She is a magician with the ball, and her ability to draw defenders and break them down makes Marta the most exciting women's soccer player in the world.
The four-time FIFA player of the year from Brazil lived up to her reputation, providing a dynamic performance in leading California's FC Gold Pride to a 3-1 win over the Independence in a Women's Professional Soccer showdown Sunday at West Chester University.
FC Gold Pride (6-2-1) entered the game in first place, two points ahead of the Independence, who fell to 4-3-2.
Marta set up the first goal and scored the next two.
"She is almost impossible to mark," said Independence coach Paul Riley, whose team had an 8-0 corner kick advantage. "She times her runs, knows the game well, is a great finisher and is in a different class. And those world-class players can turn a game around."
Independence goalie Karina LeBlanc kept the game scoreless with an outstanding kick save on Marta, 10 yards outside the goal in the 22d minute.
In the 41st minute, Marta set up the first goal after receiving an errant pass from the Independence's all-star midfielder, Lori Lindsey.
Marta then sent Christine Sinclair on goal, and she scored from eight yards out.
"Getting that first goal was so important because then they had to come out defensively," Marta said through an interpreter. "Because they had to open up, it led to our second and third goals.
The Independence lost defender Allison Falk with a knee injury in the 21st minute. Falk will have an MRI exam on the knee Monday, Riley said.
Four Philadelphia players will miss the next two games because of national team commitments: standout defender Sara Larsson, midfielder Caroline Seger, defender-forward Homfridur Magnussdottir and forward Lianne Sanderson.
FC Gold Pride played as fast as any team the Independence has seen.
"They are the best team we've seen," said Independence defender Heather Mitts.
Gold Pride went up, 2-0, in the 54th minute when Marta received a long pass from Shannon Boxx, cut the ball, and then drilled a 7-yarder from a right angle into the far post for her fifth goal.
Shortly after in the 56th minute, Gold Pride goalie Nicole Barnhart, a 2000 graduate of Boyertown High, made a sensational shot on a blast from inside the box from Lindsey.
In the 77th minute, Sanderson was wide on a shot from eight yards out that she targeted to the far post.
The Independence scored in the 81st minute when Tina DiMartino converted a feed from Lyndsey Patterson. DiMartino was acquired last week after the St. Louis Athletica folded.
In the 89th minute, Marta put the game away, scoring on a breakaway.
While Marta performed with a flair, Gold Pride rookie Becky Edwards, a 2006 graduate of Downingtown West High, played a strong game at midfield.
"It was a great atmosphere," Edwards said. "It was great to come home and get a win."
It was even better not to have to defend Marta.