Sol, Freedom to kick off a new era

Posted on 29 March 2009 by iyeo

After five years, women’s professional soccer is back in the United States, figuratively and literally.

A new seven-team league, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), is set to kickoff today. Two teams that figure to receive plenty of attention, the Los Angeles Sol and the Washington Freedom, will face off at the Home Depot Center on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT to kick off the inaugural season.

Both teams are big on star power. The Sol may have the brightest of the star power, as the feature standout Brazilian forward Marta Vieira da Silva (simply known as Marta). The dazzling Brazilian has been amongst the best if not the best in women’s soccer the past couple of years, scoring an amazing 111 goals in 103 matches while playing for Swedish club Umea IK. But in wasn’t until the 2007 World Cup that Marta really burst onto the scene. Playing for Brazil in the semifinals, Marta scored two goals, including an incredible highlight reel second goal, as the United States routed Brazil 4-0 to advance to the final. Marta signed a three-year contract with the Sol in January and is expected to be the main drawing card for the Sol and for WPS.

Marta isn’t the only recognizable name on the Sol roster. Los Angeles also features US national team standout Shannon Boxx. The defensive midfielder from Torrance CA has had a marvelous career playing for the United States. Boxx earned 77 caps, won two gold medals and was a finalist for FIFA World Player of the Year honors in 2005. Boxx also holds the distinction of being named to the 2003 US World Cup roster despite having never received a previous cap.

The Sol roster also feature fellow national team members Stephanie Cox (defender) and midfielder Aly Wagner (midfielder). Also in the mix is Japanese midfielder Aya Miyama. Like Marta, Miyama also made a name for herself in the 2007 World Cup, scoring two goals on two free kicks in a match against England, causing the English press to compare to David Beckham. The Sol will be coached by Abner Rogers.

The Washington Freedom also feature its own brand of star power, starting with forward Abby Wambach. Wambach has scored 99 goals in 126 games as a US national team member, including the game-winning goal that clinched the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. Wambach however missed the 2008 Olympics after suffering a broken leg in a friendly, but is expected to be fully recovered and ready to go for Sunday’s opener.

The Freedom also have solid veteran defender Cat Whitehill, who like Wambach missed the 2008 Olympic games due to injury, but Whitehill is also expected to play in Sunday’s match. Ali Kreiger was also sent to the Freedom during the US National team allocation last September, but is still under contract with German club FFC Frankfurt and probably won’t join the Freedom until midseason. Also on the Freedom roster is longtime Japanese international star Homare Sawa.

The Freedom might have a distinct advantage over the other six WPS teams. Five players, including Wambach, have played for the Freedom’s USL team. In fact, Wambach and head coach Jim Gabarra’s tenure with the Freedom date back to the WUSA days.

Game time is slated for Sunday at 3 p.m. PT. The match will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, with Mark Rogondino and Jenn Hildreth calling the game. You can also follow the match via Twitter.com, with several players from both teams as well as WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci providing updates.

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