Flash coach Aaran Lines elaborates on draft choices - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • January 21, 2013 @ 1:36pm
If you think drafting in the NBA and NFL is an inexact science, then you can imagine how difficult it is for the eight teams in the new National Women’s Soccer League to select a total of 32 college players.
While several of the NWSL organizations didn’t have an administration in place until early fall, pre-existing teams like Boston, Chicago, Western New York and Washington Spirit (then the W-League’s DC United women) had minimal to non-existent budgets for college scouting, especially considering they had no idea what the next iteration of women’s professional soccer would look like until Nov. 21.
“Drafting—you never know what you’re going to get completely,” Western New York head coach Aaran Lines said. “It’s not an in-depth scouting system—you’re relying on second-hand, third-hand information. They’re all a little bit ‘see what we can get’ completely, because they’ve never played professional soccer and we’ll see how they can adapt into it.”
Regardless of their preparedness—heck, no one knew that second rounder Kendall Johnson would be available until the day before the draft— each NWSL staff did its best to balance “best player available” strategies with filling needs that weren’t covered during the international allocations from the U.S. Women’s National Team, Canada and Mexico.
We profiled WNY selections Adrianna Franch, Amy Barczuk, Vicki DiMartino and Jackie Logue last week, but Lines provided some additional insight into the draft process and the individual choices from his office at Sahlen Sports Park on Sunday.
The coach-GM of the three-time defending champion of three different leagues sought to shore up the team’s back-line for two reasons: 1) U.S. stars Wambach and Lloyd were offensive-minded allocations and 2) the draft’s talent pool, especially where WNY was picking, was heavier on defensive talent.
“I definitely had an eye toward defenders,” Lines admitted. “The first two rounds usually have a few players with international experience—U-20, U-23—this year’s pool wasn’t particularly deep, but the best quality defender was what I was thinking.”
Quick to mention that he felt Franch, the goalie from Oklahoma State, would be fine stepping into the starting role immediately, Lines praised her experience and displayed cautious optimism in regard to her 2013 role.
“She’s quality, a real project. It’ll definitely be a test but we’ve proven we’ve done all right with those tests—[remember] Ashlyn Harris in 2011,” Lines reflected.
As each of the five selections before the Flash’s No. 6 overall pick were completed, Lines was startled to see that Franch, unanimously considered the draft’s best goalkeeper, was still available.
“If I didn’t get Franch, I was going to go with a defender—[Lindsi] Lisonbee-Cutshall (pictured, right, courtesy of USSoccer.com), who went to Sky Blue before we picked,” said Lines of his in-draft strategy. “I was shocked to see that Boston, who needed a goalkeeper as well, didn’t move on [Franch].”
As a result of the draft’s general lack of depth, the Flash pegged the versatile Barczuk in the second round.
“I think [Barczuk’s] biggest strength—[in addition to the fact that] she’s a big girl at 5’11—is she can play a number of different roles,” Lines explained, “and that’s key for a young player. Could be similar to someone like Brittany Bock, right?”
Outspoken about the danger of Tina and Gina DiMartino—sisters who starred in WPS and WPSL-Elite, respectively—over the last two seasons, Lines put weight on the pedigree of the DiMartino family with his third round selection of Vicki DiMartino, the youngest of the three attackers. Even though DiMartino, Wambach, Mexican allocation Veronica Perez and Canadian addition Jodi-Ann Robinson give Lines some attacking options, he still feels there’s a need for another starting-caliber striker.
“We should always go into the season well-equipped at striker,” Lines reinforced. “I didn’t feel there was a lot out there in the draft attacking-wise.”
For the Flash, the next step is agreeing to terms with four free agents before the end of January, and Lines doled out a few hints. Deeming them “four pillars of his roster,” the head coach is expected to look at former players that he thinks would fit within the Flash’s new framework.
Although Marta’s return is unlikely—she’s simply too expensive as a team-funded player, and her contract in Sweden is comfortable—Lines suggested that last year’s captain and former WPS starlet McCall Zerboni could be back in the fold soon.
“I’d like to think that McCally will be back, yeah,” Lines said with a grin.
Other potential targets of my own speculation, not Lines’:
—Adriana Santamaria Martin: Last year’s leading scorer by a landslide, Adriana spent late summer with the Chelsea Ladies before inking a deal with Atletico Madrid in Spain. A Spanish international, it makes sense for Adriana to stay where she is in terms of proximity, but the allure of the world’s best women’s soccer league (presumably, at least) could be tempting.
—Beverly Goebel-Yanez: All-White Kit’s Jenna Pel confirmed over Twitter today that former Flash contributor Beverly Goebel-Yanez will spend the 2013 season with INAC Kobe Leonessa in Japan.
—Whitney Engen: It appears that the former WPS Defender of the Year will remain in England with Liverpool, although a move stateside may not be out of the question, pending contract details. Her two U.S. women’s pro soccer connections—California’s Pali Blues aside—are Chicago and Western New York.
—Nikki Marshall and Kat Reynolds: There’s a strong chance that Nikki Marshall returns to anchor the Flash defense, as she’s spent the off-season coaching and is currently without a team. Lines put plenty of trust in Marshall, his tenacious center back, especially in the playoffs, and Reynolds played a pivotal role in the final win over Chicago. I can’t pick up any online hints as to Reynolds’ future in the NWSL, but she’s 25 and entering her prime.
—Caroline Seger: The former Flash star seems comfortable in Sweden alongside Marta and Veronica Boquette, and it would shock me if she came back to the U.S. At least in the NWSL’s inaugural season, I wouldn’t anticipate the same amount of non-North American internationals as in the WPS’ final year—I think the best players abroad are still leery of the stability of women’s soccer in America.
Players who probably will be considered: M-F Katy Frierson, forward Stephanie Ochs, D Toni Pressley, D Tori Huster, M Angela Salem.
Here’s a terrific list of NWSL free agents in terms of desirability and cost for each of the eight teams.
We’ll continue to update the Flash signings as we catch wind of the news, but you can purchase season tickets and flex packages from Western New York by browsing this post. Full draft listings can be found here.
(Update: The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle’s Jeff DiVeronica (via Equalizer Soccer) reported last week that the Flash will receive $24,000 from the league because they received one fewer U.S. allocation than the other seven NWSL clubs.)
(Photos courtesy of the WNY Flash Facebook page).