August 16, 2010

The WPS Playoff Picture

We're coming down to the wire for the WPS regular season and while Gold Pride has clinched a berth and Philadelphia is nearly there, there is much to be decided before the season is finished. Right now, I'm thinking it will take 29 or 30 points to make the playoffs (4th place). Here is a summary of the 2010 WPS playoff picture.

FC Gold Pride
Record: 12-3-4, 40 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/22 at CRS; 8/28 at Atl; 9/1 at SBFC; 9/5 vs. BOS; 9/11 vs. PHI.

Outlook: They should be able to clinch home field in the final soon, although Philadelphia continues to keep the pressure on. They have a six point cushion over the 2nd place Independence and a game in hand. Six points in their last five matches would be enough to clinch it. However, if Philly is able to close the gap, these two teams will play in the final regular season game.

Certainly, there is some cause for concern in three consecutive scoreless ties. With all the travel they have had to do, are they starting to wear down? They have remaining trips to Chicago, Atlanta, and New Jersey, which should give us a better idea. I still like them as the odds on favorite to win it all.

Philadelphia Independence
Record: 10-6-4, 34 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/22 at SBFC; 8/29 vs. BOS; 9/1 at CRS; 9/11 at FCGP.

Outlook: A playoff berth is all but sealed and they still have an outside shot at the first seed. However, they have to worry about a red hot Boston team and three of their remaining four games are on the road. Their lone remaining home match is against the Breakers, which could be the key.

Philadelphia has been extremely consistent, losing two in a row only once during the season. They have dominated two of their remaining opponents, Chicago and Sky Blue, going a perfect 6-0 against the two (and outscoring them by an aggregate 16-4). I still think they should be able to hold on for the second seed, but Boston has a game in hand, so the head-to-head battle between the two on August 29 could decide 2nd place.

Boston Breakers
Record: 8-6-5, 29 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/21 vs. ATL; 8/29 at Phi; 9/1 at Atl; 9/5 at FCGP; 9/11 at SBFC.

Outlook: They've now put some distance between themselves and the bottom four teams, and could clinch a playoff spot this weekeed if things fall right. However, the rest of their schedule is away from Harvard Stadium, with the only home match being played at New Britain, Connecticut.

With a 7-1-1 record over their last nine matches, they are the league's hottest team, bar none. They remind me very much of the Athletica team that came out of nowhere last season to finish second, except the Breakers have a better offense. But that Athletica team fell flat in their playoff match and the season-ending injury to Leslie Osborne, a very important factor in the Breakers' resurgence, was a harsh blow. I see them finishing third, but I think their remaining schedule with four road games to finish will prevent them from moving into 2nd place.

Sky Blue FC
Record: 6-9-4, 22 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/22 vs PHI; 8/28 at Was; 9/1 vs. FCGP; 9/5 at Atl; 9/11 vs. BOS.

Outlook: In spite of their injuries and their lackluster play (1-5-1 over their last seven), Sky Blue is in position to squeeze into the playoffs much as they did last season. They are in a 4th place tie with the Freedom and have a game in hand. They also have three of their remaining five at home, but those three are tough matches against the teams ahead of them in the standings.

Sky Blue is a team that seems to do what it needs to do. Judging from last season, one has to think that they will find a way to make the playoffs. The addition of Kelly Parker might provide them with a spark. But Washington has the easier schedule of the two, so mark this one on your calendars, Sky Blue at Washington on August 28. It may ultimately decide the fourth and final playoff berth.

Washington Freedom
Record: 5-8-7, 22 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/19 vs. CRS; 8/28 vs. SBFC; 9/5 at CRS; 9/11 vs. ATL.

Outlook: They are giving a game in hand to Sky Blue, but they have a much easier schedule, with all four games against teams even or below them on the table. Three of the remaining four are at home and momentum has swung their way over the past two weeks with a win and two tough road draws.

After floundering for two months (0-6-4 in June and July), they are still in reasonably good position to capture 4th place, but they have to take care of business. The Sky Blue match is a big one, but they can't overlook Chicago either. The Freedom/Red Stars series is dead even over two years with each team winning once and four ties. Right now, I think I might give the Freedom a slight edge over Sky Blue because of their schedule, but the head-to-head between the two may very well decide it.

Chicago Red Stars
Record: 5-9-6, 21 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/19 at Was; 8/22 vs. FCGP; 9/1 vs. PHI; 9/5 vs. WAS.

Outlook: They are just one point behind Sky Blue and Washington, but have one less game to play than Sky Blue and a tougher schedule than the Freedom. However, a victory over Washington on the road could give them momentum and their final three are at home, albeit against tough opponents.

Every time I think that the Red Stars have righted their ship, they spring a new leak. After defeating Sky Blue two weeks ago and then earning a hard fought road tie at FCGP, they lost to Philadelphia at home. The time is now for the Red Stars. They play two of their remaining four matches this week, which will give them lots of time to rest and watch everyone else down the wire. I just can't see them making it at this point.

Atlanta Beat
Record: 4-10-5, 17 points.
Remaining Schedule: 8/21 at Bos; 8/28 vs. FCGP; 9/1 vs. BOS; 9/5 vs. SBFC; 9/11 at Was.

Outlook: They played themselves into contention in July, but now have all but played themselves out of contention in August. The last two matches were killers, losing on an own goal and then blowing a two goal lead against Philadelphia. Three of their remaining five are at home, but the schedule is extremely tough. I'm guessing they would need to win four of their last five to even have a chance and I just don't see that happening.