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The Opening Whistle: New era begins in Canada as Morace exits

Dan Lauletta
The buzz from the World Cup is still reverberating around the country, but there are already signs that things have started progressing toward next summer’s Olympic Games and the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Wednesday night in Rochester, Abby Wambach addressed the crowd at halftime and vowed not to come home from London next summer without a gold medal.  It was hyperbole to say the least, but after such an exciting World Cup, it only makes sense to start getting prepped for the Olympics.

More significant was Carolina Morace submitting her resignation to the Canadian Soccer Association, ending a tumultuous run-up to the World Cup which was followed by a three-and-out disaster.  Morace nearly left the team earlier this season, saved only by a player revolt that forced the CSA to commit to Morace, a former Italian star who took the team to Rome for the spring to prepare for the World Cup.  The result was an advanced commitment from the CSA, but the results did not come close to equaling the work.

The CSA said they did not ask for Morace’s resignation at their debriefing on the World Cup this week, but it was apparent from long ago the coach was not pleased with the resources allotted her as National Team coach.

Coaches get hired and fired all the time, particularly after World Cups, but in this case Canada will be looking to the future and the coach to lead them not only into next year’s Olympics but to the 2015 World Cup which Canada will host.  Hosting the Women’s World Cup has not been so kind on the field with only the 1999 U.S. team winning as host in six tournaments.  But Canada will be looking to better this year’s 0-3 performance and produce something more like 2003 when they finished fourth and actually had the lead in the semi-final against Sweden.

Canada is strong at certain spots.  Christine Sinclair is a world class goal scorer and the pool of goalkeepers is very strong.  Some of the supporting players are very good also, but the player pool is shallow, something Morace noted after the final game in Germany.

So as we effort to keep women’s soccer in the spotlight, the evolution of the Canadian National Team over the next four years figures to be one of the more intriguing storylines.

Meanwhile, WPS is back in full swing.  Here’s how the weekend is shaking out:

Saturday:  Philadelphia Independence (8-2-3, 27 points) at Sky Blue FC (3-5-4, 13 points)

Sky Blue has not emerged well from the World Cup break and now finds itself up against it with the first place team in town.  Making matters worse is that the Independence has had their way with Sky Blue since entering the league last season.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: Veronica Boquete is not rostered for the Independence, but former Sky Blue forward Tasha Kai has been as good as any forward in the league and Amy Rodriguez did not play in the World Cup final meaning she should be better rested than many of her U.S. counterparts.

Saturday:  magicJack (5-5-1, 15 points) at Atlanta Beat (1-10-3, 6 points)

magicJack still has games in hand on Sky Blue and the Breakers, with whom they are battling for two spots in the playoffs.  As for the Beat, well the best they can realistically hope for is to play spoiler.  They have not won a match in three months and are by 9 points the worst team in WPS having played more matches than any other team.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: It looks like Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone will be back for magicJack, and unless both suffer a serious case of post-Germany hangover it figures to be a long day for the Beat, who will need to be near perfect.

Sunday:  Western New York Flash (8-2-2, 26 points) at Boston Breakers (4-5-3, 15 points)

The Breakers are the most fascinating side in the league right now.  They underachieved early, played a bit better once their World Cup stars left and now face an uphill battle the rest of the way.  Most striking was the performance of their backline, which carried over to the World Cup where Amy LePeilbet struggled and Stephanie Cox fell near the bottom of the depth chart.  The Flash possess the quickest hitting attack in the league so the Breakers back four will have to be on it toes.

KEYS TO THE MATCH:  Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney are out so the Breakers will need quality performances from several alternates in order to deal with Marta, Sinclair & Co.

Three points of interest

1)     Classy move by Heather O’Reilly and Megan Rapinoe to appear at the ESPN set with Bob Ley just hours after as heartbreaking a loss as you can have in soccer.

2)     Another classy move was the pre-game ceremony before the Western New York Flash’s match against magicJack on Wednesday.  All of the World Cup participants were acknowledged—even the ones who were not there.

3)     Nikki Marshall was sent from magicJack to the Breakers on Thursday, completing the earlier trade between the sides that also saw Meghan Klingenberg head to Beantown.v

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