Los Angeles Soccer: Philadelphia Independence
Leroux, a fast, athletic striker from UCLA with an extensive international background, was on a field at Home Depot Center with the U.S. women's national team when word arrived that the Atlanta Beat had, as expected, used the first selection on her in Friday's draft at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“[I was] told in the middle of practice,” Leroux said. “Abby [Wambach] had a water bottle, and she sprayed me in the face with it, and I kind of choked.”
Stanford's Camille Levin (Newport Coast/Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School) and UC Irvine's CoCo Goodson were the other local players selected -- they were the first two defenders taken. Levin went to New Jersey's Sky Blue FC with the fourth overall pick and Goodson joined Philadelphia in the second round, with the 12th pick.
Leroux's new Beat teammates on the national team -- defenders Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox and Amy LePeilbet, and midfielders Carli Lloyd and Kelley O'Hara -- welcomed her with high-fives. She was halfway expecting to be headed to Atlanta.
“I talked to them a little bit [before the draft],” Leroux said. “They said they had their eye on me. Just the usual, kind of. I didn't really know what was going to happen. ...
“Everyone asked me who had the No. 1 pick, and I would say Atlanta, and they would say, 'OK, so you're going to be playing in Atlanta,' and I was like, 'You know, anything can happen,' so I didn't really say anything.”
Leroux was easily the most prominent player on the board. She played in three FIFA U-19 or U-20 Women's World Cups -- the first at 14 for her native Canada -- winning the Golden Ball as MVP and Golden Boot as top scorer with the U.S. captured the 2008 title. She was a three-time All-American at UCLA, scoring 57 goals in four years at UCLA, 16 as a senior and a school record-tying 23 as a sophomore.
Brian Ching headed home Davis' free kick deep into first-half stoppage to give the Dynamo a 1-0 triumph Thursday night over visiting Philadelphia. That made for a 3-1 aggregate triumph to set up a showdown Sunday at Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference final. The winner there heads to the Nov. 20 MLS Cup championship game at Home Depot Center.
The time for the Eastern final has not been set and likely won't be until Thursday's second game -- New York at Galaxy -- determines the Western Conference matchup.
The Dynamo, who were playing their final game at the University of Houston's Robertson Stadium, won MLS titles in 2006 and 2007.
Amy Rodriguez had failed on a breakaway and done little when other chances came her way, but with time running out on her Philadelphia Independence, she came through in a big way.
The former USC star from Lake Forest knocked home a rebound in the 88th minute to pull Philly even with the Western New York Flash in the Women's Professional Soccer final Saturday in Rochester, N.Y. It only delayed the disappointment.
The Flash, featuring a half-dozen Southern California products, prevailed on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw, handing A-Rod and the Independence their second straight title-game defeat.
Rodriguez's second playoff goal, a swift shot from a sharp angle that beat WNY goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, was the apex of a dramatic, often thrilling final that featured a red card, a would-be winner off the crossbar, a diving save to force penalties and another diving stop to win the shootout.
The red card went to second-half substitute Beverly Goebel, from Moreno Valley, who left the Flash with 10 players after picking up two yellow cards in overtime. San Clemente's McCall Zerboni converted the third penalty for Western New York, which celebrated when Harris stopped Laura Del Rio after the first nine shooters converted.
Christine Sinclair, who scored the Flash's goal in the 64th minute, and Marta claimed back-to-back titles. The star forwards, along with defenders Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades) and Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles), were key figures last year for FC Gold Pride, which disbanded after winning WPS's second championship.
Western New York's starting lineup included Riley, rookie forward Alex Morgan, from Diamond Bar, and WPS Defender of the Year Whitney Engen, from Rolling Hills Estates. Zerboni came on midway through overtime; Wilson was on the 18-man roster but did not play.
Rodriguez's 81st-minute goal in Saturday's 2-0 victory, which set up a showdown this weekend in Rochester, N.Y., with regular-season champ Western New York Flash, was just her third in a difficult season.
After a breakthrough, 12-goal campaign in 2010, she made just 10 appearances for Philly this season, starting six games and seeing only 641 minutes of action. Rodriguez's time was whittled by her duties with the U.S. national team and at the Women's World Cup, but the Independence's go-to forward last season was eclipsed by new arrivals Veronica Boquete -- WPS's Player of the Year -- and Tasha Kai, whose superb strike at the start of the second half provided the lead over magicJack.
The former USC All-American from Lake Forest is finding her game again, just in time.
“Amy wasn't in great form,” Philadelphia coach Paul Riley told ESPNW after Saturday's victory. “Amy, in the past few weeks, has worked on her game a lot. Today you could see.”
The Independence lost to Bay Area-based, since-dismantled FC Gold Pride, 4-0, in last year's WPS final -- all three goalscorers, Christine Sinclair, Marta and Kandace Wilson, are with the first-year Flash now -- and that defeat spurs them into Saturday's meeting with the first-year Flash (Fox Sports West, 1 p.m. PT).
“We were disappointed in ourselves” after last year's defeat in Hayward, Rodriguez told ESPNW. “We had worked so hard during the season, and then that last game was unfortunate. This game was a steppingstone. Our goal is to make it to the championship and, obviously, to bring home the trophy.”
Two Palos Verdes Peninsula players were winners when Women's Professional Soccer announced its season awards Wednesday.Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS) was voted Defender of the Year after her Western New York Flash won the WPS regular-season title, and Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) was chosen Rookie of the Year after a solid first year with Boca Raton, Fla.-based magicJack.
Philadelphia forward Veronica Boquete was the surprise winner as Player of the Year, and her boss, Paul Riley, was awarded Coach of the Year. Western New York's Ashlyn Harris (Goalkeeper of the Year) and Marta (Golden Boot) and Philly's Nikki Krzsik (Sportswoman of the Year) also were honored.
Engen, a second-year pro out of the University of North Carolina, was the key to a Flash defense that conceded just 18 goals, tied for the league's lowest total, as the club overcame the Philadelphia Independence in the season's final weeks to finish first at 13-2-3.
Press, a former Stanford star who won the Hermann Trophy last December as college soccer's top player, scored eight goals -- just two off the league leaders -- as magicJack stormed into the playoffs behind star forward/head coach Abby Wambach. Press scored WPS's first rookie hat trick on July 30.
BRANAM RETIRES: Jenni Branam, among the more spectacular female goalkeepers the U.S. has produced, retired following New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC's final game.
Our countdown of 2010's top 10 soccer stories and newsmakers -- from a Southern California slant -- continues.
- Newsmakers/No. 6: Kevin Hartman and Amy Rodriguez
One was a veteran goalkeeper dumped by the club he'd served admirably for three seasons. The other was a promising young striker who hadn't lived up to the acclaim and expectations.
Both delivered breakthrough campaigns in 2010.
Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) had the finest year of his career -- the finest year any Major League Soccer netminder has posted -- to lead FC Dallas to its first MLS Cup title game.
Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) asserted herself as one of the best forwards in the women's game, leading the expansion Philadelphia Independence to Women's Professional Soccer's championship game and making a real impact for the U.S. women's national team.
Alan Gordon belonged to the Vancouver Whitecaps for less than four hours.
The veteran forward, taken by the Whitecaps with the 10th selection in Wednesday's Major League Soccer expansion draft, returned to Chivas USA just a few hours in a trade. The Goats also received former Galaxy forward Alejandro Moreno, whom Vancouver took from Philadelphia with the 14th pick in the draft, while giving up allocation money and an international slot.
Chivas USA will announce the trade later this afternoon, a team source said.
Gordon, who joined Chivas in an Aug. 5 trade from the Galaxy, scored a goal with three assists in nine league appearances with the Goats.
Moreno, 31, a Venezuelan national-teamer who also has played for San Jose, Houston and Columbus, scored two goals with seven assists for the expansion Independence last year. He has 45 goals and 35 assists in nine MLS seasons, with a career-best nine goals in 2008 to help the Crew to the MLS Cup title.
UPDATE: Chivas has announced the trade. Said VP of soccer operations Stephen Hamilton, in a statement: "We’re very happy we get to keep Alan Gordon at Chivas USA, and we’re also excited to add Alejandro Moreno to our squad. We had the opportunity to add a pair of experienced and proven forwards, who will provide us with strength and depth up front."