If you were expecting a World Cup star such as Marta or Christine Sinclair to be named Women's Professional Soccer's most valuable player for the season, then you're in for a surprise.
The award went to Independence forward Veronica Boquete, who has played a big role in the team's second-place finish in WPS this season.
Boquete especially excelled while the Independence's national team stars were away at the World Cup. The Spaniard scored five goals - including four game-winners - and dished out five assists in just 11 games played this year.
Independence coach Paul Riley was also honored, winning the league's coach of the year award. That comes as no surprise: it was his plan all along to set up the club's roster so that it could make a charge during the World Cup.
In addition to bringing Boquete to WPS, Riley helped temperamental former U.S. national team forward Natasha Kai to flourish. He also played a role in developing rookie midfielder Sinead Farrelly, and in turning veteran midfielder Lori Lindsey into a key player on the current U.S. squad.
Team owner David Halstead had this to say in a press release, and I think he pretty well nailed the point:
Paul Riley defines the identity, brand and hardworking spirit of our franchise. He should be coach of the year again this year because he is the best coach in the league. We don’t have a “stacked” roster with superstars at every position like a couple of the other teams in WPS.
But we have a terrific group of talented, gifted and committed soccer players at every position that play as a team, and Paul knows how to get the most out of every one of them. We’ve been in business for two years and have reached top spots in the league standings in both. The reason – Paul Riley and the players he has.
He is on the field, buried in technical and tactical training nearly every day, in the player lounge and training room connecting to the players and managing their physical and psychological state 5-6 days a week, in the community promoting and representing the franchise constantly, driving our player transactions and roster movements, and is dedicated to continuous improvement of himself – never satisfied with his own performance.
As I have shared with our players and staff, Paul is a perfectionist in an imperfect world, and I am proud he is the coach of the Independence.
The Independence bagged a third individual honor as well, as defender and team captain Nikki Krzysik was named the league's sportswoman of the year.
Now there is just one award left for the Independence to pursue: the Women's Professional Soccer championship. That quest begins Saturday at PPL Park, as the Independence host the WPS Playoffs Super Semifinal against either MagicJack SC. The Boca Raton-based team beat the Boston Breakers, 3-1, in the first round of the playoffs Wednesday night.
This means that U.S. national team stars Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, the latter of whom used to play for the Independence, will be in town. We might also get to see controversial MagicJack SC owner Dan Borislow, who has become the subject of quite some scrunity in recent weeks.
I highly recommend that you read this story by Steven Goff of the Washington Post, which details the unprofessional and arguably defamatory emails that Borislow has sent to his players at various times this year.
It is my opinion that Borislow is unfit to run the team, and that Women's Professional Soccer ought to kick him out at the end of the season. If it means that the league loses a franchise, that's too bad; it's rumored that there will be expansion to other markets in next year.
It is also my opinion that the initial decision to admit Borislow into the league reflects poorly on the league, its Board of Governors, and above all, commissioner Anne-Marie Eileraas.
That is just my view, and it doesn't have to be yours. But having talked with fans and observers across the league this season - including many of you - I'm pretty sure that I'm not alone in thinking that Borislow has to go.
Anway, back to matters on the field. The winner of Saturday's semifinal will play at the Western New York Flash the following Saturday (August 27) for the championship. The Flash, featuring Marta and Christine Sinclair, narrowly edged the Independence for first place in the regular-season standings.
Local soccer fans should know that while Saturday's semifinal will air on Fox Sports Net affiliates across the country, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia will not broadcast the game live. It will air on a tape-delay at 11:30 p.m.
That means the only way to watch the game live is to go to PPL Park. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. and the Union don't play until 7:30, so you'll have some time to get home between the two.
The championship game next weekend will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, also at 4 p.m.
Here is the full list of WPS award winners for the season:
Michelle Akers Player of the Year: Veronica Boquete (Philadelphia Independence)
WPS Defender of the Year: Whitney Engen (Western New York Flash)
US Coast Guard Goalkeeper of the Year: Ashlyn Harris (Western New York Flash)
US Soccer Federation Rookie of the Year: Christen Press (magicJack)
WPS Coach of the Year: Paul Riley (Philadelphia Independence)
Citi Sportswoman of the Year: Nikki Krzysik (Philadelphia Independence)
PUMA Golden Boot (Top Scorer): Marta (Western New York Flash)