April 23, 2009

Week of April 25-26 in the WPS

As we head into this weekend's WPS action, several key players will be missing due to international duty. Brazil, Sweden, and France all have international friendlies scheduled for this weekend. In addition, England battled Norway on Thursday evening and those players will be scrambling to return in time for their WPS contests.

Eniola Aluko of Saint Louis Athletica will have the shortest turnaround time, as Athletica kicks off against the Los Angeles Sol on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm central. Kelly Smith and Alex Scott of Boston and Karen Carney of Chicago would be set to take the field at 7:30 pm at Toyota Park in Chicago. A fifth English starter, Anita Asante, plays for Sky Blue FC and they have a bye this weekend.

The absence of many talented international players will test WPS coaches and challenge their ability to juggle their lineups. With that in mind, let's look at this weekend's matches.

Los Angeles Sol at Saint Louis Athletica

At first glance, this would appear to be a one-sided match. Los Angeles brings a perfect 3-0 record into the game at Robert Hermann Stadium. Athletica, on the other hand, have yet to score a goal.

Los Angeles must deal with the loss of several key offensive players including Han Duan, Camille Abily, and Marta. Marta and Abily have 4 of the Sol's 5 goals this season. One has to wonder how LA will cope with not having Marta to look for on the offensive end. This means they will have to lean heavily on Aya Miyama, Shannon Box, and Ally Wagner. Wagner is coming off a fine game that earned her
Player of the Week honors. On the defensive end, Karina LeBlanc has posted nothing but zeroes so far and her backline has been solid.

Saint Louis will be missing defender Sara Larsson, Francielle, and possibly Eniola Aluko depending on her journey from England back to St. Louis. Daniela did not make the trip to Europe due to injury, but may be able to play Saturday
according to Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Athletica has lost both of its games, but it's not like they're being outplayed. They've outshot their opponents 29-14, but have been unable to finish. If Saint Louis figures out how to get quality shots and solves their offensive woes, this could be a lot closer match than the records would indicate.

Boston Breakers at Chicago Red Stars

This promises to be the best match up of the weekend as 2nd place Boston (2-1) visits 3rd place Chicago (1-0-2) at Toyota Park on Saturday night. If the three English players (Carney, Smith, and Scott) make it back, this promises to be a top flight match. It pits the Breakers' top scoring offense, averaging two goals a game, against the Red Stars' second ranked defense, which has allowed only one goal in three games.

The Breakers are led by Kelly Smith, who leads the league in scoring with 3 goals and an assist. Smith is not the only offensive threat, as Kristine Lilly, Angela Hucles, Amy Rodriguez, Kelly Schmedes, and Christine Latham are all capable of hitting the back of the net. Alex Scott has played well for the Boston defense.

Chicago will be missing Brazilian forward Cristiane for the match, but it's been the defense that has led the Red Stars to 5 points in 3 games. Frida Ostberg will be returning from her one-game red card suspension to lead an air-tight defense and Caroline Jonsson (0.33 goals against) has been strong in goal.

Washington Freedom at FC Gold Pride

FC Gold Pride will be missing two Brazilian stars, Erika and veteran midfielder Formiga. Carrie Dew came out of last week's match with an injury and her status for the game is unknown. Gold Pride sits in 4th place with a win, a loss, and a tie. They will be led by Eriko Arakawa, Christine Sinclair, and Tiffany Weimer on the offensive end. Rachel Buehler anchors the defense. They enter the game having won their only previous home game against Boston.

Washington will probably be missing Sonia Bompastor for the match, who will be playing for the French National Team. She has been one of the bright spots for the Freedom so far. They have had a very frustrating season. It's certainly been a season of what ifs. What if Allison Falk hadn't bumped Briana Scurry's arm in the opener? What if the Freedom had taken advantage of their numerous chances after Ostberg's red card in the Chicago match? What if Abby Wambach had converted her penalty kick that would have given the Freedom a 2-1 lead against Boston at the time? Wambach is too good of a player to be kept scoreless for long. Will this be the match that she finally gets untracked?


SoccerJay said...

Great preiews, thanks.

Anonymous said...

New site? Nice work.

Chris on April 24, 2009 at 6:53 PM said...

Thanks for the nice preview, good stuff. It would have been even handier if you'd pointed out which match will be on Fox Soccer Channel (Washington at FC Gold Pride, Sunday at 6 PM ET). And oh yeah! the Red Stars are going to webcast their game (Saturday at 8:30 PM ET).