22713_nwsl_isi_usaam011813006 Andy Mead/isiphotos.com

Let ASN Help You Pick Your Favorite NWSL Squad

Maura Gladys walks you through the difficult decision of choosing your new favorite club. Will you go with storyline, geography, or a favorite player? The decision will last a lifetime.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
February 27, 2013
3:30 PM
The National Women’s Soccer League’s opening kick is just six weeks away, which means now is the perfect time to select which team to support in the inaugural campaign. Each of the eight clubs has its own stars and storylines, so here’s a comprehensive guide to finding your perfect-fit NWSL team.

If you live close enough to one of the league’s eight teams, your search might already be over. The league made sure to place two teams in each U.S. region, with Portland and Seattle taking up the West/Northwest, Kansas City and Chicago repping the midwest, and Western New York, Boston, New Jersey, and Washington saturating the northeast.

National Team Player
Already have a favorite national team player? Perfect! Follow her every week with her respective NWSL team. Each national team player often has some kind of connection to the team, making her relationship with the team and its fans even deeper. FC Kansas City players Lauren Cheney and Becky Sauerbrunn are Midwest natives, while Western New York’s Abby Wambach has always been vocal of her Rochester roots. Ali Krieger, who grew up in the Washington D.C. area, will be playing for the Washington Freedom, while Jersey native Christie Rampone will call Sky Blue FC home. Other fan favorites have ended up in the Northwest, with Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath starring for the Portland Thorns and Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe suiting up for Seattle.

By storyline
Want a team that has been around since 2000? Go with the Boston Breakers, one of the original WUSA franchises. The team has competed in both the WUSA and the WPS, and boasts a strong history. Former U.S. women’s national team head coaches Pia Sundhage and Tony DiCicco coached the squad at different times, and USWNT legend Kristine Lilly played with the team in both the WPS and WUSA. Now stocked with the USWNT talent of Heather Mitts, Heather O’Reilly, and Sydney Leroux, the Breakers will strive to revive a proud tradition.

The Portland Thorns, one of the sexier picks, are a cool team in a cool city with cool players. American and Canadian superstars Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair highlight the attacking corps, while youngster Tobin Heath will boss the midfield in June once she returns from her stint with PSG. Rachel Buehler will lead the defense. It’s the closest thing the league has to the Miami Heat and will be a favorite to win the first NWSL title.

In search of a squad that has already proven its dominance? Look no further than the Western New York Flash. The team won three championships in three different leagues, the USL-W, WPS, and WPSL Elite League, and is gunning for a fourth. It also happens to have Wambach, only the most dominant player in U.S. women’s soccer history.

Originally picked as one of the favorites in the league, the Reign have already been dealt some blows before the season even started. National teamer Amy Rodriguez is out for the season due to pregnancy, while Megan Rapinoe is starting the season in France with Lyon. Hope Solo has a nagging wrist injury that will keep her out at least six to eight weeks. Several other players will come late to the team, or even not at all, including Mexican national team player Teresa Noyola, who will join the squad in June. “I think we have to go in with the attitude of doing the best with what we have,” Seattle general manager Amy Carnel told The Equalizer. “Much of what has happened is completely out of our control.” If the team can weather these early season struggles and make it to June, they have all of the makings of a great comeback story.

Looking for a start-up with big ambitions and a bit of a chip on its shoulder? Then FC Kansas City is for you. As the first women’s pro soccer team in the city, the Midwest franchise is not about to let itself be overlooked. Team owner Brian Budzinski worked hard to get the league opener played in Kansas City and is hoping to showcase the team to the world. “Some people call Portland ‘Soccer City.’ We disagree with that vehemently,” Budzinski told NWSLnews.com. “We feel like Kansas City is Soccer City. Nationally, I think there was this misconception of, ‘Who are these guys from Kansas City? They’re going to be behind the pack.’ I think to a tee, right now everyone will say this is not the case.”

The most “hometown” team of the league is the Washington Spirit. USWNT star Krieger is an Alexandria, Virginia native, forward Tiffany McCarty hails from Laurel, Maryland, and Caroline Miller calls Rockville, Maryland home. Other allocated players Lori Lindsey and Ashlyn Harris previously played for the Washington franchise in the WPS, making the Spirit full of native daughters with strong ties to their town.

Want a team that can fly under the radar? That would be Sky Blue FC. With veteran player Christie Rampone and veteran coach Jim Gabarra leading the charge, the club is a solidly built squad, one that’s heavy on defense and fundamentally strong up top. With low-key, talented personalities, Sky Blue could shape up to be the quiet assassins of the league, and a smart pick to support.

  Despite having a few promising stars, the Chicago Red Stars is a team laden with veterans, including Shannon Boxx, Leslie Osborne, Lindsay Tarpley, and Lori Chalupny. Combined, the quartet has 460 international appearances and five Olympic gold medals. The experience will make the Red Stars a solid team.

If no team is still jumping out at you, pick one with a cool logo. Seattle and Portland boast snazzy designs while the Flash, Red Stars, Sky Blue, and Breakers have kept it old school, going with their WPS logos.

Despite this primer, realistically, your team should find you. There’s some detail, some fact, some moment that involuntarily pulls you to them and makes them your squad, forming an unexplainable bond that’s one of the best parts of loving the beautiful game.

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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