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Charles Cuttone


August 11, 2011
WPS MVP is a no brainer

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

Veronica Boquete has had an MVP season for the Philadelphia Independence.
Veronica Boquete has had an MVP season for the Philadelphia Independence.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Women’s Professional Soccer has announced its list of five candidates for the Michelle Akers Award, which goes to the league’s Most Valuable Player. While some of the nominees are well known, and indeed have been up for the award in the past, such as Marta (two-time winner), Christine Sinclair and Abby Wambach, two new faces also show up on the ballot, the Philadelphia Independence’s Tasha Kai and Veronica Boquete.

Kai has had an ascendant season, ranking among the league leaders in scoring, up there with Sinclair and Wambach after languishing for two years with Sky Blue. That’s a testament to Paul Riley’s candidacy for a second Coach of the Year award.

But my MVP vote goes to Boquete. She has had an incredible impact on the Independence and their ability to catch the star-laden Western New York Flash in the standings.

Boquete joined the Indies late, arriving in early June and making her first appearance in a 0-0 draw with the Atlanta Beat on June 4. Since then, the Independence have not lost a game with her in the lineup.

Boquete scored her first goal a few weeks later, in a 6-0 win over magicJack, also chiming in with three assists, a performance that earned her WPS Player of the Week honors for the first time this season.

Since then, Boquete has won two more WPS Player of the Week honors, the only player to do so three times this year, joining Abby Wambach who won three Player of the Week awards in 2009, and Marta and Amy Rodriguez who were three-time winners last year.

“She’s [Vero] just special,” said Independence head coach Paul Riley. “When she is in the lineup, the rules say that we have to win the game.”

With Boquete in the lineup, the Independence is 9-0-1. In those nine games she has five goals, three of them game-winners, and four assists. Her five goals rank sixth in the league, and her four assists rank fifth. She led the team to a franchise record six-game winning streak that ended when she was not in the lineup.

Boquete is the very definition of Most Valuable Player. Voting for women’s soccer awards being what it is, however, I think Marta will probably win for a third year in a row. While she is still a fantastic player, I don’t think her impact on the WPS or on her team this year has been as great as in the past. But voting for women’s soccer awards seems to have a ghost effect. Michelle Akers received noted for FIFA World Player of the Year for years after she retired from the game, and I believe Marta has won five straight FIFA awards because of that reputation. It will be interesting to see how that vote turns out this year.

The Independence are well represented on the various WPS award ballots, with Sinead Farrelly on the Rookie of the Year list, Nikki Krzysik up for Defender of the Year and Nicole Barnhart up for Goalkeeper of the Year.

Barnhart presents an interesting case. In eight games this season, she has a 4-2-2 record with three shutouts and 1.00 goals against average. She leads the team with 36 saves. But Val Henderson has a 7-1-1 record, with four shutouts and a 0.89 goals against average. She does, despite having played more games, have fewer saves, 20.

The Women’s World Cup wreaked havoc on the WPS goalkeeping ranks, with only three keepers in the league reaching the league’s minimum minutes requirement for leading the league in goals against average. All three of those players, Western New York’s Ashlyn Harris, Boston’s Allysa Naeher and New Jersey’s Jenni Branam, are on the Goalkeeper of the Year ballot, along with Barnhart and Atlanta’s Allison Whitworth. On this one, I’ll have to give the nod to Naeher, who almost singlehandedly kept the Breakers in the playoff race when her team’s defense was decimated by Women’s World Cup call ups.
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