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Who could the Dash lose in this year’s NWSL Expansion Draft?

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With rules for the 2020 Expansion Draft being reported, where do the Dash stand as they prepare to submit their protected list?

Houston Dash v Orlando Pride Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The dust has barely settled on the 2020 NWSL season and already chaos is lurking on the horizon. On Monday afternoon, Meg Linehan reported for The Athletic that she had ascertained a copy of the upcoming NWSL expansion draft rules.

In her report Linehan confirms that each of the nine NWSL teams will be allowed to protect a total of 11 players from Racing Louisville. This number has increased since the 2016 expansion draft, which saw playoff teams’ protected lists capped at nine players and non-playoff teams’ protected lists capped at 10 players.

Mirroring the previous expansion draft, each team with US allocated players will be permitted to protect a maximum of two USWNT players on their roster. However, the added twist this year is that the league will compensate the respective teams that lose a US allocated player from their squad.

Racing Louisville will receive additional $150k in allocation money ahead of the draft, but will then pay $75k for each US allocated player(if they do decide to select one from another team’s unprotected list). Louisville can only select a maximum of two US allocated players.

What does this mean for the Houston Dash?

The NWSL has mandated that by 5PM ET on Wednesday the 4th November all teams must have submitted their unprotected/protected player lists to the league. Then at 1pm ET on Thursday the 5th of November, these unprotected/protected player lists will be made public. One week later the 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft will take place on Thursday the 12th November.

Reminder: the Dash have zero US allocated players. Here is a breakdown of the Dash roster and how we think James Clarkson will look to identify his chosen squad members for the 2021 season (with position and age).

The Core Pieces

Jane Campbell - GK - 25
Megan Oyster - CB - 27
Katie Naughton - CB - 26
Shea Groom - AM - 27
Haley Hanson - CM/RB - 24
Sophie Schimdt - CM - 32
Kristie Mewis - AM - 29
Nichelle Prince - FW - 25
Rachel Daly - FW - 28

This list is fairly indisputable. When available for selection these nine players featured in almost every single one of the Dash’s 11 matches across the 2020 season. Only Nichelle Prince and Sophie Schmidt are yet to sign contract extensions for 2021 or beyond. If both players are happy in Houston, then the club would be foolish to let them depart after sensational seasons.

Developing Talents

Cece Kizer - CM - 22
Ally Prisock - CB/RB - 23
Bri Visalli - AM - 25
Veronica Latsko - FW - 24
Bridgette Andrzejewski - FW - 23

Reliable Veterans

Christine Nairn - AM - 29
Allysha Chapman - LB - 31
Katie Stengel - FW - 28

This is where things get difficult. The proverbial players “on the bubble”. Will head coach Clarkson prioritize less experienced players with more potential, like Ally Prisock and Cece Kizer, or opt to build around seasoned pros who have glittering NWSL resumés such as Christine Nairn?

Before the trade deadline, the Chicago Red Stars sent attacking midfielders Savannah McCaskill and Yuki Nagasoto plus a 2021 first round draft pick in exchange for roster protection in the expansion draft. These acquisitions may allow Clarkson to gamble by not putting Nairn on the protected list, knowing Louisville are set at that position.

The trickiest player to evaluate here is left back Allysha Chapman. The defender has made 45 appearances for the Dash, across two spells, since making her debut in 2015. Alongside Rachel Daly she is woven into the fabric of the club at this point. Whereas success has been instantly assumed with new arrivals Shea Groom and Katie Naughton, players like Chapman endured frustrating seasons before witnessing the Dash grow over time. Clarkson is also short for options at full back. It is difficult to know if he would risk getting rid of a starter in favor of keeping a more developmental player like Ally Prisock.

The hardest goodbyes are in the attacking wide areas. Veronica Latsko is a fan favorite and has impressed up front in Daly’s absence. Nonetheless I’d be very surprised if she was protected because of the other starry options at her position. Similarly, Bri Visalli appears to be a player very suited to playing Clarkson’s style of football. A glue player who knits the team together with her superb work ethic. I think Visalli will also just miss out on being on the protected list.

Final Predictions

Protected

Jane Campbell, Allysha Chapman, Megan Oyster, Katie Naughton, Shea Groom, Cece Kizer, Haley Hanson, Sophie Schimdt, Kristie Mewis, Nichelle Prince, Rachel Daly

Unprotected

Lindsey Harris - GK - 26
Amanda Dennis - GK - 22
Erin Simon - RB - 26
Ally Prisock - CB/RB - 23
Lauren Silver - RB - 27
Meagan Kelly - AM - 28
Christine Nairn - AM - 29
Cami Privett - CM - 27
Jaci Jones - CM - 22
Bri Visalli - AM - 25
Veronica Latsko - FW - 24
Katie Stengel - FW - 28
Jamia Fields - FW - 27
Bridgette Andrzejewski - FW/RB - 23
Shaina Ashouri - FW - 24