July 18, 2010

WPS Weekend Wrap - Gold Pride Opens Up Lead, While Playoff Race Tightens

In a weekend that saw FC Gold Pride's lead stretched to 10 points, the league race for the other three playoffs spots tightened considerably. Only five points separates second place from sixth, with only two points difference between Sky Blue, Washington, Chicago, and Boston. Only two teams have more wins than losses now. Meanwhile, Atlanta's road victory in New Jersey gives them some hope.

FC Gold Pride 2, Philadelphia Independence 0

Christine Sinclair's brace was the only scoring, as Gold Pride won 2-0 in a match between the league's top two teams. Sinclair scored the first just before halftime and added a second in the 80th minute. The goals were assisted by Sola Gulbrandsen and Camille Abily, making it an international sweep of the scoring honors. Brittany Cameron earned her first WPS shutout in her second start of the season. Gold Pride outshot Philadelphia by a 15-4 margin.

Both teams were missing several players. Gold Pride was without Nicole Barnhart, Shannon Boxx, Rachel Buehler, and Kelley O'Hara. The Independence were missing their two best offensive players in Amy Rodriguez and Lori Lindsey. Additionally, Philly was without defender Heather Mitts.

Gold Pride now has 31 points and a 10 point lead over Philadelphia. They travel to Boston to take on the Breakers, winners of three straight, on Wednesday. Philadelphia returns home to battle Sky Blue next Saturday, a match between the 2nd and 3rd place teams.

Boston Breakers 2, Washington Freedom 1

For the third straight match, Boston came from behind for the win, this time for a 2-1 victory over the Freedom.

Nikki Marshall opened the scoring for the Freedom in just the 2nd minute of the game on an assist from Sarah Huffman. After scoring her first WPS goal in the closing seconds of last week's game against Gold Pride, it didn't take long for Marshall to get her 2nd.

Liz Bogus tied the score midway through the 1st half on a goal assisted by Kelly Smith. For Bogus, it was her 2nd goal in as many weeks.

Rookie Jordan Angeli scored the game winner in the 74th minute, assisted by Lindsay Tarpley. It was Angeli's 3rd of the season. Angeli scored 7 goals in her senior season at Santa Clara after missing the two previous seasons due to injuries.

Boston has now moved to within a point of 4th place Washington and Chicago, and within two of 3rd place Sky Blue. They have a game in hand on all three of those teams. They will host 1st place Gold Pride on Wednesday night. Washington, now winless in their last seven, will return home to play Gold Pride next Saturday.

Atlanta Beat 1, Sky Blue FC 0

Atlanta won for only the second time this year, picking up their first ever road victory, by a 1-0 score. Eniola Aluko scored her first goal for the Beat in the 7th minute and the visitors made it hold up. It was Aluko's 5th goal of the season. The goal was set up on a through ball by Angie Kerr.

Sky Blue put on a lot of pressure in the 2nd half and came close to equalizing as a Patrizia Panico shot hit the crossbar. However goalkeeper Hope Solo, coming off of a USWNT shutout of Sweden, was able to preserve the shutout for Atlanta.

Atlanta has now made it to double digits with 10 points, but they are still seven points behind 4th place. They will host the Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday night. Sky Blue makes the short trip to Philadelphia for a match on Saturday. For the moment, they are still clinging to 3rd place, but that could change before they play next.

1) FC Gold Pride (10-3-1, 31 pts); 2) Philadelphia (6-5-3, 21 pts); 3) Sky Blue (5-6-3, 18 pts); 4) Chicago (4-5-5, 17 pts); 4) Washington (4-5-5, 17 pts); 6) Boston (4-5-4, 16 pts); 7) Atlanta (2-7-4, 10 pts).