The NWSL Preseason is here. Normally that means the regular season is just around the corner. But this preseason is approximately double the length of previous preseasons. This is great for the players and the coaches. They have time to get fit, train, work on tactics, etc.
There will also be plenty of time for rondos, soccer tennis, and scrimmages. Because preseason has commenced and the NCAA college soccer season has started, I created three seven-a-side squads based on college conferences.
The first team is made up of alumni from Pac-12 and SEC schools. The second is composed of Big East, Big Ten, and West Coast Conference college graduates. Finally, the third combines alumni from the ACC, Big 12, Ivy League, and the Peach Belt Conference.
The conferences were paired somewhat based on the region of the country, but the ACC and Pac-12 made things complicated. I tried to make the teams as even as possible without taking players out of their conference (no thanks to the ACC). For the sake of having enough goalkeepers, Shelby Hogan was included. Lindsey Horan is notably left out because she went to Europe directly out of high school.
GK: Bella Bixby (Oregon State)
DF: Christen Westphal (Florida)
MD: Celeste Boureille (California-Berkley), Marissa Everett (University of Oregon)
FW: Simone Charley (Vanderbilt), Morgan Weaver (Washington State), Sophia Smith (Stanford)
This seven-a-side squad is throwing caution to the wind. Westphal is the sole defender and Everett has to join the midfield because there is too much attacking power. Team Pac-12/SEC is looking to play the way seven-a-side games should be played — goals, goals, and more goals.
This team has pace for days and will try to rack up as many nutmegs as possible. Almost all of the defensive weight falls on Westphal and Bixby. But as Bixby’s performance in the Challenge Cup showed, she can put the team on her back and make enough saves to let the front three of Charley, Weaver and Smith bang in some goals.
Big Ten/Big East/West Coast Conference
GK: Shelby Hogan (Providence)
DF: Meaghan Nally (Georgetown), Emily Menges (Georgetown), Kelli Hubly (DePaul)
MF: Madison Pogarch (Rutgers), Rocky Rodriguez (Penn State)
FW: Christine Sinclair (University of Portland)
Big Ten/Big East/West Coast Conference team is more well rounded than the PAC 12/SEC squad. They have a strong back three and Hubly to go forward, joining the attack. Pogarch slides into the midfield next to Rodriguez, serving as a two-way midfielder to make up for the lack of depth at the position. She will give Rodriguez license to find the game and connect with Sinclair. That will be this team’s bread and butter. Almost all of the goals will have to come from Rodriguez and Sinclair.
ACC/Big 12/Ivy League/Peach Belt Conference
GK: Adrianna Franch (Oklahoma State)
DF: Meghan Klingenberg (North Carolina), Becky Sauerbrunn (Virginia), Natalia Kuikka (Florida State)
MF: Crystal Dunn (North Carolina), Angela Salem (Francis Marion)
FW: Tyler Lussi (Princeton)
The ACC/Big 12/Ivy League/Peach Belt Conference seven have the strongest defense. Sauerbrunn can stay back as a sweeper while Kuikka and Klingeberg fly up and down the flank. Salem could serve as a two-way midfield presence, allowing Dunn to drift between the midfield and the front line. Lussi is the nine. She will be the benefactor of the service from Kuikka, Klingenberg and Dunn.
Who is your winner?
Each team has its strengths and weaknesses. If these squads were to play a seven-a-side round-robin tournament, who has the edge? What do you think, Thorns fans? Which conference combination would take home the imaginary seven-a-side trophy?