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WPS WEEK 6: Marta makes the difference for streaking Gold Pride

5/18/2010

Marta Vieira da Silva might only be 24, but she's already a legend, as revered as Michelle Akers, as famous as Mia Hamm and, if possible, celebrated more than either.

The Brazilian forward, known merely as Marta, has been FIFA's World Player of the Year the past four years, was the Golden Ball (as MVP) and Golden Boot (as top scorer) winner at the last Women's World Cup, and won the MVP honor and was scoring champion in Women's Professional Soccer's first season, leading the L.A. Sol to the regular-season title and the championship game.

She went to Gold Pride in a special bidding process after the Sol went under earlier this year, and her special skills – no other woman and very few men are as good with the ball – has been part of what has sparked the Bay Area side to such a great start in year two.

Marta on Friday gave her best performance yet with Gold Pride, scoring both goals in a 2-1 triumph at Boston that stretched their winning streak to five games since an opening-day loss at Saint Louis.

Marta scored in the 15th and 37th minutes, twice beating Breakers goalkeeper Ashley Phillips one-one-one. She finished Tiffeny Milbrett's through ball on the first and sneaked behind Boston's backline to score from Solveig Gulbrandsen's ball over the top on the second.

The goals were Marta's second and third of the season.

"Obviously, we didn’t contain Marta well enough, and she burned us …,” said Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco, the former U.S. women's national team boss. “It’s hard to neutralize Marta. We said we have to be good (preventing her from) getting in behind, so we double-teamed her on the flanks, and unfortunately she got in behind us twice and beat us there.”

Gold Pride (5-1-0, 15 points), which is four points ahead of second-place Philadelphia (3-1-2, 11 points), has outscored its five victims, 10-3, with victories at home against Sky Blue FC (3-1) and Atlanta (2-1), at Sky Blue (1-0) and at home against Chicago (2-0) before this week's win.

Marta's not the only weapon. Canadian star Christine Sinclair has three goals, U.S. legend Milbrett shines on at 37, former Sol creator Camille Abily has been outstanding, Kelley O'Hara is making a strong early case for WPS Rookie of the Year, Pacific Palisades' Ali Riley (Harvard-Westlake School) has been expert on the flank, defender Carrie Dew is a solid target on set plays, and a defense led by U.S. national-teamers Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart might be the league's best.

HOSPITAL TRIP: Former L.A. Sol midfielder McCall Zerboni, who starred at San Clemente High School and UCLA, was taken to the hospital after hitting heads with Washington's Sonia Bompastor just a few minutes into Sunday's Atlanta Beat-Washington Freedom clash in Kennesaw, Ga. Zerboni, who plays for the expansion Beat, was hurt after winning an aerial battle that left Freedom Frenchwoman Bompastor bloodied.

Bompastor was stitched up and sent back onto the field, and her cross was headed home by Abby Wambach in the 63rd minute to finish Washington's 2-0 victory. Zerboni was stretchered off the field and brought to a nearby hospital for precautionary reasons. She did not lose consciousness, and an updated status won't be released until Monday.

LOCAL HEROES: Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx (South Torrance High School), L.A. Sol's midfield leader last year, netted her first goal (on a penalty kick) and third assist (on Eniola Aluko's late equalizer) in Saint Louis Athletica's 2-2 tie with Sky Blue FC. … Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez (Santa Margarita Catholic High School, USC) assisted Joanna Lohman's sixth-minute strike in Philadelphia's 1-0 win at Chicago. … Former UCLA All-American Lauren Cheney assisted Kelly Smith's goal in Boston's loss to FC Gold Pride.

A FEW MORE THINGS: At least four good candidates for Player of the Week; our vote went to Marta. … WPS takes next weekend off for the U.S.-Germany friendly (next Saturday in Cleveland -- 3 p.m. PT start, on ESPN2) and Asian Cup qualifiers. … Wambach, playing with a broken nose that required surgery four days earlier, also had an assist to go with her goal, a nifty backheel to set up Lene Mykjaland. The big U.S. striker has a league-best six assists. … Aluko's goal was the Englishwoman's WPS-best fourth of the season. Smith's goal for Boston was her third, and Finnish forward Laura Kalmari scored her second and third for Sky Blue in the draw with Saint Louis. … Atlanta's loss was its fifth in a row, and Boston's winless streak reached five games.

This week's scores (home teams listed first)

Friday

Boston 1 (Smith 22), FC Gold Pride (Marta 15, 37)

Saturday

Chicago 0, Philadelphia 1 (Lohman 6)

Sunday

Saint Louis 2 (Boxx pen. 8, Aluko 85), Sky Blue FC 2 (Kalmari 57, 61)

Atlanta 0, Washington 2 (Mykjaland 28, Wambach 63)

Standings: FC Gold Pride 15 points, Philadelphia Independence 11, Washington Freedom 10, Sky Blue FC 10, Saint Louis Athletica 9, Boston Breakers 6, Chicago Red Bulls 4, Atlanta Beat 1.

Next week

No games scheduled

The following week

Saturday, May 29

Saint Louis at Atlanta

Boston at Sky Blue FC

FC Gold Pride at Chicago

Sunday, May 30

Philadelphia at Washington

Leading scorers

1 Eniola Aluko (Saint Louis) 4

2 Laura Kalmari (Sky Blue FC) 3

Marta (FC Gold Pride) 3

Christine Sinclair (FC Gold Pride) 3

Kelly Smith (Boston) 3