming back next year, including the saga if Lisa De Vanna is coming back to New Jersey after she made note in a personal blog that she is unsure of returning stateside. And there is also the factor of whether original USWNT allocated players Amy LePeilbet, Amy Rodriguez and Shannon Boxx will return in 2014 after missing the 2013 season for injury or personal reasons. We know that Lepeilbet and Rodriguez are on track to play in the spring but not so much for Boxx who announced she is pregnant. There will be more to talk about with rosters in the next few weeks for sure.

And while usually this column doesn’t look at USWNT matches, the single matches against Australia on Sunday and Brazil in November plus the mini-series against New Zealand could turn out to be very interesting in both play on the field and to get a glimpse at potential international candidates to see in the NWSL in 2014. New Zealand is coming off of a great run at the Valais Cup a few weeks ago where they beat Brazil and China en route to the title and are bringing a veteran filled roster for their two matches. The majority of the Australian team are in preseason for the upcoming W-League season but with the usual quality the Matildas bring to their roster there could be a few scouts in attendance in San Antonio that might be trying to sign some players to play in the states for 2014. And Brazil is…well Brazil. They just keep loading up talent and while they are bringing a younger squad, they will be a test for the USWNT, who could very well be fielding an all-NWSL team for that tilt due to scheduling conflicts with the European schedule.

With that all said, keep it here for coming NWSL updates in the next few weeks because there will be some more action on this column in the lead up to the holidays.