April 30, 2009

WPS Preview for May 2-3


Penalty kicks have been far from a sure thing in the WPS so far this season. Out of four kicks attempted, only one has been made. Interestingly enough, the three misses were all by US Women's National Team players (Abby Wambach, Aly Wagner, and Lori Chalupny). The one conversion was by English National Team player, Kelly Smith.

The WNT's most recent venture in penalty kicks was a loss to Sweden in the Algarve Cup, in which they made only 3 of 7 kicks. None of the three players listed above attempted one in that match. Wagner and Wambach were injured and didn't make the trip, while Chalupny did not play that game because of illness. On that occasion, it was Rapinoe, Rampone, Woznuk, and Mitts who were unable to convert the penalties. I would think the US side would be very nervous about games that go to PK's in the future.

Blanks by LeBlanc

After Saturday's scoreless tie with Athletica, Karina LeBlanc has run her scoreless streak to four games. So far, she has faced 56 shots, 18 of them on goal, and has stopped everything that's come her way. That includes a penalty kick by Lori Chalupny. This week she will face a stern test in Boston. The Breakers' Kelly Smith is the league's leading scorer (tied with Marta) with 3 goals.

Interestingly enough, LeBlanc did not get the majority of the playing time for the Canadian National Team in 2008. Newly signed Washington keeper Erin McLeod received the lion's share of the starts for Canada last year.

This Week's Games

This week, we will see the bottom two teams attempt to make their way up the table as they face teams directly in front of them. Meanwhile, Los Angeles will attempt to solidify their hold on 1st place by traveling to Boston, while the Chicago Red Stars take the week off.

Los Angeles at Boston

The Sol take their unbeaten record to Boston to take on the Breakers in a Saturday evening game. This game matches the league's two leading scorers, Marta for LA and Kelly Smith for the Breakers. Neither star played last week.

Karina LeBlanc is still perfect and Marta is back, so all is well for Los Angeles. The only blemish on their record was last week's tie in St. Louis, albeit with a depleted roster. While they were able to keep Athletica off the scoreboard, they did wobble a bit, giving up a penalty try and several other good chances. LeBlanc saved the day and don't expect the Sol to go scoreless again.

The Breakers suffered a 4-0 loss in Chicago, the largest margin of any game so far. Certainly, that was partly because Smith didn't play, but it was still a disappointing result. Their reward is to face the 1st place Sol in back-to-back contests. Smith is back and the Breakers can score, but can they stop Marta?

Saint Louis at Washington

The daunting task for Athletica coach Jorge Barcellos is to find a way for his team to score. They haven't lacked for chances, but they can't seem to finish. Even Athletica's captain, Lori Chalupny, must be feeling the pressure after being stopped on a penalty kick in the closing minutes of last week's game. Their draw with the Sol gave them their first point, but they are still on the bottom of the table.

One thing working for them is that Washington has had problems keeping the ball out of their own goal. They've allowed 9 goals in just 4 games and have yet to post a shutout. The Freedom started Kati Jo Spisak over Briana Scurry last week, but the results on the defensive side weren't any better. Still, they got their first victory in wild scoring affair at Gold Pride, 4-3. Before last week, I wondered if that would be the match where Abby Wambach would come alive. She answered loud and clear with 2 goals and an assist, including the game winner in stoppage time. On that goal, she just plain outmuscled Rachel Buehler and placed a header neatly into the net. She will be a problem for Athletica's backline.

Sky Blue FC at FC Gold Pride

Like Saint Louis, Sky Blue is still looking for their first victory. The injury to Christie Rampone was a big setback for them. To top it off, what seemed to be a fairly potent offense with Kai, O'Reilly, and Aussie teammates Walsh and McCallum has just been able to score once in three games. Defensively, they have been pretty solid, all the while not deciding on a number one keeper. Jen Branam and Karen Bardsley still appear to be in a battle for that spot.

Gold Pride got off to an auspicious start with a win over Boston, but have since earned only one point in three games. They look to bounce back from a 4-3 loss to Washington on a goal in stoppage time. This is an important early match for them, as they try to retain the all important 4th position in the standings. They will have Brazilian starters Formiga and Erika back this week and that will help. The Bay Area side has not had much trouble scoring with Tiffeny Milbrett and Tiffany Weimer leading the way, but their defense was sliced and diced for 4 goals last week. Rachel Buehler will surely be glad she won't have to deal with Wambach this week.

Next up for me, a road trip to the Maryland SoccerPlex to watch Athletica take on the Freedom on Sunday night. The game will be televised on FSC at 5 pm central, 6 pm eastern.


S.G. on April 30, 2009 at 10:24 PM said...

Interesting stat about Erin McLeod getting the majority of time at keeper for Canada in '08.

Thanks, KC.