In November of 2012, the soccer world heard exciting news from U.S. soccer president Suni Guladi about the creation of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The eight-team league will begin this spring and features many prominent soccer players including FIFA player of the year Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly. While some of the franchises are not new, the NWSL is, the first of it’s kind with a college and supplemental draft. Many of the teams have already been in existence Here is an exclusive analysis Dragonwing girlgear’s team by team preview for this season.
Location: Dilboy Stadium, Somerville, MA
Head Coach: Lisa Cole
Key Players: Heather O’Reilly, Sydney Leroux
Outlook: Last year, the Breakers won the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL) Elite regular season title with an 11-3 overall record. Led by Coach Cole, the team has shown consistent success in professional league play, although several players have come and gone. In 2011, it had eight members of the world cup team on its roster, establishing itself as a formidable opponent that has seasons of winning, experience and viable coaching.
Location: Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown, MD
Head Coach: Mike Jorden
Key Players: Ali Kreiger, Caroline Miller (MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist)
Outlook: Washington D,C’s newest professional sports team will be in action and will work closely with D.C. United to bring soccer success back to the D.C. area. Last year, the D.C. United Women, a team in the USL’s W-League finished the season ranked third in their league and had their season come to a disappointing end with a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Fury. 10-time Virginia State Cup champion Mike Jorden will be at the helm for the Spirit who will look to use their youth and speed to make a statement to the rest of the league.
FC SKY BLUE
Location: Yurcak Field at Rutgers Univeristy, Piscataway, NJ
Head Coach: Jim Gabarra
Key Players: Christie Rampone
Outlook: Despite the lack of huge stars on this team, U.S. national team captain Christie Rampone is certainly capable of leading and establishing her team as a tough foe. The team did not compete last year in the Women’s Professional League, but they did send several of its members for a March tour in Japan. This team shouldn’t be ruled out, but they may face some difficulty to reach the top of the standings.
CHICAGO RED STARS
Location: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
Head Coach: Rory Dames
Key Players: Shannon Boxx, Amy LePeilbet, Zakiya Bywaters
Outlook: Winning the first overall pick in the NWSL college draft, the Red Stars selected Pac-12 player of the year Zakiya Bywaters. The team will be without defender Amy LePeilbet this season due to an ACL injury, so they will look to Shannon Boxx to keep the defense steady. Success has followed this franchise, especially in recent years. The Red Stars were US National Cup Champions and finalists in the WPSL Elite league both last year and in 2011. A deadly combination of success and experience should give Chicago an outstanding advantage this season.
WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH
Location: Sahlen Stadium, Rochester, NY
Head Coach: Aaron Lines
Key Players: Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd
Outlook: Opposing teams must send out their best against FIFA player of the year and all around soccer start, Abby Wambach. Wambach is a beloved native of Pittsford, NY and since announcing her signing, season ticket sales have doubled, according to Sahlen stadium president Pat Eroli. Added attraction is midfielder Carli Lloyd, Wambach’s teammate in the 2011 World Cup.. The buzz around this team is huge and places the Flash as a major contender for the championship.
PORTLAND THORNS FC
Location: JELD-WEN field, Portland, OR
Head Coach: Cindy Parlow
Key Players: Alex Morgan, Christie Sinclair, Tobin Heath, Rachel Buehler
Outlook: Just by roster allocation alone, the Thorns are the expected favorite to win the league. The team has deep experience at the Olympic level and Canadian Christie Sinclair is one of the best strikers in the world. Put Sinclair with Alex Morgan, and the Thorns may be the highest scoring team in the league. Star power alone may push this team deep into the season and coach Cindy Parlow can certainly get them there. The two-time gold medalist and former Hermann trophy winner at UNC brings success everywhere she goes and there is little doubt she will do so with the Thorns.
Note: Morgan suffered a twisted left ankle in a U.S. national team friendly match against Scotland on Feb. 9. The team listed her officially as day-to-day, but she should be good to go for the season opener.
SEATTLE REIGN FC
Location: Starfire Stadium, Tukwila, WA
Head Coach: Laura Harvey
Key Players: Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, Amy Rodriguez
Outlook: Seattle poses the toughest threats to Portland, and we are looking forward to an exciting regional rivaltry. located in the same region may create an intriguing rivalry that will excite fans. The Seattle area is well known for its soccer, with goalkeeper Hope Solo coming home to play for the team. A strong midfield will likely propel Seattle into contention.
FC KANSAS CITY
Location: Shawnee Mission North District Stadium, Overland Park, KS
Head Coach: Vlatko Andonovski
Key Players: Lauren Cheney, Nicole Barnhart, Renae Cuellar
Outlook: According to ESPN contributor, Julie Foudy, FC Kansas City received the “second-strongest allocation of players.” Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart will be solid in net, having backed up Hope Solo in both the Olympics and World Cup. She earned starting experience when she had to step in for Solo who was injured during the qualifying stage of the Women’s World Cup. California native Renae Cueller is an up and comer who played for Mexico during the World Cup is drawing attention from around the world. Add crafty Lauren Cheney and this core of talent is a potent force. We are predicting KC could be a dark horse in the league championship.