July 24, 2010

WPS Weekend Preview - July 24 and 25

The only sure thing is that Gold Pride will be in first place and Atlanta in 7th place come Sunday night. The rest of the positions could change considerably over the next 48 hours. (Note that active rosters are based on the WPS roster report and are tentative).

FC Gold Pride (11-3-1, 34 pts) at Washington Freedom (4-5-5, 17 pts)
Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD – July 24 (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; F-Marta, C. Sinclair, T. Milbrett, K. Bosio.
Not Active: K. O’Hara (illness), K. Fountain, E. Guthrie, R. Tantillo, K. Yokers.

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Washington 1 @ Gold Pride 1
Washington 2 @ Gold Pride 3
The all-time series is tied at 2-2-1.

What To Look For: When these two teams last met two weeks ago, it looked like a cakewalk for Gold Pride for most of the match and ended with them clinging for dear life to a one goal lead. This will be the first time Gold Pride will travel to Washington this season, with Gold Pride’s only trip ever to the SoccerPlex ending in a 3-1 Freedom win last season.

We should see a lot of offense in this match. Gold Pride has the league’s two best goal scorers in Marta (11) and Christine Sinclair (8). That’s 19 of their 26 goals coming from just two players. But everyone in the league knows this and they still can’t stop them. The Freedom are not known for their defense, but they have four shutouts this season. However, Washington’s back line is also not the speediest group in the league and Marta can outrun even the best of defenses. Erin McLeod will have to be on top of her game in this one.

In the midfield, it will be an excellent matchup, featuring two French stars, Sonia Bompastor for the Freedom and Camille Abily for Gold Pride. While Abily has been bothered by injuries and has had a fairly quiet season, Bompastor is having another good season with a goal and four assists. Shannon Boxx tips the midfield scales in Gold Pride’s favor.

One thing that will be different from the last time these teams met is the presence of Abby Wambach. With five goals and seven assists, there is no doubt that Washington is not the same team without her. It will be up to Rachel Buehler, Candace Chapman, and defensive mid Becky Edwards to try to stop her.

Washington is one team that I feel has the firepower to stay with Gold Pride and this time, the Freedom have them on their home field. I’m seeing a lot of things out of Gold Pride this year, that I saw last season out of Los Angeles. A fairly dominating regular season led by two dominant scorers, leading to a double digit lead in points. And perhaps a bit of over-confidence. Late in the 2009 season, the Sol faltered. We haven’t seen that yet from Gold Pride. This game could tell us a lot about Gold Pride’s character, and Washington’s as well.

Sky Blue FC (5-6-3, 18 pts) at Philadelphia Independence (6-5-3, 21 pts)
John A. Farrell Stadium, West Chester, PA – July 24 (7 pm ET)

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

Philadelphia: GK-K. LeBlanc, V. Henderson; D-A. Falk, N. Krzysik, H. Magnusdottir, 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: S. Larsson (groin), H. Mitts (quad), G. DiMartino, R. Jones.

Previous Meetings (2010):
Sky Blue 1 @ Philadelphia 2
Philadelphia 4
@ Sky Blue 1

What To Look For: Although they presently occupy 2nd and 3rd place in the WPS standings, both teams are struggling with two game losing streaks.

Sky Blue has not scored in their last three matches and with both Natasha Kai and Laura Kalmari listed as being out (per WPS roster report), it doesn’t bode well for this match. Sky Blue has only scored 9 goals, not counting penalties and an own goal. Kai and Kalmari have seven of the nine. That leaves it to Rosana, Heather O’Reilly, and Patrizia Panico to get the Sky Blue offense going. Their Independence defensive counterparts are also missing two key players in Sara Larsson and Heather Mitts, which means it may not come that easy for whomever patrols the Independence goal, Val Henderson or Karina LeBlanc.

The midfield battle will be a good one with Lori Lindsey, Tina DiMartino, and Caroline Seger for Philadelphia and Yael Averbuch and O’Reilly for Sky Blue. Lindsey has been a key factor in Philly’s success this season.

Leading scorer Amy Rodriguez returns for the Independence after scoring one for the USWNT last week. She has seven goals for the season. It will be Philadelphia’s speed up front against Sky Blue’s experience. One fairly inexperienced player that has helped the Sky Blue defense is rookie Brittany Taylor, one of the few constants this season on Sky Blue’s back line.

In the latest chapter of the coaching-go-round that is Sky Blue, this will be the debut of Rick Stainton at the helm. Luckily, this Sky Blue team tends to be a resilient bunch. Both teams are in good position to make the playoffs, but both are listing badly at the moment. This match will give one team the opportunity to right their ship, while the losing team might end up sinking.

Boston Breakers (4-6-4, 16 pts) at Chicago Red Stars (4-6-5, 17 pts)
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL – July 25 (4 pm ET, 3 pm CT)

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

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

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

What To Look For: Both teams wasted an opportunity to move up in the standings on Wednesday night, making this match all the more crucial. Chicago has won both games between the two teams this season, with both previous meetings being in Boston.

The Breakers had won three straight going into Wednesday’s match against Gold Pride and they managed to play the league leaders pretty evenly, although falling by a 2-1 margin. One thing Boston has been doing lately that they weren’t earlier in the season is scoring. They’ve put nine goals in the net over the past five matches.

Unfortunately, they will be missing Liz Bogus, who was having a nice run until she came out of the game injured on Wednesday night. According to the roster report, also missing is the only Breaker to have scored against the Red Stars this season, Fabiana. Boston still has some nice weapons, especially Kelly Smith and Kristine Lilly. Young Jordan Angeli has come out of nowhere to post four goals this season, something that Boston sorely needed.

Boston will be facing a tough Red Star defense with veteran Kate Markgraf and rookie Whitney Engen leading the way. Keeper Jill Loyden is giving up less than a goal a game for Chicago. Marian Dalmy is a steady defender that will get forward into the offense when the opportunity arises.

The Red Stars rely on offense by committee out of their four forwards. You can never be sure which ones will start, which ones will finish, and which ones will score, but you can bet that all four will probably play. Ella Masar has four goals to lead the way, followed by Cristiane with three, Casey Nogueira with two, and Kosovare Asllani with one. No other scorers need apply in the Red Star offense. In spite of not lighting up the scoreboard, Karen Carney is a strong contributor to the Red Star attack, while Katie Chapman and Formiga have been steady.

The Breakers' defense is led by Amy LePeilbet, with Alex Scott, Ifeoma Dieke, and Stephanie Cox along side. Alyssa Naeher is in goal for Boston. It’s been a long time since the Breakers have shut anybody out, going all the way back to a scoreless draw on Memorial Day weekend against Sky Blue. The Breaker defense needs a shutout performance in this match.

Boston is a point behind Chicago, but has a game in hand. Both teams desperately need the three points that are up for grabs in this match. Either of these teams could finish the weekend anywhere from third place to sixth place in the standings.