WPS experiences boost in numbers
Women's Professional Soccer is back in full swing following the Women's World Cup. The always hoped for and oft-alluded to bump in interest was very evident last week in WPS, which registered two of its top-three all-time crowds in the past seven days. Most importantly, two games were on display in front of national TV crowds, making it a watershed week for WPS. Those types of numbers will not last very long, but they provide a glimpse of hope for a league that was more than in need of one.
That game was followed up by the third-largest single game crowd in league history on Saturday, when 9,345 people showed up in Kennesaw, Ga. to see magicJack play the Atlanta Beat. On Sunday, 6,222 fans showed up at Harvard Stadium to see the Boston Breakers take on the Flash. The one blemish of the weekend was Sky Blue FC's crowd of 1,593 when the New Jersey-based side hosted the Philadelphia Independence.
Players such as Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight, but
Currently, the league table is a perfect example. Philadelphia and Western New York are tied for first place with 27 points, while Sky Blue FC, Boston and magicJack are all tied for third place with 16 points. With five teams competing for four spots in the playoffs, the field is wide open. Sky Blue FC and Boston have played well against Philadelphia and Western New York, but magicJack faced both of those top-of-the-table squads with a depleted lineup. The Boca Raton-based team could be poised for a playoff run under newly appointed player-coach Abby Wambach, who is one of seven U.S. players returning to the lineup. The only team out of the equation is Atlanta (1-10-4, 7 pts.).
Meanwhile, Morgan provided one of the most spectacular goals of the season -- or at least the most publicized WPS goal in the wake of the attention from the Women's World Cup. In the 87th minute with her back to goal, she struck a
Also looking sharp this week was Kelley O'Hara, who scored both of Boston's goals in that 2-2 draw with the Flash. Her rookie season was incredibly productive (she scored six goals and assisted on four for FC Gold Pride), but the start of 2011 was a bit up and down as O'Hara shuffled in and out of the U.S. women's national team camp before being called in as Lindsay Tarpley's replacement on the Women's World Cup roster following Tarpley's injury on May 14.
Deserving of a footnote in the discussion on players showing well in their sophomore season is the recent play of Flash midfielder Beverly Goebel. She hasn't necessarily shown up on the stat sheet, but she won the header that led to Morgan's equalizer on Sunday and she was also a spark plug off the bench in Wednesday's 3-1 win over magicJack. Teammate Becky Edwards, the Flash's co-captain, has also been a stalwart in the middle.
Sky Blue FC also picked up its first shutout in five games (the last one came against Atlanta, not so shockingly). And even in the absence of Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler and Stephanie Cox, Boston's makeshift back line looked good despite giving up a pair of O'Hara goals.