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At last, the WPS season has officially kicked off! This is the moment all of us have been waiting for since the end of last season. This week on the chat, we will discuss the opening weekend matches and what we are excited for this season.

Q1: The Breakers vs. the Beat.

  • Did either team surprise you?
  • How did they perform?
  • What player or players performances were you impressed by?
  • What was your play or goal of the match?

For more information on the match, check out the box score, Boston recap, and Atlanta recap.

Q2: The Independence vs. Sky Blue.

  • Did either team surprise you?
  • How did they perform?
  • What player or players performances were you impressed by?
  • What was your play or goal of the match?

For more information on the match, check out the box score, Philadelphia recap, and New Jersey recap.

Q3: The 2011 WPS Season Ahead .

  • Let’s discuss whatever it is that you are excited about this season. Pick a question or topic and work through it.

Join us on Monday at 8pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #WPSchat tag.

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Installment number three of the ‘Who Dat’ series. The series takes an in-depth look at all the WPS teams in a lead up to the start of the season. The Chicago Red Stars are this post’s team to go through the ‘Who Dat’ treatment.

The Front Line: The front line of the Red Stars started to find the back of the net in the latter part of the 2009 season with the emergence of Christiane as a scoring machine. The 2010 season should start off as it ended last season, with this group continuing their scoring ways. The main pieces of the group except for Lindsay Tarpley are still in place and the UNC duo of Casey Nogueira and Jessica McDonald as well as Ella Masar will fill the gap left by Lindsay’s absence.

The Midfield: The Midfield went through the biggest transition for the Red Stars in the off-season. Carli Lloyd, Chioma Igwe, and Nikki Krzysik left either through free agency signings or the expansion draft. The Red Stars reloaded the midfield by moving Megan Rapinoe from the forward slot and by acquiring Katie Chapman and Formiga. This group has yet to prove itself as a unit and it will be interesting to see how they perform throughout the season.

The Defense and Goal Tending: This group needed the most improvement from the 2009 season letting in an average of 1.25 goals a game, the 3rd worst in the league. The net minder for the Red Stars to start the 2010 season will be Jillian Loyden who was acquired through a trade. She played three games in the 2009 season and two of those were shutouts. Jillian has yet to prove herself day-in and day-out for a full season but has great potential and will be a determining factor in the success of the back line. The next step in bring down that GAA of 1.25 is to build a solid defense in front Loyden. The Red Stars looked to do this through the college draft. With the 4th overall pick they selected Whitney Engen from UNC and winner of the Honda award as the top women’s athlete in soccer. Whitney should bolster the defense for the Red Stars and help bring down that GAA.

The Red Stars will be an improved team from the 2009 season and will compete in every game. The big questions will be the midfield unit and the improvement of the back line.

The next team to be put on the table for the ‘Who Dat’ treatment will be the FC Gold Pride, so stay tuned.

In the aftermath of the dispersal draft I have become sober. The buzz of the dispersal draft has worn off and reality is setting in. What is that reality? The reality is the best brand in the WPS last season is no longer a franchise, the Los Angeles Sol players are now members of their opponents from last year, and the WPS is stronger.

The Los Angeles Sol built the most noticable brand last season. The building of the brand started with AEG willing to absorb the payroll and overall net loss for the season. With the acquisitions of Marta and Shannon Boxx, arguably two of the best players in the world; the Sol brand was born. The brand continued to grow throughout the season as the Sol became one of the most offensively explosive teams and dominant defensive teams. The Sol had the highest average attendance at home and brought the crowds out to whatever stadium they were playing in. The brand was successful but as a franchise the Sol could not survive. At the right time there may once again be a professional women’s soccer team in Los Angeles because there is market demand for one.

A great part of that brand were the Sol players who were then with out a team to play for. The WPS set-up the dispersal draft to retain the talented players of the Sol including Marta, Shannon Boxx, Karina LeBanc, Stephanie Cox, Aya Miyama, and Brittany Bock in the league; But also to find a home for the recently drafted players Casey Nogueira, Nikki Washington, and Kiersten Dallstream. The dispersal draft was three rounds in which teams selected players from the Sol roster to become members of their team. Saint Louis selected Shannon Boxx with the first pick which bolstered their midfield. Philadelphia selected Karina LeBlanc second to give them a sure net minder behind defensive backs Heather Mitts, Sue Weber, and Allison Falk. The Bay Area selected Marta who will now be playing along-side former teammate Camille Abily and offensive standout Christine Sinclair. Chicago selected Casey Nogueira who will give them a future star on the front line. Boston selected Stephanie Cox who will bolster their defensive line after losing Heather Mitts to free agency. New Jersey selected Nikki Washington who will be playing along-side former UNC Tar Heel Yael Averbuch in the midfield. Washington selected Brittany Bock to help with their defense which had the highest GAA in the league last season. Saint Louis with the last pick of the first round selected Aya Miyama which along with Shannon Boxx will be quite the midfield. The dispersal draft wrapped up in just over an hour and the Sol players once again were part of a team.

The WPS with the Sol franchise being discontinued and the Sol players being kept in the league through the dispersal draft became stronger. The players that were once a part of the Los Angeles Sol are now spread across the league bolstering the new teams they are members of. The talent in the league is more condensed and will create a highly competitive league in which any team may become the champion. With great competition comes notice and being noticed will bring more fans and supporters to the league.

With the buzz of the off-season wearing off I am looking for my next buzz and that will only come with the beginning of the season. In a little over two months I will be able to say ‘Let the season begin!’ Until then I will look to write a team outlook for each team for the next season. So keep an eye out for the series of posts starting later this week.

When an agreement with a potential buyer of the Sol franchise and the WPS fell through this past week the Sol franchise was discontinued. This left the players of Sol with out a team. The WPS has set the dispersal draft of the Sol players for Thursday, February 4th. The draft will have the eight franchises selecting players from the Sol roster over three rounds. The order of the three rounds will be as follows.

First Round:

  1. Saint Louis Athletica
  2. Philadelphia Independence
  3. FC Gold Pride
  4. Chicago Red Stars
  5. Boston Breakers
  6. Sky Blue FC
  7. Washington Freedom
  8. Saint Louis Athletica

Second Round:

  1. Atlanta Beat
  2. Washington Freedom
  3. Sky Blue FC
  4. Boston Breakers
  5. Chicago Red Stars
  6. FC Gold Pride
  7. Philadelphia Independence
  8. Atlanta Beat

Third Round:

  1. Atlanta Beat
  2. Philadelphia Independence
  3. FC Gold Pride
  4. Chicago Red Stars
  5. Boston Breakers
  6. Sky Blue FC
  7. Washington Freedom
  8. Saint Louis Athletica

For the eight teams in the league this presents itself as a great opportunity to solidify their rosters for the 2010 season. The 2009 regular season champions Los Angeles Sol featured one of the top talented rosters in the league. The Sol as a team were number two in the league for goals scored and GPG, had the best GAA, and the most shutouts. The team roster had the top two goal scorers in the league, the co-assist leader, the best goalie, and added three first round draft picks, wow! Knowing all this I immediately thought of Tobin Heath in the midfield setting Marta up at the forward spot and the beauty this held. Although this would be an incredible and exciting offensive pairing it more than likely will not come to fruition. Keeping the talent pool that is available in mind I got excited thinking who on the Sol roster would be wearing the Breakers blue this coming season. And with the 5th selection overall in the dispersal draft the Breakers would be sure to get a top talented player. Barring any last minute trades the following are my predictions for the first round of the dispersal draft.

Dispersal Draft First Round Predictions:

  1. Saint Louis Athletica–Marta
  2. Philadelphia Independence–Aya Miyama
  3. FC Gold Pride–Karina LeBlanc
  4. Chicago Red Stars–Shannon Boxx
  5. Boston Breakers–Brittany Bock
  6. Sky Blue FC–Nikki Washington
  7. Washington Freedom–Stephanie Cox
  8. Saint Louis Athletica–Casey Nogueira

If you want to read more on the Los Angeles Sol being discontinued and the dispersal draft click here.

The draft has come and gone and I am still basking in the glory of that day. And I have the WPS and my favorite team the Boston Breakers to thank for this. What a job they did tweeting the up-to-the-minute status of the draft as each team made their selections. The highlight tweet for me on the day was moments after Tonya Antonucci uttered the words “The Atlanta Beat select Tobin Heath” as the #1 pick overall. The WPS tweeted a video capturing this monumental announcement of her selection, the scene in the draft room, and the presenting of her new team scarf. The next great moment of the day is when the Breakers tweeted their selection of Lauren Cheney as the #2 overall pick and then the pictures of her Breakers team scarf presentation. The day continued like this with the tweeting of real time draft statuses, first round selection pictures, and behind the scene pictures. My hats off to the WPS they really made me feel as though I was there in the room and for this the WPS is a big winner on the day!

Three teams made significant progress in the draft and are big winners.

The Atlanta Beat with the #1 pick got a player and a leader who they could build a franchise around. Tobin Heath with her outstanding technical game is labelled to be one of the greatest. Her potential will have the Beat stepping on the pitch next season with confidence.

The Boston Breakers had the makings of a great team last season and took a big hit this off-season with losses in free agency, retirement, and the expansion draft. The losses of Heather Mitts, Sue Weber, and Candace Chapman left an impenetrable defensive wall needing patching. The wall is once again impenetrable thanks to the selection of Alyssa Naeher (minding net spelling Allison Lipsher), Jordan Angeli, and Katherine Reynolds. With the #2 pick Lauren Cheney they filled a significant gap in scoring.

The Los Angeles Sol: what could the regular season champ need to be better? Well, your answer is the replacement of the league’s second leading goal scorer Camille Abily who was traded to FC Gold Pride. They recovered through the draft by selecting three top prospects at the forward position Nikki Washington, Casey Nogueira, and Kiersten Dallstream.

This year’s draftees held as a collective group looks to be the most talented a group that will come out of college for quite some time, so there were no big losers but only big winners and winners.

It is less than 12 hours away and I am unable to contain my excitement.

But for the true soccer geeks the excitement starts tonight with the unveiling of the new match ball for the WPS. And the excitement doesn’t end there because not only will the WPS hold their draft in Philadelphia tomorrow but they will also be unveiling the new team uniforms. It is Christmas in January-what will Kelly Smith, Amy LePeilbet, Kristine Lilly, Leslie Osborne, Alex Scott, and this year’s #2 pick wear next season? How will Heather Mitts and Amy Rodriguez look in their new uniforms for the Philadelphia Independence? Well with a little patience we will find out soon enough.

Now for the more pressing business of the draft. The Breakers have the #2 pick in the draft and with the unprecedented number of high-caliber players available they are sure to get someone who could have an immediate impact on the team. Being a UNC Tar Heel fan I have two fan favorites which I would love to see wearing those new Breaker uniforms next season, Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira. But this however is unlikely (not impossible). For my predictions I went with logic instead of with the heart. Without further ado here are my first round predictions for the 2010 WPS draft:

1. Atlanta Beat–Tobin Heath
2. Boston Breakers–Lauren Cheney
3. FC Gold Pride–Kelley O’Hara
4. Chicago Red Stars–Casey Nogueira
5. Los Angeles Sol–Whitney Engen
6. Sky Blue FC–Brittany Taylor
7. Washington Freedom–Kelly Henderson
8. Los Angeles Sol–Ali Riley
9. Los Angeles Sol–Nikki Washington
10. FC Gold Pride–Kaley Fountain
11. Boston Breakers–Nikki Marshall

You may follow the draft as I will be through the WPS twitter feed starting at 10 am on January 15th.

Wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. I will tell you since the major sports media hasn’t, won’t, and probably will not.

On January 15th the WPS will hold it’s second draft in Philadelphia. The pool of players coming out of the college this year are some of the most talented the league has seen, lead by Tobin Heath. The UNC senior is believed to be “the next Marta”-a player of the highest caliber. She lead the Tar Heels to three national championships in four years and to their unprecedented 20th national championship. Tobin is joined by fellow UNC seniors Casey Nogueira, Nikki Washington, Whitney Engen, Ashlyn Harris, and Kristi Eveland who are also expected to make a splash in the draft. This is just one team-other remarkably talented players are leaving the NCAA and entering the draft. They include:

  • Lauren Cheney, UCLA
  • Kelly O’Hara, Stanford
  • Brittany Taylor, UConn
  • Kelly Henderson, BC
  • Ali Riley, Stanford
  • Kaley Fountain, Wake Forest
  • Nikki Marshall, Colorado

A lot of these players will make immediate impact for their teams and are the future of WPS. The League has done superb job spreading the word through mock draft contests, a series of ‘getting to know’ the draftees articles, and the experts’ analysis. Other traditional venues of sports media aren’t even coming close to this. Search ESPN, CBS Sports, or Fox Sports websites for ‘WPS draft’ and your return results are nil. Fox Soccer Channel which broadcasts WPS games is hosting a show on the eve of the draft but information about the show isn’t found anywhere on their website. I know about this through the efforts of the WPS.

I am excited about this year’s draft and it’s outcome, to see which teams draft which players. Of course I am most excited to see who the Breakers will draft with the #2 and #11 picks in the first round. I will be following the action through the most reliable media sources the Breakers’ and WPS twitter feeds.

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