Related Article: WPSL Elite Team Rosters
By Danielle Harvey
With the kickoff of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League’s inaugural season less than a month away, it’s time to scour the schedule for those big games that get fan pulses racing. With three former WPS teams and a wealth of familiar faces spread out amongst the eight team league, women’s soccer fans have much to be excited about. And while WPS diehards might struggle to connect to this new league, they can find solace in one fact: Dan Borislow will in no way be involved.
5/10: Boston Breakers vs. ASA Chesapeake Charge: Introducing the Charge
While many questions surround the inaugural season of WPSL Elite, none are as immediate as the question mark that is the ASA Chesapeake Charge. Who are they? What will they look like? Is this where Ashlyn Harris is hiding?
While some of the questions were answered on Wednesday, when the Charge announced the resigning of six players from last year, they are still one of only two teams with less than seven publicly announced signed players—which is slightly alarming given the fact that they are slated to play in the first Elite game of the season on May 10th. The other team with less than seven is Philadelphia, whose season doesn’t officially start until March 20th, giving them 10 additional days to recruit.
Now that they’ve brought in their first players of the 2012 season, the signings will hopefully continue to roll in. But for now, all we know is that someone will be hosting the Boston Breakers in Maryland on May 10th.
5/12: New England Mutiny vs. New York Fury: The Battle of the DiMartino’s
Think you have a hard time dealing with sibling rivalry? Try being one of the DiMartino sisters.
Tina, Gina and Vicki DiMartino of Long Island, N.Y., are like the Von Trapp Family Singers of women’s soccer. Minus the singing. The oldest sister, Tina, might be the most well-known DiMartino, having earned five caps with the senior national team and coming off a particularly successful 2011 season with the Philadelphia Independence. Middle sister Gina also plied her trade with the Independence and can also boast a resume that includes various levels of youth national team experience. Both players will continue their playing careers with the New York Fury, playing for former Independence coach Paul Riley and alongside big names like Tobin Heath, Allie Long and Brittany Taylor.
Vicki, the youngest sister of the sister act, is the brave outlier—and for more reasons than just her non-rhyming first name. The Boston University and U-23 national team forward/defender will be playing this season with the New England Mutiny, who have signed talent that includes Irish international Ciara McCormack and US player pool member Kristie Mewis. The DiMartino sisters will find themselves on opposite sides of the field for the first time this season on Saturday, May 12th as the New York Fury take on the New England Mutiny on Mutiny home turf.
I hope youngest sister Rosie, whom you won’t be surprised to learn is an up-and-coming soccer star in her own right, will be sitting in the stands and playing the role of Switzerland.
5/20: Chicago Red Stars vs. FC Indiana: Midwest Rivalry
Take one look at the slick logo and creative uniform of the Chicago Red Stars and it’s hard not to root for the one-time WPS side who never seemed to be able to reach playoff season despite building impressive rosters. While Chicago fans may (or may not…) be disappointed to learn that players like Cristiane won’t be donning a Red Star kit this season, they are none-the-less in for a treat, as Chicago has again amassed an impressive roster that includes fan favorite Lori Chalupny, Notre Dame standout Amanda Cinalli, and hometown stars Jen Buczkowski and Julianne Sitch.
FC Indiana, on the other hand, have taken a slightly different path in terms of player signings. FC Indiana coach Shek Borkowski recently became the head coach of the Haitian women’s national soccer team, which may have something to do with the fact that 17 of the 22 players on Indiana’s roster are from Haiti. Just a hunch.
As the only two Midwestern teams in WPSL Elite, the Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana will be looking to earn Midwest bragging rights when they face off on Sunday, May 20th in Chicago. They will then meet again on FC Haiti home turf on Friday, May 25th.
5/26: Western New York Flash vs. Boston Breakers: WPS 2012
It should come as no surprise that two WPS teams have quickly separated themselves from the preseason pack. Reigning WPS champion Western New York Flash won’t have the—excuse the pun—flashy forward tandem of Christine Sinclair and Marta, but they will have US midfielder Lori Lindsey, Spain’s Adriana, and returning favorite McCall Zerboni.
Where Boston has the upper hand is in familiarity, as they have resigned former Breakers Leslie Osborne, Katie Schoepfer, and Taryn Hemmings. Adding to that roster are Australian internationals Tameka Butt and Kyah Simon, as well as moonlighter Heather O’Reilly, who will train with Boston when not with the US women’s national team. Did I mention these two teams are preseason favorites?
Fans looking to relive WPS glory can watch these two battle head-to-head on May 26th at Dilboy Stadium in Massachusetts. And for the record, Boston has yet to beat WNY in four tries. Ouch.
6/17: Western New York Flash vs. Philadelphia Fever: Old Wounds
Constantly playing the ‘David’ role against the reigning ‘Goliaths’ of WPS, the Philadelphia Independence seemed poised to take down the almost unfairly stacked Western New York Flash in the 2011 WPS Championship after a dramatic 87th minute goal from Amy Rodriguez. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be for the always the bridesmaid, never the bride Philly Independence, as they eventually lost it in PKs.
Fast forward to 2012 WPSL, and a Philadelphia-based women’s soccer team will once again get a crack at the Western New York Flash. Comparing their current rosters is a bit like comparing a pistol to a bazooka, with the Flash picking up WPS veterans like Alli Lipsher and Nikki Marshall and the Fever signing mostly homegrown talent like La Salle’s Kelsey Haycook and up-and-coming players like Liberian international Cherie Sayon. But the selfish, Philly-centric side of me refuses to believe that the Fever will accomplish anything less than domination. And hey, if the Fever fail to take down the dynamic Western New York side, I can always fall back on the Philly Independence’s old mantra of “maybe next year.”
7/15: New York Fury vs. Philadelphia Fever: Paul Riley Returns “Home”
Within minutes of WPSL’s announcement that the brand new Philadelphia Fever would be part of the Elite League, Paul Riley’s Philadelphia Independence threw together a hasty press release stating that the teams were IN NO WAY connected. It was an odd, if not awkward, moment that could culminate into an awkward Philly return for Paul Riley.
The July 15th game between the Philadelphia Fever and Riley’s New York Fury might be an awkward one for Philly fans as well, as the Fury is stacked with former Independence players like defenders Estelle Johnson, Kia McNeil, and Nikki Krzysik, as well as the formerly mentioned DiMartino sisters. Adding to the Fury chemistry is Riley’s Supergroup training sessions, which were open to all talent but wound up attracting mostly Fury participants. Fans are welcome to criticize this move until they’re blue in the face, but the benefits to these added training sessions are undeniable for Riley’s side.
The Fury will have already hosted the Fever at their home field, “TBA,” so this will be the second match-up for these two teams. I encourage Philly fans to come out to the game and cheer on someone, anyone, maybe even everyone. And Paul–go easy on us.
The games highlighted above are purposefully early in the schedule, as the inaugural WPSL Elite season is bound to hold a number of surprises that will change the landscape of the competition. Think I missed an important game? Leave a comment below and let me hear it. And don’t forget: the 2012 season officially kicks off on Thursday, May 10th, when the Boston Breakers take on ASA Chesapeake Charge.
Related Article: WPSL Elite Team Rosters