Team History: St. Louis is the “Soccer Capital of America”, so it is fitting they will have a team in the first season of WPS. Athletica (or as I call them “SLA”) was one of the original six teams created by the league. For the soccer-hungry area, SLA games will undoubtedly be a popular draw and many are hoping an MLS team will someday also arrive.
The Coach: Jorge Barcellos is one of the best soccer minds in the world and is also the head coach of the powerhouse Brazilian WNT. He clearly knows his soccer and he is hoping to get the most out of his young squad. It will certainly help his transition that he has brought two of his best Brazilian players with him to St. Louis.
The Players: SLA received Hope Solo, Tina Ellertson and Lori Chalupny in the US WNT draw, which ain’t too shabby. Barcellos has added his two Brazilian WNT players and stalwart Swedish defender Sara Larsson, but I am unsure about whether they have all signed. He also managed to get a ton of talented, young players in the draft.
The Venue: Unfortunately, SLA has one of the worst venues in the league, at least for now anyways. The hopeful plan was that MLS would award St. Louis a franchise and a soccer specific stadium would be constructed, but St. Louis looks like it will miss out again. So, SLA will be stuck playing in the tiny Korte Stadium (3,000 capacity) for now, which is actually in Illinois. Go figure.
The Prediction: Because I am unsure whether SLA’s foreign stars have been signed, I can’t quite figure them out. I love Hope Solo and think she is the best women’s keeper in the world, but all her talent won’t mean much if she has to save 15 shots a game. I fear small crowds and smaller point totals for SLA, and I think they will be near the bottom of the table in 2009.