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Marta leads her team to WPS All-Star game win

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Marta three goals and Christine Sinclair added one to help her team beat Abby Wambach's team 5-2 in the Women's Professional Soccer All-Star game on Wednesday night.

The two squads bore the names of team captains Marta, a Brazilian scoring star who plays for FC Gold Pride of the Bay Area, and Washington Nationals forward Abby Wambach.

Marta, whom FIFA has chosen four straight years as the world's best women's player, was easily the most cheered player Wednesday at Kennesaw State University's new stadium and home to the Atlanta Beat.

"A fan had actually suggested it in an online forum," WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. "We thought we'd give it a try and kind of go back to the roots of sport where you're out on the playground and captains pick people."

After her goal at 7 minutes put her Marta XI ahead 1-0 on a pass from Kelly Smith, Marta beat Boston's Amy LePeilbet and scored from near the endline.

"I brought up my powerful left foot," Marta said with a smile. "I tried to hit it in there, and it went in."

Wambach, whose team scored to make it 3-1 on Eniola Aluko's goal at 35 minutes, and 4-2 on Lauren Cheney's goal at 78 minutes, acknowledged that it's fun to watch Marta play.

"The All-Star game is all about individual flair, and Marta's the best in the world at that," Wambach said. "It wasn't always flowing soccer, but it had some great attacking."

Christine Sinclair scored to make it 3-0 in the 31st minute and Aya Miyama made it 4-1 in the 74th. Amy Rodriguez added a goal at 80.

Marta's FC Gold Pride teammate, goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, was unable to play after breaking her collarbone in practice Tuesday. Bardsley is expected to miss the next six weeks.

FC Gold Pride coach Alberto Montoya said Bardsley was injured on a cross after leaving the net and running into another player. Erin McLeod started in Bardsley's place.

"It was unfortunate what led to me getting named the starter, but I'll take it," McLeod said after facing eight shots on goal. "It was an honor to be on a field with that many talented players. Even if I gave out a bad ball, it was no problem for anyone on the team."

WPS officials announced a crowd Wednesday of 4,610. Women's Professional Soccer is in its second season. Last year's runner-up and regular-season champion, the Los Angeles Sol, went out of business in January, but Antonucci believes the league could expand next year.

First, though, she needs to meet with officials of the U.S. women's national team to see how much WPS will be affected next summer with the women's World Cup next year in Germany.

The introduction of Michelle Akers before the game brought a big cheer from the crowd. Akers was a pivotal member of a groundbreaking group that won two World Cups and the first women's soccer gold medal in Olympic history at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"It was great to see her out here supporting WPS," Wambach said. "People close to the sport know she was the heart and soul of the national team. She was a real hero of mine."