By: John Philip Wyllie
Over the course of the brief, three-year history of the WUSA, a handful of Hispanic athletes have played minor roles on several of the league’s eight teams. A few, like Washington’s Monica Gerardo and Boston’s Monica Gonzalez, have frequently started. All of them together however, have not had the impact that Mexican captain, Maribel Dominguez, has had this season for the Atlanta Beat.
Heading into the third week of competition, Dominguez, Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer, sits atop of the WUSA with 10 points (4 goals and 2 assists in two games). By contrast, Mia Hamm, considered by many, soccer’s greatest attacking player of all time, is a distant second with five points. Dominguez’s red-hot start has taken the entire league by surprise.
“Prior to my arriving here, I had never heard about her,” said San Diego Spirit head coach, Omid Namazi. “From what I understand from (assistant coach) Tommy (Tate), Carlos Juarez (the Spirit’s first coach) had a chance to bring her in (last year), but he didn’t pay too much attention to her.”
Playing in San Diego with its huge Hispanic population, the Spirit could have certainly benefited from having a Mexican player like Dominguez, not only on the field, but also at the ticket window.
Standing only 5’4” and slightly built, Dominguez is a far cry for the prototypical forwards that most coaches prefer, but Atlanta Beat coach Tom Stone took a chance on her and brought her into his camp late in the preseason. Dominguez responded with the aforementioned four-goal deluge and claimed Met-Rx Player of the Week honors last week for her hat trick in the 6-0 rout of Boston. The Spirit will have several weeks to fine tune its defense before taking on Dominguez and the high flying Beat.
After dropping its April 5 season opener to the Boston Breakers 2-1 the Spirit travels to Long Island this weekend where they will take on the (0-2) New York Power Saturday in a nationally televised game at 1:00 p.m. on PAX TV.
“It will be a whole different team than you saw in our first game against Boston,” said Namazi. “It is going to take a little bit of time. We have eight new players, so it isn’t going to happen overnight, but we are going to be a strong team.”
The Spirit returns home to Torero Stadium on April 27 to host Brandi Chastain and the San Jose CyberRays and then travels to Boston May 3 before taking on Dominguez and the Atlanta Beat in Atlanta.
“I’ve seen Maribel play a couple of times and I think she is a good player,” Namazi said. “Whether she can carry on with this hot streak she has had, I don’t know. But in the first two weeks she has played well. She may have slipped under our radar, but we have got a lot of good players that will hopefully be able to do the same thing.”