July 27, 2010

WPS Midweek Preview - July 28

Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington will enter Wednesday night’s action on the outside looking in as far as playoffs position goes, while Philadelphia looks to open up some space between them and the rest of the field chasing Gold Pride.

Chicago Red Stars (4-7-5, 17 pts) at Philadelphia Independence (7-5-3, 24 pts)
John A. Ferrell Stadium, West Chester, PA – July 28 (7 pm ET, 6 pm PT)

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

Philadelphia: GK-K. LeBlanc, V. Henderson; D-A. Falk, N. Krzysik, H. Magnusdottir, S.Larsson, S. Senty, E. Johnson; MF-L. Lindsey, C. Seger, T. DiMartino, J. Lohman, J.Buczkowski; F-A. Rodriguez, L. Sanderson, D. Adams, L. Patterson, K. Maruyama.
Not Active: H. Mitts (quad), G. DiMartino, R. Jones.

Previous Meetings (2010):
Philadelphia 1 @ Chicago 0.

What To Look For: These two teams have only met once before and this will be the first time Chicago has ventured into Philadelphia, but the Red Stars and the Independence will get mighty familiar with each other over the next month. They face off against one another three times over the next five weeks, starting with this matchup on Wednesday night.

Of the four English players on these teams’ rosters, only Katie Chapman has been called up for the English National Team, so the other three (Karen Carney, Anita Asante, and Lianne Sanderson) should be available for action.

The Red Stars have had trouble all season long at the beginning of matches and they must avoid a five minute disaster like the one they had on Sunday. They were torched for three quick goals by the Breakers and never had much of a chance after that. In Philadelphia, they face a team of fast forwards, so the defensive effort must be stronger in this match. Captain Kate Markgraf, Jill Loyden, and the rest of Chicago’s back line must show the fortitude they did earlier as one of the league’s best defenses.

Scoring has been a main concern for Chicago, being shut out eight times, with no player having more than four goals for the season. Ella Masar has seen the most success lately, but Kosovare Asllani scored Chicago’s only goal against Boston on Sunday.

The Independence have been tough on their home turf, going 5-2-1 at home. They got back on track with a big 4-1 victory against Sky Blue over the weekend. Amy Rodriguez continued her scoring rampage, adding two more in that match. Only Marta has more than her total of nine.

Both Caroline Seger and Lori Lindsey have taken turns at setting up their teammates from the midfield. Seger was named WPS Player of the Week for her three assist effort against Sky Blue. Veteran Joanna Lohman has been a surprising scoring contributor with three goals after seeing little playing time in 2009.

While the offense has been clicking for Philadelphia, their defense has not earned a shutout since the last time they faced Chicago in mid-May. In a league where four goal games are the exception rather than the rule, they need to start winning a few games with their defense.

Time is running out for the Red Stars, who will only have six matches left after this week. They must earn points at every opportunity. For the Independence, the playoffs are within in reach. All they need to do is seal the deal.

Washington Freedom (4-6-5, 17 pts) at Atlanta Beat (3-7-4, 13 pts)
KSU Stadium, Kennesaw, GA – July 28 (7:30 pm ET)

GK-A. Harris, M. McCray; D-C. Whitehill, B. Sauerbrunn, N. Marshall, R. Moros, K. Eveland, B. Bock; MF-S. Bompastor, H. Sawa, A. Long, S. Huffman, B. Goebel; F-A. Wambach, L. Mykjåland, C. Welsh.
Not Active: E. McLeod (knee), M. Abegg, J. Gilbeau, A. Singer , C. Miskel, B. Klein.

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Atlanta 1 @ Washington 3
Washington 2 @ Atlanta 0

What To Look For: Two of Washington’s four wins have come against the expansion Beat. Both teams will be without key performers. Erin McLeod suffered what very well might be a season-ending injury in the Freedom’s match against Gold Pride on Saturday. And with England facing Turkey on Thursday, it is highly likely that we will not see Eniola Aluko on Wednesday night.

Without McLeod, Washington will likely turn to rookie Ashlyn Harris. Ironically, Harris last faced a WPS opponent in an early April exhibition match against Atlanta while a member of Saint Louis Athletica. On that occasion, she gave up two first half goals. She will have to be better on Wednesday night. Her microscopic goals against average while at UNC indicates the potential is there.

Washington has not won a game since May and has only scored four goals in their last five matches. They are led by Abby Wambach (6 goals) and Lene Mykjåland (4 goals). The Freedom will also welcome back Allie Long, who missed the Gold Pride match due to injury. Homare Sawa and Sonia Bompastor lend support in the midfield.

The Freedom have given up nine goals in their last three matches, but in fairness, seven of those were in the two matches with Gold Pride. Facing Atlanta, who will be without their best scorer, should be a much easier task for Washington. Cat Whitehill will be happy to get back to her traditional defender role after finishing the last few minutes of Saturday’s game as the Freedom goalkeeper.

For the first time ever, I can say that the Atlanta Beat enter a game with a two-game winning streak. All three of the Beat’s wins have been by 1-0 margins and they have scored more than one goal just once. So it is incumbent upon the defense to shut down the Freedom. With Tina Ellertson and Kia McNeill in the middle, they have a fast, physical presence on the back line.

Without Aluko, Atlanta must look to other players for scoring. Ramona Bachmann should be returning from the U-20 championships, which could help. Johanna Rasmussen, Mami Yamaguchi, and Aya Miyama have the skills to set their teammates up, but someone has to finish. The return of Lori Chalupny from her recent struggles with a back injury should help as well.

Washington needs to turn things around in a hurry and doing that without McLeod will be a challenge. A victory over the upstart Beat moves them into third place. Meanwhile, what once appeared to be an impossibility might be within reach for Atlanta. They are presently just five points out of 4th place and have a game or two in hand against the rest of the league. The Freedom will be their first hurdle and a quite sizeable one at that.