Preview NWSL 2017 part1

image nwsl-preview 2017

Our preview is comprising of 2 parts:
Part1: Overall, introduction, pre-season proceedings
Part2: after day1: season preview for the teams in more depth.

There are always a lot of previews at the start of a new season (though for women’s football mainly in the USA). Just normal that everyone is excited after the break to see whats going to happen. Even if it is quite naturally kind of a guess for everyone. Even more so with a lot of unknown (for us) new faces from the draft who hopefully will have a huge impact. Not equally key to all teams perhaps but then there are other cases like re-joining Amy Rodriguez or Sydney Leroux whose level also are quite difficult to estimate after their return .
We take it as a puzzle and like to speculate what is most likely to happen. Kind of a funny cross word. Still more basing it on as much evidence as possible is what we like because we are not in need to go for any early timing for click numbers.
For this reason we always like to do a preview after the first matches though the NWSL is relatively moderate in changes compared to other leagues.

Situation:

The development  in women’s football all over the world is showing no slow down. The development of the US national team hasnt gone quite as fast since the WC 2015. How will we see the club teams develop this season?
The bigger Question might be: How is the overall development going on in the NWSL?
New announcements are made regarding sponsoring, TV broadcasting and match statistics availability. So far – so good. But will they turn out to be a step forward? It would be time. The national team has just finished bottom of the SheBelieves Cup table with two losses on home soil after the 2016 Olympic shock against Sweden.
And – to put it mildly – just both the finalists of last years NWSL season have not been a picture postcard like example for any kind of steady development too.
Champions Western New York Flash were sold surprisingly. But at least moved rather unchanged to now encourage North Carolina. And vice-champions Washington Spirit have seen their roster been sold out. After some disputes had been reported between club and players. Still we are at 10 teams only. New franchises that were often talked about obviously only replacing old ones instead of adding to the league this year. Going back to a 9 team league would be a big blow. California still without any pro womens football team – dont miss to take some conclusions.
For the first time after two crippled seasons we have no big international breaks. So this is a good time to make further steps into the right direction.

Comparisons to other leagues:

Whether this is a general trend or not. Learning from each other and drawing conclusion how things are or have been working out elsewhere is always fruitful when done properly. Often it could be done better for sure. Sometimes you lack proper infos. Still we are looking for any reasonable informations about the Asian leagues, especially Japan and China.
While the NWSL might have a close view to see the development from the European leagues?
In France Paris Saint-Germain is now probably overtaken by HSC Montpellier and for the first time after 5? years there is a new vice-champion and CL participant.
In England the top mens clubs up their support. Ask Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn.
In Spain FC Barcelona school has started their female production line and reached the CL semis for the first time ever.
In Germany the top mens clubs are pressed to push on after they missed having a CL semi-finalist for the first time after 7? years.

Development at some pace.

Wages certainly a factor. And so it might just be about 2017 +- 1 year that for the first time if you would play the first ten of the Bundesliga against the same placed NWSL club the Bundesliga might have a chance of winning the majority? (No other European league probably even close because only Bundesliga is that much on level at the bottom now) And dont think so prior to 2016 (Only the top Bundesliga clubs had chances back then). But now?
What is the difference? There are some more details to tell than roughly Europe is more technical and NWSL is more speed and athleticism. Want to make a post since ages …
Yet the interest in womens football in the USA is still much higher than in Europe. Not only the average attendances but also comments and analyses of the proceedings.

All about development

But the NWSL needs to keep pace with the development (and a club in California prior to 2026?). Which might be more important than who will win this year. But unfortunately the predictions here are not so much clear.
Where should it come from? The coaches are pretty much the same. The league system – the competition – the players – the management. All pretty much the same.
There is still this extraordinary bunch of top N11 players that keeps the US womens football going on international level. And there is still that big advantage of the college football development. But without improvements it is a matter of time when the role of the US in womens football will equal the mens. (Though not in the next 3 years)

Fortunately though the league is still very much on level. Look at the Spanish, English, German mens leagues. More than the half of the top 4 are a safe bet already before the season starts. Much less here. Certainly most people would agree the Washington Spirit and the Boston Breakers might need small wonders to make the top 4. But then? Houston was 8th last year? They could do it certainly given the individual class they have.

Portland Thorns

The Thorns might not have the biggest chance to win the shield (=be first after the regular season) but they might be the most safe bet to make the final four? Simply because the club and the largest fanbase in the women’s soccer world are expecting that and thus pushing for it considerably stronger than anywhere else. The roster is one of the most experienced around with players like Sinclair, Heath and Long. Thus they are probably better suited to deal with any unexpected problems during the season. This should help in the finals too but on the day others had proven to be stronger last year.

North Carolina Courage

Are more or less the Western New York Flash championship team from last year. Sometimes to be champion can be a hurdle. Expectations are high. Disappointing events hampering the mood are now much easier going to happen. Whereas wins are no longer a boost but considered the new “normal”.
But the bigger problem might be the different viewport of their opponents. A draw will be considered a good result against the champions and the opponents will be much better prepared to their style of play.
However the players seem very grounded and smart enough to deal with some possible set backs. But their style of play has been not very versatile should the game proceedings require that. Interesting to see how they will deal with the challenges ahead.

Chicago Red Stars

Hm. They are often expected to do pretty well. To me it seems though they are very Kristen Press dependent. As much as it is a good thing to have her. Might be a risk if she gets injured. Might be other players performances are seen not very critical as long as Press is earning the required points. Might be the opponents find a way to stop her. Which they hopefully should? Not because we wouldnt love to see her score more wonderful goals as she did in the past. But we would love to see some tactical progress in the league to adapt to opponents strengths and learn better how to prevent them. What in turn should the Red Stars force to develop alternative ways to score. The league should prevent from falling behind in that regard even further. Also interesting to see how Casey Short will play after being a regular starter for the N11 now. Remember her one year ago and hoping for more of these kind of break through players this season.

FC Kansas City

The second best example for unpredictability? Of course with Sydney Leroux and “A-Rod” Amy Rodriguez back they are probably a complete different kettle of fish though we have to wait and see what level they actually are after their long break. And with a defense anchored by Becky Sauerbrunn there is not much reason to see why they should end up as low as last year. Though also Sauerbrunn needs to find a way to regain her predictable reliability again. Looks as if a lot would depend on these three because the others – though strong players amongst them – have not yet been able to lift the team in the upper regions on their own.

Sky Blue

Also very excited for the potential of Sky Blue, the anonymous club from New Jersey. We used to see Daphne Corboz play very well at Manchester City. She got nearly no minutes all season long last year but every time she did she was on level with the English N11 players. Pity there and nice to see her here in the NWSL. And together with Killian and Rodriguez a pretty good midfield already. Add Sam Kerr and Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara with an e. Add some other above-average players and some hopefuls from the drafts. Add a coach who didnt waste the individual talent he had last year. And there certainly is potential. Whether this is good enough for their first? final 4? We will see how they manage to get the pieces together.

Seattle Reign

And another example for unpredictability. Nobody had expected the Reign – without too many changes and with less key players than the others away at the Olympics – not to make the top4 2016 after winning the league in 2014 and 2015. Certainly a lack of managing the difficulties they faced – whatever there might have been below the surface. A visible reason above the surface had been that Kim Little was a different player last year to the years before. And now without her and Winters? At least they are not tempted to stay waiting for a single player to find back to her form. Either they have found someone to step in. Or they have to make up for the losses as a group. Both not an easy task as they look not bad on paper on the wings going forward but not so much in the center. Interesting.

Houston Dash

That is easily predictable: They are the most unpredictable? Because that is the team where the gap between individual abilities and final ranking was the most significant.
Why? Dont need to talk about Jupiter and Saturn here. If you would have taken a dice to determine your starting line up chances were high you would have end up better. A player like Kealia Ohai was finally even called up for the N11 once she found her form and self believe at the end of the season. A nice example what poor management can do. She wasnt even sure to be in the starting line up of the Dash at the beginning of last season. So somehow they managed to achieve that nearly none of their offensive players played to their full potential. Usually such problems are not erased. It gets better – it gets worse again. The advantage of a random development though is that randomly suddenly things can come together as with Ohai. But only then you should expect them to play the role they should given the individual strength of their roster.

Orlando Pride

Very good they got Marta of course. But also difficult to predict how much of an impact that will have exactly. Which makes it all the more interesting to see. Many players have had more influence in the NWSL than in the European leagues. Boquete, Fishlock, Press, Heath, Klingenberg, Rapinoe, all have been much more outstanding in the NWSL. Given that we could expect Marta to be very outstanding. But it is of course not a reliable fundament to base your expectations on. And the attacking power remains the issue of the Pride. But the strong defense could win championships after adding Ali Krieger. Hopefully they can finally find a balanced line up to form a single unit. Usually even expansion teams dont need a whole year for this.

Our estimated final 4 probability (Ef.4P):

1. 65% Portland Thorns
2. 65% North Carolina Courage
3. 55% Orlando Pride
4. 45% Chicago Red Stars
5. 40% FC Kansas City
6. 40% Sky Blue FC
7. 35% Seattle Reign
8. 25% Houston Dash
9. 15% Boston Breakers
10. 15% Washington Spirit

By the way: 4 will make it. Chances should though sum up to a number of 400% for all together.
That equals 4 at 100%. And the rest at 0%. If you would know that.
Or think of if you could count out 2. Each of the remaining eight could have a chance of 50/50.
Or if all 10 are totally equal: Each would have a chance of 40% (equals 4 out of 10). Sums up to 400%.

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