June 7, 2009

Match Report-Athletica 1, Sky Blue FC 0

Change was in the air as Saint Louis Athletica downed Sky Blue FC 1-0 before over 3100 at Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri. It was the first game at Athletica's new home and with that new home came quite a few changes in Jorge Barcellos' lineup.

Barcellos, looking to bolster his scoring punch, started Christie Welsh for Kerri Hanks up front. He also inserted Amanda Cinalli and Stephanie Logterman into the lineup. Neither had seen a minute of action before this game. Cinalli has been recovering from an injury, while Logterman was finishing up her studies at the University of Texas. For Sky Blue, Kelly Lindsey sent Karen Bardsley out to play goal for the first time in 6 matches.

Saint Louis started with Solo in goal, Logterman, McNeill, Ellertson, and Weber on defense, Woznuk, Fletcher, Cinalli, and Chalupny at midfield, and Aluko and Welsh up top. Sky Blue had Bardsley in the nets, Sitch, Rampone, Schnur, and Asante on the back line, McCallum, O'Reilly, Averbuch, and Rosana at midfield, and Kai and White at forward.

Early in the game, Athletica held the advantage. They worked their passing game well and controlled possession for a majority of the first 20 minutes. The first scoring chance came when Elise Weber's cross was headed just wide of the goal by Christie Welsh.

It didn't take long for Cinalli to make an impact. In the 15th minute, Eniola Aluko received a pass and dribbled into the box to the goal line at Bardsley's left. Aluko sent a nice ball to the middle that eluded Sky Blue defenders right to Cinalli who found herself one-on-one against Bardsley. Cinalli settled the ball and buried it into the net from about 9 yards out, giving Athletica a 1-0 lead.

After the midpoint of the 1st half, Sky Blue's play improved. A Natasha Kai shot from straight out was tipped over the bar by Hope Solo. Several other Sky Blue chances followed. Yael Averbuch sent one well over the bar, Heather O'Reilly shot one just wide and then later hit one right at Solo.

The momentum swung back to Athletica near the end of the half. Aluko attempted a bicycle kick that hit a Sky Blue defender in the face and was cleared. Later, Christie Welsh dribbled in from the right side and nearly caught Bardsley off her line, chipping a ball that just barely cleared the bar. Later, Angie Woznuk hit one over the bar as well.

The 2nd half was mostly Sky Blue. About midway through the 2nd half, Kacey White sent a serve in front of the net that O'Reilly was just able to get a piece of, but the ball popped into the air and went over the crossbar. There was about a 15 minute stretch where Sky Blue seemed to be constantly at Solo's door step.

The best chance for Sky Blue came with about 15 minutes to go. Collette McCallum got the ball about 8 yards out, directly in front of Solo and unmarked. McCallum seemed to slip the slightest bit and she mishit the shot that appeared to come off the side of her foot and rolled harmlessly away. That's one I'm sure McCallum will be replaying over and over. Although the Jersey team continued to put pressure on, that was the last good scoring opportunity they would have.

Christie Welsh had one more good chance for Saint Louis, as she received a pass on the right side and dribbled to the box where she let go of a lot hard shot that Bardsley made an outstanding save on to keep Sky Blue in the game. But SBFC was unable to put another shot on net and the game ended with Athletica on top 1-0.

The victory places Saint Louis in a 3-way tie with Boston and Gold Pride for 3rd place at 11 points. They have two games in hand to Gold Pride. Sky Blue sits at the bottom of the table in spite of recent improved play with 8 points.

Cinalli and Welsh definitely added a bit of a spark to Athletica's offense. Logterman played generally well in her first action and looked good going forward a few times. Lori Chalupny played her usual strong game, but the team didn't need to rely on her to do everything as they did early in the season. Hope Solo was very good in goal, making a couple of tough saves and gaining the shutout. Although the defense made a few mistakes and maybe were a bit lucky that Sky Blue didn't capitalize on their chances, they played pretty well as a unit.

For Sky Blue, Heather O'Reilly was simply all over the field and had a very strong game. Karen Bardsley did well in goal and really had no chance on the goal that Athletica scored. Natasha Kai was dangerous at times and forced Solo to make a couple of leaping saves. Surprisingly, Keeley Dowling did not play for Sky Blue.

Saint Louis came out of the game a little banged up. Eni Aluko apparently tweaked a hamstring and was subbed out in the 2nd half. After the game she was limping fairly substantially. Kia McNeill also came out, but that appears to be because of cramps and she should be okay for next week's game. Melissa Tancredi is still bothered by an injury she sustained three weeks ago against Gold Pride and she did not play.

Looking ahead, Athletica travels to Boston next week where they will take on the Breakers on the FSC match of the week on Sunday. Sky Blue returns home where they will host the 1st place Los Angeles Sol on Saturday evening at Yurcak Field in Piscataway.

Game Notes

Saint Louis played in special kits in honor of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness. Athletica players wore white socks, pink shorts and white jerseys with a pink ribbon. Puma created limited edition pink soccer balls for the occasion, which were used in the match. Several of the players' jerseys were among the items in a silent auction to raise money for this worthy cause.

Angie Woznuk remains the only Saint Louis player to have played every minute of every match for the season. For Sky Blue, only Anita Asante and Meghan Schnur have played every minute.

There have been very few goals scored in Athletica's home games. They have beaten Sky Blue and Gold Pride each 1-0, tied Los Angeles 0-0, and lost to Chicago 1-0, for a total of two goals for and one against over four games.

Daniela was walking around very stiffly, but without crutches, after the game. Athletica hopes she can return to action before the end of the season.