Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
With only a few weeks of WPS competition underway, fans of Women's Professional Soccer are witnessing an interesting dynamic. How is it that some virtually unknown talents are upstaging the more prominent American superstars?
While American stars like Abby Wambach, Kristine Lily, Natasha Kai, and Briana Scurry have gotten off to slow starts this season, new faces to American fans like Eriko Arakawa, Tiffany Weimer, Kelly Smith, and Caroline JÃ¶nsson have created those awe-inspiring moments across the league. These players all boast impressive resumes, but are far from household names. At least not yet.
Take Arakawa, a Japanese Women’s National Team star. Not only did she take the field in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, but she competed in two FIFA Women’s World Cups. After leaving her former Japanese club, NTV Beleza, this afro-rocking spectacle has wasted no time breaking onto the WPS scene.
Showcasing an aerial presence and an eye for combination, Arakawa made her mark in WPS history after scoring the first goal in FC Gold Pride history.
Credited with the assist on that incredible effort is the super crafty and relatively unknown Weimer. Selected 17th overall in the league’s opening draft, Weimer was a two-time NSCAA All-American who led an undefeated Penn State team to its first ever NCAA Final Four. Later receiving WPSL honors such as East MVP, First Team All-WPSL, and Player of the Year with the Connecticut Reds, Weimer has been a part of the national pool since 2006. Her style is a bit flashy, but that might be exactly what this new league needs.
Sure, sometimes playing simple is better, buthow amazing would it be if Weimer bike'd in a game winner? On the other hand, there are players like Boston’s Kelly Smith, who read the game, find the seams, and score on a consistent basis. She may not always pull out the double scissors, but she will find the back of the net.
A native of England, Smith made her first appearance on U.S.soil at Seton Hall University in 1997. In only her first year as a Pirate, she became the first person to be named Big East Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in the same season.
But that was only the beginning. She also took home Big East Player of the Year in the following two seasons after leading the entire NCAA in scoring in 1998 and 1999.
Following her illustrious college soccer career, Smith was drafted by WUSA’s Philadelphia Charge after graduating in the year 2000. She later returned to her native Arsenal ladies (England) in 2004 and netted an impressive 30 goals in that season alone.
Now fast forward to the year 2009. Smith has become the Boston Breakers’ most dominant attacker and is by far the most impressive to watch. In only two games, she already accounts for two of team’s three goals. Not to mention, she added the assist to the third goal and was just named WPS Player of the Week.
Up to this point, her physical strength and on-frame shooting haven’t yet found their match. So what happens when the talents of Chicago’s Swedish goalkeeper present the perfect opposition?
Introduce Caroline JÃ¶nsson, the best goalkeeper in Sweden for 2003 and 2006. Noted as an alternate in the 2008 Olympic games, this GK was the only force preventing a Red Stars loss in week three of WPS competition.
After a red card left Chicago a player down in the second half, JÃ¶nsson saved eight of nine shots on goal to tally 13 of 14 overall.
Many may still regard Scurry and Solo as the league’s best, but JÃ¶nsson has made a strong case for that title.
With Arakawa, Weimer, Smith, and JÃ¶nsson, there are even more unknowns in the league who have yet to gain any WPS recognition.
Sure, the American superstars will still be the centers of attention, but it’s nice to know that there are some new faces taking the game to them.
What do you think about these four players? Agree or disagree that they are outperforming U.S. Women’s National Team players? Share your thoughts below