Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) made its debut in South Florida Saturday after Washington Freedom, now renamed magicJack and relocated to Boca Raton, played its first competitive game of the season against Boston Breakers.
Despite very little publicity and no promotion, a crowd of between 1,500 to 2,500 (estimated; the official attendance wasn’t announced) filled the bleachers alongside the touchline of the soccer field at Florida Atlantic University, while several hundred other fans crammed into the tight spaces to either stand or sit on the grass just feet away from the action on the pitch.
This was my first time in 37 years of following the sport that I had an opportunity to watch a women’s professional game in person. I’ve seen plenty of WPS games on television as well as many international games on the box. But this was a golden opportunity to watch many of the U.S.’s 2011 World Cup stars in action close-up. Plus, it was an excellent opportunity to catch a WPS game in-person.
I was incredibly impressed by what I saw on the pitch. magicJack started the game in control and played extremely well as a team, linking up in midfield and feeding through passes to its forwards to push for a goal. Particularly impressive for magicJack were Abby Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley. Wambach played, for the most part, down the middle of the pitch, while Tarpley created several superb crosses after running down the right wing. Despite having most of the possession in the first half, magicJack didn’t create most of its chances until later in the first half. Boston Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was kept busy, often coming out of her goal to clear the ball from advancing forwards or to collect the ball safely in her arms.
But when magicJack did create its flurry of chances near the latter part of the first half, it seemed that a goal was inevitable. During the first best opportunity, Boston’s Naeher was up to the challenge. She made an incredible diving save from a header and managed to tip the ball against the post. Then magicJack struck a thunderous shot that hit the crossbar and bounced away. But finally magicJack broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when Ella Masar was in front of goal and tapped the ball into the corner of the net to make it 1-0 to the home team.
The second half was a different game with Boston Breakers playing a more direct game, which put magicJack under a lot of pressure. But the Florida team held on to its lead and ended the game victors thanks to Masar’s solitary goal.
As far as the action on display, it was of the highest quality. The aforementioned Wambach, Tarpley, Naeher and Masar all were impressive. The game also featured international stars Shannon Boxx, Alex Scott, Leslie Osborne, Kelly Smith and Becky Sauerbrunn.
magicJack’s next game at Florida Atlantic University is Sunday, May 1 against Philadelphia Independence at 4pm ET. The Philadelphia side features four USWNT players: Amy Rodriguez, Nicole Barnhart, Lori Lindsey and Megan Rapinoe.