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The road for women’s professional soccer in the United States has been– simply put– bumpy. There was the first rendition in WUSA, then the second go-around with WPS, and now the NWSL. The one team to have weathered every storm is the Boston Breakers. Boston has hosted a professional women’s soccer team in every league. During the year between the collapse of WPS and the start of the NWSL, the Breakers even kept it going by forming a team to play in the semi-pro WPSL Elite.

Even with all this change, one thing remains constant for the Breakers—every player is excited for another chance to showcase their talent and love of the sport in front of the best fans. Since the announcement of the new league in November, more exciting news has been announced. Just last week, all teams in the league announced their allocations of the National Team players from USA, Canada, and Mexico. Lisa Cole returns as head coach for the Breakers, and the organization started the Breakers Academy, a youth development program.

I was able to catch up with some of your favorite Breakers; Katie Schoepfer and Heather O’Reilly to get their thoughts on the recent and exciting news.

Katie Schoepfer:

On Lisa Cole continuing as Head Coach:

“I’m really looking forward to Lisa being the head coach again. I think she is a great coach. Last year she really believed in me, and brought our team along. […] She can break down video like crazy and she very good at those kinds of “x’s and o’s” things in the locker room which I think helps us out tremendously. […] I think overall she is very much a player’s coach. She looks for a lot of input from her leaders and her team, which gives us some ownership. We’re able keep open lines of communication with Lisa and she is very receptive to it which is great for our team.”

On the new Breakers Academy:

“I really hope that girls around Massachusetts take advantage of the fact that they will be able to play and be coached by professional players and professional coaches. […] It is an honor for us to wear the Breakers jersey, so it is pretty cool for a 10-year-old girl to be able to put on that jersey too.”

“I love coaching, and I love being able to work with different teams and different age groups. Besides playing, it is one of my passions. I hope to get involved with the Academy as much as possible.”

On Heather O’Reilly:

“My rookie season I played with her in New Jersey with Sky Blue. There is really nobody like her. No one can match her work ethic. She loves to play and she loves the game. That’s really contagious on a team. You can tell the difference when she is at practice, and when she is in games. For me personally, it just gives me so much more energy because I try to match everything that she is doing. I’m looking forward to playing with her again. ”

Heather O’Reilly:

On the growth of soccer in the U.S.:

“I think as a U.S. player and a fan of soccer in our country, it’s exciting to see soccer take hold in our country. It’s amazing to be a part of this growth and another step for U.S. Soccer to advance the game in our country. I think in the last two years, with the 2011 World cup and the (2012) Olympics, we are proud of the stronghold we’ve had in terms of the attention (soccer has received).”

On teammate Sydney Leroux:

“Syd, although coming off the bench (for the U.S.), she pumped in 12 goals. That was all off the bench! I’m really proud of Syd as a player. She’s handled herself very well on and off the field. And, she’s entertaining.”

On teammate Heather Mitts:

“Heather Mitts is somebody who is just the perfect teammate. She’s always going to be fit. She’s always going to be ready to go. She provides so much to the team environment.”

Her opinion on players for Mexico and Canada in the NWSL:

“It’s an interesting dynamic. I can’t even guess how many games I’ve played against (Rhian) Wilkinson (one of Boston’s players from Canada) on the National Team. I’m excited to have her on my side this time.”

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WPS received a boost in popularity and attendance from the coverage of FIFA’s 2011 Women’s World Cup. But even before all that media, WPS was being covered by bloggers, and to a lesser extent major publications and the TV networks. Though not at the level that hardcore fans would like, finding news about the league is a far cry better than it was in the inaugural season.

The chat this week will look to find what works with these outlets, what could be improved, and where you get your WPS news.

Q1: The Bloggers

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league? How could the league promote this channel?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from bloggers?

Q2: The Major Publications

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from major publications? Does that change whether the publication is online or print?

Q3: The Major Networks

  • What is the impact made by this outlet to the promotion and success of the league?
  • What is it that you look for most from this outlet and why?
  • What type of content would you like to see from major networks?

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

The human body, admired from the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The athlete has been at the forefront of that admiration from the beginning with sculptures of the first Olympians. In more recent times, the physical excellence of the athlete has been spectacularly captured by ESPN magazine in the Body Issue. This year’s issue was released on October 7th, and featured Hope Solo on one of the covers. Past issues have had other WPS stars on the cover and in the issue from the likes of Heather Mitts and Natasha Kai.

Get ready to “bare all” in this week’s chat about ESPN’s Body Issue and what it means for the athletes covered.

Q1: The Athletes

  • What is the message sent to the fans or public by the athletes who pose? Does that message vary depending of sex?
  • What is your opinion of the athletes who pose?
  • How does the timing of the release of this issue with Hope Solo impact her media attention with her role in dancing with the Stars?

Q2: The Sport

  • What impact does an athlete posing have on the brand for the sport/league?
  • What type of attention is given to the sport? Is that attention the right fit for the sport?

Q3: The Future

  • What athletes would you like to see in coming issues?
  • Should ESPN keep publishing this issueand every year?

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

Welcome to the special edition, #USwnt chat! I will be moderating this chat as part of the Twitter Campaign to build support and awareness for the US WNT before, during, and after the match versus Italy on November 27th at 2pm EST. If you are not able to attend the game live like me (watching it on ESPN3) then join us for the pre-game questions, in-game discussion as the live action happens, and post-game discussion to wrap up. If you are live at the game (lucky!) join in the discussion and tweet live in-game moments.

The questions below will be pre-game questions starting at 1:30pm EST. The chat will then go into a live discussion surrounding the action on the field. We will then “hit the showers” and do a post-game wrap up of the match.

Q1: The Lineup.

  • Who would be your starting XI?
  • What player will have the most impact on the game?
  • Would you make a substitution?

Q2: The Game.

  • Who will score first US or Italy?
  • What player has the best opportunity to score?
  • What will the final score be?

Q3: The Cool Down.

  • Whether the outcome is good or bad what happens to Pia?
  • What are your final thoughts before kick-off?

Get your virtual pre-game on and join in on Saturday at 1:30pm EST to throw your thoughts into the mix. Just log on to Twitter, Tweetchat, or Tweetgrid, and use the #USwnt tag.

Yesterday, I traveled to Pennsylvania to check out the Independence vs. Beat game.  This post is broken in to two sections: my trip down and my observations of the game.

The Trip:

As I rode the train from Boston to West Chester sipping my Earl Grey soy latte, I couldn’t help but think of yester year.  I was on my way to take in the battle of the expansion teams on the 2010 WPS opening weekend, traveling by train like many sports writers before me.  They would travel by train from city to city, more than likely sitting in the meal car drinking brandy or scotch.   Wearing a fedora with press pass, they were armed with nothing by a pencil, and writing pad. There would be a good chance that the writer would be on the same train as the team. After the story was complete, the writer’s work would be sent via telegram once they arrived at the next destination. And this was seen as breaking news, sent by the latest and greatest of technology. Though the WPS wasn’t around then, I feel connected through history– I was about to see one of the oldest sports around today; the game of football or known also as soccer.

There cannot be reflection without comparison and so I look at the fabled sports writer of times past in light of that of today.  Instead of pencil and paper, the writing of the story is done on a computer or laptop using word or even directly through the internet. The writer’s work is either posted directly through the internet or sent by email to the editor, no more telegrams. The article is then distributed through blogs, online articles and publications, and social media (twitter, facebook) rather than print newspapers. Lastly, the sport I am about to see has even come along way. It is now considered a major professional sport in America and it will be female athletes taking the field.

So what does this all mean? It means professional sports are evolving and progressing. But more evident is that the essentials are the same, but the medium is changing. The games will still be played and reported on; these are the essentials. The means of how information is gathered, written, and distributed are what is ever-changing. This means that us sports junkies are able to get our information quickly, and the WPS is the best in the game at delivering it.

The Game:

The match I went to see featured the two new teams to the WPS: the Philadelphia Independence and the Atlanta Beat.  The game was played on the Independence’s turf. I arrived at John A. Ferrell stadium on the West Chester University campus 45 minutes prior to kick-off, and the atmosphere was electric. Before I even entered the stadium, I got hit with the energy; fans were tailgating in the parking lot, a band was playing, and there were plenty of kid activities outside the stadium entrance. The flow of electricity did not stop once inside the stadium. The music was rockin’ and the fans were enthusiastic—dancing, cheering, and clapping. All this was happening before the introductions of the starting line-ups.

The electric atmosphere did not waiver through out the evening. During the introductions, the Independence’s mascot was unveiled. A bald eagle from the Philadelphia Zoo, it was a beautiful bird and I sat in amazement at its glory. The players were introduced, beginning with Atlanta’s starting line-up and then to the Independence, where the decibel level of the crowd went up more than a few notches. The international players were presented flowers to cheers from the fans. Next up was a local inspirational speaker who got the cheering crowd on their feet, and set the bar for the rest of the evening. And now the teams and fans were set for kick-off.

The game was all that I have come to expect from a WPS game. I was a bit surprised by it being so because I was watching two expansion teams. The WPS has succeeded where most other sports leagues have failed in expansion. This confirmed two thoughts of mine prior to the start of the season. One is the depth of the talent pool in the 2010 draft being that of the likes we may not see for quite sometime.. The Beat midfield controlled that part of the field, led by rookie Tobin Heath.

My second observation is that the folding of the Sol consolidated the talent in the league, pushing a lot of talent in to the new expansion teams.  Although the independence were without Heather Mitts, Karina LeBlanc, a former Sol player, held a clean sheet. I was afraid to take my eyes off the action as I might miss a goal or shot on goal. The excitement did not stop at all during the game, and the cheers of 6,000 fans attested they had an extraordinary experience.

This is the fifth installment in the ‘Who Dat’ series. The beginning of the 2010 season is fastly approaching and to be sure each team gets its ‘Who Dat’ treatment there will be two series posted at a time. The Philadelphia Independence are this post’s team to go through the ‘Who Dat’ treatment.

The Front Line: The front line for the Philadelphia Independence is an unproven group in the WPS. Amy Rodriguez (number one overall pick of the 2009 WPS general draft) didn’t have as a successful first WPS season as she would have liked with the Boston Breakers. And the internationals in this group; Holmfridur Magnusdottir, Karina Maruyama, and Lianne Sanderson have had success in their other league play but have yet played a game in the talented heavy WPS.

The Midfield: This group for the Independence will give the offense a spark and boost. Lori Lindsey will provide the main spark to this group creating the offensive boost. International stand out Caroline Seger will be the second catalyst in this group to give the offense some kick. Around them will be Joanna Lohman and Jennifer Buczowski who will fill in the rest of the midfield for the Independence.

The Defense and Goal Tending: The defense and goal tending for the Independence is the most proven group on the team. Sol transplants Allison Falk and Karina LeBlanc will be part of a back line which will be tough to break. They will be joined by US Women’s National Team standout Heather Mitts who will be slotted in her natural right back position. The rest of the Independence back line will be filled in by Nikki Krzysik and Sara Larsson.

The Philadelphia Independence will keep games close and exciting to watch. They will gather some wins as they make their way through their inaugural season.

The next team to be put on the table for the ‘Who Dat’ treatment will be the Saint Louis Athletica, so stay tuned.

This is the second installment in the ‘Who Dat’ series. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be taking an in-depth look at all the WPS teams in a lead up to the start of the season. The Boston Breakers are this post’s team to go through the ‘Who Dat’ treatment.

The Front Line: This group had its ups and downs last season for the Breakers. A terrific first half of the season and a bumpy second half. The Breakers looked to improve the frontline in the offseason and have done just that. The other team’s defense will no longer have the luxury of a single focused strategy on stopping Kelly Smith without being hurt by the Breakers other offensive threats. The fresh faces of this group Lauren Cheney (USWNT goal leader so far in 2010), Laura del Rio, Tiffany Weimer, and Sarah Walsh will be welcomed by Kelly Smith and will finish plays. A not so fresh face to the team but a fully recovered Fabiana will bolster this group as well.

The Midfield: Best performing group through out the whole season last year for the Breakers was the midfield led by team captain Kristine Lilly. This group really did it all last season from setting the frontline up to getting back and defending. They were tenacious and looked to be weakened by the retirement of Angela Hucles. The Breakers did an outstanding job in free agency to fill the hole left and make it better than last season. The acquisitions of Leslie Osborne and Chioma Igwe will bring this group to that next level.

The Defense and Goal Tending: The defense and goal tending for the Breakers was solid for most of the last season. There were only a couple of notable let downs last season against Sky Blue FC and the season finale against the Sol. The Breakers retained Allison Lipsher who did wonderful in net replacing Kristin Luckenbill midway through the 2009 season. In the games she started only Karina LeBlanc had a better GAA and percentage of shutouts vs total games. In the draft the Breakers selected net minder Alyssa Naeher to spell Lipsher. Opponents had extreme difficulty breaking the defensive wall of the Breakers last season that consisted of Heather Mitts, Amy LePeilbet, Alex Scott, and Candace Chapman. At the beginning of the offseason that wall looked to be falling apart with the loss of Heather Mitts and Candace Chapman in free agency. The breakers made their biggest fix for the defense in the dispersal draft with the selection of Stephanie Cox. Stephanie will fill the spot left vacated by Heather Mitts and Breakers will use Kasey Moore and Jordan Angeli to fill the center defense.

The Breakers will be a team to watch in the 2010 WPS season and look to be a good challenger to Sky Blue FC’s championship defense.

The next team to be put on the table for the ‘Who Dat’ treatment will be the Chicago Red Stars, 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.

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.

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