This afternoon, the National Women’s Soccer League and the Canadian Soccer Association announced the list of allocated players for the 2015 NWSL season, which can be found below. The CSA will pay the salaries of 13 women this season, down from 14 last season, and 16 in 2013.
Among the 13 are three players who were not allocated last year: Nkem Ezurike, Rhian Wilkinson and Allysha Chapman. Ezurike was picked eighth overall in last year’s college draft, and played eleven games for the Boston Breakers, where she will return this season. Another striker getting playing time on a professional club is always a good thing for Canada, who has relied so heavily on Christine Sinclair for so long.
Wilkinson was an allocated player on the Boston Breakers in 2013, the league’s inaugural season, but decided not to return in 2014 for personal reasons. She played a few games for the Laval Comets of the semi-professional W-League, while still being called into camp with Canada regularly. It is encouraging to see Wilkinson back in the league because at 32 years of age, she has shown that she still has something to give to the national team. A few games with the Portland Thorns will be good preparation for Wilkinson before June, especially since she didn’t feature at the professional club level in 2014.
The final newcomer is left-back Chapman. She was called into her first national team camp last October, where Herdman praised her debut against Japan, saying, “We brought Allysha Chapman in for her first cap for Canada and she had a wonderful performance. I was really impressed with what she showed out there. We’ve really been searching for a left footed player back there for more than two years. I think we found one.”
Prior to her call up, Chapman played in the Swedish Damallsvenskan for Eskilstuna United DFF. Herdman giving Chapman one of 13 coveted allocation spots is huge, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her get a lot of minutes at the left back position as Canada continues to prepare for June. She has certainly made a good impression to Herdman over the last few months.
Chelsea Stewart, Carmelina Moscato, Sophie Schmidt, and Robyn Gayle were allocated last year and played in the NWSL, but are not allocated this year.
Of those omissions, the biggest shock is Schmidt. The midfielder had a terrific 2013 (seven goals for New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC) and 2014 (six goals for Canada), and at 26 years of age, seems to be in the peak of her career. According to Jeff Kassouf of the Equalizer, “[Canadian] midfielder Sophie Schmidt decided not to play this season in order to focus on the World Cup,” information received from Sky Blue head coach Jim Gabarra.
So, what can we make of Schmidt choosing not to play in the NWSL this year? According to Kassouf, “Over [a] year ago Schmidt looked for a move out of SBFC.” By not playing this year, she can change teams in 2016, because Sky Blue will no longer hold her rights at that time. It’s definitely an interesting decision that I’m sure we will hear more about in the coming months.
Midfielder Kaylyn Kyle will be on a different team this season, as she has been allocated to the Portland Thorns. Kyle most recently played for the Houston Dash, as well as the Boston Breakers and Seattle Reign FC.
Recently, it was unclear how much, if any, participation Canadian national teamers would have in the league prior to June’s Women’s World Cup. However in today’s press release, the CSA clarified their plan: “Canadian National Team players will remain in the Centralized Development Program to begin and train in that environment throughout the season, but will have the opportunity to participate in the first three to four NWSL matches before the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup.”
Giving players a change after months and months in the “Centralized Development Program,” also known as residency camp, can only be positive for their World Cup preparation. We only have to go as far back as the 2011 Women’s World Cup to see the negatives of preparing for a major tournament with residency camp alone.
I would expect the women to return to their clubs shortly after Canada goes out in the World Cup, whichever stage that may be, barring any injuries.
Canadian NWSL Allocated Players:
Nkem Ezurike *
Chicago Red Stars
Allysha Chapman *
Portland Thorns FC
Rhian Wilkinson *
Sky Blue FC
The NWSL’s press release, also containing the 25 allocated players from the US Soccer Federation and four from the Mexican Football Federation, can be found here.