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February 10, 2010 > Gold Pride get Marta in Dispersal Draft

Gold Pride get Marta in Dispersal Draft

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By courtesy of FC Gold Pride

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) took a hit this off season when it discontinued the best regular season team from its inaugural season, the Los Angeles Sol. AEG had an ownership stake in the Sol before relinquishing that stake to the WPS last year. And after negotiations fell through with a potential owner, the WPS was forced to discontinue the franchise.

The league's misfortune became FC Gold Pride's - Bay Area affiliate, located at Cal State East Bay in Hayward - blessing, as last season's worst team acquired the four-time FIFA player of the year Marta in the Dispersal Draft, which took place on Thursday, Feb. 4.

"I just remember being in the office and everyone was jumping for joy," said FC Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya when he found out Marta was still available when the Pride were selecting. "I did not hesitate (to select Marta). Our need was forward. We've done great this off season adding offensive punch."

Marta, a Brazilian National Team member, has won the World Player of the Year in 2006-2009. In addition, she was named to the WPS All-Star team, as well as winning the Michelle Akers Award for league MVP.

Shannon Boxx was selected first in the draft by the St. Louis Athletica (who got the top spot via a trade with the Atlanta Beat), with world-class goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc going second to expansion team Philadelphia Independence, leaving the door open for Marta to come to the Pride in the third spot.

"We were always hopeful she would be there, but it was a long shot," commented Montoya. "And there was a little bit of luck (in picking Marta): we have been unsuccessful in signing Formiga, so we had the salary cap and an opening for an international player."

Along with Marta, the Gold Pride picked up additional its "offensive punch" when they acquired Camille Abily (also a former member of the Sol) in a trade last month.

Abily was acquired by the Pride, along with the Sol's 20th selection in the 2010 WPS Draft (Kaley Fountain, Wake Forest), last month in a trade that sent Tina DiMartino, the 14th overall pick in the draft (Michelle Enyeart, Portland) and the team's 2009 International Discovery players to Los Angeles.

Between Marta and Abily, the Pride acquired last season's top two goal scorers in the league. Marta netted 10, while Abily was just behind the pace with eight. Totaling 18 goals, the new acquisitions combined for more goals than the entire Gold Pride (17) output a season ago.

"We now have the luxury to play many formations," said Montoya. "Last year, when we lost Kandace (Wilson, injured for the season) ... we became somewhat predictable in our attack.

"Now we have Marta, Camille, (Christine) Sinclair and Kelley O'Hara (Gold Pride 2010 draft pick, Stanford)," Montoya continued. "We're going to be difficult to stop."

Wilson, ironically, suffered her season-ending injury against the Sol when Marta made a play for the ball and tackled her aggressively, busting up her knee. She is healthy and ready to take the field, and coach Montoya is "excited to see what happens on the practice field."

Wilson was part of a defensive unit - along with captain Rachel Buehler - for the Pride that gave up the most goals in the WPS last season. The additions of Candace Chapman (formerly of the Boston Breakers) and Ali Riley (10th overall pick in 2010 draft) has "strengthened our backline," according to Montoya, who insists they now "have a good balance."

But Montoya believes that the offensive additions to the club will be the strongest part of the team's ever-improving defense.

"I do believe best defense is a great offense," said Montoya. "Teams will have to worry more about us offensively than we will have to worry about them."

FC Gold Pride added to its depth with the selections of Santa Clara University alum Kiki Bosio (13th overall) and former Clemson University star Lindsay Browne (19th overall).

"Those two players were on my list (of free agents I wanted to sign) in January, but L.A. beat us out both times," said Montoya. "When we had the opportunity to get them, I was ecstatic.

"We're going to have depth and it will be a challenge for all players to make the team," Montoya added. "It will bring out the best of all the players."

But the competitive level will not only reign supreme for the Gold Pride. With the discontinuation of the Sol, last year's best team spread its talent throughout the eight-team league, making the league more balanced, top to bottom.

Montoya is excited about the future of the league and its ratcheted level of competitive play.

"The level is going to be so much better," said Montoya. "Every team is going to be that much deeper."

But the coach of last year's worst team is still extremely optimistic it can compete for a title this year.

"If we're not competing for a playoff spot, we'll have a lot of questions to answer," said Montoya. "Having Marta, there are no excuses (for not succeeding)."

FC Gold Pride will begin its quest for redemption in 2010 with the regular season opener at the Anheuser Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo., against Athletica on Sunday, April 11. Gold Pride's home opener is Saturday, April 17, at Castro Valley Athletic Stadium vs. defending champion Sky Blue FC (New Jersey).

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