If you noticed like I did a pint sized player who took over midfield for the Philadelphia Independence in Sunday's semi-final against the MagicJack and wondered idly, "She is something special", don't go into the scouting business just yet.
Veronica Boquete is already out there and is the WPS player of the year because she is special. For those who've followed her career in Spain, her exploits for the Independence come as no surprise. In the 8 months since she joined she has led them to the final scoring 5 goals and providing 4 assists. Three of those goals have proven to be match winners.
Boquete is listed as a striker but her versatility lies in her attacking midfielder role where she shows Cesc Fabregas like vision with her passes. She might have something to say about that because she played for FCD Espanyol at the Cornella Prat, fierce derby rivals of Barca for a season before Independence coach Paul Riley brought her to Chester in January. The Independence have since gone 10-1-1 when she plays. Their record without her is a less stellar 2-3-2. Which sums up what instant impact is all about.
"When she is in the line-up, the rules say that we win the game," laughed Riley.
The semi-finals against the MagicJack pitted them against a side which boasted nine internationals who had done duty in the recent World Cup. Amongst them Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Christy Rampone, Lisa De Vanna, and Shannon Boxx. A side packed with talented individuals with a track record of changing the game in an instant. But it was Boquete showing her patience and touch on the ball who opened up the game for Amy Rodriguez and Natasha Kai. The movement on and off the ball was quite outstanding and behind it all was Boquete playing conductor. The Independence came ever closer to scoring but Kai and Rodriguez proved a trifle wasteful.
There was a moment of petulance just before halftime when her finely measured pass collected by Rodriguez failed to find the net. She quickly recovered and encouraged Rodriguez after which she checked on Kai stretching on the sidelines.
Her mini intervention seemed to have worked. The Independence struck twice through Kai and Rodriguez in the second half and the MagicJack's increasingly desperate but entirely predictable response was to find Wambach who was effectively marshaled by Kia McNeill. The MagicJack had no one in their side that could match Boquete's command of the game.
Boquete knows exactly the difference she brings to the game.
"In Spain, soccer is more possession of the ball, touch and movement. It is less physical but more technical than in the U.S."
Coach Riley elaborates on it further crediting her for her football IQ.
"She is as smart as everybody thought," said Riley, who was recently named the WPS coach of the year. "She is that good. She is clever and I think she is just different. She is one of those world-class players."
These qualities make her a standout. The Independence will never be a one dimensional team with her in the midst. Now, they take on Western New York in the finals this Saturday with their big ticket names including Marta and Christine Sinclair in the WPS's most potent attack.