Sky Blue FC favored to repeat

[WPS PREVIEW] No doubt about it, Women's Professional Soccer is the best women's league in the world. The level of play in Year 2 should be stronger than in Year 1 even with the addition of expansion teams in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Teams continued to import foreign stars, most notably from clubs in Scandinavia and England, while another bumper crop of collegians, led by Olympic gold-medalists Tobin Heath and Lauren Cheney, will challenge for starting jobs.

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

1. Sky Blue FC
Outlook: Sky Blue sneaked into the playoffs, then dominated en route to the inaugural title. New Finnish coach Pauliina Miettinen recruited aggressively overseas in the offseason and U.S. international Carli Lloyd, a Jersey girl, was picked up for free.
2009 Record: 7-8-5 (4th in regular season; won WPS Championship, defeated Los Angeles Sol, 1-0)
Stadium: Yurcak Field, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ (5,000)
Coach: Pauliina Miettinen
11. WPS acquisitions: 1. Foreign imports: 3. Rookies: 3.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Jenni Branam, GK, Sky Blue FC
Karen Bardsley, GK, Sky Blue FC (England)
Anita Asante, D, Sky Blue FC (England)
Keeley Dowling, D, Sky Blue FC
Daphne Koster, D, AZ (Netherlands)
Christie Rampone, Sky Blue FC
r-Brittany Taylor, D, Univ. of Connecticut
Rosana Augusto, M, Sky Blue FC (Brazil)
Yael Averbuch, M, Sky Blue FC
Carli Lloyd, M, Chicago Red Stars
Heather O’Reilly, M, Sky Blue FC
Meghan Schnur, M, Sky Blue FC
r-Kiersten Dallstream, F, Washington State Univ.
Natasha Kai, F, Sky Blue FC
Laura Kalmari, F, AIK Stockholm (Finland)
Jessica Landstrom, F, Linkopings FC (Sweden)
r-Katie Schoepfer, F, Penn State Univ.
Kacey White, F, Sky Blue FC

2. FC Gold Pride
Outlook: Pride lucked out when Marta dropped to No. 3 in the dispersal draft of L.A. Sol players. Marta and Frenchwoman Camille Abily, picked up earlier from the Sol in a trade, were the top 1-2 punch in WPS in 2009. The other big signing: Norwegian Solveig Gulbrandsen.
2009 Record: 4-10-6 (7th in regular season)
Stadium: Pioneer Stadium, California State University, East Bay (5,000)
Coach: Albertin Montoya
Returnees: 8. WPS acquisitions: 4. Foreign imports: 1. Rookies: 5.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Nicole Barnhart, GK, FC Gold Pride
Brittany Cameron, GK, Los Angeles Sol
Rachel Buehler, D, FC Gold Pride
Candace Chapman, D, Boston Breakers (Canada)
Carrie Dew, D, FC Gold Pride
r-Ali Riley, D, Stanford Univ. (New Zealand)
r-Becky Edwards, D/M, Florida State Univ.
Kandace Wilson, D/F, FC Gold Pride
Camille Abily, M, Los Angeles Sol (France)
Kristin Graczyk, M, FC Gold Pride
Solveig Gulbrandsen, M, Stabaek (Norway)
Kim Yokers, M, FC Gold Pride
r-Kiki Bosio, F, Santa Clara Univ.
r-Kaley Fountain, F, Wake Forest Univ.
Tiffeny Milbrett, F, FC Gold Pride
r-Kelley O’Hara, F, Stanford Univ.
Christine Sinclair, F, FC Gold Pride
Marta, F, Los Angeles Sol (Brazil)

3. Washington Freedom
Outlook: Freedom underachieved in 2009, though Jim Gabarra brought back 13 players, most of any team. Brittany Bock was picked up in Sol dispersal draft and should help defense. Newcomers Lene Mykjaland and Christie Welsh will need to take pressure off Abby Wambach up front.
2009 Record: 8-7-5 (3rd in regular season; lost in first round to Sky Blue FC, 2-1)
Stadium: Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD (5,600)
Coach: Jim Gabarra
13. WPS acquisitions: 2. Foreign imports: 1. Rookies: 2.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Erin McLeod, GK, Washington Freedom (Canada)
Briana Scurry, GK, Washington Freedom
Brittany Bock, D, Los Angeles Sol
r-Kristi Eveland, D, Univ. of North Carolina
Jill Gilbeau, D, Washington Freedom
r-Nikki Marshall, D, Univ. of Colorado
Becky Sauerbrunn, D, Washington Freedom
Alex Singer, D, Washington Freedom
Cat Whitehill, D, Washington Freedom
Sonia Bompastor, M, Washington Freedom (France)
Sarah Huffman, M,  Washington Freedom
Homare Sawa, M, Washington Freedom (Japan)
Lisa De Vanna, F, Washington Freedom (Australia)
Allie Long, F, Washington Freedom
Rebecca Moros, F, Washington Freedom
Lene Mykjaland, F, Roa (Norway)
Abby Wambach, F, Washington Freedom
Christie Welsh, F, Saint Louis Athletica

4. St. Louis Athletica
Outlook: Athletica was the best team in WPS over the second half of the 2009 season. Coach Jorge Barcellos, though, chose to keep only seven players, fewest of the six returning teams. Injuries are big concern going into the season. Brazilian Daniela is again hurt.
2009 Record:
10-6-4 (2nd in regular season; lost to Sky Blue FC in Super Semifinal, 1-0)
Stadium: Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, Fenton, MO (6,000)
Coach: Jorge Barcellos
7. WPS acquisitions: 4. Foreign imports: 2. Rookies: 3. Other newcomers: 2.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
 r-Ashlyn Harris, GK, Univ. of North Carolina
Hope Solo, GK, Saint Louis Athletica
r-Carolyn Blank, D, West Virginia Univ.
Tina Ellertson, D, Saint Louis Athletica
Kendall Fletcher, D, Saint Louis Athletica
Sarah Wagenfuhr, D, Buffalo Blast
Elise Weber, D, Saint Louis Athletica
Daniela Alves, M, Saint Louis Athletica (Brazil)
Shannon Boxx, M, Los Angeles Sol
Lori Chalupny, M, Saint Louis Athletica
Tina DiMartino, M, FC Gold Pride
Aya Miyama, M, Los Angeles Sol (Japan)
Elaine Moura, M, Umea IK (Brazil)
India Trotter, M/F, did not play in 2008
Eniola Aluko, F, Saint Louis Athletica (England)
Madelaine Edlund, F, Umea IK (Sweden)
r-Kristina Larsen, F, UCLA
Lindsay Tarpley, F, Chicago Red Stars

5. Boston Breakers
Outlook: Breakers were last year's big disappointment. Top pick Amy Rodriguez scored only once and was shipped to Philly. Boston will need big season from another '08 Olympic gold-medalist, Lauren Cheney.
2009 Record: 7-9-4 (5th in regular season)
Stadium: Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA (30,000)
Coach: Tony DiCicco
Returnees: 8. WPS acquisitions: 6. Rookies: 3. Other newcomers: 1.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Allison Lipsher, GK, Boston Breakers
r-Alyssa Naeher, GK, Penn State Univ.
Amy LePeilbet, D, Boston Breakers
r-Jordan Angeli, D, Santa Clara Univ.
Stephanie Cox, D, Los Angeles Sol
Kasey Moore, D, Boston Breakers
Alex Scott, D, Boston Breakers
Fabiana, M, Boston Breakers
Kristine Lilly, M, Boston Breakers
Leslie Osborne, M, FC Gold Pride
Maggie Tomecka, Boston Breakers
Chioma Igwe, M, Chicago Red Stars
Liz Bogus, F, Los Angeles Sol
Laura Del Rio, F, FC Indiana (Spain)
Kelly Smith, F, Boston Breakers
Tiffany Weimer, F, FC Gold Pride
Sarah Walsh, F, Saint Louis Athletica
r-Lauren Cheney, F, UCLA

6. Philadelphia Independence
Outlook: Philly went for experience -- not one rookie is on its 18-player first team. Led by former Sol keeper Katrina LeBlanc, the defense should be solid. Midfielder Lori Lindsey is coming off excellent winter with U.S. national team.
2009 Record: Expansion Team
Stadium: John A. Farrell Stadium, West Chester University (7,500)
Coach: Paul Riley
WPS acquisitions: 14. Foreign imports: 4.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Val Henderson, GK, Los Angeles Sol
Karina LeBlanc, GK, Los Angeles Sol (Canada)
Allison Falk, D, Los Angeles Sol
Estelle Johnson, D, Los Angeles Sol
Nikki Krzysik, D, Chicago Red Stars
Sara Larsson, D, Chicago Red Stars (Sweden)
Heather Mitts, D, Boston Breakers
Sarah Senty, D, Washington Freedom
Jennifer Buczkowski, M, Sky Blue FC
Lori Lindsey, M, Washington Freedom
Joanna Lohman, M, Washington Freedom
Caroline Seger, M, Linkopings FC (Sweden)
Danesha Adams, F, Chicago Red Stars
Holmfridur Magnusdottir, F, Kristianstads DFF (Iceland)
Karina Maruyama, F, Tepco Marezee (Japan)
Lyndsey Patterson, F, Los Angeles Sol
Amy Rodriguez, F, Boston Breakers
Lianne Sanderson, F, Chelsea Ladies (England)

7. Atlanta Beat
Outlook: Beat certainly has the firepower. Question is how the defense will do. It suffered a blow when Manya Makoski suffered a season-ending knee injury.
2009 Record: Expansion Team
Stadium: Atlanta Beat Stadium, Kennesaw State University (8,300)
Coach: Gareth O’Sullivan
WPS acquisitions: 11. Foreign imports: 4. Rookies: 1. Other newcomers: 2.
Player, Pos., 2009 Team (Foreign Country)
Brett Maron, GK, Kristianstad FF
Allison Whitworth, GK, FC Gold Pride
Tracy Hamm, D, FC Gold Pride
Kia McNeill, D, Saint Louis Athletica
Leigh Ann Robinson, D, FC Gold Pride
Stacy Leigh Bishop, M, Boston Breakers
r-Tobin Heath, M, Univ. of North Carolina
Angie Kerr, M, Saint Louis Athletica
Katie Larkin, M, Los Angeles Sol
Sophia Mundy, M, Boston Breakers
Mami Yamaguchi, M, Umea IK (Japan)
McCall Zerboni, M, Los Angeles Sol
Ramona Bachmann, F, Umea IK (Switzerland)
Amanda Cinalli, F, Saint Louis Athletica
Monica Ocampo, F, FC Indiana (Mexico)
Johanna Rasmussen, F, Umea IK (Denmark)
Lauren Sesselmann, F, Sky Blue FC
Shelley Thompson, F, Wolfsburg (Germany)

8. Chicago Red Stars
Outlook: Red Stars faded in second half and didn't make the playoffs. Kate Markgraf, now 33, must contribute after sitting out of the 2009 season to have second child. Coach Emma Hayes loaded up on UNC players in college and dispersal drafts.
2009 Record: 5-10-5 (6th in regular season)
Stadium: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL (20,000)
Coach: Emma Hayes
9. WPS acquisitions: 3. Foreign imports: 2. Rookies: 4.
r-Kelsey Davis, GK, Univ. of Portland
Jillian Loyden, GK, Saint Louis Athletica
Karen Carney, M, Chicago Red Stars
Katie Chapman, M,  Arsenal Ladies (England)
Marian Dalmy, D, Chicago Red Stars
Ifeoma Dieke. D, Chicago Red Stars (Scotland)
r-Whitney Engen, D, Univ. of North Carolina
Kate Markgraf, D, Chicago Red Stars
Natalie Spilger, D, Chicago Red Stars
Julianne Sitch, D/M, Sky Blue FC
Formiga, M, FC Gold Pride (Brazil)
Brittany Klein, M, Chicago Red Stars
Megan Rapinoe, M, Chicago Red Stars
Kosovare Asllani, F, Linkopings FC (Sweden)
Ella Masar, F, Chicago Red Stars
r-Jessica McDonald, F, Univ. of North Carolina
r-Casey Nogueira, F, Univ. of North Carolina
Cristiane, F, Chicago Red Stars (Brazil)

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