Keepers: Returning Nicole Barnhart just means having one of the best keepers in the world stopping shots for the Blues. The long running backup for the U.S. National Team is a dedicated warrior and will give everything she has.
Being behind a keeper of Barnhart's quality meant last years backup Bianca Henninger only saw the field when there were national team callups. A trade to Houston put her behind a Canadian National team keeper but gave her a better chance to start.
The Blues were allocated Cecilia Santiago from the Mexican national team. Santiago plays for both the Mexican u20's and the senior team but never reported to camp because of injuries. FC Kansas City signed Sara Keane from West Virginia to be their backup. Keane was a good keeper in college and has looked solid in practice.
Santiago is still assigned to FC Kansas City and they plan on taking a look at when she is available. I ngthe meantime her loss is Keane's opportunity.
Defense: While the loss of Sesselmann who started the majority of games at centerback for FC Kansas City last season would seem to be a major loss, the Blues brought in Poland National team defender Nikki Phillips. The Blues actually acquired the rights to her through trade last season but was able to bring her in for this year. Phillips will pair up with her former college team mate Becky Sauerbrunn in center defense.
"I like to go hard and I like to be the person who steps to the ball," Phillips explained."Becky and I played together in college so we know each other very well and have that chemistry for of one stepping and one dropping. I really like to make sure that forwards don't turn, push them back. I'm a very aggressive player."
When told that a coach had described her as feisty, Phillips grinned and replied. "Feisty. Yeah, that's a good word."
"Buz (Jen Buczkowski) has that quality too and it's kind of the tone that you want to set," Phillips stated."When someone hits a good tackle it sends a message and then the whole team is making good tackles. The further up we can win the ball, the better it is to get the ball up to A-Rod and Cheney."
At outside back the Blues have Leigh Ann Robinson who was arguably the best outside back in the league last year. Veteran national teamer Amy LePeilbet, second year defender Nia Williams and rookie Kassey Kallman round out the spots and fight for time. Kallman looks to be the likely starter early in the year in case LePeilbet is not ready. Kallman said she can play both "outside and center back but more outside back here."
"I like to get forward but I love to defend, that is my favorite part. I play really simple, take one, two touch and give the ball to the people who are playmakers on the team," is how Kallman described herself.
It looks like Williams has made significant progress from last year and is playing with some confidence, she has looked good in camp and preseason games.
Notes: FC Kansas City invited Canadian Shelina Zadorsky into camp but she had to leave to complete school commitments but the Blues have invited her back when she is available. They also had talks with Kansas University grad Estelle Johnson who played for Western New York last season but she had decided not to play this year do to outside opportunities. Rumor is the Flash were wanting a very high draft pick for her rights also.