September 1, 2009

WPS Defeats Umeå IK 4-2 in All-Star Matchup

The WPS All-Stars defeated Umeå IK 4-2 in the first WPS All-Star match. For one half, Umeå gave the WPS All-Stars all they could handle, but they couldn't withstand constant pressure from the All-Stars as the game wore on. The game was played at Soccer Park in St. Louis before 4115 enthusiastic fans, who saw a very entertaining match.

Both teams were playing without several players. Several Umeå players are with their national side competing in the Euros which are being played in Finland. Additionally, talented young Ramona Bachman was missing for the Swedish club, reportedly because of illness. For the WPS team, Sonia Bompastor, Camille Abily, Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, and Alex Scott are also competing in Europe and missed the match. The match also saw WPS players Johanna Frisk and Frida Östberg switch their allegiance for one night to play for their former club, Umeå.

With all of the talent on the WPS side and many of their top players missing, one might have thought that Umeå would be outmatched. However, they came out playing very well and took it to the All-Stars in the opening minutes of the match. They quickly jumped on top with a beautiful pass from former Florida State star Mami Yamaguchi that found Madelaine Edlund behind the WPS defense and she finished for a 1-0 lead before the match was 3 minutes old.

A few minutes later Emmelie Konradson fired a shot that Karina LeBlanc saved, but Sofia Jakobsson fired home the rebound to make it 2-0. Just a minute before, LeBlanc had made a diving save on Mami Yamaguchi's shot from 20 yards.

However, as the match continued in the 1st half, the WPS team grew stronger. In the 24th minute, Marta made a long run up the left side. Her first crossing attempt to Cristiane was well defended by Umeå, but when the ball came back to Marta she placed a perfect ball to a charging Kristine Lilly. Lilly hit the inside of the post with the ball coming about a foot out across the goal mouth before spinning into the net on the other side.

Marta scored the next goal herself, with a dipping left-footed shot that managed to beat Umeå keeper Carola Soberg just before halftime. The game went to the break at a 2-2 tie.

The advantage that the Umeå side had was the fact that they were used to playing together. The WPS advantage was the fact that they could bring in a fresh team in the 2nd half that was just as talented as their starters. Any side that can have the likes of Abby Wambach, Kristine Sinclair, Heather O'Reilly and Hope Solo coming off of their bench is a very talented group.

It didn't take long for WPS side to take the lead as Marta, yet again, made a run up the left side crossing perfectly to a cutting Christine Sinclair who made no mistake on the finish putting the All-Stars up for the first time, 3-2. Less than two minutes later, Brittany Klein hit a brilliant pass from the midfield to Sinclair who once again beat the defense and Soberg to put the WPS up 4-2 (pictured above). For her part, Sinclair put on a 2nd half clinic on forward runs. Besides her two goals, she hit the post once and only a terrific save from Soberg stopped her on another.

For the most part, the 2nd half turned into a barrage of WPS shots with Marta, Sinclair, Wambach, O'Reilly, and Tiffeny Milbrett putting constant pressure on Soberg and the Umeå defense. Soberg made several nice saves, including kick saves on shots from Wambach, O'Reilly, and Sinclair, to keep her team in the match. Meanwhile, WPS 2nd half keeper Hope Solo was tested seriously only once, but what a save it was. A shot appeared to be hooking just inside the post, before a sprawling dive and catch by Solo snatched it out of the air just before the goal line.

The match ended up with WPS winning 4-2. Marta played a brilliant match and Sinclair menaced the Umeå defense throughout the 2nd half. The WPS All-Stars outshot their opponent by a margin of 28-11 for the match. For their part, Umeå made a fine account of themselves, especially missing so many talented players. It was an enjoyable afternoon of soccer for all who attended the match.