The Philadelphia Independence have been busy this offseason despite the fact that up until only a few weeks ago, they weren’t even sure they would have a season at all. Women’s Professional Soccer had a rough go of things after the 2011 season came to an end, almost folding after a lack of both ratings and teams. Now that WPS has an extension through the 2012 season granted by the United States Soccer Federation, Philadelphia can get back to work. After coming up just short in the WPS Final last season after a heartbreaking penalty kick shoot out, the Independence are eager for a shot at redemption.
The first order of business the Independence took care of was resigning fan favorite and 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, Natasha Kai. Kai had her best season for Philadelphia last year, scoring nine goals over all and tying Abby Wambach for second in the league. Kai also was able to score her first hat trick in the league against her former squad, Sky Blue FC. The Independence will surely be looking for more of her offensive spark in the upcoming season as they try to get back to the WPS Final.
Independence defenders Kia McNeill and Jen Buczkowsk will also be returning for the 2012 season, both having been named to the 2011 WPS Best XI last season. This will be McNeill’s second season with the Independence and Buczkowsk’s third under head coach Paul Riley. Both McNeill and Buckzkowsk were big parts of the Philadelphia's strong defense, with McNeill holding the backline together, while Buczkowsk stayed strong not just at the back, but at midfield as well. Buczkowsk was honored by the league during the 2011 season, winning the Ironwoman award after playing every minute of last season. Both players were key to keeping the Independence’s GSA at 1.0 throughout the 2011 season, recording seven shutout victories along the way.
Philadelphia also announced today the signing of free agent forward, Meghan Lenczyk who was selected by the Atlanta Beat in last years WPS Draft. Lenczyk played at the college level for the University of Virginia, starting in all 22 games scoring seven goals and three assists along the way. With Atlanta, Lenczyk scored two goals with one assist during the 2011 season. Coming to Philadelphia, she will play along star forward Tasha Kai, stacking up an already potent offense.
Signing these four key players brings a huge boost of confidence to the team going into the 2012 season. It’s disappointing to lose a championship match, but going into a new season with the players that helped get the Independence there in the first place, along with a new face, has to bring a level of excitement to both the players and fans. Next up for the Independence will be the WPS draft on January 13th.