Brazilian superstar Marta seems at home in Buffalo

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ELMA, N.Y. --- Whether basking in the California sun, dodging snowflakes in Buffalo or rubbing shoulders with Kobe Bryant, it makes no difference to Marta.

The 5-foot-2 Marta has led the Western New York Flash to a 6-0-2 record, the best mark in the Women's Professional Soccer League.   Associated Press
Associated Press
The 5-foot-2 Marta has led the Western New York Flash to a 6-0-2 record, the best mark in the Women's Professional Soccer League.

As long as there's a ball to be kicked and a soccer pitch to play on, the world's premier women's player can adapt to any surrounding.

"I have all the structure and all that I need," Marta said through an interpreter, in comparing suburban Buffalo to Los Angeles or her native Brazil. "So it has become my home."

Home for FIFA's five-time reigning player of the year is where the ball is, and playing for the expansion Women's Professional Soccer league Western New York Flash suits her just fine.

"I like it," she said. "I try to explore the area as much as I can when I have free time."

Yes, she's visited nearby Niagara Falls.

Just don't mistake Marta for a tourist.

As she's done in her previous WPS stops in Los Angeles -- where she was introduced to Bryant -- and Santa Clara, Calif., over the previous two seasons, Marta has required no introduction in Buffalo or Rochester, where the Flash play their home games.

She's quickly won over the region's soccer community with her creative catlike dribbling ability, electrifying bursts up the sideline and fearless style despite her 5-foot-2 frame, and her bubbly, infectious personality that transcends any language barrier.

"Oooh! Thank you!" she said in English, after a girl gave her a gold medal after a game.

"She's a class act on and off the field," Flash coach Aaran Lines said. "She understands her role, which is at the top of the women's game and being a leader in innovating women's professional soccer."

It's no coincidence that with Marta, the Flash are off to a 6-0-2 start to lead the six-team league.

Though late in arriving to Buffalo because of visa issues, Marta has three goals and three assists in six-plus games. That's a little off her pace last year, when she had 19 goals and five assists in 24 games in helping the now-defunct FC Gold Pride win the WPS title.

"We haven't seen the best out of Marta, yet, but we will see the best out of Marta, and it'll be the last nine games of the season," Lines said.

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