Wambach tackle on Daniela the week's talking point
Knee injuries have impacted women's sports for years, and it is no different in Women's Professional Soccer, as St. Louis Athletica midfielder Daniela was injured in the second half of St. Louis' 3-3 tie with the Freedom on Sunday in Washington.
The injury happened when the Brazilian international was tackled on a hard challenge by Abby Wambach that earned Wambach a yellow card. St. Louis announced Tuesday that Daniela tore two ligaments in her right knee (although it didn't specify which ligaments) and fractured her tibia. She likely will miss the rest of the season.
The league is reviewing the play to see whether further discipline against Wambach is warranted, and a decision could come later this week. (The tackle appears at the two-minute mark of this video.)
"We are carefully reviewing the play, just as we are reviewing other physical plays and yellow cards issued this weekend," WPS chief operating officer Mary Harvey said in an e-mail. "The review must play out properly and thoroughly before any judgments can be made.
"The disciplinary committee meets once per week and will take any action -- or no action -- depending on whether it decides if it's warranted or not."
After the game, St. Louis goalkeeper Hope Solo was outspoken about her feelings about the play.
"There was no excuse for it," Solo said, according to The Washington Post. "I know Abby means well, I know she has a good heart and she would never want to see a player go down, but in the emotions of a game, it was right after the kickoff after they scored, and she went in two-footed."
When reached by telephone Monday, Wambach said she meant no harm.
"It was a challenge, and I think that maybe it warranted a yellow card," she said. "I'm not a type of player that goes into tackles trying to hurt people. I play hard. It's part of my game. If you've ever watched a soccer game that I've played in, that's how defenders and teams defend me. In order to protect myself, I have to play hard and do the best that I can.
"But no way did I want Daniela to be carried off in a stretcher. I have so much respect for her. She obviously means a lot to her team. I couldn't wish more for the best for someone right now, especially what I've been going through the past nine to 10 months from my leg having been broken."
The bottom line here is that the foul was reckless but probably doesn't warrant a suspension. Emotions are high, as Daniela's injury is bad, and Solo has every right to be upset. The larger problem from that game was that it was way too physical and referee Shane Butler let it get out of control. Wambach took a number of hits from players who weren't going for the ball, and St. Louis defenders Kia McNeill and Tina Ellertson both could have, and probably should have, received cards for fouls on Wambach. McNeill received one yellow in the match but should have had two.
Kelly Smith would rather talk about the Breakers, but as Boston heads to Los Angeles for another game against the Sol this Sunday, she probably is going to get asked about playing against Marta a little bit longer.
After Boston topped Los Angeles 2-1 and Smith scored her league-leading fourth goal in the second minute to get the Breakers going Saturday, Smith deflected questions about playing against Marta.
"There was a lot of hype, obviously," Smith said. "For me, it's not Marta v. Kelly. It's Boston v. L.A., and I'm all about the team performance. I was pleased to get on the scoresheet, but if other players score and we get three points every week, I'm happy as long as we're winning."
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It would be impossible not to talk about the two best players in the game right now meeting on the field in Boston for only the second time in their careers, but her point is well taken. While Smith played a great game, it was the Breakers' back line of Alex Scott, Amy LePeilbet, Sue Weber and Heather Mitts -- along with goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill -- that kept Marta from looking dangerous and off the scoresheet.
"I thought we just really did a good job of being aware of where she was," Luckenbill said.
The decision not to put any of the Los Angeles-Boston games on Fox Soccer Channel is puzzling. Marta and Smith are the two best players in the world. They were the top two players when they signed with the league, so their high level of play to start the season is not surprising. While Smith is not as well known as Marta and some of the other top players in the league, the best way to sell your product is to put the best players where they can be seen. The league should have done everything possible to put a Breakers-Sol game on television.
"The two best players in the world, without question, are playing head to head right now," Sol general manager Charlie Naimo said during the second half of the Sol-Breakers match.
"It would be nice for the league [to have a Breakers-Sol game on national TV]. I really can't remember when it was that the actual schedule got made, the television schedule, but I would think that somebody would've thought that Kelly versus Marta would be worthy of a nationally televised game."
Smith didn't sign with the league until after the WPS TV schedule was announced, but both she and Marta were drafted in September, and the league should have thought then to schedule the possible meeting between the two on national television.
While being interviewed during the Athletica-Freedom game on FSC, Mia Hamm said she and Wambach are hoping to have first lady Michelle Obama attend a WPS match. Wambach said Monday that is indeed the case and the invitation has been sent to the White House.
"We've been in contact with the White House and really trying to get Michelle and her two girls to come, because what an impact not only would it have for our league, but just women in sports in general, that we have the backing of our first lady and her two kids," Wambach said.
"We've sent out our invitations for them to come out to any home game. There's so much that they're being invited to and so much to decide from, I understand if they don't show up."
Still, Wambach is hopeful.
"It would be so cool. I would die. I would be so happy."
The second-largest crowd in WPS turned out Saturday night in Boston to see the Breakers host Marta and the Sol, with 8,031 fans making their way to Harvard Stadium for the match. Another solid crowd of 5,149 turned out Sunday in Washington as the Freedom hosted St. Louis. Although it was raining, the presence of Mia Hamm as she was inducted into the Hall of Freedom probably helped. It was another disappointing crowd in the Bay Area as the lowest total to date in WPS -- 2,533 -- saw FC Gold Pride beat Sky Blue FC 1-0.
1. Chicago Red Stars (2-0-2) -- Benefiting from a bye week after a 4-0 win over Boston. Chicago will be back in action Sunday hosting Sky Blue FC in a rematch of their 0-0 draw two weeks ago.
2. Boston Breakers (3-2-0) -- The Breakers came in as a preseason favorite to take the title and finally looked like that team in the win over Los Angeles. A great effort from Smith in her return to the lineup following international duty, and solid team defense in shutting down Marta, Aya Miyama, Han Duan and the rest of the Sol offense. Very impressive win.
3. Los Angeles Sol (3-1-1) -- Still a good team, just ran into a better team in Boston and gave up its first two goals of the season. Expect Los Angeles to come out strong Sunday in the rematch.
4. FC Gold Pride (2-2-1) -- The most entertaining team to watch. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart earned her first clean sheet of the season in Sunday's win over Sky Blue FC.
5. Washington Freedom (1-2-2) -- Washington has scored a league-leading nine goals on the season and has conceded a league-leading 12 goals. Expect Canadian national team goalkeeper Erin McLeod, whose visa was recently approved, to be in goal when the Freedom return from their bye week to face Boston on May 17.
6. Sky Blue FC (0-2-2) -- With St. Louis scoring three Sunday, Sky Blue FC's one goal scored now is the lowest total in the league.
7. St. Louis Athletica (0-2-2) -- No team had a rougher week than St. Louis, as it lost a two-goal lead late, settled for a tie and lost Daniela for what could be the rest of the season.
Jacqueline Purdy covers women's soccer for ESPN.com. She also is an editor for ESPNRadio.com. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, followed on Twitter and friended on ESPN's fan profiles.