April 25, 2010

Athletica and Breakers Slosh to 1-1 Draw

It what might charitably be called challenging field conditions, Saint Louis and Boston battled to a 1-1 tie at a soggy Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri. With all of the offensive talent on the field, the two goals came from unlikely sources in Kasey Moore for the Breakers and Carolyn Blank for Athletica.

The weather played a huge part in the game and led to some great early chances for the Breakers. In the 14th minute, Kendall Fletcher hit a fairly normal pass back to Hope Solo, but the ball stopped dead in a puddle half way between the two. Lauren Cheney, who appeared to be as shocked as everyone else, gained possession and attempted to chip the ball over Solo's head but the ball went harmlessly to the side.

Just a few minutes later, Solo attempted a drop kick but didn't get all of the ball which Kelly Smith picked up about 30 yards out. Smith attempted the quick shot, but a diving Solo was able to steer the ball wide. "I went to bounce it on the drop kick and it didn't bounce back up," said Solo. "After that, I tried to punt and I haven't punted since I was probably in high school."

Boston finally did get on the board in the 22nd minute. Kristine Lilly hit a low corner kick to the edge of the box which appeared to be headed for Kelly Smith. Smith dummied it and a charging Kasey Moore brilliantly struck a low shot with pace that beat Solo to the lower left side of the goal. It was Moore's first WPS goal.

Boston's lead didn't last long. In the 27th, Aya Miyama took a free kick from about 28 yards and sent it to the far side of the box, where Tina Ellertson headed back across the goal mouth. Carolyn Blank was waiting and chested the ball between Alex Scott and goalkeeper Ashley Phillips for tying goal. "Honestly, right place, right time," said Blank. "Tina just put a great ball back in." For the rookie from West Virginia, it was her first WPS goal and well-earned for the solid match she played.

The Breakers nearly regained the lead in the 39th minute. Lilly hit a blistering low shot that short-hopped Solo, bouncing off her for a rebound. Kelly Smith connected with the rebound from point blank range, but Solo used her body to block the shot and the defense was able to clear the ball out of trouble.

Play in the 2nd half was much crisper, with Athletica having the better of the play in the last 45 minutes. Their best opportunity came in the 63rd minute when Blank sent a ball through to Aluko, who one-timed it from 15 yards, but Phillips was able to make the diving save. Later in the half, Aluko and Lilly traded chances, but were unable to get the ball on frame.

Athletica had one last good chance to win it in the 83rd, when Aluko appeared to have a clear cut header from about 9 yards, but mishit it wide of the goal. Late substitutions Lindsay Tarpley and India Trotter for Athletica, and Laura Del Rio and Tiffany Weimer for Boston had their moments, but were unable to change the score.

Athletica captain Lori Chalupny saw improvement in the 2nd half over the 1st. "We really had some good looks in the 2nd half. I thought the 2nd half was very exciting, back and forth. It was just a good battle between two good teams."

The game marked the first time that Athletica had come from behind to tie a game over two seasons. "Coming from behind was huge for us", added defender Tina Ellertson.

The two teams remained tied, both at 1 win and 2 ties for 5 points. They sit one point behind FC Gold Pride and Sky Blue FC, who each have 6 points. Boston returns home where they will play the Chicago Red Stars next Saturday. Saint Louis travels to Washington where they will play the Freedom at RFK Stadium.

In other action on Sunday evening:

Sky Blue FC 1, Chicago Red Stars 0
Sky Blue blanked Chicago for the 6th consecutive time in a match played at Toyota Park in Chicago. Tasha Kai scored in the 53rd minute on an assist from Kacey White. Karen Bardsley added the shutout for Sky Blue, who sit atop the table with 2 wins, 1 loss and 6 points. Chicago has only a lone point to show for 3 matches.

Philadelphia Independence 3, Washington Freedom 1
The expansion Independence won their first game on their home field by scoring three 2nd half goals. After Lisa De Vanna had put the Freedom ahead in the 51st minute with her first goal of the year, Amy Rodriguez answered in the 54th minute with a goal of her own to tie the score at one. Minutes later, the Lori Lindsey to Allison Falk connection worked for the second week in a row, with Falk finishing again with a header to give Philly the lead. English international Lianne Sanderson added an insurance goal in the 67th minute, again assisted by Lindsey, who was facing off against her old team. For Sanderson, it was her first WPS goal. Philadelphia was able to close it out for the 3-1 victory.

Lindsey has now assisted on 3 of the Independence's 4 goals for the season. Abby Wambach assisted on De Vanna's goal, giving her an assist in each of her last 4 regular season contests dating back to last season. Philadelphia is tied with Saint Louis and Boston with 5 points, just a single point behind the league leaders. Washington fell to 1-2 with 3 points.