Mind over Marta

The biggest, most anticipated game on the calendar was played today, featuring a good portion of the game's greatest stars on one stage, and two of the world's most famous and beloved teams facing off for the ultimate prize.

So, let's talk about WPS. Coupla weeks ago, Grahame Jones of the LA Times was, I think, the first mainstream soccer writer in the country to point out that Marta has a temper.

Jones asked Abner Rogers about the topic, who replied:

Rogers - who was almost certainly feigning ignorance in the spirit of outward harmony - might have noticed how ticked off Marta was against the Gold Pride on Sunday.

It's understandable that Marta is upset about losing...wait, the Sol are on another winning streak. Towards the end of the match, Marta tracked back to help on defense. Said "help" consisted of gesticulating and yelling at the teammates who were, after all, pitching a shutout.

And then she went and broke Kandace Wilson's hip.

This is the second time this season that one of the league's major, major stars has injured a talented, but less famous, opponent. I don't want to say that either Marta or Abby Wambach set out to injure their targets, but Marta certainly wasn't overwhelmed with concern for the player who had pretty much marked her out of the game.

There's a good deal of plausible deniability for Marta, or for the league if they choose not to suspend her. Marta didn't leave her feet, she was shoulder to shoulder with Wilson (before she was elbow to ribs), and if she had been planning to break her hip, it was a one in a million shot.

But it was a deliberate foul that injured a player. And it happened the first week after Tony DiCicco damned from a height the dangerous play, and the equally dangerous refereeing, that is stalking the league.

Perhaps it's my misty-eyed memories of WUSA, and it's alleged devotion to the grace and beauty of athletics, achievement and competition, but WPS is a freaking demolition derby in comparison. Charmaine Hooper, the most notoriously tough player in WUSA, wouldn't stand out particularly these days.

It's still not as bad as the men's game. After every foul, we don't see half the squad working the ref like preschoolers asking for extra Graham crackers...yet. But I thought we had years before we got there, not weeks.

I still approve of the way the league's handled the various fouls and refereeing controversies so far - if Marta skates, I'll assume it's for competition reasons rather than "We can't suspend Marta on her own freaking Bobblehead Night!" reasons. (The current splash page on fcgoldpride.com features the opportunity to order your own Samba Queens coffee mug. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for justice.)

As to Marta herself - Home Depot Center vagabonds and voyeurs recall another player bigger than the league who calls Victoria Street home. The parallels between Marta's attitude and He Who Must Not Be Named are beginning to worry - well, me. (I'm not saying the crossover between Sol and Galaxy season ticket holders could fit in a minivan. A city bus, maybe.) What will the Sol do if Marta ends up consistently unhappy with her teammates and everything about them?

Unlike the Galaxy, "nothing" is a tempting option. The Sol are way out in front, and there's nothing that says a team can't hate each other and win. West Germany before reunification; the Oakland A's and New York Yankees of the 70's - it can be done.

Except Reggie Jackson never had the option of quitting and going back to Sweden. Neither did Klinsmann or Lothar Matthaeus. Besides, if the Sol decide one day they're not going to pass to Marta anymore, they're going to rely on Han Duan to lead them to victory...they will be crushed like teeny little ants.

She's also still quite young, which made her comments about her youthful and inexperienced teammates a little rich. The Sol are unusually young, but you'd like to see someone like Shannon Boxx take Marta gently aside and tell her not to show up her teammates during the game. That might not be Boxx's style, though. Can they borrow Dema Kovalenko or Atiba Harris for that? They work just down the hall, after all.

We'll see this Saturday, when those shy, delicate, finesse-oriented ballerinas from St. Louis come to town. I'm sure they won't be trying to get Marta to lose her temper.