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Step aside Marta, Flash has a new star

Giovanni Albanese Extra Time

We all knew how good Alex Morgan was entering the season. It was no secret to those of us who love the women’s game. I don’t think anyone knew how much Morgan would be beloved, though.

No disrespect to any of the other first-year players in Women’s Professional Soccer, but when everyone here at The Equalizer – and all over the soccer-writing world – was making their preseason predictions, Morgan was the rookie of the year. We didn’t just pencil in Morgan for the honor, we all used ink.

Not to beat a dead horse, but it was so obvious, even the obvious of picks like Marta for MVP or Western New York Flash as WPS champs weren’t as sure-things. And really, that’s all true. Morgan, even with time off with the U.S. women’s national team, is still a sure thing to receive the rookies’ highest praise (although magicJack forward Christen Press and her five goals this season will have something to say about that).

Meanwhile, WNY, albeit still the most dominant looking club, is getting a run for its money for first with the Philadelphia Independence; Marta’s reign as lone WPS MVP looks to be coming to an end, with teammate Christine Sinclair the new front runner.

Speaking of Marta, Brazil’s prized gem of women’s soccer, and really the prized gem of all of women’s soccer, she not only may be losing grasp of the MVP, but also of main attraction. And all to her teammates! Don’t get me wrong, the five-time running FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year is dynamic by every aspect of the word. If soccer used the term “five-tool player,” she’d be one of the very few – she can shoot, pass, run, defend and shoot with power; a complete player.

Heading into the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, all the talk was about one of three things: Germany, United States and Marta/Brazil. Much happened in the World Cup from June 26 through July 17, leaving a lot to talk about on the field, but when the dust settled, now the world – mostly the United States – is seeing a new Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm or Abby Wambach in Morgan.

Sometimes the media blows things out of proportion – news flash! – and you see players get way more credit than what they deserve. (Any come to mind?) Often those over-hyped athletes get put on display, the commentators continue to ogle at them and fans sit on the couch, watching the game on the tube and wonder, “What’s so special?” It’s hard to look at Morgan and not think she is the next best thing in sports. Morgan, 22, has an incredible work rate, phenomenal skills on the ball, an advanced mind for the game, a knack for finishing off chances and scores timely goals. And, of course, that pink headband that gives her the strength to do all that.

Maybe that 15,404 record-setting crowd in Rochester last Wednesday was to commemorate all the World Cup players and fawn over Western New York-native Abby Wambach, but you got to think that a lot of those in attendance were there for Morgan. Over 6,000 were in Boston to see Marta, Morgan and the Flash on Sunday and the rookie showed everyone she’s capable of doing what stars do. They tied, with both Marta and Morgan scoring, but the talk of the day was Morgan’s incredible game-tying goal that was put at No. 2 on ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10. That’s unheard of, at least in terms of WPS.

So yeah, maybe in March the Flash was Marta’s team. But in July and from here on out, this is Morgan’s team.

What to look for this week

The three-way tie between Boston, magicJack and Sky Blue FC will be broken on Wednesday night, with all three teams in action. Boston hosts Philly, while magicJack hosts Sky Blue. Over the weekend, you can get your Morgan fix when WNY heads to New Jersey for a tilt with Sky Blue FC on Saturday night. Boston heads to Florida for a Saturday bout with magicJack. And in the game of the week on FOX Soccer, Philadelphia hosts the Atlanta Beat.

Power Rankings

  1. Western New York Flash
  2. Philadelphia Independence
  3. Boston Breakers
  4. Sky Blue FC
  5. magicJack
  6. Atlanta Beat

Player of the Week

Christine Sinclair has a pair of goals and an assist in the Flash’s 3-1 win over magicJack in front of a sellout crown at Sahlen’s Stadium. She had gone extreme lengths to position herself well for MVP of WPS, tied for the league lead in goals and atop the league in assists.

Quote of the Week

Let’s keep it with an Alex Morgan theme throughout, shall we? Here, the Flash super sub (which shouldn’t be for much longer) talks about what she experienced moments before her top-notch goal in Boston. “Honestly before goals I black out so I don’t really remember what happened.”

Giovanni Albanese Jr. is the sports editor for Tri-City Voice newspaper in Fremont, Calif. He covered FC Gold Pride in 2009 and 2010. You can contact him on Twitter @GAlbaneseJr.

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