The reigning WPS champion FC Gold Pride has begun to make offseason moves as the team prepares to defend its title in 2011. Of the four former Stanford players who contributed to this season's success, only one is guaranteed of returning.
That would be WPS Rookie of the Year Ali Riley, who joined with WPS Most Valuable Player Marta and midfielder Rosie Tantillo as players who recently signed contracts.
The Pride, however, has declined to exercise the team option in the existing contracts of Stanford grads Nicole Barnhart and Kelley O'Hara (plus Candace Chapman and Christine Sinclair). These players will become free agents along with Stanford grad Rachel Buehler plus Shannon Boxx, Niki Cross and Erin Guthrie -- whose contracts expired at the end of the 2010 season.
"This is an exciting and critical time for our team," said General Manager Ilisa Kessler. "We are focused on putting together a strong team for 2011 as we prepare to defend our title. The Pride's roster will evolve during the offseason as we look to infuse the team with new talent and bring back a number of familiar faces. We are still waiting to see the impact of international competition on our roster. As nations qualify for the World Cup, we will get a better understanding of who in the WPS talent pool we want to bring to the Pride. There is no shortage of talent out there."
In preparation for the 2011 season, the league will hold an expansion draft on November 4, to allow Buffalo to begin building its roster for its inaugural season. Each of the seven existing teams will be required to unprotect a minimum of three of its players to allow Buffalo a fair opportunity to pick from the existing talent in the league. The Pride has elected to protect Kiki Bosio, Carrie Dew, Becky Edwards, Kristen Graczyk, Marta, Tiffeny Milbrett, Ali Riley and Kandace Wilson.