- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

The Washington Freedom have a simple message for the Carolina Courage entering today's Women's United Soccer Association's (WUSA) Draft: Don't blow it.
The Courage have the first-overall pick in today's four-round draft and the Freedom select second. If the Courage don't select Santa Clara defender Danielle Slaton, a starter on the U.S. women's national team, the Freedom will be more than happy to pick Slaton and insert her as the starting left back.
If the Courage draft Slaton which is expected the Freedom will choose Florida's prolific goal scorer, Abby Wambach. Either way, the Freedom can't miss with their first-round pick.
"I'd be shocked if they didn't take Slaton," said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra. "I can't see Carolina passing [Slaton] up. Abby is someone who fills our need up front. She has a good goal-scoring pedigree."
Gabarra made it public last week that the Freedom were prepared to take Wambach. A four-time All-SEC selection and two-time conference player of the year [2000 and 2001], she is Florida's all-time leader in goals (96), assists (49) and points (241).
At 5-foot-10, Wambach is a big target. Given the accuracy of star Mia Hamm's kicks on setpieces, Wambach, 21, would give the Freedom a player that has to be marked on corner and free kicks a dimension the team lacked last year in its inaugural season.
If the Courage pass on Slaton, then Carolina coach Marcia McDermott will almost certainly snatch Wambach. The idea would be to team Wambach with 5-11 star striker Danielle Fotopoulos to create WUSA's tallest strike force. Wambach and Fotopoulos were teammates at Florida.
"Abby is technically better than Fotopoulos," Gabarra said. "We'll take Abby and be happy to have her."
Clearly, Slaton and Wambach are the jewels of the WUSA's second draft. After these two, there is a significant talent dropoff. The Freedom have the second, 10th, 18th and 26th overall picks in today's draft in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
You might think with the 10th overall pick the Freedom's second rounder there would be an impact player still available. Not so, according to Gabarra.
"Our second pick may or may not make the team," he said.
That's partly because the Freedom were awarded two international discovery players and automatic starters Chinese attacking midfielder Pu Wei and German central defender Steffi Jones by the league in the offseason.
Slaton, who led the Broncos to the women's NCAA championship last season, is an aggressive defender who can push forward and help in the attack. Unlike the case with Slaton, Gabarra isn't willing to hand Wambach, a Pittsford, N.Y., native, a starting forward position.
Wambach, who has been invited to the past couple U.S. national team camps, will have to beat out Freedom veterans Monica Gerardo, Jacqui Little, Roseli, and Tracey Milburn for the right to claim one spot and play alongside Hamm in the Freedom's three-forward alignment when the club opens training camp March 1.
If it turns out today to be Slaton, even better.
"Danielle is so solid in the back our backline would be awesome," Gabarra said.


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