July 1, 2009

WPS Midweek Game & Notes-July 1

This week's midweek matchup features the 4th place Washington Freedom against the basement dwelling Red Stars at Toyota Park in Chicago. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has clinched a playoff spot and other teams are making some last minute roster moves for the playoff run.

Washington Freedom at Chicago Red Stars

At this point in the season, what else can go wrong for Chicago? They haven't scored for 403 minutes, eclipsing the mark they set earlier in the season at 396 minutes. They've been shut out eight times for the year. They have only scored in one of their six home games. They've only scored twice since the month of April, not winning a match over that time period. They have had two players red carded, Frida Östberg and Karen Carney, one in each of the previous two meetings with the Freedom. Chioma Igwe will be suspended for this game because of accumulation of yellow cards, four in the last 7 games. They have had injuries to Ella Masar, Carli Lloyd, Ifeoma Dieke, and Marian Dalmy, all starters. They are coming off their worst performance of the year, a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Sol. Can it get any worse?

Chicago will go into this game without Dalmy, Igwe, and Masar. The good news is that the Red Stars are still only 5 points out of fourth place, presently occupied by the team they will face Wednesday evening, the Washington Freedom. If they could beat the Freedom, they would creep to within two points of a playoff spot, with Washington facing a weekend contest against the 1st place Sol.

With only 7 games left, the Red Stars need to go all out for the victory. They need to control the midfield and possession by using a lot of accurate, quick, one-touch passes, switching points of attack, and keeping the Freedom off balance. The talent is there between Carney, Lloyd, Brittany Klein, and Megan Rapinoe. Danesha Adams adds another aspect to their attack and Cristiane is the one Red Star who has been able to score.

After defeating Saint Louis 10 days ago, the Freedom looked poised to put their stamp on the 2nd place position. However, a loss to Boston combined with an Athletica victory has them back in 4th place. The Freedom will be missing starter Allie Long who is injured.

It will be interesting to see how Jim Gabarra uses Sonia Bompastor in this match. She has played quite a bit out of the back lately, but the Freedom's offensive production is down drastically over the last 4 games, scoring just two goals over that time. It might be better to use Ali Krieger and Alex Singer at the outside backs and move Bompastor back to midfield where she is more dangerous.

Abby Wambach has scored only two goals this season, both against Gold Pride in April. She is due. Lisa DeVanna continues to be the best scoring option up front for the Freedom. I continue to be impressed by Rebecca Moros, one of those blue collar players that just get the job done.

It will be an interesting goalkeeper matchup between Caroline Jönsson and Erin McLeod. Jönsson was the hot goalie early in the season, but I think all of the shots she has faced are finally catching up with her. McLeod has played very well since joining the Freedom. She has only given up more than a goal once and has two shutouts to her credit. This may be the last ditch effort for the Red Stars to make the playoffs, while the Freedom could give themselves a nice cushion for one of the remaining playoff spots.

Midweek Notes

Stephanie Cox of Los Angeles is one of just 11 players to have played every minute of every game for her team. Even more amazing is the fact that she has not committed any fouls in 15 games for the season. The only other player that has played every minute without committing a foul is Chicago goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson. The other 9 players to have played every minute are Amy LePeilbet, Kristine Lilly, Alex Scott (Boston Breakers), Aya Miyama (Los Angeles Sol), Angie Woznuk (Saint Louis Athletica), Becky Sauerbrunn, Homare Sawa, Cat Whitehill (Washington Freedom), and Anita Asante (Sky Blue FC). This list is likely to thin out even more with national team call ups and some upcoming tournaments in Asia and Europe.

For the time being, the Boston Breakers are in 2nd place, but the team in that position seems to change weekly. The last time the Breakers moved into 2nd place after beating the Sol back on May 2nd, they proceeded to go winless in their next five games.

FC Gold Pride has added Greer Barnes as a developmental player. Barnes, a former star for West Virginia, was recently waived by Los Angeles. Barnes was a 4th round draft pick of the Sol, but has yet to play in a WPS game.

Los Angeles acquired defender Christie Shaner from Sky Blue FC for a 3rd round draft pick. Shaner, a 4th round pick in the January draft, had seen action in only two games for New Jersey. She will replace Martina Franko, who is listed as being out for the season, apparently due to pregnancy.

Joanna Lohman was waived by the Washington Freedom. The Freedom had acquired Lohman in a trade with Saint Louis during the January draft. Athletica had originally drafted her in the general draft last October. Lohman had appeared in 3 games for the Freedom.