July 20, 2010

WPS Midweek Preview - July 21

FC Gold Pride (10-3-1, 31 pts) at Boston Breakers (4-5-4, 16 pts)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA – July 21 (7 pm ET, 4 pm PT)

Gold Pride: GK-N. Barnhart, B. Cameron; D-R. Buehler, C. Chapman, A. Riley, C. Dew, K. Wilson; MF-S. Boxx, C. Abily, B. Edwards, K. Graczyk, K. Yokers; F-Marta, C. Sinclair, T. Milbrett, K. Bosio.
Not Active: K. O’Hara (illness), K. Fountain, E. Guthrie, R. Tantillo.

Boston: GK-A. Naeher, A. Phillips; D-I. Dieke, A. Scott, S. Cox, K. Moore, C. Igwe; MF-K. Smith, L. Osborne, K. Lilly, Fabiana, J. Angeli, L. Bogus; F-L. Tarpley, L. Cheney, L. Del Rio, T. Weimer, T. Hemmings.
Not Active: A. LePeilbet (ankle), A. Lipsher, S. Walsh (knee).

Previous Meetings (2010):
Gold Pride 2 @ Boston 1
Boston 0 @ Gold Pride 1
Gold Pride leads the all-time series by 3-1-1.

What To Look For: This game features the two hottest teams in WPS, both entering the match on three game winning streaks. Gold Pride has taken the two previous games this season.

The most interesting matchup should be Gold Pride’s high powered offensive front with Marta and Christine Sinclair going against Boston’s back line of Ifeoma Dieke, Alex Scott, Stephanie Cox, and Kasey Moore. Marta and Sinclair have combined for 17 goals, more than Boston’s team total. Look for Leslie Osborne to play a big part in the Breakers’ defensive effort. Missing will be two key elements. Kelley O’Hara for Gold Pride and Amy LePeilbet for Boston are listed as out for this match.

Sometimes, it appears that Gold Pride’s strategy is to throw so much offense at the other team that their opponent cannot go on the offensive themselves. Their speed is likely to be a factor in this match and with LePeilbet out, Boston is without their best defender. A strong midfield effort will be necessary by Boston to keep Ali Riley and Kandace Wilson from getting forward on the outside and into the attack. It should be a great midfield battle and Shannon Boxx is likely to be key there.

The Breakers, on the other hand, have been getting a lot of goals from unlikely sources during this three game run. Liz Bogus and Jordan Angeli have been instrumental in Boston’s resurgence. Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney are still the “go-to” scorers for Boston, but spreading the offense around gives opponents more to worry about.

Gold Pride may have a slight edge at keeper with veteran Nicole Barnhart, who is having a quality season. Boston rookie Alyssa Naeher is still looking for her first shutout, but she could potentially be one of the best young goalies in the game.

This series has a history of being close, with every game decided by a goal or less. The Breakers have come from behind to win the last three, but that is not likely to happen against the league’s top team. The first goal of this match will be all important.

Chicago Red Stars (4-5-5, 17 pts) at Atlanta Beat (2-7-4, 10 pts)
KSU Stadium, Kennesaw, GA – July 21 (7:30 pm ET, 6:30 pm CT)

Chicago: GK-J. Loyden, A. Whitworth; D-K. Markgraf, W. Engen, M. Dalmy, N. Spilger, A. Asante; MF-Formiga, K. Carney, K. Chapman, M. Rapinoe, J. Sitch; F-Cristiane, E. Masar, K. Asllani, C. Nogueira, J. McDonald (probable-knee).
Not Active: E. Weber, L. Vandenbergh, J. Santacaterina, M. Burke, N. Washington (knee).

Atlanta: GK-H. Solo, B. Maron; D-T. Ellertson, K. McNeill, L. Robinson, S. Bishop, K. Larkin, L. Sesselmann; MF-A. Miyama, M. Yamaguchi, A. Kerr, J. Rasmussen, M. Zerboni, C. Blank, R. Nolin; F-E. Aluko, M. Ocampo, A. Cinalli.
Not Active: L. Chalupny (back), R. Bachmann (Swiss U-20), M. Lofton-Malachi.

Previous Meetings (2010):
Atlanta 0 @ Chicago 0
Chicago 0 @ Atlanta 1
Atlanta 1 @ Chicago 1

What To Look For: The Red Stars are on a four game unbeaten streak and have battled their way into playoff contention. Surprisingly, one team they haven’t solved is Atlanta. The Beat have earned five of their season total of ten points against Chicago. The Red Stars have managed just one goal against the Beat, a team that has been known to struggle defensively.

Chicago gets nearly all of their scoring from their four forwards. Cristiane, Ella Masar, Kosovare Asllani, and Casey Nogueira have combined for 10 goals. Masar has been a pleasant surprise, leading the Red Stars with four goals. Chicago usually outshoots their opponents and the Beat will have to withstand a lot of pressure if they are to win this match.

In spite of not scoring, Karen Carney is having a strong year in the midfield. Megan Rapinoe’s performance has been uneven at times, probably due to her earlier illness, but a goal for the USWNT last week should help her confidence.

Atlanta’s best defender, Tina Ellertson, has been banged up a lot lately, but her speed is essential to the Beat’s back line. Kia McNeill will be back from suspension and her presence should help as well. Hope Solo has posted two shutouts since joing the Beat.

Eniola Aluko got her first goal for the Beat on Sunday and Atlanta seems to be doing a better job of getting the ball to her in a position where she can do something with it. Monica Ocampo might be able to play in this match and her return would be welcome. Atlanta has a talented midfield as well with Rasmussen, Yamaguchi, and Miyama, although they will be missing the injured Lori Chalupny.

But Atlanta will be facing one of the best defensive teams in WPS. Marian Dalmy, Kate Markgraf, Whitney Engen, and Natalie Spilger form a sometimes impenetrable wall in front of Jill Loyden, who is a having a very good season as well.

One thing Atlanta has going for it is that they know they have had success against the Red Stars. Their problem has been consistency (and injuries), playing a promising game followed by a lackluster effort. After a long wait, the Red Stars finally appear to be coming together and have the playoffs in their sight. A win on Wednesday evening could go a long way in getting them there.