With the final two expansion teams, that concludes AWK’s 2010 team previews. You can check out the other previews here: FC Gold Pride, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, Boston Breakers, Washington Freedom, Saint Louis Athletica and for the Atlanta Beat.
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For an expansion team, the Philadelphia Independence sure looks familiar. A cursory glance over the roster suggests that Coach Paul Riley has a very talented group in his midst, almost all with prior professional experience and with most laying claim to international caps. The Independence have a blueprint for what could be a very sturdy establishment. All it takes is endeavor and execution.
Philadelphia will have to overcome being handicapped by the fact that this is a new organization. Riley might have to undergo a baptism by fire. Returning WPS teams had the luxury to tinker with formations, acclimate to playing with other professionals and learn from mistakes made in their first season. This team will not be afforded that privilege but if the right chemistry can be forged, that might not be a problem. A squad full of seasoned professionals and international gems could mitigate the first-year nerves.
Team cohesion is perhaps most important in the back line. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much individual skill a player has if his or her fellow defenders aren’t on the same page. If Coach Riley can manage this, the Independence could legitimately have a watertight back four. Canadian International Karina LeBlanc was statistically the best goalkeeper last year, allowing just .53 goals per game last year and tallying 12 shut outs. She would perhaps be at the top of any new team’s wish list. She’ll be joined by former Sol teammate Allison Falk who was another reason why the Sol allowed only half a goal per game last year which was a league best. Women’s National Team mainstay Heather Mitts will return to Philadelphia (she played with the WUSA Philadelphia Charge from 2001-2003) and provide more experience and leadership. Former Red Stars player Nikki Krzysik was a key player in Chicago and will also shore up the back line.
Ex-Washington Freedom midfielder Lori Lindsey was the first player taken in the Expansion Draft. She was a major contributor to the team and also had a breakout stint with the Women’s National Team in the 2010 Algarve Cup. Look for her to add dynamism to a midfield that will also feature former Sky Blue FC member Jen Buczkowski and Swedish Internationals Sara Larsson and Caroline Seger (who won the Damallsvenskan with Linkopings FC in 2008).
The Indie’s forward line will probably be the most compelling. Former 2009 #1 draft pick Amy Rodriguez continues to perform well for Pia Sundhage’s Women’s National Team but has yet to establish herself professionally. If Coach Riley can find the best way to utilize her craftiness, speed and outstanding technical ability she’ll be a step closer to fulfilling her potential. Rodriguez’s possible partner up top could be English international Lianne Sanderson. The 22 year-old’s first professional season was with Arsenal Ladies when she was just 15 years old. She went on to be Arsenal’s top goal scorer in 2006-07, scoring 40 goals in 41 appearances for the Gunners. She then played for Chelsea Ladies before coming to Philadelphia. Danesha Adams, Gina DiMartino, Japanese International Karina Maruyama and Icelandic International Holmfriour Magnusdottir (whose name I promise to learn how to pronounce by season’s end) could also join in attack.
Much like with the Atlanta Beat, the Independence is a team fraught with questions. While there are no guarantees for any expansion teams, the defense and the midfield carry a lot of promise. What is most crucial is whether or not the offense can match with potency with potential. Rodriguez will continue to be saddled with the same amount of pressure (if not more) that she carried last year.
The task for the fresh forward line will be to score more goals than Karina LeBlanc and her tested back line concedes. That should provide some consolation.
GK Karina LeBlanc Selected 2nd overall in Dispersal Draft. Led the league with fewest goals allowed and most shutouts
GK Val Henderson Acquired in trade with Los Angeles. Recorded one shut out in one match played with the Los Angeles Sol. All-time leader in goalkeeper wins at UCLA
D Allison Falk Acquired in trade with the Los Angeles Sol in exchange for draft picks. Started and played in 16 matches for the Sol. Scored the first goal in WPS history
D Estelle Johnson 15th overall pick in Dispersal Draft. Initially 25th overall pick in 2010 WPS Draft by the Sol from Kansas
D Nikki Krzysik 5th overall pick in Expansion Draft from Chicago. Appeared in 14 games and started in 10 for the Red Stars
D Heather Mitts Signed as a free agent having previously played with the Boston Breakers. Started in 19 matches for the Breakers and scored one assist. Played for the Philadelphia Charge from 2001-2003, started all 51 games and helped the team get to the playoffs in 2001 and 2003
D Sarah Senty 9th overall pick in Expansion Draft from the Freedom, where she played seven games and won five
M Caroline Seger First selection in the 2009 WPS International Expansion Draft. Helped Linkopings FC win the league in 2008 and the Swedish Women’s Cup for the third time in four years
M Sara Larsson Drafted in Expansion Draft from Saint Louis. Has made 87 appearances for Sweden since 2000
M Jen Buzcowski 3rd overall pick in Expansion Draft from Sky Blue FC. Was a major defensive cog in the midfield that won the WPS Championship. Appeared in 16 games.
M Lori Lindsey 2nd overall pick in Expansion Draft. Played in 19 matches with the Freedom and earned two goals and an assist
M Joanna Lohman Acquired via free agency from the Freedom having played in 7 games. Has earned 7 WNT caps
F Amy Rodriguez Traded from Boston for draft picks. Played in 17 games for the Breakers but scored one goal. Helped USC Trojans win the College Cup in 2007. She has earned 37 caps for the WNT and has scored 6 goals
F Lianne Sanderson 9th pick in International Draft. Member of England’s National Team since 2006. Previously appeared with Arsenal Ladies and Chelsea Ladies
F/M Lyndsey Patterson Signed via free agency. Appeared in one match (the WPS Championship) for the Sol. Previously played for the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Seattle Sounders of the W-League
F Danesha Adams Acquired 11th overall in Expansion Draft from the Chicago Red Stars. Appeared in 12 games for CRS but did not log a goal or an assist
F Holmfriour Magnusdottir 5th pick in International Draft. Has made 43 appearances for Iceland and scored 11 goals
F Karina Maruyama Signed as an International Discovery player. Played in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as the 2004 and 2008 Olympics for Japan
GK Robyn Jones Previously played for the W-League’s New Jersey Wildcats
D Katherine Reynolds Played for the University of Santa Clara. Is part of the U.S. U-23 squad
F Gina DiMartino Selected by the Boston Breakers in the 2010 WPS Draft. Capped at every youth level of the WNT and was a Hermann Trophy Finalist in her final year at Boston College
F Carrie Patterson Drafted 40th overall in 2010 WPS Draft from the University of Georgia