WPS: Boxx returns to California, joins Gold Pride

Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx, one of Women's Professional Soccer's biggest stars, is returning to California. She has agreed to contract terms with first-place FC Gold Pride after dissolution of Saint Louis Athletica.

The defensive midfielder, a catalyst for the U.S. women's national team since 2003, is expected to be available for the Bay Area team when it plays host to the Washington Freedom on Saturday night in Castro Valley.

"We're very excited to have Shannon join the Pride," FC Gold Pride cach Albertin Montoya said in a statement. “She is one of the best midfielders in the world. Her experience, leadership and skills are invaluable. She has all of the qualities we're looking for in a player, I know she'll fit in very well with the Pride."

Boxx and her Saint Louis teammates became free agents Tuesday. Grave financial problems forced Athletica to fold Thursday.

The winless Atlanta Beat, a first-year club, has made the biggest moves, significantly improving its roster by signing three U.S. national-teamers -- goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Lori Chalupny and defender Tina Ellertson -- and English forward Eniola Aluko, the WPS's top scorer this season.

Boxx, who joined Athletica in a Feb. 4 dispersal draft following the L.A. Sol's demise, joins former Sol teammates Marta and Camille Abily with FC Gold Pride. Abily headed north in a January trade, and Marta joined the club in an auction held on the eve of the dispersal draft.

Defending champion Sky Blue FC, meanwhile, signed Italian star Patrizia Panico, who has scored 80 goals in 145 international matches and led Italy's Serie A in scoring nine times, with more than 400 domestic goals.