Spirit taking shape without Olympians

January 14, 2013

Simple math tells you the Washington Spirit should have been allocated two players from the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s national team:

There were 18 Olympians.

There are eight clubs in the new National Women’s Soccer League.

Simple.

However, when the allocations were unveiled Friday, here’s how it broke down:

Boston Breakers — Sydney Leroux, Heather Mitts, Heather O’Reilly

Chicago Red Stars — Shannon Boxx, Amy LePeilbet

FC Kansas City — Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney, Becky Sauerbrunn

Portland Thorns – Rachel Buehler, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan

Seattle Reign — Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez, Hope Solo

Sky Blue (N.J.) — Kelly O’Hara, Christie Rampone

Washington Spirit — none

Western New York Flash — Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach

Spirit owner Bill Lynch has every right to be upset about the allocations, but said he isn’t.

“It’s a good, solid core,” he said, referring to his team’s overall allocations, which also included two Canadian and two Mexican national team players.

Lynch likes the idea of the three U.S. allocations — defender Ali Krieger, defensive midfielder Lori Lindsey and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris — having ties to the Spirit’s predecessor, the Washington Freedom.

While none of the Olympians were sent to Washington, Krieger would have started in the Summer Games, if not for a knee injury. Lindsey was an Olympic alternate with seven years of national team experience. And Harris was a quality keeper in WPS and now has German league experience.

“In normal situations, with a player entering a league for the first time, they enter through a draft system and preferences are not weighted at all, whether it’s the NBA or NFL draft,” said Sunil Gulati, the USSF president who has overseen the launch of the new league. “From that perspective, we’ve been able to accommodate the preferences of all players from all three countries in a very big way. We think that’s great and healthy. We’ve also been able to look at what the teams wanted in the placement of individual players.”

Players listed their city preferences and Lynch said the owners had a “good bit of input” in the allocation process.

The Spirit also received two World Cup/Olympic veterans — defender Robyn Gayle and midfielder Diana Matheson — who won bronze in London last summer.

But the absence of a marquee player — such as Wambach, Solo, Morgan or Rapinoe — will make preseason ticket-selling a little more difficult. Lynch said the club is aiming to average about 3,000 spectators for home matches at Maryland SoccerPlex.

“That’s where it becomes sustainable and comfortable. We think it can be done,” said Lynch, co-owner of ProChain Solutions, an IT company in Northern Virginia. He was a partner with the Northern Virginia Majestics, a women’s amateur team, and backed the D.C. United Women in the W-League last year.

Seating capacity for Spirit matches is around 4,000, Lynch said, with the flexibility to accommodate more, if necessary.

The Spirit and the other clubs are selling season tickets, but the challenge is heightened without a regular season schedule in place yet. The full calendar isn’t expected for a few weeks. Lynch is aiming to play home games on Saturday evenings, but “there are thousands of variables,” he said.

The season will begin in mid-April, and with just four matches per week, Washington seems certain to debut at home April 13-14 or April 20-21.

With allocations in place, clubs have turned their attention to Friday’s four-round college draft in Indianapolis and the pursuit of free agents. Rosters are expected to include 20 players. The draft order has not been determined, a USSF spokesman said.

Rules on international signings are being worked out. Foreign players who have U.S. permanent residency — green card — do not count against the limit.

In addition, several Mexican players have U.S. roots. For example, Spirit defender Alina Garciamendez plays for Mexico’s national team but was born in California and raised in Texas. She is American.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · January 13, 2013

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