June 23, 2009

WPS Midweek Games & Notes-June 24

The top four teams are in action Wednesday night in the WPS. Washington will be at Boston with 2nd place at stake. Saint Louis will host Los Angeles in the third meeting between those two teams.

Washington Freedom at Boston Breakers

When these two teams last met, it was a rugged affair with Christine Latham of Boston being suspended for an elbow to the head of Alex Singer, Joanna Lohman also being suspended for an elbow, and Breakers' coach Tony DiCicco being fined for post game comments about the officiating. Now the two teams are fighting for 2nd place, with Washington having a 16-15 edge in points going into this match.

The Freedom are on a roll, going 4-1-3 over their last eight games. Their only losses for the season have been twice to Los Angeles and once to this Breakers team they will meet Wednesday evening. The Freedom, who were the last team to post a shutout, have now posted two in a row thanks to Erin McLeod. McLeod was the main reason that Washington got anything out of the Saint Louis game over the weekend, let alone a victory. That and a tremendous effort from Rebecca Moros on the goal. The duo of Abby Wambach and Lisa DeVanna give the Freedom a nice combo of strength and speed up front. I'm more impressed with DeVanna every time I watch her. She just never quits. The Freedom's defense is a little suspect, although the addition of Ali Krieger certainly helps. Sonia Bompastor has also started on the back line for the last couple of games, but that may be more because of Alex Singer's injury than anything else.

Boston had been struggling, but the 2-0 victory over Chicago has gotten them back on track. And the big news for Breakers fans is that Amy Rodriguez has finally scored a goal. With Kelly Smith's lingering injuries, Boston desperately needed scoring from someone else and got it from the former USC star. The Breakers have made a keeper switch of their own, now going with Allison Lipsher in goal instead of Kristin Luckenbill. Alex Scott is perhaps the best attacking defender in the WPS. Amy LePeilbet anchors the center of the defense. Several Breakers' players are listed as questionable for the game including Sue Weber, Kasey Moore, and Candace Chapman.

For most of the season, 2nd place has been bad luck. Every team that takes over that position seems to fall on hard times. This is the 4th game in 11 days for Boston and they've had one less day of rest coming into this game. The Freedom, on the other hand, had very harsh weather conditions in their victory over Saint Louis. Wambach had to come out of the that game early with a hamstring problem and is listed as questionable. Smith's knee appears to be holding up and she is listed as probable for the match. Boston holds the edge in the season series so far with a win and a tie.

Los Angeles Sol at Saint Louis Athletica

League leading Los Angeles travels to St. Louis to face 4th place Athletica on Wednesday night. The Sol are 12 points clear now and it looks like they will be able to take a summer vacation starting in early July with very few games left and 1st place nearly wrapped up. Saint Louis needs to get something out of this game, facing four straight road contests starting Sunday.

Athletica's scoring woes continued Saturday, being shut out by the Freedom. Saint Louis has scored just 8 goals this season, with one being directly off of a corner kick and another being an own goal against Chicago. Since Daniela has been out, Eniola Aluko has been virtually the whole offense for Athletica, save for one goal by Amanda Cinalli. There is no reason to think that will change this match, as Los Angeles easily handled Athletica the last time the two teams met. The addition of Cinalli and Stephanie Logterman to the lineup has helped certainly, but the scoring problem persists. Hope Solo has now posted 4 shutouts, second only to the keeper at the opposite end of the field Wednesday, Karina LeBlanc. Unfortunately, Saint Louis has made a few mistakes on defense and they have been killers, costing them several points in the standings.

Los Angeles heads into the game, knowing that the rest of their season will pretty much be a preparation for the championship match. After visiting Saint Louis on Wednesday and hosting Chicago over the weekend, the Sol will have only 5 games remaining to play in the last month and a half of the season. The Sol are led by Marta and Camille Abily on offense. Abily has 7 goals (two on penalties) and Marta has five. The rest of the Sol's offense has been fairly quiet. But when you have shut out 10 of 13 opponents, you don't need to score an awful lot. Karina LeBlanc has been perfect 9 times this season, far and away the leader in clean sheets. She has a solid back line in front of her, led by Stephanie Cox, one of steadiest performers in the WPS. Then there's Brittany Bock and the question with her is not whether she will be in the lineup, but what position she will be playing. The Sol will be playing without Martina Franko and McCall Zerboni who are both listed as out with an illness.

I honestly can't see a way for Athletica to win this game, unless they come with a magical formula for scoring goals. Los Angeles comes in as a confident team that knows that usually one goal is enough to win. It would almost be a victory for Saint Louis if they could force a tie. Los Angeles leads the season series with a win and a tie.

Midweek Notes

Now that Amy Rodriguez has scored, that leaves only Christina DiMartino, Yael Averbuch and Kerri Hanks out of the "Super Seven" WPS draft picks that haven't scored a goal yet. Brittany Bock has two goals, with Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe, and Allie Long with one apiece. Hanks does have one assist.

All but one of Athletica's matches have been shutouts for either one team or both. The only non-shutout they have played was the 3-3 tie against the Freedom in Washington.

Washington now has six different players that have scored two or more goals, Lisa DeVanna, Sonia Bompastor, Abby Wambach, Lori Lindsey, Cat Whitehill, and Rebecca Moros.

The Chicago Red Stars have now scored only two goals in their last 750+ minutes of soccer, with both goals being scored by Cristiane. The Red Stars have been shut out in 5 of their 6 home games.

In yet another quirk in a very quirky schedule, FC Gold Pride has two weeks between their Sunday loss to the Sol and their next game against Saint Louis, but they then have 8 matches in just over a month.

Only two of Sky Blue FC's matches have been decided by more than one goal. They have had three ties and 6 one goal decisions. They lost their season opener to Los Angeles by a score of 2-0 and defeated Chicago in May by a 2-0 score. By my count, 67.5% of the league's matches have been ties or one goal decisions.

With well over half of the season gone, we still have not had one come from behind victory. Only two teams have made up two goal deficits, FC Gold Pride (who ended up losing the game to the Freedom anyway) and Washington (who earned a tie against Athletica).