April 9, 2010

2010 WPS - Predictions

The time has come for me to stick my neck out and make predictions for 2010. I honestly don’t think there is a lot separating the top 5 or 6 teams. I definitely don’t think we’ll see 1st place being clinched as early as Los Angeles did last year.

There were a lot of changes to rosters this season. Most teams had more than a 50% turnover from 2009. Out of the 40 international players in the league, 19 are completely new to WPS and another 7 are on different teams from last year. The LA Sol dispersal draft changed the balance of power as well. And I think we’ll see some high impact players from the college ranks as well.

So, without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2010 WPS regular season standings:

1) Sky Blue FC-There are a few other teams that can match Sky Blue's starting 11, but none that have the depth at every position. There are certainly question marks...a new coach, injuries to key personnel, and last year's 7-8-5 record. The addition of 3 talented international players and a nice draft have filled whatever holes were on this roster. With Natasha Kai returning to full health, I can't see any other team finishing ahead of Sky Blue over the course of a full season.

2) Boston Breakers-This might surprise a lot of people, because the 2009 season ended in disarray. But for most of '09, Boston was a 2nd or 3rd place team and that was with Kelly Smith at less than 100% healthy. Boston has improved at nearly every position, with the additions of Naeher, Cox, Angeli, Osborne, Del Rio, Cheney, and Walsh. My biggest concern is depth in some areas, but they can match anybody with their starting 11.

3) Saint Louis Athletica-This is probably the hardest team to predict, because there is so much uncertainty with injuries. Athletica has a great keeper and potentially the best midfield in WPS. But they are lacking depth on the back line and at forward and the injuries to Lori Chalupny are especially worrisome. The dispersal draft gave Saint Louis Boxx, Miyama, and DiMartino which will improve the team in the midfield, but there are just too many question marks to move them higher than 3rd.

4) FC Gold Pride-Scoring will not be a problem for Bay Area like it was in 2009. With Marta, O'Hara, Gulbrandsen, and Abily on board, we will see a lot more offense this year. Gold Pride also improved their defense with the additions of Chapman, Riley, and Edwards. I'm just not sure their defense has improved enough for them to challenge for 1st place and with every road trip being a long one, travel could wear this team down. Last year, FCGP scored only 6 goals in 10 road games.

5) Washington Freedom-Once again, the Freedom will score a lot of goals, but can they stop their opponents? Abby Wambach finished 2009 on a high note and has continued with a strong stretch with the USWNT. One thing this team has going for it is continuity, but that also means that they have made few improvements. Basically, you can reduce the analysis down to Lindsey, Krieger, Senty, and Lohman out and Mykjåland, Bock, Marshall, and Huffman in. Improved yes, but not as much as other teams in the league.

6) Chicago Red Stars-The Red Stars have made some nice additions with Engen, Asllani, Loyden, and Katie Chapman, but they had talent last season. What seemed to be lacking was team chemistry. With Tarpley and Lloyd gone, Chicago is down to just one of their original USWNT allocations, Kate Markgraf, whose return will certainly be welcome. In '09, long scoring droughts were the rule rather than the exception. I kept waiting for this team to gel last year, but they never did, so this team is going to have put together 3 or 4 strong games in a row, before I jump on the bandwagon.

7) Atlanta Beat-If nothing else, Atlanta should be an exciting offensive side with Bachmann, Thompson, Rasmussen, Heath, and Yamaguchi. But the defense is a largely unproven group with no international experience. The other problem is that this team is very young. No one yet 27 and the average age is just a shade over 24. Most of these players haven't had experience in big games on the professional or international level.

8) Philadelphia Independence-Philly should have a solid defense and an excellent goalkeeper in Karina LeBlanc, but I just don't see where the scoring is going to come from. They do have a core of experienced players like Heather Mitts and Lori Lindsey that have been through the wars before. Seger and Lindsey are going to have to bear a very heavy load as far as the midfield goes. Unless the international group of Sanderson, Magnusdottir, and Maruyama can score a lot of goals, it's going to be tough for this team make a run at the playoffs.

This Week's Games:

Boston at Washington
It should be an interesting contest between the east coast rivals. This game features the WPS debut of Lauren Cheney who has already scored 5 goals for the USWNT this year. Both teams feature great offensive players, Abby Wambach for Washington and Kelly Smith for Boston.

Atlanta at Philadelphia
This could be a battle of Atlanta's offense vs. Philadelphia solid defense and goalkeeping. 19 year old sensation Ramona Bachmann makes her WPS debut, as does Tobin Heath, and Amy Rodriguez starts anew with the Independence. It's the Philadelphia franchise's first home game ever.

FC Gold Pride at Saint Louis
This game could be called "the best of the Sol" with Marta and Camille Abily playing for Gold Pride and Shannon Boxx and Aya Miyama playing for Saint Louis. The injury-riddled Athletica will try to win their home opener against the invaders from the Bay Area.

Chicago at Sky Blue FC
The defending champs open at home against the Red Stars. Carli Lloyd faces her old teammates from Chicago. Unlike last season, Sky Blue starts their 2010 schedule as one of the favorites with a target on their back. Also, Kate Markgraf returns after missing all of 2009.


kevinwparker on April 9, 2010 at 6:42 PM said...

I think you're a little hard on the Freedom: keep in mind that coming into the 2009 season Wambach, Whitehill, McLeod, and De Vanna were all coming off of injuries. This year, all of them are completely healthy. If the Freedom can lead the league in scoring with a hobbled Abby, what are they going to do with a healthy one?

KC Albertina on April 10, 2010 at 12:16 AM said...

True Abby is fully healthy, but she was at the end of last season when she scored 5 goals in the last 4 regular season games. Still, Washington lost in the playoffs.

It's not that I think Washington isn't good, it's that other teams have added several players to improve by larger margins. Sky Blue has added Landström, Kalmari, Taylor and now have a healthy Kai. Boston has added Cheney, Osborne, Del Rio, Cox, and now have a healthy Smith. Athletica has added Boxx, Miyama, Edlund, Elaine, and DiMartino. Gold Pride has added Marta, Gulbrandsen, Abily, O'Hara, and Riley. By contrast, Washington hasn't added near as much. Most of the other teams had injuries last year as well.

I do think the top 5 or 6 teams are close and that only a few points will separate them in the end. Washington could certainly make the move higher.

Anonymous said...

You are not being hard on Washington. I think you have hit the nail on the head. Abby will do well and so will Devanna. You cannot ignore Allie Long as an offensive dynamic. She is amazing and proved her skill in the game last night.

The problem is clearly that he has a troubled midfield, which makes the defense look really bad. I don't like what the coach is doing with moving players around. Moving Sauerbrunn? Moros and Bompastor at defense? I was very disappointed to see Singer on the bench. I am a Freedom fan but I am afraid you are right that they are simply being out coached/played by the other teams. Albeit it early, my prediction is they are in serious trouble.

PS I thought Abby was the capt? I smell politics.

KC Albertina on April 15, 2010 at 8:01 PM said...

I will preface this remark by say Gabarra has coached many, many games and I have coached zilch. I can kind of understand moving Sauerbrunn to defensive mid to make room for Marshall in the back. Nikki has a lot talent and I can see Gabarra wanted to get her in there. It also frees Sawa to take on more of an attacking role than last season.

On Bompastor, I guess it depends on your point of view. She's Washington's best overall player, so Gabarra chose to use her in his weakest area, his defense and she will still have opportunities to attack from the back. I like her more in the midfield personally, but again, I can see Gabarra making that move.

On Moros, I preferred her playing the role she did last year. The addition of Mykjåland makes forward a crowded position and even attacking mid with Long there, it is crowded. Moros isn't going to score a lot, but she will score some if you put her in an attacking role. But what she does best is pressure the defense. She doesn't give the opposing defense a free pass into the midfield. She forces them to get rid of the ball quicker than they'd like and make passes they would rather not make. That's a highly underrated quality in attacking players at times and Moros does it very well. One game doesn't make a season. I'm sure there will be more changes once Gabarra gets a feel for what some of his new players can do in a game situation. Keep the faith.

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