Sky Blue FC favored to repeat

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.


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 FC Karen Bardsley, GK, Sky Blue FC (England) Anita Asante, D, Sky Blue FC (England) Keeley Dowling, D, Sky Blue FC Daphne Koster, D, AZ (Netherlands) Christie Rampone, Sky Blue FC r-Brittany Taylor, D, Univ. of Connecticut Rosana Augusto, M, Sky Blue FC (Brazil) Yael Averbuch, M, Sky Blue FC Carli Lloyd, M, Chicago Red Stars Heather O'Reilly, M, Sky Blue FC Meghan Schnur, M, Sky Blue FC r-Kiersten Dallstream, F, Washington State Univ. Natasha Kai, F, Sky Blue FC Laura 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 Pride Brittany Cameron, GK, Los Angeles Sol Rachel Buehler, D, FC Gold Pride Candace Chapman, D, Boston Breakers (Canada) Carrie Dew, D, FC Gold Pride r-Ali Riley, D, Stanford Univ. (New Zealand) r-Becky Edwards, D/M, Florida State Univ. Kandace Wilson, D/F, FC Gold Pride Camille Abily, M, Los Angeles Sol (France) Kristin Graczyk, M, FC Gold Pride Solveig Gulbrandsen, M, Stabaek (Norway) Kim Yokers, M, FC Gold Pride r-Kiki Bosio, F, Santa Clara Univ. r-Kaley Fountain, F, Wake Forest Univ. Tiffeny Milbrett, F, FC Gold Pride r-Kelley O'Hara, F, Stanford Univ. Christine Sinclair, F, FC Gold Pride Marta, 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 Freedom Brittany Bock, D, Los Angeles Sol r-Kristi Eveland, D, Univ. of North Carolina Jill Gilbeau, D, Washington Freedom r-Nikki Marshall, D, Univ. of Colorado Becky Sauerbrunn, D, Washington Freedom Alex Singer, D, Washington Freedom Cat Whitehill, D, Washington Freedom Sonia Bompastor, M, Washington Freedom (France) Sarah Huffman, M, Washington Freedom Homare Sawa, M, Washington Freedom (Japan) Lisa De Vanna, F, Washington Freedom (Australia) Allie Long, F, Washington Freedom Rebecca Moros, F, Washington Freedom Lene Mykjaland, F, Roa (Norway) Abby Wambach, F, Washington Freedom Christie 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 Carolina Hope Solo, GK, Saint Louis Athletica r-Carolyn Blank, D, West Virginia Univ. Tina Ellertson, D, Saint Louis Athletica Kendall Fletcher, D, Saint Louis Athletica Sarah Wagenfuhr, D, Buffalo Blast Elise Weber, D, Saint Louis Athletica Daniela Alves, M, Saint Louis Athletica (Brazil) Shannon Boxx, M, Los Angeles Sol Lori Chalupny, M, Saint Louis Athletica Tina DiMartino, M, FC Gold Pride Aya Miyama, M, Los Angeles Sol (Japan) Elaine Moura, M, Umea IK (Brazil) India Trotter, M/F, did not play in 2008 Eniola Aluko, F, Saint Louis Athletica (England) Madelaine Edlund, F, Umea IK (Sweden) r-Kristina Larsen, F, UCLA Lindsay 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 Breakers r-Alyssa Naeher, GK, Penn State Univ. Amy LePeilbet, D, Boston Breakers r-Jordan Angeli, D, Santa Clara Univ. Stephanie Cox, D, Los Angeles Sol Kasey Moore, D, Boston Breakers Alex Scott, D, Boston Breakers Fabiana, M, Boston Breakers Kristine Lilly, M, Boston Breakers Leslie Osborne, M, FC Gold Pride Maggie Tomecka, Boston Breakers Chioma Igwe, M, Chicago Red Stars Liz Bogus, F, Los Angeles Sol Laura Del Rio, F, FC Indiana (Spain) Kelly Smith, F, Boston Breakers Tiffany Weimer, F, FC Gold Pride Sarah Walsh, F, Saint Louis Athletica r-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 Sol Karina LeBlanc, GK, Los Angeles Sol (Canada) Allison Falk, D, Los Angeles Sol Estelle Johnson, D, Los Angeles Sol Nikki Krzysik, D, Chicago Red Stars Sara Larsson, D, Chicago Red Stars (Sweden) Heather Mitts, D, Boston Breakers Sarah Senty, D, Washington Freedom Jennifer Buczkowski, M, Sky Blue FC Lori Lindsey, M, Washington Freedom Joanna Lohman, M, Washington Freedom Caroline Seger, M, Linkopings FC (Sweden) Danesha Adams, F, Chicago Red Stars Holmfridur Magnusdottir, F, Kristianstads DFF (Iceland) Karina Maruyama, F, Tepco Marezee (Japan) Lyndsey Patterson, F, Los Angeles Sol Amy Rodriguez, F, Boston Breakers Lianne 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 FF Allison Whitworth, GK, FC Gold Pride Tracy Hamm, D, FC Gold Pride Kia McNeill, D, Saint Louis Athletica Leigh Ann Robinson, D, FC Gold Pride Stacy Leigh Bishop, M, Boston Breakers r-Tobin Heath, M, Univ. of North Carolina Angie Kerr, M, Saint Louis Athletica Katie Larkin, M, Los Angeles Sol Sophia Mundy, M, Boston Breakers Mami Yamaguchi, M, Umea IK (Japan) McCall Zerboni, M, Los Angeles Sol Ramona Bachmann, F, Umea IK (Switzerland) Amanda Cinalli, F, Saint Louis Athletica Monica Ocampo, F, FC Indiana (Mexico) Johanna Rasmussen, F, Umea IK (Denmark) Lauren Sesselmann, F, Sky Blue FC Shelley 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 Portland Jillian Loyden, GK, Saint Louis Athletica Karen Carney, M, Chicago Red Stars Katie Chapman, M, Arsenal Ladies (England) Marian Dalmy, D, Chicago Red Stars Ifeoma Dieke. D, Chicago Red Stars (Scotland) r-Whitney Engen, D, Univ. of North Carolina Kate Markgraf, D, Chicago Red Stars Natalie Spilger, D, Chicago Red Stars Julianne Sitch, D/M, Sky Blue FC Formiga, M, FC Gold Pride (Brazil) Brittany Klein, M, Chicago Red Stars Megan Rapinoe, M, Chicago Red Stars Kosovare Asllani, F, Linkopings FC (Sweden) Ella Masar, F, Chicago Red Stars r-Jessica McDonald, F, Univ. of North Carolina r-Casey Nogueira, F, Univ. of North Carolina Cristiane, F, Chicago Red Stars (Brazil)

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