April 9, 2011

Predictions or How to Make a Fool of One's Self in 750 Words or Less

Okay, it’s that time of the year where we all guess at what we think will happen in the coming WPS season. It should be an exciting season and very competitive for the most part. I believe four or five teams will be closely grouped at the top of the table.

Sorry, Atlanta fans. I’m hoping to see some reason for optimism in the weeks ahead, but I’m not seeing it right now. But take heart, I picked Philadelphia to finish last in 2010 and they made it all the way to the finals.

So without further ado, here goes nothing.

1) Western New York Flash – This team has a lot of firepower up front and national team players everywhere. They have seven players off of the defending champions, so to me, they are an extension of the franchise that was FC Gold Pride (no disrespect intended to Gold Pride fans). Marta, Sinclair, and Morgan could be a lethal trio. Marta has been the league’s leading scorer for two years and has led her team to the regular season championship both seasons. I can see no reason to think that she can’t do it for a third year in a row.

2) Boston Breakers – I have the Breakers rated about dead even with the Flash. But then I look at Boston’s head-to-head matchup with Gold Pride last season and they lost all four in mostly close games. That’s why I gave the Flash an edge over Boston. The Breakers do get a nice break with the schedule. During June 13 through July 23, the Breakers play just two matches, both against Atlanta. So while the team will lose several players to the World Cup, they won’t be missing many matches. I also give high marks to Tony DiCicco, who made the changes that needed to be made last season to turn the season around.

3) magicJack – I believe that this team is almost at a level with the top two, but not quite. They have some players that are getting up in age and some who are battling or recovering from injury. Plus they have the added distraction of the move and other changes within the organization. They will also have the longest travel of any team in the league. And it’s my guess they will miss the Maryland SoccerPlex, a stadium that gave them a healthy home field advantage. I liked most of the offseason moves they made, but I just can’t put them ahead of WNY or Boston.

4) Philadelphia – Every time I start to get overly optimistic about this team, I have to remind myself that they did end up with only a .500 record last season. They accomplished so much, it was often easy to overlook the occasional flaws this team showed. The Independence have brought a number of new attacking players in, but scoring wasn’t necessarily their problem last season. I worry most about their defense. They also have the misfortune of having four games scheduled during that World Cup window, while some teams have only two. I have a tremendous respect for what Paul Riley did with this team last season, but this year may be even tougher.

5) Sky Blue FC – It was a very tough call for third, fourth, and fifth place. Like Philly, they have four games scheduled during the World Cup window, which works against them. They have addressed one major concern, adding offense to the roster. In the match against Malmo in Turkey, I thought they looked pretty sharp passing the ball for that early in the season. The finishing has to be better than in that match, but I think it will be. If everything falls into place, they could be competing for the title. If not, they will be battling for the final playoff spot.

6) Atlanta Beat – I just believe that the Beat needs too many inexperienced players to have good seasons for this team to challenge for a playoff spot. On a any given day, they will be a tough side to face, but I’m afraid the consistency won’t be there to string wins together. They will need to tie games that they should lose and win games they should tie. The two positives are they have some genuine veteran leadership on the team and also have the youthful exuberance of so many young players. But that can carry a team only so far.