May 8, 2010

Athletica Stops Philly's Unbeaten Streak 2-1

Lindsay Tarpley battles with Philadelphia defender Nikki Krzysik in 1st half action of Athletica's 2-1 victory over the Independence.

For Lindsay Tarpley, it's been a long road back from the ACL injury she suffered last August while preparing for Chicago's final regular season match against Saint Louis. Tonight, now wearing Athletica's green kit, Tarpley scored her first goal since that injury which helped lead Saint Louis to a 2-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Independence.

Tarpley's goal in the 60th minute gave Athletica a 2-0 lead at the time. The ball came to her on the left side of the box and she appeared to be moving toward the middle of the field to shoot. However, she deftly touched the ball back to her left giving her space from two defenders and hit a low shot that was perfectly placed just inside the right post. "This has been a long rehab for me," said Tarpley after the game. "So for me to finish a goal in a game is a big step for me in my comeback."

For Tarpley, it was her first start of the year and she played 72 minutes before giving way to Tina DiMartino. "I felt really good", added Tarpley. Her front line mate, Eniola Aluko called Tarpley "inspiring" in her comeback from injury. "She's so dedicated. I felt like I scored because she scored."

Philadelphia came into the match with a 4 game unbeaten streak and they had the first good scoring opportunity 7 minutes into the match as Amy Rodriguez broke into the right side of the box, but her low shot missed wide to the left of the goal. However, that was one of the few chances the Independence would have in the 1st half as Athletica controlled possession for much of the half.

Just a couple of minutes later, Aluko beat a defender to the 6 yard box. Her shot was parried by Karina LeBlanc to the middle, where Tarpley gained control of the ball. She got off two shots, but both were blocked by Independence defenders and the ball was eventually cleared. Tarpley got another chance in the 39th minute as Aluko found her on the left side of the box, but Tarpley's shot went high from 12 yards out. Earlier, a Lori Chalupny shot was deflected by the Philadelphia defense with the ball hitting the outside of the post and rolling harmlessly wide.

Athletica finally broke through in the 41st minute. A quick counterattack started by Hope Solo got the ball to Aluko on the right side where she had gotten behind a defender. Aluko dribbled at the defense and then sent a pass across to Tarpley who was cutting to the goal. Philadelphia defender Allison Falk was tracking back just outside the penalty area and tried to stop the pass, instead hitting the ball very hard which caught LeBlanc off guard and the ball careened past her for an own goal. For Falk, it was a bit unlucky and had she let the ball go, Tarpley would surely have had an easy one-on-one chance against LeBlanc. "Just one of those ricochets," said Philadelphia Coach Paul Riley, agreeing that Falk didn't have much choice there.

Tarpley would have yet another chance before the half ended, but again hit the shot high on a bad angle shot. Athletica held a 1-0 lead going into the break. Aluko said that the team talked at halftime about being aggressive for the 2nd half. "We can't just settle for 1-0."

Philadelphia seemed to pick up the pace as the 2nd half started. The speed of Rodriguez and halftime substitution Lianne Sanderson gave Athletica some problems in the 2nd half. A Rodriguez shot in the 51st minute was parried wide by Solo. Another promising chance in the 59th minute ended with Heather Mitts being ruled offside.

Aluko briefly went down in a collision with LeBlanc in the 54th minute and she was off the field for nearly 4 minutes while Athletica played shorthanded. However, she returned to field just in time for Tarpley's goal that put Athletica up 2-0. Coach Jorge Barcellos had praise for the work of his two forwards. "We worked this week on our forwards holding the ball and trying for better shots in front of the net." Athletica continued to pressure and create chances for the next 10 minutes after Tarpley's goal, but were unable to break through for a third goal.

Against the run of play, Philadelphia came forward on a counterattack with Lori Lindsey coming up the right wing. Lindsey sent a long cross to the edge the box which saw Amy Rodriguez clear of the Athletica defense. Rodriguez hit a hard low shot that short-hopped Solo and bounced off of her for a rebound. Lyndsey Patterson was able to beat a defender to the ball and buried a shot in the right side of the net to close the score to 2-1.

In spite of the goal, Athletica continued to control possession. Aluko just missed making it a two goal game shooting over the crossbar in the 85th. Philadelphia had one last chance with Lori Lindsey attempting to dribble through the middle, but was upended about 25 yards out and lost possession. Lindsey was given a yellow card for her vehement protests following the non-call. Athletica was able to kill the 4 minutes of stoppage and hold on to the 2-1 victory. Athletica outshot Philadelphia by a 15-8 margin for the game and held a 6-4 advantage on corner kicks.

Clearly, missing the injured Caroline Seger hurt the Independence in the midfield. "I thought we would get going, but we never did, even after we scored we just never got going," said Coach Riley. "I think going from turf to grass hurt us. Athletica were the better team and possessed the ball better than we did. We turned the ball over too quickly. I thought we tightened up on (Shannon) Boxx in the 2nd half, but Aluko was a thorn in our side all night. Now we need to get ready for Chicago next week."

Aluko called the game "a classic Athletica performance. I think the rhythm of play today was unbelievable." Tarpley credited the entire Athletica organization for supporting her through her rehab.

For the first time in WPS history, two sisters were on the field together. Athletica's Tina DiMartino replaced Tarpley in the 72nd minute. Gina DiMartino replaced Jen Buczkowski for Philadelphia 10 minutes later. For the younger sister, Gina, it was her first WPS action.

Saint Louis and Philadelphia now have identical 2-1-2 records, good for 8 points and they are currently tied for 2nd place, pending the outcome of the Sky Blue-Atlanta Beat contest on Sunday night. The Independence will travel to Chicago where they will face the Red Stars next Saturday night. Athletica will host Sky Blue next Sunday afternoon.