Tucked away in relative obscurity in Boca Raton is arguably the 2011 WPS Rookie of the Year. No, it’s not Alex Morgan, who has been thrust into not only the soccer spotlight but even mainstream entertainment. It’s former Stanford forward Christen Press, who is tied for third in the WPS scoring race with five goals this season.
Press, who plays for magicJack, hasn’t gotten the media coverage that the Western New York Flash’s Morgan has received. She’s really gotten next to no press at all (all pun intended). And yet, Press’ five goals have her tied with second year WPS midfielder Casey Nogueira behind only veterans Tasha Kai and Christine Sinclair.
Even while playing under a half-dozen coaches in a few short months, Press has just kept on scoring. Five goals is a more than respectable total, particularly in a season where the league-leaders have tallied eight, far off the pace of Marta’s league-leading 19 goals last season (granted, that was a 24 game season whereas 2011 will see each team play 18 games).
Morgan will get all the media attention, which is deserved. She showed well at the Women’s World Cup, registering a goal and an assist in the final, and she has looked deadly in WPS this year. Sunday’s goal against the Boston Breakers should suffice for evidence of that. Morgan delivers the spectacular and unthinkable on so many occasions that she is clearly part of the future of the U.S. Women’s National Team and Women’s Professional Soccer.
But is she the 2011 WPS Rookie of the Year?
Keep in mind, that award will be handed out to the rookie who compiles the best overall season. Some, including The Equalizer’s Giovanni Albanese Jr., think that Morgan is a lock for the award. And while I cannot in good faith argue that Morgan could win the award, she should be far from a lock.
Morgan has three goals and two assists in eight games, the last two of which came as reserve appearances as she tries to re-assimilate herself with the Flash following the Women’s World Cup.
Press has five goals in her 11 games with magicJack. She has also done that without the supporting cast that Morgan has in Christine Sinclair, Marta and a bevvy of all-stars. Yes, magicJack has Abby Wambach, but she has played in just six games this season (and remarkably scored four goals in those six games).
So while Morgan seems to be the overwhelming consensus vote as 2011 WPS Rookie of the Year even with a month left in the season, voters would be remiss to look over what Press has done in Florida in the absence of a steady coach or even a steady starting line-up around her.
I’m not saying Press is the best rookie in WPS this season. Really, I’m not saying Morgan is either. But they both need to be in the conversation. As a fans and journalists, it’s irresponsible to just mentally handover the award to Morgan in a decision surely influenced by the massive media attention she has been receiving. Even the debate between those two forwards excludes solid but under the radar debut seasons from the likes of Breakers midfielder Keelin Winters and Philadelphia Independence midfielder Sinead Farrelly.
So as the time comes over the next month to vote on the rookie of the year, keep an open mind. There is more than one standout rookie season taking place in WPS this season.
magicJack News and Notes:
The Sun-Sentinel reports that magicJack is looking into playing its home games at Lockhart Stadium, which holds 20,450 fans and also hosts the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Dan Borislow, magicJack team owner, tells me that the only game he is considering for a venue switch would be the August 10 match against the Western New York Flash.
I really don’t know how I would handle a fan congratulating me on winning the World Cup when I actually lost in the final, but Abby Wambach seems to be doing the best she possibly can given the absurd situation.
Also, Hope Solo’s season could be in jeopardy due to a wrist injury.
And just for kicks, check out this video that a trio of young girls made in honor of Abby Wambach:
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