NWSL: Breakout Players for Each Club Ahead of the World Cup – Part 2

PISCATAWAY, NJ - APRIL 15: Seattle Reign FC forward Beverly Yanez (17) during the first half of the National Womens Soccer League game between Sky Blue FC and Seattle Reign FC on April 15, 2018, at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PISCATAWAY, NJ - APRIL 15: Seattle Reign FC forward Beverly Yanez (17) during the first half of the National Womens Soccer League game between Sky Blue FC and Seattle Reign FC on April 15, 2018, at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

In the second of a two-part series, Rachael McKriger looks at four more players from four NWSL teams that will have a breakout season in 2019 — a World Cup year.

COLUMN — Last week, you caught our five players to watch from five teams in the National Women’s Soccer League. This week, the final four players to look out for in the 2019 NWSL season.

With players heading from league play to the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, absences will be filled by players who normally don’t get starting minutes. Players that went undrafted will be signed as replacement players. Should these players perform well, they could earn a permanent deal.

Seattle Reign FC: Beverly Yanez, Forward

Beverly Yanez first entered professional women’s soccer in the United States back in 2010 and has featured for the Seattle Reign since 2015. While she’s not always an immediate starter, Yanez is a successful substitute and provides fresh legs any chance she gets. She knows how to find the back of the net, scoring 16 goals in 60 appearances.

Yanez featured in 20 matches last season for the Reign, scoring twice. However, what was more impressive is that Yanez made 14 starts, only coming on as a substitute in 14 matches. A lot of this was due to Megan Rapinoe’s absences with the U.S. Women’s National Team and Nahomi Kawasumi’s role with Japan.

This year, Yanez should earn more of a permanent role.

With Rapinoe and Kawasumi expected to represent their nations at the World Cup, Yanez will be a major key factor for Vlatko Andonovski. Last season, Yanez’ season was cut short due to a foot fracture but is on pace to return in time for the start of preseason, which begins during the first week of March.

Sky Blue FC: Imani Dorsey, Forward

Full disclosure: The initial pick here was Shea Groom. Then, a tweet from The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta came out, declaring that Groom is on her way to Seattle with Nahomi Kawasumi heading to Sky Blue FC.

Then it was Katie Johnson.

Well, Johnson wasn’t going to fit. The Mexican international isn’t going to the World Cup, but her remaining on an NWSL during the summer isn’t going to help Sky Blue. Instead, it’s going to help the Chicago Red Stars, who traded for Sky Blue during the NWSL College Draft. That draft, also, didn’t help the team. Top two picks Hailie Mace and Julia Ashley are pursuing options overseas.

The bottom line is that nobody wants to play for Sky Blue FC. Last season, The Equalizer published a piece detailing the rough conditions and ownership problems. Ever since players from Sky Blue have been leaving the team in herds. Christina Gibbons just retired and while are Amanda Frisbie are heading to Europe.

Meanwhile, NWSL Rookie of the Year Imani Dorsey is now considered one of the more veteran players. In the NWSL College Draft, plenty of new, New Jersey natives, were selected. Dorsey is seemingly left on a roster that includes a bunch of international players, like Carli Lloyd and Kailen Sheridan, who could go to France as Canada’s backup goalkeeper.

It’ll really be up to Dorsey, who scored four goals last season, and Savannah McCaskill, to lead a struggling team that is doing its best to find players.


Utah Royals FC: Brittany Ratcliffe, Forward

Forwards are the majority of this list, but for good reason. During the World Cup, the Utah Royals are going to miss a key piece of their offense: Christen Press.

Drama surrounded Press last season. After being traded from the Chicago Red Stars, she refused to step foot in Houston to play under Vera Pauw. However, so she didn’t just sit on the couch, Press went to Sweden for the first half of the season. Pauw, realizing she wasn’t winning in a fight against Press, traded her rights to Utah.

Meanwhile, Brittany Ratcliffe sat behind Press but did appear in 10 matches, recording four starts. Ratcliffe played a meager 366 minutes of the NWSL season but recorded two goals. Ratcliffe’s biggest goal of the season came during the Utah Royals’ victory over the North Carolina Courage. The 24-year-old forward had the lone goal of the match and upset the previously undefeated Courage.

The Clemson alum is going to battle for starting minutes against Katie Stengel and USWNT-vet Amy Rodriguez. Likely, Rodriguez will start. In reality, all three forwards can start, as head coach Laura Harvey has used a 4-3-3 formation before.

Washington Spirit: Megan Crosson, Defender

Huzzah! A player that isn’t a forward has made the list!

Better late than never, right?

At only 24-years-old, Crosson is the veteran on defense. Washington’s roster is almost as jumbled as Sky Blue FC’s. A lot of players will be missing for the World Cup, including Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and possibly Andi Sullivan for the United States. Cheyna Matthews will potentially be called up for Jamaica and Francisca Ordega is pretty much guaranteed a spot for Nigeria.

Meanwhile, it’s been reported by Steven Goff of The Washington Post that Rebecca Quinn is on her way to Paris FC. Meanwhile, Goff also reported that the Houston Dash are trading for defender Whitney Church. Goff also reported that Estefanía Banini is staying in Europe with Levante UD Femenino in Spain. Meanwhile, Washington traded away defenders Caprice Dydasco and Estelle Johnson.

To make matters worse for a depleted defense, Taylor Smith tore her ACL while competing in Australia.

Aside from Crosson, who made four appearances for the Houston Dash from 2016-17, the Spirit’s defense will be rookies — Samantha Staab and Tegan McGrady were picked up in the NWSL College Draft. So, that’s only three defenders. First-year head coach Richie Burke will have to earn a defender from the incoming Church trade or rely on undrafted players to form his squad.

Crosson isn’t the most experienced player with only one appearance in one season for UD Granadilla Tenerife in Spain. However, she’s almost guaranteed playing time in Washington with a depleted defense.

But, all hope might not be lost. In another report from Goff, the Spirit are reportedly in “serious” conversations with two World Cup-bound Australian internationals. However, this doesn’t impact the opportunity that Crosson will have for Washington in 2019.

Miss Part One? Fear not!

Part one took a look at the Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride and Portland Thorns FC.

If you missed it, click here to see the story!