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Friday, April 8, 2011
WPS: No West Coast in Year 3

By Scott French

Women's Professional Soccer starts its third season Saturday without any West Coast involvement. All six teams are in the East, stretching from Boca Raton, Fla., to Boston, following the demise of reigning champion FC Gold Pride, from Northern California, and the Chicago Red Stars' decision to go on hiatus.

That's four of the original eight teams that are dead or close to it. Our L.A. Sol was the first to disband, followed by Saint Louis Athletica.

Expansion has brought in the Western New York Flash, who will play in Rochester and have world's-best-player Marta, formerly of the Sol/Gold Pride.

The Washington Freedom, American women's soccer's most storied club -- it won the final Women's United Soccer Association title in 2003, survived as an independent and in the W-League, and was a WPS original -- also is gone. In its place: the ridiculously named magicJack, based in Florida, seemingly little more than a plaything for lead owner Dan Borislow, whose company invented the telecommunications device that has become the team's moniker.

Jim Gabarra, a former L.A.-area pro who was in charge of the Freedom all those years, has moved to New Jersey's Sky Blue FC, the 2009 WPS champ.

The first game has Boston visiting Atlanta, and Philadelphia plays Sunday at Sky Blue in a game televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

Without any real rooting interest, Angelenos might want to follow local players, and there's plenty -- 25 in all,  including nine from UCLA and five from south Orange County, long the nation's top area for developing female players. Here's a quick look at the six teams and their local connections (with hometowns, local high schools, and colleges where needed):

ATLANTA BEAT
Home:
Kennesaw, Ga.
Head coach: James Galanis
Top talent: M Lori Chalupny, M Carli Lloyd, D Catherine Whitehill
L.A.-area players
D/M Megan Jesolva (La Mirada), La Mirada HS/California
M/F Kristina Larsen (Mission Viejo), Mission Viejo HS/UCLA
M Kylie Wright (Rancho Santa Margarita), Tesoro HS/UCLA

BOSTON BREAKERS
Home:
Boston
Head coach: Tony DiCicco
Top talent: D Rachel Buehler, D Amy LePeilbet, M Leslie Osborne, D Alex Scott, F/M Kelly Smith
L.A.-area players
F Lauren Cheney (Indianapolis), UCLA
G Kelsey Davis (Thousand Oaks), Thousand Oaks HS/UCLA and Portland
D Kasey Moore (Mission Viejo), Capistrano Valley HS/Texas

MAGICJACK
Home:
Boca Raton, Fla.
Head coach: Mike Lyons
Top talent: D Tina Ellertson, D Christie Rampone, G Hope Solo
L.A.-area players
M Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach), South Torrance HS/Notre Dame
F Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates), Chadwick School/Stanford
F/M Lindsay Tarpley (Hermosa Beach), North Carolina
F Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach), Florida

PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE
Home:
Chester, Pa.
Head coach: Paul Riley
Top talent: G Nicole Barnhart, F Natasha Kai, M Lori Lindsey, M Megan Rapinoe
L.A.-area players
F/M Danesha Adams (Shaker Heights, Ohio), UCLA
D Lauren Barnes (Upland), Upland HS/UCLA
M Tina DiMartino (Massapequa, N.Y.), UCLA
G Val Henderson (Orinda, Calif.), UCLA
F Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest), Santa Margarita Catholic HS/UCLA

SKY BLUE FC
Home:
Piscataway, N.J.
Head coach: Jim Gabarra
Top talent: F Eniola Aluko, D Anita Asante, M Tobin Heath, M Heather O'Reilly, M Therese Sjogran
L.A.-area players
G Karen Bardsley (Chino Hills), Ayala HS/Cal State Fullerton
G Jenni Branam (Placentia), El Dorado HS/North Carolina

WESTERN NEW YORK FLASH
Home:
Rochester, N.Y.
Head coach: Aaran Lines
Top talent: D Candace Chapman, F Marta, F Christine Sinclair
L.A.-area players
D Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates), Peninsula HS/North Carolina
M Beverly Goebel (Moreno Valley), Moreno Valley HS/Sacramento State and Miami
F Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar), Diamond Bar HS/California
D Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades), Harvard-Westlake School/Stanford
D Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles), Walnut HS/Cal State Fullerton
M McCall Zerboni (San Clemente), San Clemente HS/UCLA