August 22, 2011

WPS Award Winners

Last week, WPS announced their annual award winners. There were several good candidates in each category and no clear cut choice in any. However, the winning candidate was certainly deserving in each case.

Michelle Akers Player of the Year - Veronica Boquete, Philadelphia Independence

Boquete scored five goals and four assists after joining the Independence in June. She scored the only goal in three 1-0 victories over a four game stretch in late July. The Independence had a 9-1 regular season record with her in the starting lineup. Boquete was definitely a major factor on Philly's strong challenge for first place.

My choice would have Boquete as well, but with Christine Sinclair almost even with her.

WPS Defender of the Year - Whitney Engen, Western New York Flash

Engen played the full 90 minutes in 17 of the Flashes' 18 matches. She was able to shut down many of the league's top forwards and helped Western New York to becoming the best defensive team in the league with a 1.00 goals against average.

My choice would have been Engen, but there were several good candidates including Engen's teammate Ali Riley and Nikki Krzysik from Philadelphia. I thought that Jen Buczkowski was overlooked in the nominating process and should have been given top consideration as well.

US Coast Guard Goalkeeper of the Year - Ashlyn Harris, Western New York Flash

Harris led the league in goals against average with 1.00 average per match. She also tied for the league lead in shutouts with five, while playing every minute of every match for the Flash. Her quick reflexes enabled her to make many great saves during the season.

My choice would probably have been Jen Branam. While her goals against was quite a bit higher than Harris', her defense was often a patchwork with players being injured or away with national team duty. However, I can't really argue with Harris, who was a deserving choice.

US Soccer Federation Rookie of the Year - Christen Press, magicJack

Press scored eight goals in her rookie season, the fifth best total in WPS. The Stanford alum is one of only four players ever to score a hat trick in league play, doing so in 4-0 victory over Boston on July 30. She uses her great speed to get behind defenses and is becoming more adept at timing her runs to greatest advantage.

Press would have been my choice as well. Keelin Winters, Sinead Farrelly, and Alex Morgan all had great rookie seasons, but to me, Press had the biggest impact on her team's performance.

WPS Coach of the Year - Paul Riley, Philadelphia Independence

Riley wins the award for the second consecutive year and deservedly so. He is one of the game's best strategists and gets the most out of his roster, one that has far fewer national team players than either Western New York or magicJack.

Riley was definitely my choice, but consideration must also go to Aaran Lines who did a fine job with the expansion Flash.

Citi Sportswoman of the Year - Nikki Krzysik, Philadelphia Independence

On the field, Krzysik was as solid as a rock, playing all 1620 minutes of the regular season in helping the Independence to finish second in WPS. Off the field, Krzysik has helped lead international philanthropic efforts that took her overseas with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes where she led clinics and shared her experience and love of the game with the participants of the women’s soccer league in Honduras. She has proven to be a leader both on and off the field.

This award was voted on by players and coaches only. But even though we could not vote on this award, I believe Krzysik was an outstanding choice.

PUMA Golden Boot Award - Marta, Western New York Flash

Marta wins this award for the third consecutive year. She scored 10 goals for the season, with seven coming in the last six matches, when the Flash were battling the Independence for first place. She edged out teammate Christine Sinclair, who played in one more match than Marta did. Interestingly, although Sinclair played in one more match, Marta actually saw one more minute of action than Sinclair.