Top college stars excited about their WPS destinations
What do the top draft picks in Women's Professional Soccer do immediately after getting drafted by their teams? They head into U.S. women's national team training camp, of course.
"I was so tired from traveling, and in any other circumstance I probably wouldn't want to go out and practice, but just being around these girls and being at this level, it makes it so much fun," said No. 3 draft pick Kelley O'Hara when reached by telephone Monday. "I just have a blast. Right now, for me, it's just kind of getting used to it and getting comfortable and adjusting to this level, but I'm having a good time."
O'Hara, who will play for FC Gold Pride (San Francisco Bay Area), is one of six 2010 WPS draft picks currently in national team training camp. She is joined on the 26-player roster by Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue FC in New Jersey), Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), Casey Nogueira (Los Angeles Sol) and Tobin Heath (Atlanta Beat).
It's been a busy few weeks for O'Hara, who played for Stanford in the College Cup final on Dec. 6 (a 1-0 loss to UNC) and won the 2009 Hermann Trophy on Jan. 8 before being drafted by FC Gold Pride on Friday. She finished her college career with 57 goals.
She'll join Stanford alumni Nicole Barnhart and Rachel Buehler on the squad. So will French international Camille Abily, who was acquired in a recent trade with the Sol after scoring eight goals for Los Angeles in 2009. O'Hara attended several Sol games last season and came away impressed with Abily.
"I loved the way she played," O'Hara said. "I thought she was one of the best players in the league last year, so I'm just excited to be able to practice with her, play with her, learn from her."
UCLA's Cheney, whom the Breakers selected at No. 2, admitted she doesn't know a lot about the city of Boston but is excited to be a part of the team.
"I think it's definitely going to be a cool experience," Cheney said in a phone interview. "Playing for Tony [DiCicco], who is such a legendary coach. Also, playing with some of the best players in the world. We have Kristine Lilly, Kelly Smith, Amy LePeilbet. Those are great players."
Cheney has notched one goal and two assists in three national team games this season.
UNC's Heath, whom the expansion Atlanta Beat drafted at No. 1, spent last season closely watching North Carolina grads in WPS, especially those on league champ Sky Blue FC.
"That was the team I was rooting for just because they had the most number of Tar Heels on it," Heath said via telephone. "It was a pretty cool story that they had going through the ups and downs of their season and being able to pull out that huge victory. They were the underdogs, so it's always fun rooting for the underdog."
Heath, who had impressed many with her double-nutmeg effort (slipping the ball through an opponent's legs twice) in the United States' 1-0 win over Canada on July 19, was the favorite to be selected No. 1 by the Beat. Although most draft picks are heading to established teams, Heath will have the challenge of playing for one of the league's two expansion teams. It's a challenge she's looking forward to taking on.
"The league's pretty new, so the other teams have only been around a year, so we're not going to be too far behind," Heath said. "I'm looking forward to getting started and creating a team."
The WPS' 2010 season begins April 10, when Cheney's Breakers visit the Washington Freedom. On April 11, O'Hara's FC Gold Pride will visit Saint Louis Athletica and Heath's Beat will travel to Philadelphia to take on this year's other expansion team, the Independence.