It is not often that a league's most valuable player carries a team to a championship.
Not once did the league MVP also win a championship in three years of the Women's United Soccer Assocation. Even on the men's side, just three MLS MVPs have won a championship in the same season.
However, FC Gold Pride forward
Marta is on the short list of Michelle Akers Player of the Year candidates, along with Philadelphia Independence forward
If there were a comeback player of the year award, it would surely go to Rodriguez, who is tied for second with Wambach with 12 goals. Smith has been world class as a playmaker. But none of those three players can legitimately challenge Marta's claim to a second straight MVP award. The Brazilian has been on a season-long tear and was also named MVP of the 2010 WPS All-Star Game while playing for a team named after her (the Marta XI). The choice is obvious.
Where the WPS postseason awards get interesting is beyond the seemingly clear-cut MVP choice.
While Montoya has transformed his squad from worst to first in just one year, all three other contenders are impressive, too. DiCicco has also turned Boston from a team that missed the playoffs last season into one that should be hosting a playoff game in 2010. The Breakers have been on fire since the All-Star Game, with
Gabarra is also a viable candidate after turning around a sinking boat with the Freedom. Despite losing five straight and going winless in 10 games during one stretch, Washington is in position to make the playoffs thanks to a five-game unbeaten streak.
Riley has built an expansion Philadelphia side from scratch into a team that will most likely host a playoff game and can still finish second in the regular season. Most impressive about Philadelphia is that it is a gritty team that has less talent than FC Gold Pride or Boston. Instilling a blue-collar approach into a team takes hard work, and that is why I give Riley the nod for this award.
Defenders go underappreciated in WPS, having yet to win a Player of the Week award this season.
Buehler is a key part of the league's top defense. LePeilbet received the top number of player votes for both the 2009 and 2010 All-Star Games and that alone shows the respect her peers have for her. LePeilbet gets my vote for always being in the right place at the right time.
This category could produce one of the more interesting votes. Sky Blue FC's Bardsley played only 10 games after breaking her collarbone during All-Star Game training June 29, but gave up just nine goals and kept five clean sheets. Barnhart, Loyden and Solo are all having great seasons, but Bardsley's impact is hard to ignore. Defending champion Sky Blue FC is 5-3-2 with Bardsley and 2-7-2 without her. It is that kind of a value that defines the importance of one player to her team, giving Bardsley the edge.
Despite tallying four goals and two assists in 15 matches and having an unmatched work rate among rookies, FC Gold Pride forward and rookie All-Star
But the favorite appears to be Angeli, who has six goals and three assists and has been influential in Boston's second-half surge. As the No. 16 pick in the 2010 draft, Angeli has been the surprise of the year and deserves the honor of being called the league's top rookie.