WPS Season Preview

You know, the site I used to write for a thousand years ago had Merrill Ring and Katherine Minarik - they'd be perfect for a job like this. All I'd ever have to do was link to them.

This sucks. Now I have to think for myself. I can't even find Scott French's articles now, and don't think I haven't tried.

This group, with two exceptions, strikes me as a bunch of cool-headed veterans. Tony DiCicco, Kristine Lilly, Heather Mitts and Kelly Smith are joined by fringe US nats like Angela Hucles and Kristin Luckenbill and WUSA survivors like Nancy Goffi and Christine Latham. The two exceptions are Fabiana and Amy Rodriguez, two future stars with nearly unlimited upside. So watch DiCicco bench them and put Latham and Lilly up top.

Emma Hayes, late of Arsenal Ladies, is the coach. One of the interesting things WPS will reveal is how much the European game has taken advantage of the holding pattern the game was in here since WUSA folded, and how much in particular England has taken advantage of "Bend It Like Beckham." I hate to overstate the social impacts of a mere movie, but take a look at what happened after "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Greek people get married all the time now. Carli Lloyd, Lindsay Tarpley, and some steel-eyed internationals called Carney, Ostberg and Garriock front the roster, but the real star is/had better be Cristiane.

Seemingly, the anti-Red Stars. Chicago has a gloweringly traditional name, straightforward logo, and uniforms dripping with civic pride. FC Gold Pride has, well, none of those. According to the Gold Pride logo, you would also call the Glasgow team FC Rangers Ready or the Birmingham team FC Aston Villa Prepared or the Merseyside team FC Liverpool You'll Never Walk Alone. (I'm assuming Gold Pride is the name of the club, with Gold as the adjective and Pride as the plural noun meaning bunch of lions, but how can one know for sure?) The coaches are local legends - Albertin Montoya has much less of a resume than some of his WPS peers, though his assistant is the legendary Sissi. If Chastain gets on the field, then so should Sissi. Either Sissi or American dollars lured Formiga and Erika, who started against the United States in the Olympics last year. Brandi Chastain got more attention, but the real blast from the past is Tiffeny Milbrett, whose return to top rank soccer couldn't have been more subtle. Christine Sinclair is going to be the real star of this team, though.

While Emma Hayes was building a phenomenon in London, and while DiCicco was - well, doing all that, Abner Rogers was leading the Laguna Hills Eclipse. This doesn't mean Rogers can't coach - there are plenty of coaches around these parts, my friend. It just means (a) there's a fairly narrow gap between the miniscule number of top flight pro jobs and the Laguna Hills Eclipse, and (b) WPS hasn't or didn't choose to raid NCAA teams for coaching talent as enthusiastically as they raided foreign teams for players. As is traditional, if not obligatory, for Los Angeles teams, the Sol feature a few very well-known stars, with the majority of the roster - well, let's just call them future stars. Hey, I admit it, I hadn't heard of Cienfuegos before 1996. I think Boxx and Cox would have been enough to anchor a strong team without big-name help, so it isn't as if Marta will be leading a flea circus. I'm personally hoping Aly Wagner, now in the theoretical prime of her career, has more fun passing to Marta than to Lilly or Wambach.

Oh, apparently this is the way the league is spelling it. It's either a confusing homage to the university, an honest desire to honor King Louis IX, or a dastardly ploy to throw off my Power Rankings! Apparently StLA got the last pick in the WPS Brazilian Draft, and had to settle for the coach. I kid. Or DO I? The Laticas are the least star-studded team in the league - Daniela and Hope Solo are by far the biggest names. I'd have serious worries about the A's chances, quite honestly, were it not for the fact that Lori Chalupny walks on water.

What was Ian Sawyers doing between WUSA and today? I couldn't find out from the Sky Blue site, or Wikipedia. In any case, Sawyers leads what is apparently the largest coaching staff in the league - five people. We'll see if coaches = wins. Unsurprisingly, the roster is made up of some fairly serious W-League and WPSL veterans, so if the names don't jump out at you - or me - that's not a cause for concern. If you are concerned, just rest assured that Rampone and Rosana will be in control. Which is a nice way of saying I have no idea how Heather O'Reilly and Natasha Kai will mesh, and yes I know they're US teammates.

Even more than Sky Blue and Boston, the Freedom go in thinking the core of their current squad should be good enough to compete in the new era. The anti-Sounders, if you will. I don't even think Jim Gabarra had to change his stationery. Homare Sawa, whose job will be to pass it to Wambach, and Lisa de Vanna, whose job will be to stand near Wambach and wait for rebounds, are the significant imports. The great Briana Scurry isn't any more enthusiastic about retirement than Chastain or Lilly - I wonder if there's any doubt in Kati Jo Spisak that she would make the saves that Scurry can't. But, despite Cat Whitehill in defense, this is the Abby Wambach Show. The Sol are a faceless collective in comparison. But, what with the US winning a gold medal without her, it's not as if Abby has anything to prove or any scores to settle or...yeah, look out, league.

As you might have noticed by now, with only seven teams, there shouldn't actually be any terrible teams in the league, and it's hard to pick any to either excel or stink.

Since I don't ACTUALLY think the teams will finish in alphabetical order, though:

1. Red Stars
3. Sol
4. Breakers
5. Freedom
6. Sky Blue
7. Athletica

So there you go. In the words of the great amerifolklegend: click, print, and wipe.