In a remarkable turnaround season in which FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer went from last place to regular season champions, the individual accolades came on Thursday.
Gold Pride ran away with WPS, finishing with a 16-3-5 record, while holding the league’s best offense, as well as the stingiest defense. Both sides of the ball were recognized.
Marta, an off-season pick-up from the defunct L.A. Sol, led Gold Pride and all of WPS in scoring, with 19 goals in 24 games. Being the league’s leading scorer, Marta was awarded the PUMA Golden Boot. In addition, Marta tallied five assists which help pave the way for great seasons all around from other Pride members. Marta’s contributions earned her the Michelle Akers Player of the Year (MVP) award for the second straight year.
While Gold Pride’s offense remains the topic of discussion for many people – 53 goals, 17 more than the next-highest scoring team, Boston – the defense was no slouch, allowing a league-low 19 goals, eight fewer than the next best defensive club, Chicago.
Two members of the Pride back line were rewarded for their exemplary play. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was voted the Coast Guard Goalkeeper of the Year and defender Ali Riley was given WPS rookie of the year.
Barnhart led all WPS keepers with a 0.77 goals-against average, which she accumulated in 21 games. She also led WPS with eight shutouts. And in Riley’s rookie season, she logged over 2,000 minutes in 23 matches while marking some of the league’s best and tracking back arguably better than any outside back in the league. She also streaked forward, helping the offense with three assists.
But the Gold Pride players were not the only winners of awards. In what would seem like a surprise pick, Paul Riley, who coached the expansion Philadelphia Independence to a 10-10-4 record, third best in WPS, was named WPS Coach of the Year. Riley will hope to lead his veteran-laden club to a playoff victory at home vs. the Washington Freedom on Sunday.
Amy LePeilbet of the Boston Breakers was voted the MedImmune Defender of the Year. LePeilbet was the leader of a Breakers defense that allowed 28 goals. She was also a starter in the WPS All-Star Game. After the all-star break, LePeilbet and the Breakers got stingier on defense, leading to 9-3-2 record down the stretch.
Amongst her peers, Natalie Spilger of the Chicago Red Stars was acknowledged for her great sportsmanship by receiving the Citi Sportswoman of the Year. Specifically, Spilger was given the award for her work on the environment with her foundation, greenlaces.org.
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