Sunday, January 24, 2010

Coach Tony Talks Breakers' Draft

With last week's 2010 Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) Draft fading away into the rear-view mirror, I checked in with Boston Breakers ' chief cook and bottle washer, Tony DiCicco, to get his views on how things fell into place for his team.

DiCicco, the head coach and Director of Soccer for the Breakers, connected with me from California where he and the other coaches are performing duties with the US National Team.

The Breakers were in possession of the second and eleventh picks in the draft, following last September's trade with the expansion Philadelphia Independence. In that swap, the Breakers sent last year's No. 1 selection, Amy Rodriguez, and the No. 5 pick to the Independence in exchange for their two first round picks.

DiCicco, like most of the coaches, had a game plan going into the draft and hoped to find those players on his wish list available when it was the Breakers turn to select.

"We have a pretty good idea of who we want going in," he explained. "But it's no secret out there who the top players are. They're known by all of the teams."

Following the No. 1 selection of Tobin Heath, by the expansion Atlanta Beat, DiCicco selected UCLA and US National Team forward, Lauren Cheney, with the second pick in the draft. Cheney is a player that DiCicco is very excited about adding to his current roster.

"We needed a center-forward, back to the goal, good passer, goal scorer so she was my first choice in the draft," explained DiCicco, who coached the U.S. U-20 Women's national team to victory in the U-20 World Cup in Chile in 2008. "And I think she is getting better. She's worked herself into a starting position with the US National team."

I asked DiCicco who he would have selected if he had the first pick in the draft again this year.

"That would have made my decision a little more difficult," he explained. "But I still think I would have taken Cheney."

Following the selection of Cheney, DiCicco had his sites set on two players from his U-20 Women's National Team, Nikki Marshall and Kiersten Dallstream. Unfortunately, Marshall was selected with the seventh pick in the draft by the Washington Freedom and Dallstream with the No. 9 pick by the Los Angeles Sol.

"I had Nikki wasn't going to be there. Kiersten was a little bit of a surprise. I had spoken to her the night before and told her we were going to try to get her with eleven, but she went at number nine. The coaches obviously did their homework."

With the Breakers' second pick of the first round and number 11 overall, DiCicco selected goal keeper, Alyssa Naeher. Naeher, the first of seven keepers selected in the draft helped lead Penn State to their 12th straight Big Ten Championship. She and coach DiCicco have some history together though as she's played the past two years under his guise with Soccer Plus Connecticut.

"We thought Alyssa may go to FC Gold with the No. 10 pick. We were fortunate that she didn't go there and we grabbed her at eleven. We may have waited until the 16th pick to take her if Marshall or Dallstream were still around."

DiCicco explained the two time outs that he and his draft team chose to take during the draft, timeouts that surprised many of the draft's onlookers.

"You're trying to get it right. Everyone has pluses and minuses and we felt it was better to take our time and get things right."

I asked DiCicco if he thought he had found a sleeper in the draft, someone who went lower than he expected, but who he has high hopes for.

"I'm hoping a bunch of them are like that. Gina DiMartino (selected with the last pick of the sixth round and 56 overall) went lower than I thought she would. So we are hoping that she's one."

DiMartino, who's sister Tina will be playing for the Los Angeles Sol this season, is another one of DiCicco's selections who previously played for him on the U-20 National Team. Her younger sister, Vicki, was her teammate at Boston College and is currently a defender for the U-20 National team.

DiCicco reminded me that no matter how well prepare he and his staff were for the draft, it is still an in-exact science.

"Here's the bottom line, Todd. Last year there were three players who weren't drafted that ended up starting for us. It's very similar to Brady (Tom of the NFL Patriots) being drafted in the sixth round. The NFL has data on every player and films on every player, they've seen every player. No one does it better than the NFL and here you have Brady going in the sixth round."

Unlike the NFL, however, where the General Manager is the big deal at the draft, DiCicco explained that it is he and his coaching staff who handle the draft day decisions for the Breakers.

"I'm Director of Soccer Operations for the Breakers, while Andy (Crossley) handles all the business side. As far as the players go, I handle that and, frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way."

Overall, DiCicco felt a bit more at ease at this years draft than he did at last year's event and felt that things went much more smoothly because of it.

"Last year, I had just gotten back in December from the U-20 World Cup and I felt somewhat behind. This year I felt a lot more confident regarding who was out there. A lot of the players had come in with my U-20's at one point or another. They may not have made the final team, but I was familiar with them."

Where last year's draft was used to fill the Breakers roster, DiCicco feels that this year's selection will provide some depth for the 2010 squad. Despite the losses of Angela Hucles (retirement), Heather Mitts (free agent to Philadelphia), Kelly Schmedes, and Sue Weber (expansion draft to Philadelphia) and Stacy Bishop (free agent to Atlanta), DiCicco is excited about his returning squad.

Off-season additions of Leslie Osborne and Tiffany Weimer, who both played for FC Gold Pride last season, are expected to join veterans Kelli Smith, Kristine Lilly, Christine Latham, Jennifer Nobis, Kasey Moore, Maggy Tomecka, Amy LePeilbet, and Allison Lipsher on the 2010 version of the Breakers.

Free Agent Fabiana is also expected to resign with the team after solving some paper work challenges with the Brazilian government.

Overall, DiCicco is eager to get started and see if he has made the right choices to lead the Breakers to the playoffs.

Todd Civin is the Community Leader for the WPS and writes for the Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now and Seamheads. His top features can be found on his blog, The "xoxo" of Sports.

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