MagicJack riding high into super semifinals
The scouting report on magicJack is simple in theory: Stop the attack before it starts. And it won't be difficult to spot the attack, as it will be led by potent forward and player/coach Abby Wambach.
The theory was proved during magicJack's first-round WPS playoff game against the Breakers on Wednesday, as Wambach scored twice en route to a 3-1 win.
Six players from the U.S. World Cup team started for magicJack, and with U.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage in the stands, some fans might have wondered why the red, white and blue were suddenly wearing green and black.
That's excluding Australian forward Lisa De Vanna, Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt, goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and injured American star goalie Hope Solo.
Suddenly, controlling magicJack's star players is easier said than done.
"When we do get in a rhythm, our attack is scary," said Christen Press, the WPS rookie of the year. "It's good. [Megan Rapinoe] is such a threat. Abby can finish in the air like nobody I've ever met.
"When we get in a rhythm and we are pinging the ball around and we get in behind, it's a scary thing. And it's an amazing thing."
MagicJack now brings its offensive-driven attack to Philadelphia on Saturday, taking on the Independence in the WPS super semifinal. The winner advances the finals, playing the top-seeded Western New York Flash on Aug. 27 in Rochester, N.Y.
"We've got so many attacking personalities that it is difficult to defend one or two of us," said Wambach, who has scored nine goals this season. "When you have a player like Megan Rapinoe and then Sarah Huffman comes on … it makes it really difficult to defend against our front six."
Thus far, there has been little to separate the Independence and magicJack. The teams split their four regular-season matches, with each winning its two home games.
But numbers don't tell the whole story. The elephant in the room for Philadelphia is that it has lost both games to a full-strength magicJack team. When magicJack is at its best, the Independence have been overwhelmed.
Philadelphia could have a false sense of security after defeating magicJack by a combined 9-1 score in consecutive June home matches. But those were played with World Cup players missing, leaving magicJack's roster completely depleted.
In those June 18 and June 25 matches, magicJack had just 15 and 13 players, respectively, available for selection. It was so short on players that team staff member and previously retired goalkeeper Shannon Myers had to lace up the cleats and throw on the gloves to play.
"I think we match up well against them," Wambach said. "… I think that we are going to match up well with the rest of the teams in this league, but the focus is on Philly right now."
Saturday's match also will feel less like a true home game for the Independence. To accommodate a bigger crowd, the Independence will play at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., home of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union.
PPL Park features a pristine grass field, much like the one magicJack plays on at FAU Soccer Field, but larger. It's a big-time stage for a huge game, but with the move, the Independence leave behind Leslie C. Quick Jr. Stadium on the campus of Widener University, where the team is 7-1-1.
It's no wonder why a streaking magicJack -- winner of five of its past six games -- feels it has all the momentum.
"Confidence is everything," magicJack midfielder Huffman said. "We just played them and we know it is going to be a great game. We are all feeling good going forward."