Spiga

May 15, 2009

WPS Weekend Matches-May 15, 16, and 17


One thing that we found out last weekend was that nothing is predictable in the WPS. Saint Louis Athletica came away with their first victory by defeating FC Gold Pride 1-0. Then Sky Blue FC followed suit by playing an excellent game in defeating Chicago 2-0. This weekend sees three games scheduled, including the league's first Friday night game in Los Angeles.

Sky Blue FC at Los Angeles Sol

A week ago, things weren't looking very good for Sky Blue. The Jersey team was struggling with no wins, two points, and only one goal scored for the season. That all changed with a 2-0 victory over the Red Stars in Chicago. Pretty much everyone that wore a Sky Blue kit played well. I was especially impressed with midfielder Collette McCallum and defender Keeley Dowling. McCallum had one assist and could have had another had Natasha Kai not decided to make sure of Kelly Parker's shot on Sky Blue's 2nd goal. Dowling shut down her side of the field on defense, showing great composure. Kai and Sarah Walsh scored their first goals of the season and Parker was also very active on the offensive end.

Sky Blue Coach Ian Sawyers pushes his defense farther forward than any team in the league, which seem to frustrate the Red Stars who were called numerous times for offsides. Sky Blue's defensive line of Dowling, Asante, Rampone, and Schnur played a solid game, as did Jen Branam, who now appears to have won the starting keeper job. Branam made some nice saves, although admittedly she scares me with those three-feet off the ground punts she sometimes gets off.

The Sol, on the other hand, cruised into St. Louis three weeks ago with a perfect slate. Since then, they have managed just two points in three games, as the offensive output has dried up. Their only goal over that time was scored by Brittany Bock, who was recently named to the US squad for their game against Canada. It's hard to figure how a team with so many talented offensive players is having so much trouble scoring. L. A. could have gained a stronghold on 1st place in their two games with Boston, but instead find themselves with a precarious one point lead over the Breakers. Still, Karina LeBlanc has proven the hardest WPS keeper to score off, with 5 clean sheets in 6 contests.

It should be interesting to watch the Sol attack the Jersey defense. Marta can get to top speed quicker than anyone in the league, so if she can time her runs, it could pose a problem for Sky Blue. It's time for Marta, Boxx, and company to step it up. A much improved Sky Blue side should be a good test for them.

FC Gold Pride at Chicago Red Stars

Both of these two teams are coming off extremely frustrating losses. Gold Pride played well against Athletica, but fell 1-0. The Red Stars did their best Jekyll/Hyde imitation, losing 2-0 to Sky Blue following their easy 4-0 victory over Boston.

Bay Area, after falling behind 1-0 early last week, kept constant pressure on in the 2nd half. Sinclair, Arakawa, Milbrett, and DiMartino all had good chances, but couldn't quite finish. Overall, Nicole Barnhart played a solid game in the nets, but gave up a rather fluky goal, when Lori Chalupny scored directly from a corner kick. Barnhart also received a fractured nose for her trouble, but finished the game showing little, if any, ill-effect. Formiga played her usual strong game in the middle and the FCGP defense totally shut down Saint Louis in the 2nd half. Look for Tiffany Weimer to bounce back this week after having an unusually invisible 45 minutes against Athletica, before being subbed out at the half.

After making a statement with their 4-0 dominance over Boston, Chicago appeared stale in their game against Sky Blue last weekend. Poorly timed runs, miscommunication on the offensive end, and persistent problems staying onside were the order of the day for the Red Stars. Quite frankly, it could have been worse had Heather O'Reilly's shot found the net instead of nearly dislodging the crossbar. At one point, Carli Lloyd and Karen Carney seemed to be fighting each other for what should have been a clear breakaway goal. I'm sure Coach Emma Hayes would agree that this team has far too much talent for performances like they gave last weekend. Still, I thought Marian Dalmy performed well overall and her call up for the USWNT is certainly deserved. Caroline Jonsson, while now at least appearing to be human, is still one of the best keepers in the league.

Both teams will be looking for redemption following last week's results in this battle for 3rd place. It should be a good contest, pitting Gold Pride's talented offense against the normally strong Red Star defense.

Washington Freedom at Boston Breakers

The Breakers have to be happy with the 4 points they earned in back-to-back meetings with Los Angeles. They now sit in 2nd place, just one point out of the top spot. Washington will be without Abby Wambach, who will be serving her one game suspension this weekend.

Games involving the Freedom certainly don't lack for goals. In their 5 games, there has been an average of over 4 goals scored per game. They are probably the toughest team in the WPS in the air, having scored 7 times via the header. Sonia Bompastor is an expert at sending nice serves on set pieces. In Wambach's absence, she will be the focus of the Freedom offense against Boston. While Washington has not had any trouble scoring, they certainly have had problems defending. Perhaps, their goalkeeping situation will be solved if Canadian Erin McLeod is ready to go. The Freedom have allowed 3 goals in each of their last three games, something that has to improve if this team is going to challenge for a playoff spot.

Boston's Kelly Smith has been the league's most dangerous goal scorer. Smith, when she isn't busy putting the ball in the net, is usually drawing fouls which gives her team ample opportunities on set pieces. Kristine Lilly is playing far younger than her 37 years would indicate.

One has to be impressed with the Boston defense the last two weeks. In those two games against the Marta-led Sol, they gave up a total of just one goal and 5 shots on goal. Their defense includes English National Team player Alex Scott, USWNT players Amy LePeilbet and Heather Mitts, WUSA veteran Nancy Augustyniak, and Hofstra grad, Sue Weber. Goalkeeper Kristin "Lucky" Luckenbill has posted two clean sheets for the Breakers.

It is hard to see Washington winning this game on the road without their star player. However, the league has been full of surprises and the Freedom showed resilience in their 4-3 victory over Gold Pride and their come-from-behind tie with Athletica. Can they catch the Breakers in a letdown and pull together to steal a game up in Boston?

3 comments:

Baze on May 15, 2009 at 2:45 PM said...

The Chicago defender was on Kai and from the angles shown on FSC, I think the defender would have kicked it out had Kai just guarded the ball into the net. Parker should have hit it harder if she really wanted the goal.

k c said...

You could be right. I was trying to see the angle on the shot. At first, the ball appeared to be going either just wide or right at the post. But then it seemed to drift toward the goal. I certainly don't disagree with Kai's decision. You have to make sure and there is always a chance the defender will get there in time. I was just saying that McCallum should get a lot of credit for the play, in spite of the fact she didn't get an assist. Thank you for your comment and for reading!

99Soccer said...

"It's time for Marta, Boxx, and company to step it up." ~ They did, Sol win.