WPS All-Star picks under the microscope

With the WPS All-Star Game in St. Louis featuring the WPS All-Stars vs. Swedish champions Umea IK just one month away and fan voting coming to an end this week, Womensprosoccer.com columnist Grace Weitz broke down her selections for FoxSoccer.com on the WPS All-Star Team.

Goalkeepers

The Pick: Hope Solo (STL)

Solo may only have six shutouts so far this season — half the number of clean sheets that Los Angeles Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc has posted — but the starting U.S. National Team keeper has dominated league play with save after stunning save — and is tied with LeBlanc for number of saves with 69. Solo has steadily come up big for her Saint Louis Athletica squad, anchoring their defense and making big saves including four pivotal plays as the Athletica defeated the Los Angeles Sol on July 8th, snapping the Sol’s 11-game unbeaten streak.

Best of the Rest: Caroline Jonsson (CHI), Karina LeBlanc (LA)

Despite Chicago’s early exit from playoff contention, Jonsson has been the steady anchor of this Midwest team. As the only goalkeeper to play every single minute of every single game, she leads the league in saves with 81. She is a steady, strong, Swede whose contributions are often overlooked.

LeBlanc has posted almost unimaginable numbers in WPS. In the 17 games she played she leads the league with 12 clean sheets and is second best in the league with 69 saves. Only six goals have been scored on this Canadian National team keeper throughout the whole season and only once gave up more than two goals in a single game.

Intangible: Jenni Branam (NY)

Branam has shot out of dark in the last few weeks. Her eight saves in a 0-0 tie against the Boston Breakers last Saturday stopped the Breakers in their tracks from clinching a playoff spot and kept Sky Blue FC’s own playoff hopes alive. She has recorded six clean sheets, tied with Solo for second in the league. Five of those shutouts have come in the second half of WPS season, starting June 13 with Sky Blue FC’s 0-0 tie to the first place Los Angeles Sol.

Defenders

The Picks: Cat Whitehill (WSH), Heather Mitts (BOS), Christie Rampone (NY)

At times Whitehill seems to perform more as a forward or a midfielder than a defender, which makes her such a threat on the field. She has two assists and three goals on the year, including a game-tying goal for the Freedom in second-half stoppage-time against Sky Blue FC. Her two assists is only one away from cracking the leaderboard.

Mitts has anchored a defense that has been very solid this year, running through two long stretches where their opponents have been unable to score goals. The Breakers earlier in the season went 261 minutes without letting the other team hi the back of the net and currently are in the midst of an astounding 323 minutes without their foes breaking through. Mitts has been dependable, playing in 16 of the Breakers 18 games.

Best of the Rest: Brittany Bock (LA), Keeley Dowling (NY)

The only question with Bock is where to put her on this ballot. She’s officially listed as a defender and has played there for the majority of the Sol’s games. But, demonstrating the versatile qualities of a true soccer player, Bock has played all over the field this year. Whether it is on defense or as a forward, where she’s scored two goals and had 11 shots, Bock is a playmaker.

Dowling had quite an awakening and opportunity when Sky Blue FC defender and team captain Christie Rampone left Sky Blue’s home opener in the 28th minute with a pesky hamstring injury. Dowling took her place and hasn’t looked back since. Seven weeks later she was walking onto the field with Rampone and Heather O’Reilly as a captain; that says a lot about her character and her abilities as a soccer player.

Midfielders

The Picks: Sonia Bompastor (WSH), Camille Abily (LA), Lori Chalupny (STL), Kelly Smith (WSH)

While fellow Frenchwoman Camille Abily has done most of the scoring in the league, Washington Freedom midfielder Sonia Bompastor leads the league in assists with six. She may not have the most goals on the Freedom squad, but with four she’s only one behind the five goals that forwards Lisa De Vanna and Abby Wambach have posted and Bompastor is not even a forward. Her ability to create scoring chances and put them away as well makes this Frenchwoman the top pick for the midfield position.

Abily has had an unbelievable season overseas in the U.S. Not only has she broken the top ten for the number of goals scored during this season, but she’s shattered it. With eight goals she’s second in the league, only one goal behind her Brazilian teammate Marta.

As captain of the Athletica team, Chalupny has proved pivotal to the Athletica attack. She’s scored twice this year and had one assist. She’s very reliable for the Athletica in the midfield.

Smith leads the Breakers with five goals and is tied with several other players on her team for assists with two. The Breakers baller is tied with fellow Englishwoman Eniola Aluko for the most goals scored by a member of WPS from England.

Forwards

The Pick: Marta (LA)

It’s hard not to vote for this explosive and fiery Brazilian who has scored a league-leading nine goals to lead WPS. All-Star Game would be the same without her fancy footwork. She’s helped lead the Sol to the first 2009 WPS Regular Season title and her power-packed cleats took the Sol on an 11-game unbeaten streak. During that time Marta scored in five of those 11 games and assisted in two.

Best of the Rest: Aluko (STL), Cristiane (CHI), Sinclair (BAY)

English forward Eniola Aluko has used her explosive power and speed to spearhead the Saint Louis Athletica to second place in the WPS standings. She has blasted the back of the net five times this year to lead her team. Furthermore, Aluko has the most assists out of any forward in the league. Her four assists are second best in the league and account for almost half of the nine other goals (besides Aluko’s five) that the Athletica have iced this season.

Cristiane became the first player in WPS history to score a hat trick in Week 17 as she led the Chicago Red Stars to their second straight victory and the first winning streak in franchise history. Cristiane is tied for third in the league with six goals and leads the Red Stars. Of the 15 goals the Red Stars have scored this year, Cristiane has been on the end of almost half of them.

Sinclair can often be overlooked on a FC Gold Pride team that floundered this year. Her six goals are tied for third-best in the league. The Canadian National Team power forward was also in the hunt for her 100th international goal last week, but unlike Wambach was unable to reach that achievement. Her most recent goal in the 88th minute of the Gold Pride’s 1-1 tie to the Saint Louis Athletica broke FC Gold Pride’s six-week dry spell of scoring during the run of play.