WPS unknowns outshine established stars

 Caroline Jonsson (ISIphotos.com)

                                                                  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 Jönsson 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 Jönsson, 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, Jönsson 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 Jönsson has made a strong case for that title.

With Arakawa, Weimer, Smith, and Jönsson, 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

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28 Responses to WPS unknowns outshine established stars

  1. sergio says:

    Dude save yourself the time and dont cover the WPS no one gives a crap.

  2. Eric K says:

    I think some of the foreign players are as talented, we just haven’t seen them play much yet.

    The league will do as MLS has, foster more talent in a competitive situation. Good to see that it’s already doing well in that aspect.

  3. Joe says:

    Sergio is an idiot. I LOVE watching the WPS. Much more end to end action than a mens game and just as physical.

  4. Darwin says:

    I really love these WPS posts.

    One problem I do have with the WPS is the lack of video highlights. I know that not all matches are televised but it shouldn’t be to hard or expensive to set up a web cam at the games like the USL does. Either that or get some intern with a cam in the stands to record the matches and post highlights.

    Not having had the chance to see any matches live yet, it would keep my interest up with the league if I could atleast see whats going on on the field.

  5. michael says:

    This should come as a surprise to no one. MLS not only has shown that our national talent pool is deeper that what many thought, but that its a great tool for scouting and development of players. We wouldn’t have a lot of players we have now without MLS… a lot that were given a chance in Europe as well.

    I think there will be a lot of WPS players that show up on the radar of the nats and elsewhere because of this. It’s a great story and I only hope the league thrives.

  6. Amber says:

    I appreciate the WPS posts. I have only been able to catch 1 game on TV so far, but I enjoyed the action.

  7. footygal says:

    Darwin — I agree. The only video highlights available on-line come from the one game per week that is shown on t.v. It would be nice to have highlights from across the league and shouldn’t be too difficult to manage.

    I don’t see Kristine Lilly or Brianna Scurry as stars anymore. Scurry is old, slow, and terrible with her feet. Lilly is a good solid player, but is approaching her late 30’s. One could say that they used to be household names.

    And of course Wambach has gotten off to a slow start! She suffered a serious injury last summer and is just getting her match fitness back. Wambach will become a more dominant force after she plays more games and is fully match fit.

    The young U.S. players that I’ve seen so far that impressed me have been Brittany Bock (great tactical awareness, quick, physical),and Alex Singer (who gave the infamous Marta a fight). The foreigners that have impressed me are Marta, Han Duan, and Aya Miyama.

    Tiffany Weimer would be better if she played with her teammates. She’s not good enough to hold the ball as much as she does in the big leagues. Poor Christine Sinclair — she never gets the ball because Weimer is hogging it all the time and then losing it!

  8. Jonathan says:

    Keep up the WPS posts. Good stuff. And with my Galaxy in the toilet (as always), I’d rather read about the Sol.

  9. Aljarov says:

    I would hardly call Smith an ‘Unknown’ in the US after going to college and playing 3-4 years in the WUSA. She’s also a top international player, so anyone following the WNT would have come across her.

  10. Cindy says:

    Great post, keep em coming!

  11. Neal says:

    Sergio, If that’s your stance…Why did you waste time reading it?

  12. DS says:

    I’m sure there is some interest in WPS out there, but please tone down the use of superlatives – I’ve read a few of these posts, and every play is described as incredible, illustrious, world-class superb, astounding… not sure that a women’s league that has seven teams and has been in action for all of 3 weeks qualifies for any of those adjectives. Cover the league, but don’t try to overhype it with such exaggerated hyperbole. We know you’re a fan, but let the games speak for themselves.

  13. Mr. Baker says:

    Not sure I agree with this. You’ve also got Heather O’Reilly (scored last week) and Marta (two goals) who are arguably two of the biggest names in women’s soccer and are doing fine.

  14. sean monaghan says:

    I heard Camille Abily (french,played for Lyon last) has been pretty good for the Sol so far

  15. michael says:

    The only problem with these posts is that your Google Adsense has posts for feminine products and Russian mail-order brides.

  16. Unoriginal Aaron says:

    Agree with DS’s comment. I like the WPS posts but drastically cut down on the “awe-inspiring,” “super crafty,” “illustrious,” “impressive,” and “incredible” interjections. Report – don’t embellish.

  17. AlexS says:

    Kelly Smith, an unknown? She’s been one of the better strikers on the international scene for a while now.

  18. Mike says:

    Yeah, Alex beat me to it. Kelly Smith is hardly an unknown!

    Well maybe to douches like Sergio…

    Keep up the coverage Ives…Or should I say Christa..

  19. Lisa says:

    Aaron and DS, give me a break already. Who are you comparing the WPS to anyway since you don’t think much of the action? WPS is the best women’s league in the world and some of the action has been great. Don’t like the adjectives? Maybe it’s because you’re not that much of a fan of the women’s game, or maybe because you’re trying to measure everything up to the standard’s of the men’s game.

    You may not be awe-inspired, or even that impressed, but as a fan of women’s soccer, I certainly have been.

  20. gerald says:

    I have to agree with the others on Kelly Smith

  21. Seriously? says:

    Would have to agree with the previous comments on both Smith and Scurry. Has anybody other than Greg Ryan really considered Scurry a top keeper the past few years?

  22. Eric says:

    Jonsson was top shelf vs. the Freedom. Very impressed with the speed of the game and the quality. Keep it going, ladies!

  23. MiamiAl says:

    Sorry, I am with Sergio on this one…

  24. NJsoccer says:

    personally out of the women right out of college, who are so called “new” to the scene I’ve been very impressed with Carrie Dew for FC Gold Pride. One other thing I had to mention is Natasha Kai isn’t looking so great to me….I mean she’s doing okay but imo not living up to all the hype.

  25. Mike Toole says:

    Dudes, save yourselves the time and don’t pay attention to Sergio, no one gives a crap. ;-)

    Yeah, I didn’t think of Kelly Smith as an unknown, at least coming off the last World Cup she got a lot of screentime.

    I do think that the Breakers are lucky to have her, as well as Alex Scott, who quietly raised hell up the flanks last weekend.

    As for video highlights, NESN has some Breakers footage:
    link to nesn.com

    Yeah, I wish there was more. :( I do believe WPS is taping every game just to produce scouting videos for all the coaches, but I wish there were more highlights. WPS needs local TV deals to augment the FSC game of the week.

  26. Leonardo says:

    i’m a proud uncle and i’m looking to help the WPS develop into an awesome league.

    i need more highlights for FC Gold Pride baby!

  27. kat says:

    you know another star who hasn’t been doing much? carli lloyd. 2008 us soccer female athlete of the year carli lloyd. gold medal-winning goal scorer carli lloyd.

    but like w/ abby, i’m patiently waiting for her to shine in this league. except abby has a reason, she’s coming back from injury.

    one international player i’m impressed w/ is sonia bompastor. she’s like the beam of light for the freedom. and erin mccleod once she gets her visa issues settled. scurry is past her prime, bring erin to america! or just let kj play. all she does is tweet from the bench haha.

  28. adam says:

    Re: Kelly Smith, not an unknown.