July 29, 2009

WPS Midweek Match & Notes-July 29th

Boston Breakers at Washington Freedom

There is only one match scheduled for Wednesday, but it's one that will affect the playoff hopes of all four teams fighting for the last three playoff berths. The 3rd place Boston Breakers travel to Washington to meet the 4th place Freedom in an all important WPS contest. As it stands, Saint Louis is in 2nd place with 27 points, followed by Boston with 25, and Washington and Sky Blue with 23 each. Everybody has three games left with the exception of Sky Blue, which has only two games remaining. There are a couple more matches between contenders coming up. On Saturday, the Breakers will visit Saint Louis to take on Athletica. On the final weekend of the season, Washington will host Sky Blue FC.

The Breakers head into this match having posted 3 consecutive shutouts, all with Allison Lipsher in goal. They are 2-0-1 in those three games. On defense for Boston, it appears that Sue Weber will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. That means that either Nancy Goffi or Candace Chapman will start at one of the center back spots along side of Amy LePeilbet, with Alex Scott and Heather Mitts handling the outside of the defense.

In the midfield, Angela Hucles and Kristine Lilly will be two of the starters. The big question is the status of Kelly Smith's gimpy knee. She's listed as "questionable", but with so much on the line for this match, you can bet she'll be playing if she's able. Maggie Tomecka, a starter at midfield in the Breakers' last game, is listed as "questionable" as well. As for attackers, Kelly Schmedes, Jennifer Nobis, and Fabiana were Tony DiCicco's choices last time out. However, Christine Latham is another option. First round draft pick Amy Rodriguez appears to have fallen out of favor. She subbed in during the 2nd half of Saturday's match against Sky Blue, only to be replaced after seeing only 15 minutes of action.

Washington also comes into this game with a 2-0-1 record over their last 3 matches. On Sunday, they managed a 3-2 come from behind victory over Chicago. Allie Long was the hero in that match, scoring the game winner in the 89th minute. Abby Wambach, who scored two goals against the Red Stars, will start at one forward spot, along with Lisa DeVanna. Both Wambach and DeVanna have 5 goals for the season. Rebecca Moros or Long will probably start as either a third forward or as an attacking midfielder.

Homare Sawa and Lori Lindsey have been steady and will be starting in their normal midfield capacities and Sonia Bompastor, who can play several positions, will likely be the other midfielder. On defense, the Freedom have Cat Whitehill and Becky Sauerbrunn at center backs. Neither Sauerbrunn nor Sawa has missed a minute of action all season. The outside starters will probably be Alex Singer and Ali Krieger if she's healthy, or possibly Jill Gilbeau. Erin McLeod, who has three shutouts to her credit, will be in goal for the Freedom.

Obviously, one of the keys to this match will be if, and how far, Kelly Smith can go. If she's able to play, Washington will be forced to spend a lot of defensive resources to keep her in check. The Breakers will be trying to extend an impressive streak of 323 minutes without giving up a goal, but they will have to do so against the powerful Freedom offense, with Wambach, DeVanna, and Bompastor. The Freedom can move up to 3rd place with a victory. The Breakers could finish the evening anywhere from 2nd to 4th place depending on the outcome. Considering what's at stake for these two teams, this could be one of the best matches of the year.

Midweek Notes

Washington's 3-2 victory over Chicago was the league's second ever come from behind victory. The Red Stars led 1-0 early in that contest. The first come from behind win also involved these two teams, but it was the Red Stars doing the honors to defeat the Freedom 2-1 back on July 1.

Several countries are represented among the top 9 goal scorers in the league. Only two Americans have cracked the list, Abby Wambach and Natasha Kai. Likewise, there are two Brazilians, Marta and Cristiane, and two Brits, Kelly Smith and Eniola Aluko. The other three players are Camille Abily (France), Christine Sinclair (Canada), and Lisa DeVanna (Australia). Sonia Bompastor of France and Aya Miyama of Japan are tied for the lead in assists with 6 each.

Allie Long, who scored her 2nd goal of the season against Chicago over the weekend, is the youngest player to have scored a goal in the WPS. She was 21 years, 256 days when she scored her first goal against FC Gold Pride. Long edges out Karen Carney, who was 21 years, 267 days when she scored that same weekend against Boston. The only other player to have scored a goal before she turned 22 is Elise Weber of Athletica, who turned 22 on Sunday.

Luke Thompson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Daniela participated in a 60 minute intersquad scrimmage yesterday. Daniela suffered severe knee and leg injuries in the May 3rd match at Washington. The talented Brazilian midfielder scored two goals in that match before being injured.

Boston Breakers-Goalkeeper Allison Lipsher has 5 shutouts in just 8 starts...The Breakers' last 6 goals have been scored by six different players-Kelly Schmedes, Angela Hucles, Jennifer Nobis, Christine Latham, Kristine Lilly, and Amy Rodriguez...The only team that has scored on the Breakers in their last 7 matches has been Sky Blue FC.

Chicago Red Stars-The Red Stars were officially eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to Washington on Sunday...Karen Carney and Megan Rapinoe both scored for the first time since April in that contest against the Freedom...Heather Garriock, who has seen action in just 4 matches due to injury, earned her first assist of the season against the Freedom.

FC Gold Pride-In spite of a solid effort against Athletica, Bay Area was eliminated from the playoff race over the weekend...Christine Sinclair scored the game tying goal against Saint Louis with Tina DiMartino earning her first assist of the season...Brandi Chastain, who just turned 41, started her second consecutive game for Gold Pride.

Los Angeles Sol-Marta (9 goals) and Camille Abily (8 goals) are probably the only two players in the league with a legitimate shot at scoring 10 goals for the season...The Sol have been shut out in their last two matches...Newly signed Sharolta Nonen started and played the full 90 minutes in the Sol's last match against FC Gold Pride.

Saint Louis Athletica-While Eniola Aluko has dominated scoring for Athletica, five different players have scored in their last 6 contests-Aluko, Amanda Cinalli, Elise Weber, Lori Chalupny, and Niki Cross...Kendall Fletcher now has 3 assists on the season, second only to Aluko who has 4...Athletica has been outscored 8-2 in the final 15 minutes of matches plus stoppage (a big thank you to my friend Austin for that statistic).

Sky Blue FC-Anita Asante picked up her 4th yellow card against Boston and will be suspended for SBFC's next match against FC Gold Pride on August 5th...Sky Blue has picked up 20 of their 23 total points against Boston and Chicago, earning only 3 ties against the rest of the league...Jen Branam picked up her 6th shutout of the season against the Breakers on Saturday.

Washington Freedom-The Freedom have scored 26 goals this season, more than any other team in the league...Abby Wambach joined Marta as being the only WPS players to have scored 2 goals in a game twice this season...Washington has only scored one goal total in their last three home games.