Sky Blue FC favored to repeat

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Thursday April 8th, 2010

No doubt about it, Women's Professional Soccer is the best women's league in the world. The level of play in Year 2 should be stronger than in Year 1 even with the addition of expansion teams in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Teams continued to import foreign stars, most notably from clubs in Scandinavia and England, while another bumper crop of collegians, led by Olympic gold-medalists Tobin Heath and Lauren Cheney, will challenge for starting jobs.

SA PREDICTIONS:

1. Sky Blue FC

2. FC Gold Pride

3. Washington Freedom

4. Saint Louis Athletica

5. Boston Breakers

6. Philadelphia Independence

7. Atlanta Beat

8. Chicago Red Stars

Outlook: Sky Blue sneaked into the playoffs, then dominated en route to the inaugural title. New Finnish coach Pauliina Miettinen recruited aggressively overseas in the offseason and U.S. international Carli Lloyd, a Jersey girl, was picked up for free.

2009 Record: 7-8-5 (4th in regular season; won WPS Championship, defeated Los Angeles Sol, 1-0)

Stadium: Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (5,000)

Coach: Pauliina Miettinen

Returnees: 11. WPS acquisitions: 1. Foreign imports: 3. Rookies: 3.

Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)

Jenni Branam, GK, Sky Blue FCKaren Bardsley, GK, Sky Blue FC (England)Anita Asante, D, Sky Blue FC (England)Keeley Dowling, D, Sky Blue FCDaphne Koster, D, AZ (Netherlands)Christie Rampone, Sky Blue FCr-Brittany Taylor, D, Univ. of ConnecticutRosana Augusto, M, Sky Blue FC (Brazil)Yael Averbuch, M, Sky Blue FCCarli Lloyd, M, Chicago Red StarsHeather O'Reilly, M, Sky Blue FCMeghan Schnur, M, Sky Blue FCr-Kiersten Dallstream, F, Washington State Univ.Natasha Kai, F, Sky Blue FCLaura Kalmari, F, AIK Stockholm (Finland)Jessica Landstrom, F, Linkopings FC (Sweden)r-Katie Schoepfer, F, Penn State Univ.Kacey White, F, Sky Blue FC

Outlook: Pride lucked out when Marta dropped to No. 3 in the dispersal draft of L.A. Sol players. Marta and Frenchwoman Camille Abily, picked up earlier from the Sol in a trade, were the top 1-2 punch in WPS in 2009. The other big signing: Norwegian Solveig Gulbrandsen.

2009 Record: 4-10-6 (7th in regular season)

Stadium: Pioneer Stadium, California State University, East Bay (5,000)

Coach: Albertin Montoya

Returnees: 8. WPS acquisitions: 4. Foreign imports: 1. Rookies: 5.

Nicole Barnhart, GK, FC Gold PrideBrittany Cameron, GK, Los Angeles SolRachel Buehler, D, FC Gold PrideCandace Chapman, D, Boston Breakers (Canada)Carrie Dew, D, FC Gold Prider-Ali Riley, D, Stanford Univ. (New Zealand)r-Becky Edwards, D/M, Florida State Univ.Kandace Wilson, D/F, FC Gold PrideCamille Abily, M, Los Angeles Sol (France)Kristin Graczyk, M, FC Gold PrideSolveig Gulbrandsen, M, Stabaek (Norway)Kim Yokers, M, FC Gold Prider-Kiki Bosio, F, Santa Clara Univ.r-Kaley Fountain, F, Wake Forest Univ.Tiffeny Milbrett, F, FC Gold Prider-Kelley O'Hara, F, Stanford Univ.Christine Sinclair, F, FC Gold PrideMarta, F, Los Angeles Sol (Brazil)

Outlook: Freedom underachieved in 2009, though Jim Gabarra brought back 13 players, most of any team. Brittany Bock was picked up in Sol dispersal draft and should help defense. Newcomers Lene Mykjaland and Christie Welsh will need to take pressure off Abby Wambach up front.

2009 Record: 8-7-5 (3rd in regular season; lost in first round to Sky Blue FC, 2-1)

Stadium: Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD (5,600)

Coach: Jim Gabarra

Returnees: 13. WPS acquisitions: 2. Foreign imports: 1. Rookies: 2.

Erin McLeod, GK, Washington Freedom (Canada)Briana Scurry, GK, Washington FreedomBrittany Bock, D, Los Angeles Solr-Kristi Eveland, D, Univ. of North CarolinaJill Gilbeau, D, Washington Freedomr-Nikki Marshall, D, Univ. of ColoradoBecky Sauerbrunn, D, Washington FreedomAlex Singer, D, Washington FreedomCat Whitehill, D, Washington FreedomSonia Bompastor, M, Washington Freedom (France)Sarah Huffman, M, Washington FreedomHomare Sawa, M, Washington Freedom (Japan)Lisa De Vanna, F, Washington Freedom (Australia)Allie Long, F, Washington FreedomRebecca Moros, F, Washington FreedomLene Mykjaland, F, Roa (Norway)Abby Wambach, F, Washington FreedomChristie Welsh, F, Saint Louis Athletica

Outlook: Athletica was the best team in WPS over the second half of the 2009 season. Coach Jorge Barcellos, though, chose to keep only seven players, fewest of the six returning teams. Injuries are big concern going into the season. Brazilian Daniela is again hurt.

2009 Record: 10-6-4 (2nd in regular season; lost to Sky Blue FC in Super Semifinal, 1-0)

Stadium: Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, Fenton, MO (6,000)

Coach: Jorge Barcellos

Returnees: 7. WPS acquisitions: 4. Foreign imports: 2. Rookies: 3. Other newcomers: 2.

r-Ashlyn Harris, GK, Univ. of North CarolinaHope Solo, GK, Saint Louis Athleticar-Carolyn Blank, D, West Virginia Univ.Tina Ellertson, D, Saint Louis AthleticaKendall Fletcher, D, Saint Louis AthleticaSarah Wagenfuhr, D, Buffalo BlastElise Weber, D, Saint Louis AthleticaDaniela Alves, M, Saint Louis Athletica (Brazil)Shannon Boxx, M, Los Angeles SolLori Chalupny, M, Saint Louis AthleticaTina DiMartino, M, FC Gold PrideAya Miyama, M, Los Angeles Sol (Japan)Elaine Moura, M, Umea IK (Brazil)India Trotter, M/F, did not play in 2008Eniola Aluko, F, Saint Louis Athletica (England)Madelaine Edlund, F, Umea IK (Sweden)r-Kristina Larsen, F, UCLALindsay Tarpley, F, Chicago Red Stars

Outlook: Breakers were last year's big disappointment. Top pick Amy Rodriguez scored only once and was shipped to Philly. Boston will need big season from another '08 Olympic gold-medalist, Lauren Cheney.

2009 Record: 7-9-4 (5th in regular season)

Stadium: Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA (30,000)

Coach: Tony DiCicco

Returnees: 8. WPS acquisitions: 6. Rookies: 3. Other newcomers: 1.

Allison Lipsher, GK, Boston Breakersr-Alyssa Naeher, GK, Penn State Univ.Amy LePeilbet, D, Boston Breakersr-Jordan Angeli, D, Santa Clara Univ.Stephanie Cox, D, Los Angeles SolKasey Moore, D, Boston BreakersAlex Scott, D, Boston BreakersFabiana, M, Boston BreakersKristine Lilly, M, Boston BreakersLeslie Osborne, M, FC Gold PrideMaggie Tomecka, Boston BreakersChioma Igwe, M, Chicago Red StarsLiz Bogus, F, Los Angeles SolLaura Del Rio, F, FC Indiana (Spain)Kelly Smith, F, Boston BreakersTiffany Weimer, F, FC Gold PrideSarah Walsh, F, Saint Louis Athleticar-Lauren Cheney, F, UCLA

Outlook: Philly went for experience -- not one rookie is on its 18-player first team. Led by former Sol keeper Katrina LeBlanc, the defense should be solid. Midfielder Lori Lindsey is coming off excellent winter with U.S. national team.

2009 Record: Expansion Team

Stadium: John A. Farrell Stadium, West Chester University (7,500)

Coach: Paul Riley

WPS acquisitions: 14. Foreign imports: 4.

Val Henderson, GK, Los Angeles SolKarina LeBlanc, GK, Los Angeles Sol (Canada)Allison Falk, D, Los Angeles SolEstelle Johnson, D, Los Angeles SolNikki Krzysik, D, Chicago Red StarsSara Larsson, D, Chicago Red Stars (Sweden)Heather Mitts, D, Boston BreakersSarah Senty, D, Washington FreedomJennifer Buczkowski, M, Sky Blue FCLori Lindsey, M, Washington FreedomJoanna Lohman, M, Washington FreedomCaroline Seger, M, Linkopings FC (Sweden)Danesha Adams, F, Chicago Red StarsHolmfridur Magnusdottir, F, Kristianstads DFF (Iceland)Karina Maruyama, F, Tepco Marezee (Japan)Lyndsey Patterson, F, Los Angeles SolAmy Rodriguez, F, Boston BreakersLianne Sanderson, F, Chelsea Ladies (England)

Outlook: Beat certainly has the firepower. Question is how the defense will do. It suffered a blow when Manya Makoski suffered a season-ending knee injury.

2009 Record: Expansion Team

Stadium: Atlanta Beat Stadium, Kennesaw State University (8,300)

Coach: Gareth O'Sullivan

WPS acquisitions: 11. Foreign imports: 4. Rookies: 1. Other newcomers: 2.

Brett Maron, GK, Kristianstad FFAllison Whitworth, GK, FC Gold PrideTracy Hamm, D, FC Gold PrideKia McNeill, D, Saint Louis AthleticaLeigh Ann Robinson, D, FC Gold PrideStacy Leigh Bishop, M, Boston Breakersr-Tobin Heath, M, Univ. of North CarolinaAngie Kerr, M, Saint Louis AthleticaKatie Larkin, M, Los Angeles SolSophia Mundy, M, Boston BreakersMami Yamaguchi, M, Umea IK (Japan)McCall Zerboni, M, Los Angeles SolRamona Bachmann, F, Umea IK (Switzerland)Amanda Cinalli, F, Saint Louis AthleticaMonica Ocampo, F, FC Indiana (Mexico)Johanna Rasmussen, F, Umea IK (Denmark)Lauren Sesselmann, F, Sky Blue FCShelley Thompson, F, Wolfsburg (Germany)

Outlook: Red Stars faded in second half and didn't make the playoffs. Kate Markgraf, now 33, must contribute after sitting out of the 2009 season to have second child. Coach Emma Hayes loaded up on UNC players in college and dispersal drafts.

2009 Record: 5-10-5 (6th in regular season)

Stadium: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL (20,000)

Coach: Emma Hayes

Returnees: 9. WPS acquisitions: 3. Foreign imports: 2. Rookies: 4.

r-Kelsey Davis, GK, Univ. of PortlandJillian Loyden, GK, Saint Louis AthleticaKaren Carney, M, Chicago Red StarsKatie Chapman, M, Arsenal Ladies (England)Marian Dalmy, D, Chicago Red StarsIfeoma Dieke. D, Chicago Red Stars (Scotland)r-Whitney Engen, D, Univ. of North CarolinaKate Markgraf, D, Chicago Red StarsNatalie Spilger, D, Chicago Red StarsJulianne Sitch, D/M, Sky Blue FCFormiga, M, FC Gold Pride (Brazil)Brittany Klein, M, Chicago Red StarsMegan Rapinoe, M, Chicago Red StarsKosovare Asllani, F, Linkopings FC (Sweden)Ella Masar, F, Chicago Red Starsr-Jessica McDonald, F, Univ. of North Carolinar-Casey Nogueira, F, Univ. of North CarolinaCristiane, F, Chicago Red Stars (Brazil)

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