April 23, 2011

Women's Professional Soccer Comes to Florida

This evening, the first WPS regular season game in Florida will be played as magicJack hosts the Boston Breakers in a 7 pm eastern time match. This match will be magicJack's home and season opener. MagicJack was supposed to play their season opener last weekend, but weather washed away their match in Philadelphia.

It will be interesting to see how Dan Borislow's team is received in the Sunshine State. There hasn't been a whole lot of marketing, advertising, or even news from magicJack's camp. Their new home is FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, home of Florida Atlantic University, which seats somewhere between 1100 and 1500. Apparently, the team will drop their former red, white, and blue colors in favor of green.

What we do know is that this franchise has undergone numerous changes from the top on down. The team that coach Mike Lyons brings to the field on Saturday will have only six players from last year's Washington Freedom. The other thing we know is that this team has a lot of talent, including several national team players from the United States and other countries.

MagicJack has brought together five long-time members of the USWNT, including Hope Solo, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley, and Abby Wambach. That's a total of 747 national team caps if you're counting and that doesn't even include caps from current USWNT player Becky Sauerbrunn or other players that have made appearances like Meghan Schnur, Kacey White, Jill Loyden, Marian Dalmy, Tina Ellertson, Sarah Huffman, Meghan Klingenberg, and Ella Masar.

Solo, for one, will not be playing in the match against Boston. She was handed a suspension at the end of last season and was unable to serve it last week. That means magicJack fans will see either Jill Loyden or Brett Maron in goal today.

MagicJack should score goals. The trio of Abby Wambach, Lisa De Vanna, and Ella Masar have all proven that they can put the ball in the net at this level. Christen Press, the rookie out of Stanford, hasn't yet, but we could see good things from her.

The fact is magicJack is pretty solid at every position, which should put them in position to challenge for the league title.

Boston, on the other hand, is coming off of a loss to this year's juggernaut, the WNY Flash. The Breakers played a reasonably solid match against the Flash last weekend, but it just wasn't enough to win that game. Because of that loss, this match becomes very important. Last year's team was able to dig itself out of deep hole early in the season, but this year's team would have six fewer matches to do that, so the better course of action is obviously to not dig the hole.

The loss of Jordan Angeli dealt the Breakers...and Angeli, a huge blow. She is one of the bright young talents in this league. The Breakers are very thin in the midfield without her and it showed to some extent last week against the Flash, who were able to exploit space between the midfield and back line at times.

In fact, Boston has only seven total forwards and midfielders rostered for this match, although "defender" Liz Bogus can play anywhere on the field giving the Breakers a little more depth.

South Florida will get a heavy dose of magicJack in coming days, as the team plays three consecutive weekends at home. The team needs to build a following since they no longer have loyal Washington Freedom fans to count on.

The Freedom had one of the largest home vs. road differentials in the league over the past two seasons. The Freedom lost just four regular season home games in two years, one to the '09 regular season champions LA Sol, one to the '10 WPS champion Gold Pride, and strangely enough, two to the Breakers. Can Boca Raton offer the same home field advantage for magicJack?

Coach: Mike Lyons
Record: 0-0-0
Goalkeepers: Jill Loyden, Brett Maron.
Defenders: Marian Dalmy, Tina Ellertson, Nikki Marshall, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Schnur.
Midfielders: Shannon Boxx, Sarah Huffman, Meghan Klingenberg, Lindsay Tarpley, Kacey White.
Forwards: Lisa De Vanna, Ella Masar, Rebecca Moros, Christen Press, Abby Wambach.

Not active: Hope Solo (suspension), Sophie Schmidt (unavailable), Lydia Vandenbergh, Amanda DaCosta, Omolyn Davis, Johanna Rasmussen.

Boston Breakers
Coach: Tony DiCicco
Record: 1-1-0
Goalkeepers: Alyssa Naeher, Kelsey Davis.
Defenders: Liz Bogus, Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Ifeoma Dieke, Amy LePeilbet, Kasey Moore, Alex Scott.
Midfielders: Leslie Osborne, Katie Schoepfer, Nikki Washington, Keelin Winters.
Forwards: Lauren Cheney, Kelley O'Hara, Kelly Smith.

Not active: Jordan Angeli (injury), Leah Blayney (injury), Ashley Phillips, Niki Cross, Elli Reed, Claire Zimmeck.