Short Straws, Long Straws: Analyzing NWSL's Canadian Women's Team Allocation

Now they'll get to fight it out in different jersey colours! - Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The results are in, and now eight National Women's Soccer League teams have two Canadian national women's soccer team stars amongst their new rosters. But what does that mean for the players? We look a little deeper to find out who's got the big pieces, and who may be treating the Canadians as an afterthought.

Okay, so maybe the predictions on where each of the lucky 16 members of Canada's national women's team would end up in the new National Women's Soccer League didn't turn out all that well (our R&D department apologizes profusely for that), but now that we have the results, we now have a better idea of what that may mean not only for the eight NWSL teams, but also what it could mean for the players themselves.

The Canadians allocated today are mostly veterans of the national side, many of which were part of the London bronze medal winning team -- however, many of those who were selected are on the younger part of that squad, and the allocations have shown that many of those players will be able to learn from some of the best in the business, while the veterans will help provide leadership and mentorship to the newer players of their respective squads: all of which will provide the competitive arena that will help develop Canada's top players as the 2015 World Cup at home draws nearer.

Mind you, these are just the 16 that will have their salaries subsidized by the CSA -- there is much more roster work to be done, such as the signing of free agents (other international players, which include Canadians and Mexicans outside the chosen 16) and the results of the January 18th College Draft. But for now, we will look team-by-team as to what today's results might hold for the future:

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Portland Thorns - Arguably the undisputed winner of the allocation draft according to most media outlets (including many of our sister blogs here at SBNation), landing local hero, former University of Portland Pilot and 2012 FIFA Ballon D'Or Top 10 finalist Christine Sinclair as many had predicted. Sinclair's talismanic skills will be paired with those of America's soccer sweetheart Alex Morgan (another Ballon D'Or finalist) -- and together they will form a potent front line that is already the envy of the league, and possibly the world. One could think that together, they could make a few of the Ballon D'Or voters wish they had cast their ballots a bit differently.

Meanwhile in the back, Karina LeBlanc's goal will have defenders like Tobin Heath in the midfield, and Rachel Buehler on the backline. LeBlanc has long been a top choice keeper for the Canadian team, with a boatload of professional experience especially from her journeys in the old WPS (having played for the LA Sol, Philadelphia Independence, Sky Blue FC and magicJack -- the team, not the phone device) and will likely bring a calm, steady force in the back half of the Thorns' XI day in and day out like she had with the Canadian team.

All in all, Canada's contributions to the Thorns are solid and experienced, and will bring fans to their feet at Jeld-Wen Field -- just don't plan the parade yet.

Seattle Reign - While on the American side Seattle may have gotten whom they've wanted in Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, they may have drawn a bit of a short straw when it comes to the Canadians. Emily Zurrer is a capable defender (having a hand in 42 shutouts during her time as a Fighting Illini) and was part of both the squad in Beijing and the bronze medal winning team in London. However, she saw very limited action due to a per-tournament injury, and was ultimately replaced by Marie-Eve Nault. When healthy, she could form a very strong backline with Mexican defender Jenny Ruiz. But since we are short on recent game action from her, the jury is still out as to what that potential partnership can bring.

Kaylyn Kyle is still young (only 24), and has proven to be quite capable at the midfield. As a part of the Canadian team's future, Kyle will benefit from the experience of Rapinoe (once she arrives back from France), but could also benefit from what is being touted as a potential deadly striking combination of American Amy Rodriguez and Mexican Teresa Noyola. Again, time will tell as to what role Kyle will play.

FC Kansas City - If Portland won the Sinclair sweepstakes, then I believe FCKC has hit the Canadian defensive jackpot, by scoring both Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann.

Sesselmann was originally a forward, but was converted to defense during her time with the Atlanta Beat in the old WPS. Despite being a latecomer to the defensive game, she proved herself as a very capable defender during Canada's run in London, playing two games at left back before really showing her true colours as a very able central defender for four games after Robyn Gayle was ruled out -- she will bring a steady hand to the backline in front of Nicole Barnhart, something I'm sure the veteran keeper will appreciate.

Scott is the younger of the two, but distinguished herself as a hero during the bronze medal game by saving what was a sure French goal by clearing the ball off the line -- but there's another, bigger reason why she's known as "The Destroyer": she is absolutely merciless in tackling, and tough as nails -- she could be a walking red card like an Aurelien Collin or an Adrian Serioux, but in the end will serve as a very capable deputy to Sesselmann on the defensive line. In short, FCKC's opponents may be wishing they can click their ruby cleats and say "there's no place like home" after they've met the Canadian wall.

Boston Breakers - If other teams are going for experience, then the Breakers are going for youth. In their Canadian lineup, they picked up Adriana Leon, who we last saw at the U-20 Women's World Cup and who made her senior debut just this morning in China, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win no less, see highlights here. Touted as part of the future of the team (along with the likes of Christobel Oduro and Summer Clarke), the 21-year old Notre Dame Florida senior will join a very, very young striking trio in Canadian-turned-American Sydney Leroux (22) and Mexican Anisa Guajardo (21), while their goal will be backstopped by Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago (18). The low ages may terrify some, but it's clearly a work in progress: the Breakers knowing they have young talent, and will take the development route. Slow and steady wins the race, perhaps?

But with youth comes a need for a mentor, and the Breakers made a wise move in picking up Rhian Wilkinson, one of Canada's mainstays in the midfield. She has played that role for our country, and likely will do so again as the the "elder statemen" trinity along with the Heathers: midfielder O'Reilly and defender Mitts. Wilkinson will probably be partnered with O'Reilly in the midfield, and charged with getting through the defenses to allow the kids to get through to goal. How well will this dichotomy work? Recent history with TFC suggests a big dose of patience will be required, but again...

Chicago Red Stars - Did someone forget to remind the Red Stars that the NWSL will include more than Americans? Because they've selected a very confusing mix of players. Erin McLeod will be their keeper, and has shown to be solid except for a few shaky moments. She was picked by John Herdman to be Canada's first choice keeper in London (despite massive protestations -- myself included), she proved capable and helped to secure bronze in a game where she was almost treated like a shooting gallery target by the French. She'll have local hero and incumbent American holding midfielder Shannon Boxx in front of her, but how will that work? Amy LePelibet hasn't exactly lit the world on fire lately either.

But at least she won't feel alone -- McLeod will have central defender Carmelina Moscato with her in the Windy City, the latter another key piece in the Canadian defense. But without the likes of Sesselmann and Scott, and paired with an aging corps that includes Boxx and Amy LePeilbet, and two Mexican strikers in Maribel Dominguez and Dinora Garza waiting up front, what is Chicago up to? The jury may be out, but there doesn't seem to be a tangible plan here. Pardon me if I don't see how this confused mix will work out in the Canadians' favour -- or for ANYONE'S favour for that matter. Chicago better hope they get the draft right, or they could quickly become the TFC of the NWSL.

Sky Blue FC - The Garden State was looking for Garden State talent, but the Canadians they received are definitely not of garden variety. Defender Melanie Booth will be joining a solid defensive line that will include experienced Americans, which will be backstopped by goalkeeper Jill Loyden, and young wingback Kelley O'Hara. Christie Rampone will add experience to the group, as well Booth. Together, there is a solid group of backliners in New Jersey who can keep the play up front, where Loyden's and Rampone's former magicJack teammate Sophie Schmidt will likely be plying her trade.

While some speculated that Schmidt's Portland connection would land her a role next to Sinclair with the Thorns, the allocation process has spoken otherwise. However, as stated above, the Canadian midfielder isn't exactly strangers with her goalkeeper and two of her defenders, having played together in Florida in the old WPS. This will likely mean the acknowledgement stage for these players will be short, and could prove fruitful depending on what other players will join the Sky Blues. Also to note is the addition of Schmidt's new friend at forward Mexican Monica Ocampo, who is known to have a rocket of a shot not unlike a certain Torsten Frings.

Washington Spirit - Many analyses have placed the Spirit as behind the eight-ball talent wise, but I beg to differ. There are a number of sleeper picks that the Spirit have received, and if Kansas City won the Canadian defensive jackpot, the Spirit has won the dark horse jackpot. Robyn Gayle was only seen during the latter stages of the London Olympics due to an injury, but when she was present, she was a force in the Canadian defensive, serving as the country's central defender. While Sesselmann's work may have overshadowed here a little, Gayle, along with her new teammates Mexican Alina Garciamendez (one of Mexico's top defensive talents which would have gone to draft if FMF did not nominate her as a candidate for allocation) and the experienced American Ali Krieger, there is a lineup that could rival FCKC's Canadian wall.

Up front, bronze goal hero Diana Matheson will be in good company, paired with fellow midfielder Lori Lindsey. While the latter did not go to London, that does not mean that the two won't form a harmonious partnership out of their collective experiences: Matheson may be short, but does not lack in spirit, and neither do Lindsey -- what they may lack in height, they make up with speed and agility. And even if they are are part of an older squad, a wise person once said, "age is just a number", and this will likely hold true depending on what other pieces the Spirit will add.

Western New York Flash - I'm very sure WNY Flash chairwoman Alex Sahlen and coach Aaran Lines fought tooth and nail with the Thorns management to get their former star player Sinclair back. But alas, they came up very short. Not only did the Flash not get Sincy, they ended up with two of Canada's youngest players in Jodi-Ann Robinson and Bryanna McCarthy instead, They also were the unlucky team to draw only two American internationals, meaning they will get the first pick at the upcoming draft and the great burden of having a treasure in all-time international leading scorer, hometown hero and deserved 2012 FIFA Ballon D'Or winner Abby Wambach in their lineup. And while Sunil Gulati jokingly said that Wambach counts twice, and woe is the Rochester side, there is a major silver lining here for Robinson and McCarthy.

Like playing with Sinclair, there is a "raise all boats" effect that Wambach will likely have on the two youngsters. Robinson was part of the London squad, while McCarthy is uncapped so far -- how good does it make your resume look to have something like, "played alongside the best player in the world"? It looks pretty good for the present and the future. The lessons and the experience that Wambach will be able to impart especially on someone like McCarthy is nothing but positive, even if it doesn't look like it on the surface. Meanwhile, Robinson can perhaps learn a thing or two from her new teammate Carli Loyd.

Also, the Flash are the closest market to Toronto, which means any Torontonians who go to Rochester to see Flash will be treated to a piece of Canada's future, along with the world's best. But as another wise man once said, don't go lobbying for the Toronto-Rochester ferry to see the Flash and expect to be dazzled by Canadian talent -- it won't happen, not at Sahlen's Stadium in 2013 anyway.

* * *

So clearly there are the winners and the losers of this process.. Most teams appear to have taken good care in picking their Canadians, some may have gotten the metaphorical short end of the straw, while some (looking at you, Chicago) seem to have forgotten that Canadian players would be available -- but in the end, what will happen will depend on what happens in the next few weeks, and on the field. Let's see what happens next!

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