July 7, 2009

WPS Midweek Game & Notes-July 8th

Saint Louis Athletica at Los Angeles Sol

Saint Louis travels to Los Angeles to meet the Sol in an unusual midweek matinee at noon pacific time on Wednesday. A Los Angeles victory means they clinch 1st place and home field advantage for the championship match in late August. Saint Louis is looking to widen their margin over 3rd place Boston, which now stands at just two points.

Athletica is led by striker Eniola Aluko and midfielder Lori Chalupny, who scored the game winner on Sunday against FC Gold Pride. Outside of the injured Daniela, they are the only two Saint Louis players to have scored at least two goals. Finishing was a problem the last time these two teams met as Saint Louis badly outshot the Sol, only to lose by a 2-1 margin. Who will provide additional offense for Athletica? Three possibilities are veteran Christie Welsh, defender/attacker Melissa Tancredi, and attacking midfielder Amanda Cinalli, who scored in her first game with the team.

Defensively, Saint Louis had some anxious moments against Gold Pride, but Hope Solo saved them several times for her 5th shutout of the season. Tina Ellertson leads the group in front of Solo, which has generally been solid, but somewhat inconsistent. Athletica has only won one game in which their opponents have scored a goal. Kendall Fletcher will likely get the honor of trying to shadow Marta, something she did pretty well at in their last meeting.

It has been a foregone conclusion for over a month that Los Angeles was going to finish in first place, it was just a matter of when they would clinch. Well, when could come on Wednesday afternoon. Marta scored the game winner in stoppage against Washington on Sunday, her 9th of the year which leads the league. The Sol also have the league's second leading scorer, Camille Abily. And if that isn't enough, add Shannon Boxx, Aya Miyama, and Han Duan to that mix. It was Han who scored the go ahead goal against Athletica just two weeks ago.

On defense, Los Angeles beat the Freedom with a fairly makeshift lineup with Allison Falk and Martina Franko out. Brittany Bock and Katie Larkin were moved to the back line, joining newly acquired Christie Shaner and USWNT defender Stephanie Cox. Shaner's first game with the Sol will likely be her last of the season as she was badly injured in a collision with Abby Wambach.

As good as Solo has been in goal for Saint Louis, Karina LeBlanc has been better for Los Angeles. The Sol have surrendered just 5 goals for the season and only one in their last five games, that one being against Saint Louis. Unfortunately for Athletica, that goal was scored by Kerri Hanks who is now a member of Sky Blue.

Just about everything is going against Athletica in this one. The Sol haven't lost a home game all year. They have outscored their opponents 16-2 at the Home Depot Center. The last time the two teams played there, the Sol dominated the game and won 2-0. But Saint Louis does know they can play with the Sol now, having done so in their recent 2-1 loss. Even a tie in this match would be a huge point for Athletica. Meanwhile, the Sol would love to clinch in their final regular season home game of the year.

US Women's National Team Calls Up 21

Pia Sundhage has announced her roster for the upcoming friendlies against Canada on July 19th and 22nd. 18 of the 21 players are on WPS rosters.

Boston-Angela Hucles, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Amy Rodriguez
Chicago-Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsay Tarpley
FC Gold Pride-Nicole Barnhart, Rachel Buehler, Leslie Osborne
Los Angeles-Shannon Box, Stephanie Cox
Saint Louis-Lori Chalupny, Hope Solo
Sky Blue FC-Heather O'Reilly, Christie Rampone
Washington-Abby Wambach, Cat Whitehill

The other three players on the US roster are collegians. They are Christine Nairn (Penn State), Tobin Heath (North Carolina), and Lauren Cheney (UCLA). Boxx, Rapinoe, Tarpley, and Cheney all scored in the US victory over Canada in May. Several other national teams will be having call ups, leaving WPS rosters fairly depleted for games that week. Gold Pride, Saint Louis, and Sky Blue all have two games that week, while the other four teams have one.

Midweek Notes

Heather O'Reilly scored directly off of a corner kick for the only goal in Sky Blue's 1-0 victory over Boston. It was the 2nd time this rare feat has happened this season. Lori Chalupny of Athletica scored by that method against Gold Pride back on May 9th.

Marta and Camille Abily are the top two scorers in the league with a combined 17 goals. That total is more than any other team in the league, except for Washington which has scored 18.

Boston has scored 10 of their 14 goals in the 2nd half. On the other hand, Saint Louis has scored 8 of their 12 goals in the 1st half. But their last two goals, both game winners, came after the 70th minute.

No Gold Pride player other than Christine Sinclair has scored since May 3rd. Sinclair is likely to be called up for the Canadian National Team and would miss two games if that is the case.

Lindsay Tarpley became the first Red Star player other than Cristiane to score since April. Tarpley scored the game winner against Washington after Cristiane had tied the game with her 3rd goal of the year. Tarpley also has three goals for the Red Stars, having scored in each of Chicago's first two games. It was the first come from behind victory in WPS history.

Sky Blue's Jen Branam earned her 4th shutout of the season against Boston on Saturday. Actually, Branam shared another shutout with Karen Bardsley against Chicago earlier in the season.

Washington has now lost three games in a row, scoring only one goal over that time. That ties Chicago for the longest losing streak of the year. Chicago has twice had three game losing streaks.

After 12 ties in the league's first 37 games, there have been no ties in the last 11 games. The last tie match was on June 17th when the Breakers and Gold Pride tied in Boston, 1-1.