The team formerly known as the Washington Freedom, magicJack, is surrounded by mystery. Some off-field questions – regarding where the team will play, what its permanent name will be and who will be involved with club – have been answered in the past month. What still remains to be seen is how the team will line-up come opening day.
Head Coach Mike Lyons was unavailable for comment but Owner Dan Borislow said fans can expect the team to be “pretty aggressive” and possibly line-up in a 3-4-3 formation. Such a formation is ambitious and against the conventional thinking of a lot of other WPS coaches, who recognize having the extra defender in a four-back defense helps in a league filled with deadly strikers. However, a 3-4-3 could allow magicJack to field the best 11 players.
Up top the team boasts U.S. forward Abby Wambach and Australian Lisa De Vanna. Complimenting them is the hard working Ella Masar and rookie forward Christen Press, who Borislow said has shown well in preseason.
“We really feel like she is one of the best players on the team,” he said. “It’s very difficult for rookies to break in and start. With Press, everything she does is amazing.”
With Wambach missing the majority of magicJack’s preseason on U.S. Women’s National Team duty, Borislow said to expect Masar and Press to start on opening weekend, most likely alongside De Vanna. As also stated by Jim Gabarra, head coach of Sky Blue FC, Borislow said that the team will reward the players who have been with the team throughout training camp.
The absence of midfielders Shannon Boxx and Lindsay Tarpley in training camp has allowed other leaders to emerge. Sarah Huffman, who had one goal and four assists in 22 games last season, has been playing at center midfield and serving as the captain in preseason, according to Borislow.
Defensively, Christie Rampone should be able to step right into her role as defensive anchor despite missing significant time with the United States. Expect her to be paired with Tina Ellertson centrally. Borislow said defender Marian Dalmy “could be the best player in our camp right now,” which sheds light on at least one of the outside back positions. The other is conceivably still up for grabs. Interesting to monitor will be the treatment of Becky Sauerbrunn, the WPS iron woman who is the only player in the league to play every minute in the first two years of WPS. She has been with the U.S. and not in magicJack camp. Can she earn her spot in a week and keep her streak alive?
If there is one positive of the former Freedom club moving to Boca Raton, Fla., it is the proximity the team will have to U.S. training camp throughout the spring. U.S. players will be released on the weekends to play with their WPS teams and magicJack plays three home games surrounding and during U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage’s training camp in Florida. MagicJack hosts the Boston Breakers on April 23, the Philadelphia Independence on May 1 and the Atlanta Beat on May 8. So, players on those teams will be able to stay fresh during camp, avoiding the looming schedule conflicts. It also “gives Pia a good opportunity to see three or four different teams,” Borislow said.
And as for the off-field mysteries, Borislow recognizes that he is up against time. The team is still settling into its new home at Florida Atlantic University and has yet to really reach out to the community. With only a 1,500 seat stadium (plus standing room), the team will have to work to fill even that modest capacity venue.
“This will be a tough year, no question,” Borislow said. “We got started so late, we’d have to really overspend to get the seats filled. I knew that getting into this year. We’ll try to fill the seats with people who will spend and come back.”
magicJack Opening Day Roster:
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