August 2, 2009

Athletica Clinches 2nd Place

Eniola Aluko tallied her 6th goal of the season in the 36th minute to give Saint Louis Athletica a 1-0 win over the Boston Breakers on Saturday evening at Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri. The victory, combined with Washington's 3-2 loss to FC Gold Pride, clinched 2nd place for Saint Louis, plus an automatic berth in the super semifinal which they will host.

The match started with the Breakers controlling the tempo and possession for much of the first 20 minutes, but getting few chances. The most dangerous was a blast by Kristine Lilly that hit the outside of the net. As the match wore on, Athletica got stronger and finally broke through late in the 1st half. Elise Weber sent a low cross to the top of 18 yard box, which eluded Boston defenders. The ball reached Amanda Cinalli who managed to change the ball's direction with a nice flick which sent Aluko in alone on Breakers' goalkeeper Allison Lipsher. Aluko finished with a shot from the outside of her foot that found its way through a sliding Lipsher's legs and into the net.

Saint Louis came close to scoring again late in the first half on a free kick. Athletica decided to go with a soft touch sideways to Niki Cross who hit a low, blistering shot that went just wide of the post from over 25 yards out.

The Breakers almost broke through in the 65th minute. Kelly Smith turned on Kia McNeill in the penalty area and hit a hard shot from about 15 yards that Athletica keeper Hope Solo made a diving save on.

Sarah Walsh nearly made it 2-0 in the 87th minute. Her shot from the right side had Lipsher beat, but hit the far post ricocheting all the way back through box without crossing the line. Kristine Lilly had one last chance for Boston in stoppage, but her shot went a couple feet over the crossbar.

Hope Solo recorded her 7th shutout of the season, making just two saves including the critical stop on Smith. For Boston, it was the first even strength goal they have given up in 5 games. The Breakers were playing without defender Alex Scott who had received a red card in the match against Washington on Wednesday.

Athletica has two games remaining, at home against Chicago on Wednesday and then at FC Gold Pride next Sunday evening. Meanwhile, the Breakers will meet Los Angeles at home next Sunday for their final regular season match. Boston still has control over their own destiny, no matter what happens in other games this week. A victory over Los Angeles will definitely secure a playoff spot, although at this time, it's unsure whether it would be 3rd or 4th place.

FC Gold Pride 3, Washington Freedom 2

A resurgent FC Gold Pride side came from behind to defeat the Washington Freedom 3-2 in a seesaw contest at Buck Shaw Stadium. Adriane scored in the 83rd minute to give the victory to FCGP.

Kimberly Yokers opened the scoring for FC Gold Pride, giving them a 1-0 lead in the 6th minute for her first goal of the season. Homare Sawa of the Freedom scored twice before halftime to send the Freedom in front at the break. Tiffeny Milbrett of Gold Pride scored very early in the 2nd half to tie the match, before Adriane late goal gave FCGP the victory.

In spite of being eliminated from playoff contention last week, Gold Pride has managed a win and two ties over their last three matches and appear to be playing their best soccer since early in the season. It was a tough loss for Washington which had won three in a row heading into this match. The loss was damaging, but the Freedom could still clinch 3rd place with a victory over Sky Blue FC next Saturday.