By Val Servino–
The National Women’s Soccer League, known as NWSL, is coming into its own now that the teams have been drafted and the start of the season inches closer. To further this along, the league announced that its teams can acquire four additional free agents, adding a regular season roster cap at 20 players. Western New York, Chicago, Seattleand Washington were granted the freedom to sign five players to account for late season arrival of allocated players, such as Tobin Heath, or unforeseen absences in the form of injury or other circumstance. Teams were able to do so until Jan. 31, 2013.
A NWSL Supplemental Draft will follow this signing period, about which details were released on the same day. Teams can submit lists of eight to 10 players, both domestic and international, for draft eligibility.
NWSL Executive Director, Cheryl Bailey, commented on the proceedings, stating, “The next week is crucial to team-building, as the additional signings and the Supplemental Draft picks will help to define each club. At this point, the fans and media will begin to get a look at the diverse group of talented athletes who will play in NWSL’s inaugural season.”
After this draft, clubs have the opportunity to pick up as many as four Discovery Players, who also may be either domestic or international. Included in this process are those who were eligible but not selected in the Supplemental Draft. Priority is given on a “date of submission” basis. If two teams submit the same name, the team that entered the player first will have the opportunity to negotiate a contract.
In preparation for the start of the NWSL season in April, American midfielders Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe have signed contracts with French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais respectively. The pair now play for the top two teams in France’s Feminine Division 1, each successfully competing in the Coupe de France Féminine. Heath’s six-month contract will have her returning to the states in June. In her first game with PSG, she contributed one goal to the team’s 9-0 defeat against Montigny-le-Bretonneux in the Coupe de France Féminine. She will play for Portland Thorns FC. Rapinoe, who scored her first goal for the French club off a free kick in her debut against FC Shanghai on Jan. 19, is set to return to the Seattle Reign in April. The compatriots will face each other on March 2 as a part of regular season play.
Amy Rodriguez, also of the Reign, will not participate in the inaugural season of the NWSL. The Californian forward is pregnant and due withher child in August, as reported by US Soccer. Recent draftee out of UCLA to the Red Stars, Zakiya Bywaters, will replace Rodriguez on the upcoming National Team training camp roster for the Feb. 9 and 13 friendlies against Scotland in Jacksonville, Fla. and Nashville.Rodriguez, often referred to by her nickname A-Rod, is a two time Olympic gold medalist, earning herself 102 international appearances with 26 goals.
Amy LePeilbet of the Chicago Red Stars will be sidelined for six to eight months. The 30-year-old defender is undergoing corrective surgery on her ACL, repairing an injury sustained in the 2006 Peace Queen Cup. The Red Stars were given the option of signing a fifth free agent, in addition to the four allotted in the NWSL’s signing period. She tweeted in reaction to fan support stating, “Thank you for all the well wishes :) Just a new challenge on the horizon!”
US Women’s National teammate Heather Mitts replied in a tweet, “You are always trying to keep things interesting and new challenges are always fun to overcome. Will miss you.”
In international soccer, fixtures for the 2013 Algarve Cup have been announced. The tournament will take place from March 6 through March 13 in the Algarve region of Portugal. One game of particular interest is on the last day of group play, Monday, March 11. The U.S. will face Sweden,now coached by Pia Sundhage who brought the US to victory in two Olympic Games, as well as many other arenas of international play. The United States is now coached by Scottish international Tom Sermanni, former head coach of the Australian Women’s squad.
Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com