Saint Louis Atheltica
2009: 10-6-4, 34 pts.; second place regular season (lost in super semifinal)
Coach: Jorge Barcellos
Key Players: Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley, Eniola Aluko, Aya Miyama, Lori Chalupny
Star Watch: Shannon Boxx – She was the glue that held the Los Angeles Sol together in 2009 and she is the glue that holds the United States’ midfield together. Expect the same out of Boxx in Saint Louis. My MVP vote went to Boxx in 2009 and she is more than capable of putting an MVP caliber season together again in Saint Louis, where this time she will not be overshadowed by Marta.
X-Factor: Lori Chalupny – Her health that is. Concussion symptoms never go away, there are just good days and bad days. Chalupny’s availability to Athletica is a big question and the answer will create a big difference between the squad being great or just a good team. Her health is the most important thing, and I imagine that keeping that in mind may affect her game in 2010.
Saint Louis Athletica has quietly become one of the best teams on paper this off-season. Hope Solo returns to keep the ball out of the back of the net and Eniola Aluko will look to build off of her 2009 scoring production of six goals and four assists, both of which led the team. She will finally have significant help up top with Lindsay Tarpley joining Athletica. That duo, alongside the production of midfielders Shannon Boxx and Aya Miyama could produce a stellar attack for a team that found ways to win in 2009 by grabbing 1-0 results.
Solo will have Tina Ellertson, Kendall Fletcher and Elise Weber in front of her, but the question mark surrounding Lori Chalupny and her recovery from a head injury is worrying. Chalupny was a big part of Athletica’s success in 2009, and the captain’s health could be a big variable for this team. Still, with the likes of Solo in net and Boxx, Miyama, Tarpley and Aluko leading the attack, Saint Louis has to be considered one of the early favorites for making a run at the 2010 WPS Championship.
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