After months of anticipation, Women’s Professional Soccer finally kicks off its 2010 season Saturday when the Washington Freedom host the Boston Breakers. The sophomore season WPS will see eight teams compete for the title, one more than in 2009.
The dispersal of Los Angeles Sol players strengthened rosters across the league and has created a good deal of parity, although there seem to be three distinct levels of teams that have developed throughout the preseason.
Sky Blue FC, Saint Louis Athletica and FC Gold Pride seem to have put together rosters that will overpower the other five teams in WPS, though Boston and Washington might have something say about that.
Richard Farley (who has put out some great preseason rankings on Set Piece Analysts also) and I spent about 40 minutes discussing this in-depth on our Set Piece Analysts Weekly Women’s Podcast that previewed the 2010 WPS Season. Listen to that for my full thoughts, but here is how I see things right now:
1. Sky Blue FC – Looking at the roster in New Jersey makes my head spin. There is no reason this team should not dominate in a Los Angeles Sol 2009-type of way. Well, there might be one: injuries. Goalkeeper Jenni Branam is out for two months and defenders Anita Asante and Christie Rampone will miss the beginning of the season. This is still the best team on paper. Preview
2. Saint Louis – This was a second-place team in 2009 that only got better. Angie Kerr will be missed, but Shannon Boxx and Aya Miyama will more than make up for that. Preview
3. FC Gold Pride – With Marta, Camille Abily, Christine Sinclair and Kelley O’Hara up top, there is no reason that this team should not win games and do so in absolute style. Establishing some team chemistry might be the only real concern. Preview
4. Washington Freedom – The team that scored the most goals in 2009 got better in the attack with the addition of Lene Mykjaland, but defensive issues were also addressed, highlighted by the addition of Brittany Bock. Preview
5. Boston Breakers – The addition of Lauren Cheney will give this team a new attacking element that it lacked in 2009. Add Stephanie Cox to Amy LePielbet and Alex Scott in the back and the defense should be solid. Preview
6. Atlanta Beat – This is a team that should do well in its first year with role players like captain Angie Kerr assisting young Ramona Bachmann up top. Tobin Heath’s health is also an early season question mark. Preview
7. Philadelphia Independence – Caroline Seger and Lori Lindsey will make one of the most underappreciated midfield tandems in WPS and Karina LeBlanc will be stellar in net, but who is scoring goals for this team? Amy Rodriguez will need to break out in 2010, but that is pressure that she does not need. Preview
8. Chicago Red Stars – There are still too many question marks in Chicago. Kosovare Asllani will need to create a good partnership with Cristiane, but there is just nothing that jumps out about this Red Stars team in comparison to these other high quality sides. Preview
There has also been a lot of talk about individual players. Below are some players that I think will make an impact in 2010.
The Equalizer WPS Preseason First XI:
Goalkeeper: Hope Solo (Saint Louis Athletica)
Defender: Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers)
Defender: Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride)
Defender: Anita Asante (Sky Blue FC)
Midfielder: Shannon Boxx (Saint Louis Athletica)
Midfielder: Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence)
Midfielder: Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom)
Midfielder: Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC)
Forward: Marta (FC Gold Pride)
Forward: Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)
Forward: Eniola Aluko (Saint Louis Athletica)
Honorable Mention: Cristiane (Chicago Red Stars), Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue FC), Angie Kerr (Atlanta Beat), Karina LeBlanc (Philadelphia Independence), Aya Miyama (Saint Louis Athletica), Christine Sinclair (FC Gold Pride)
Rookie to Watch: Lauren Cheney – This is kind of a no-brainer. She looks ready to break out, but she will need to prove herself early.
Coach to Watch: Tony DiCicco – A lot of people rate the Breaker higher than I do. Will DiCicco make a playoff run happen?
Comeback Player to Watch: All eyes will be on Carli Lloyd’s homecoming, but ex-Chicago teammate Lindsay Tarpley has a lot to prove after 2009 (and a lot to overcome with injury).
What are your thoughts folks? Leave comments below.
|6 Comments… read them below or post one|
|Jeff Kassouf said…|
|Sky Blue’s early defensive injuries are of concern, but Taylor and Koster are quality. Mainly, I am looking at it from he perspective of ‘when September comes.’ Thanks for the props, though, Tom. Matt, Bachmann is certainly a play to watch, I’m just not sure that Atlanta has all the pieces. It is a team on the cusp – or so it seems. And I think Kerr is just the type of player that deserves more attention. She isn’t flashy. She isn’t going to light up the scoreboard, but she will get the job done.|
|Marcelo T. said…|
|Good preview. My picks are pretty similar, although I have this hunch that Washington will win the trophy. But what’s up with all this Angie Kerr love? I believe Atlanta has players way better than her, like Yamaguchi and Bachmann.|
|I think Romona Bachmann is going to be a huge player to watch.|
|The best preview i’ve seen, however I do feel the Pride and Athletica have more talent than Sky Blue, not too mention the early losses of Rampone and Asante will put a little hinderance on their D. I would have Sky Blue third, but other than that, the best preview i’ve seen.|
|Print this article off and save it so you can eat it in September when the Red Stars win it all!!!|
|Tony can work wonders in Boston. Don’t sleep on the Breakers!|
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