May 21, 2011

The Clash of the Titans? magicJack at Western New York

magicJack at Western New York Flash (7 pm eastern, Sunday)
Sahlen Stadium, Rochester, New York.

Western New York Flash (4-0-1, 13 pts)
Coach: Aaran Lines
Goalkeepers: A. Harris, B. Cameron.
Defenders: C. Chapman, W. Engen, A. Riley, K. Wilson, G. Lewandowski, K. Brandao.
Midfielders: C. Seger, Y. Averbuch, B. Bock, B. Edwards, M. Zerboni, B. Goebel.
Forwards: Marta, C. Sinclair, A. Morgan, G. Davisson, K. Parker.
Not active: K. Fountain (injured), Maurine, A. Bowers, A. Sahlen, J. Sitch.

magicJack (3-0-0, 8 pts)
Coach (interim?): Christie Rampone
Goalkeepers: H. Solo, J. Loyden.
Defenders: B. Sauerbrunn, M. Dalmy, T. Ellertson, M. Schnur, N. Marshall.
Midfielders: S. Boxx, S. Huffman, M. Klingenberg, R. Moros.
Forwards: A. Wambach, E. Masar, C. Press, L. De Vanna, J. Rasmussen.
Not active: L. Tarpley (injured), C. Rampone (injured), B. Maron, K. White, A. DaCosta, O. Davis, L. Vandenberg, S. Schmidt.

In what might be one of the most eagerly anticipated regular season matches in WPS history, magicJack travels to Rochester to face Western New York on Sunday evening. This match has enough electricity surrounding it to light up Sahlen Stadium.

First, there is the home team. An expansion team, the Flash have never been confused with the normal vision of what an expansion team is supposed to be. They signed a great many players off from last year's championship team, brought in a few other high profile free agents, added a nice mix of players from the W-League Flash (league champions no less), and then drafted perhaps the most popular player from the current USWNT.

Between Marta, Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan, and the rest of the Flash, there is a lot to cheer about. They have sprinted out to a 4-0-1 start and right now, are probably odds on favorites to win it all.

Then, there is magicJack, the erstwhile Washington Freedom. Dan Borislow bought the team, moved them to Boca Raton, and since the season has started, has been surrounded in controversy. Their first home game was played on a very narrow field, opposing teams did not have access to game films, and then there was something about sponsorship signs and banners around FAU Stadium. Oh, and magicJack may not have an official coach now. Supposedly, former Sky Blue star and coach Christie Rampone will get the honors on Sunday, since she is not active to play due to injury.

The league first docked magicJack a draft choice, then later another draft choice, plus a point in the standings, which explains why magicJack has only eight points in spite of three victories. The league was not amused by someone they deemed to be breaking their rules. Not to mention, Dan usually speaks his mind. All this has the makings of a John Wayne movie and Dan is riding into town wearing the black hat.

But somewhat overshadowed by all this, magicJack has a darn good soccer team, unbeaten in three matches, all of which were played at home. This will be their first venture into enemy territory and there is much speculation as to what will happen when they meet the Flash on Sunday night. It should be an interesting match to be sure and hopefully, the on field match will be every bit as exciting as expected.

Added to all the excitement of this match is the fact that one of Rochester's biggest home town heroes is returning. Abby Wambach, one of the greatest scorers in USWNT history, will be making her first WPS appearance in Rochester, albeit with the visiting team. You can't argue with 117 career goals for the United States.

Other than talented, the first word that comes to mind when talking about the Flash is speed. They've got it and magicJack is going to have to defend against it. Not only is magicJack loaded with speed up front with Marta, Morgan, Sinclair, Kelly Parker, and Gemma Davison, they have two of the fastest outside backs in the league in Kandace Wilson and Ali Riley. With the field at Sahlen Stadium being a bit wider than magicJack is used to, this could be a problem for them.

magicJack has experience on their side. Between Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Hope Solo, and Tina Ellertson, they have one of the most experienced squads around. They don't quite have the speed of WNY, but do have scoring threats. Wambach, Ella Masar, and Christen Press also make a formidable trio up front and then there's Lisa De Vanna, the Australian speedster who has had a bit of controversy of her own as of late, being dismissed from the Australian National Team before a recent friendly.

Injuries will definitely affect this match. Lindsay Tarpley is lost for the season and Rampone will miss this match. Also, Western New York will get a boost from the return of Yael Averbuch, who had spent much of her time away from the team in her pursuit of a spot on the USWNT.

Another factor will be that many of these players are returning from national team duty last week and for some, this will be their third match in a week. Chances are, many of these players may not start, so we may not see the full force of what these two teams are capable of.

While the Flash will still be in first place, win, lose, or draw, the winner of this match can really lay claim to temporary supremacy in WPS. At least, until the next time they play, that is.