July 16, 2010

WPS Weekend Preview - July 17 and 18

Philadelphia Independence (6-4-3, 21 pts) at FC Gold Pride (9-3-1, 28 pts)
Pioneer Stadium, Hayward, CA – July 17 (10 pm ET, 7 pm PT)

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

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

Previous Meeting (2010):
Gold Pride 3
@ Philadelphia 1

What To Look For: This is a battle between number one and number two, unfortunately with both teams missing several players due to national team duty. However, according to the Independence website, both Caroline Seger and Sara Larsson have been released by the Swedish National Team to play in this one.

Still, Philadelphia will be severely handicapped without their best scorer, Amy Rodriguez, and their best playmaker, Lori Lindsey. They do have Lianne Sanderson, who is developing into a first rate striker in her own right. Both Danesha Adams and Lyndsey Patterson have had success this season, giving Philadelphia depth upfront. Without Lindsey, it will be up to Seger and Magnusdottir to set up chances for Philly. They will be going against one of the fastest defensive groups in the league. Ali Riley and Kandace Wilson have the speed to start lethal counterattacks. Gold Pride will miss the defensive presence of both Rachel Buehler and Shannon Boxx, however.

While Gold Pride will be missing Kelley O’Hara, they still have Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Tiffeny Milbrett, so don’t expect them to miss a beat offensively. Marta has been scoring in bunches and I don’t think there is anybody on the Philadelphia defense fast enough to stay with her. Gulbrandsen will be playing her last match for Gold Pride after scoring a goal last week. Camille Abily is also an offensive threat from the midfield, but has been slowed by injuries most of the season. The Independence defense has given up a lot of goals as of late.

Philadelphia does appear to have the edge in goalkeeping with Karina LeBlanc, but Brittany Cameron played reasonably well in her debut last weekend.

The Independence really need to possess the ball well in this match, keeping the ball away from Marta and Sinclair as much as possible. They will also need to track back quickly to prevent counterattacks and be wary of overlapping runs from Riley and Wilson. Gold Pride has speed and talent, and that’s a tough combination to beat. But they can be prone to letdowns, or perhaps overconfidence, much as they were in the last 15 minutes of the Freedom match last weekend, when they surrendered two goals and almost gave up a couple others.

Washington Freedom (4-4-5, 17 pts) at Boston Breakers (3-5-4, 13 pts)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA – July 18 (5 pm ET), FSC Game of the Week

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

Boston: GK-A. Naeher, A. Phillips, A. Lipsher; D-I. Dieke, A. Scott, S. Cox, A. LePeilbet (questionable-ankle) 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: T. Weimer, A. Lipsher, S. Walsh (knee).

Previous Meetings (2010):
Boston 2 @ Washington 1
Boston 0 @ Washington 0
Boston leads the all-time series at 3-1-2.

What To Look For: Note that both teams will be heavily affected by the USWNT match on Saturday. While it will not be a problem getting from Hartford to Boston for the match, playing in the heat on Saturday should severely limit playing time or availability for several players, so the rosters listed above are not definite. In addition, Boston defender Amy LePeilbet injured her ankle while playing for the USWNT on Tuesday.

Although there are still nearly two months left in the season, this match has playoff implications. Boston trails Washington by just four points with the Breakers having a game in hand. The Breakers should also be brimming with confidence, coming off two come-from-behind victories in a row. Washington has been struggling a bit, with no wins and four ties in their last six matches. The Freedom nearly staged a dramatic comeback last weekend against Gold Pride, only to lack luck and a possible call or two in the closing minutes.

The high scoring Freedom offense has been held in check by the Breaker defense the last two seasons. In six matches against Boston, Washington has managed just four goals total and have never scored more than one in any game. And with top scorer Abby Wambach likely to be limited due to playing the night before, the Freedom might have trouble cracking Boston’s defensive wall. Lene Mykjåland will be the Freedom’s most dangerous threat if Wambach isn’t able to go. Nikki Marshall looked great at forward against Gold Pride and one wonders whether the Freedom would consider moving her permanently from the back line. Sonia Bompastor and Homare Sawa should give the Breakers a lot to worry about in the midfield.

Boston will miss LePeilbet if she is out, but Alex Scott and Ifeoma Dieke provide excellent coverage on the defensive end. Leslie Osborne has been coming on and Jordan Angeli has surprisingly provided Boston with an offensive boost and two goals in the midfield.

While Lauren Cheney will be a question mark because of national team duty, the Breakers’ leading scorer, Kelly Smith, has scored two goals in previous meetings with the Freedom. She enters the match with three yellows and must be cautious about getting a fourth.

Washington had a lot of problems with Gold Pride’s speed last weekend and must rebound from that performance. Erin McLeod had an uncharacteristically shaky outing after shutting out her two previous opponents.

With so much on the line in this match, it will be interesting to see how much the USWNT players are able to contribute. Boston seems to have the Freedom’s number in this series and a win puts them in the thick of playoff contention. Washington, presently tied for 4th with Chicago, could use some breathing room.

Atlanta Beat (1-7-4, 7 pts) at Sky Blue FC (5-5-3, 18 pts)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, NJ – July 18 (7 pm ET)

GK-H. Solo, B. Maron; D-T. Ellertson, 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, A. Cinalli.
Not Active: L. Chalupny (back), R. Bachmann (Swiss U-20), K. McNeill (suspension), M. Ocampo (knee), M. Lofton-Malachi.

Sky Blue: GK-K. Luckenbill, S. Myers; D-D. Koster, B. Taylor, M. Schnur (questionable-ankle), K. Dowling, K. Fletcher, D. Johnson; MF-Y. Averbuch, K. White, L. Kalmari, I. Trotter, A. Salem; F-Rosana, T. Kai, P. Panico, K. Dallstream.
Not Active: C. Lloyd (ankle), J. Branam (stomach), D. Johnson, K. Schoepfer.

Previous Meetings (2010):
Sky Blue 1 @ Atlanta 0

What To Look For: Both teams are struggling, although Sky Blue is still in 3rd place for the moment. However, the defending champions have been shut out their last two matches and have been outshot in nearly every match. It's pretty amazing that they have managed a decent record, given that statistic plus the many injuries they have suffered. Atlanta has also been decimated by injuries this season and they have rarely put the same lineup on the pitch two games in a row.

Like the other Sunday match, the availability of USWNT players is a question mark. Atlanta is also without Ramona Bachmann, who is in Germany for the U-20 World Cup, Lori Chalupny and Monica Ocampo, who are injured, and Kia McNeill, who will be serving the final game of her three game suspension.

Sky Blue have shut out 6 of their 13 opponents, but have been shut out themselves four times. Laura Kalmari is their leading scorer, with oft-injured Natasha Kai being the biggest threat upfront. Surprisingly, Kacey White and Yael Averbuch, who was a sensation in last year’s playoffs, have been very quiet offensively.

Atlanta has had a lot of problems defensively. Just when they seemed to be turning the corner, they were sliced and diced for four goals by Gold Pride and another three by Boston. The Breaker match was particularly alarming, given that three were scored in a five minute space and all three should have been stopped fairly easily with solid defensive play. It should help if Hope Solo is able to start on Sunday.

Offensively, Atlanta needs to get Eniola Aluko untracked. She has yet to score for the Beat after scoring four early in the season for Saint Louis. The absence of Bachmann, Ocampo, and Chalupny will really hurt Atlanta, but Johanna Rasmussen has been playing well of late. Yamaguchi and Miyama need to work some of their magic to jumpstart Atlanta’s offense.

Sky Blue gives up a lot of shots, nearly 20 per game. But this week they are facing a team that has had trouble finding the net. Brittany Taylor is having a great rookie campaign and she is alongside many solid veteran defenders. Kristin Luckenbill has a shutout in two starts.

In spite of their struggles, Sky Blue is much better positioned this year than they were last year at this time and we all know how they finished 2009. Atlanta has had a fairly typical season for such a young squad, beset by injuries. The influx of talent from Athletica has helped, but there is still a lack of cohesiveness in the squad. The playoffs are a distant dream at this point. They just need to learn to compete for 90 minutes every match.