May 27, 2009

WPS Midweek Notes-May 27

Cloudy Skies at Sky Blue?

As if things weren't bad enough for the Jersey based team, getting off to a 1-4-2 start with just 5 points, Sky Blue FC is showing signs of being a dysfunctional family. The organization
suspended head coach Ian Sawyers indefinitely before their game at Washington last Saturday.

In addition, Sky Blue drew only 2753 for their 2nd home game after having over 6000 for their home opener. The team has since played 5 straight road games and will return home for the first time since April 11th for their next game against the Boston Breakers.

On the surface, Sky Blue looks like a train wreck in the making. The team has only scored 4 goals in 7 games and finds itself looking up at the rest of the league from last place, now further complicated by internal turmoil. However, if you look closer at their results, maybe the situation isn't as dire as it appears.

On the positive side, SBFC has a win and a tie over Chicago and another tie against FC Gold Pride. Two of their defeats have been at the hands of 1st place Los Angeles, hardly anything to be ashamed about. Their other two losses were a 1-0 loss to Gold Pride on a goal in the 86th minute and a 2-1 loss to an improved Washington team last weekend, while playing without the likes of Christie Rampone, Heather O'Reilly, Sarah Walsh, and Kelly Parker. Not many teams are going to win missing so many quality players.

What I see is a good defensive team that is competitive in almost every game. Goal scoring has been a problem, but Natasha Kai hasn't been 100% for much of the season, first because of a concussion and then because of a quad injury. Walsh missed last week's game due to a hamstring injury.

While 1st place is a distant fantasy, a playoff spot is certainly attainable. Sky Blue trails 4th place Washington by just 4 points and we're only a third of the way through the season. I don't think we can count the Jersey team out just yet. The question is...who will be coaching them, Ian Sawyers or someone else?

Backup Keepers Stand Tall

Because of national team duties, three backup goalkeepers found themselves starting their first games over the weekend and all three were impressive.
Jillian Loyden of Athletica won Player of the Week honors, while Val Henderson posted a shutout for Los Angeles and Allison Whitworth played well for Gold Pride in their loss to the Sol.

Loyden, who played her college soccer at Villanova, shut out the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday night. She made six saves for the game, stepping in for USWNT goalie Hope Solo. Early in the game, Loyden leaped to tip Cristiane's header over the crossbar. Later, she made a similar play on Karen Carney's blistering shot. She topped it off with a great kick save on Frida Östberg in the 84th minute which sealed the victory.

Henderson (UCLA) and Whitworth (Auburn) squared off against each other in the LA Sol-Gold Pride match on Sunday. Both made several nice saves. Henderson's shutout was the Sol's 7th shutout of the year. Whitworth gave up two hard luck goals, one on a penalty and the other on a near breakaway.

These performances show that the US has a number of talented young keepers that might warrant a look from US coach Pia Sundhage in the future. Loyden is the oldest of the three, but not by much, as they are all just 23 years old.

Quick Notes-Team by Team

Boston-The Breakers retained their hold on 2nd place while taking the weekend off. They return to action on Sunday against Sky Blue.....Boston defender Heather Mitts started for the US against Canada and assisted on the first goal of the game, scored by Shannon Boxx.

Chicago-The Red Stars have now gone 308 minutes without a goal. Two Red Star players did score for the US team, however. Megan Rapinoe scored on a beautiful shot just inside the post in first half stoppage time. Lindsay Tarpley scored a 2nd half goal for the US.....Heather Garriock subbed into Saturday's game only to be forced out after 11 minutes due to another injury.

FC Gold Pride-Nicole Barnhart played the second half of the US-Canada game, sharing the shutout with Hope Solo. Barnhart had seen action earlier this year for the US, shutting out Iceland in the Algarve Cup.....Defender Kandace Wilson went down with a serious injury near the end of last week's game against the Sol. It appears the injury could be season ending.....Gold Pride travels to Washington this weekend in a rematch of the highest scoring WPS game of the year. They lost a 4-3 decision to the Freedom back on April 26th.

Los Angeles-The Sol have now shut out 7 of their 8 opponents. Karina LeBlanc has earned six of those, with Val Henderson getting the other.....Camille Abily became just the 2nd player to convert a penalty. Only 2 of 6 have been converted this year. The Sol's other attempt was by Aly Wagner against Saint Louis and was stopped by Solo.....Shannon Boxx scored the opening goal against Canada on Monday.

Saint Louis-Eniola Aluko continues to shine for Athletica. She scored her 2nd goal of the season against Chicago and also forced an own goal.....The acquisition of Kendall Fletcher quickly paid dividends for Saint Louis. Fletcher started against Chicago and her pass up the left side led to Aluko's play and the own goal. She also hit the initial shot on the 2nd goal which Aluko finished on the rebound.

Sky Blue FC-Heather O'Reilly assisted on two goals in the US-Canada match.....Last week, SBFC promoted Noelle Keselica to full roster status and signed Lauren Sesselman. Sesselman played college soccer at Purdue. To make room for Sesselman, Jenny Anderson Hammond was waived.

Washington-Following their 2-1 victory over Sky Blue, the Freedom are now in fourth place, just two points behind 2nd place Boston.....Cat Whitehill became the 8th different player to score a goal for the Freedom this season.....The Freedom are still the only team that hasn't posted a shutout. Erin McLeod has started the last two games, giving up just one goal in each.....The first WPS/MLS doubleheader drew 16,089 at RFK Stadium on Saturday afternoon.


S.G. on May 27, 2009 at 9:50 PM said...

Great insight, KC. Thank you.