Marta is back, ready for 2011 WPS season
Marta has been quite busy the past few weeks. First, she sorted out U.S. immigration visa issues, letting her come from her native Brazil to Buffalo to play for the Western New York Flash in the WPS.
Arguably the best female soccer player in the world, Marta quickly settled in, then traveled to New York City for a day of interviews, a photo shoot and documentary taping with WPS sponsor Puma.
Then it was back to Buffalo for her first training sessions with the Flash. Marta, FIFA's five-time female player of the year, made her 2011 WPS debut in a 2-2 tie against Atlanta on Sunday.
Her team last year, FC Gold Pride, which folded over the winter, took the WPS title in impressive fashion, dominating the league for much of the season and winning 4-0 in the final. The Flash marks Marta's third WPS team in as many years, given that the league has seen a lot of turnaround in both teams and players.
Most of her teammates ended up with the Flash, and Marta was happy to join them.
"No doubt, the fact that there are plenty of former teammates from FC Gold Pride makes a big difference and it helps getting integrated within the area," Marta, 25, said through a translator.
"They're all good players, as well, and that will help hopefully in achieving good results for the season."
Her Flash teammates are just as happy to have her, too. Defender Ali Riley, also a former FC Gold Pride teammate said she couldn't wait to have Marta back on the field.
"I think we'll be unstoppable,'' Riley said with a laugh. "I think a player of that caliber fits in -- no matter if she's been here for a day or five weeks. She's the best.''
Last year with FC Gold Pride, Marta and Team Canada captain Christine Sinclair combined for 29 goals, making them one of the most dangerous strike pairings. They are reunited on the Flash and hope for continued success.
"It's very fun and very exciting to play with her," said Marta, who, like all Brazilian soccer stars, goes by her first name. "She knows exactly when she needs to pass and when she can go by herself and go around a player. I like to think I do the same. We're a good team up front."
With her spring dance card fully booked with the Flash, Marta's also looking ahead to a busy summer, and the Women's World Cup in June in Germany. Marta leads a Brazilian team that's ranked third in the world, behind the U.S. and Germany. Brazil has made the final in the past three major international tournaments and won the Olympic silver in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing. But it fell to the U.S. in the two Olympics, and to Germany in the 2007 World Cup, where Marta ultimately stole the show, winning both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards.
Now, she's looking forward to facing the U.S. and Germany again in the 2011 World Cup. "Germany and the U.S. have obviously the track record of winning those titles,'' she said. "They're very strong. I don't expect them to be different this year. I personally like to play either Germany or the U.S. because it motivates me to reach my peak and play even better every game. Playing a game at such a level demands more of you."
Marta has some lofty goals for her WPS season and the World Cup. "If at the end of the season," she said, "I am champion with Western New York Flash and I'm world champion, I think I will be almost at where I want to be."