August 13, 2010

WPS Weekend Preview - August 14 and 15

It’s an interesting weekend of WPS soccer. The top three teams each host one of the teams battling for 4th place. One would figure that if either Atlanta, Sky Blue, or Washington could manage a tie or win on the road, they might well pick up points on the others. The other big news is that Philadelphia might be able to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday if things go their way.

Washington Freedom (5-8-6, 21 pts) at FC Gold Pride (12-3-3, 39 pts)
Pioneer Stadium, Hayward, CA – August 14 (10 pm ET, 7 pm PT)

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

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Washington 1 @ Gold Pride 1
Washington 2 @ Gold Pride 3
Gold Pride 4 @ Washington 1
Gold Pride leads the all-time series at 3-2-1.

What To Look For: There has never been a shutout in the six previous matches between Washington and Gold Pride. Except for the one tie game, the winner has scored three or more goals each time. So I think we can probably expect some scoring in this one.

One positive for the Freedom is that the only goal scored against them in the last two matches was an own goal. Perhaps, with Nikki Marshall back on defense, Washington has found a formula to keep their opponent off the board. Young keeper Ashlyn Harris is improving, but she will face a stiff challenge in this match. Only a freak goal as Cat Whitehill attempted to clear from inside the penalty area kept Harris from gaining her second shutout in a row.

Gold Pride is coming off two scoreless ties, not necessarily alarming, but a little cause for concern given what happened to the LA Sol at the end of last season. They still have the most dangerous duo in the league at forward with Marta and Christine Sinclair. Marta has scored six goals in her last four games against the Freedom and has scored the goal that put her team on top for good in three of those games.

Defensively, Gold Pride has given up just two goals in their last five matches. They’ve given up more than one goal just three times this season, which accounted for two of their three losses. Nicole Barnhart is having a fine year in goal and FCGP’s back line has played well. Rachel Buehler captains the defense for Gold Pride.

Washington has scored at least one goal in each of their last seven matches, but they haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard as they had in the past. At 9 goals and 8 assists, Abby Wambach has had a part in nearly two thirds of the Freedom’s goals. They need to find another consistent finisher with Lene Mykjåland and Allie Long being the most likely candidates to fill that role. Sonia Bompastor scored her second goal of the season on Wednesday.

Trailing Sky Blue by a point and with one less game to play, the Freedom really need to come away from this match with some points. Gold Pride is looking for home field advantage and a berth in the final. While they have very little pressure on them at this point, they would like to see some of the offense that has been missing in their last two matches.

Sky Blue FC (6-8-4, 22 pts) at Boston Breakers (7-6-5, 26 pts)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA – August 15 (6 pm ET)

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

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Boston 0 @ Sky Blue 0
Sky Blue 2 @ Boston 1
Sky Blue leads the all-time series at 4-0-2.

What To Look For: To say that Boston has not had much success against New Jersey would be an understatement. In six matches against Sky Blue, the Breakers have managed just two ties and have scored just three goals. Now four points ahead of Sky Blue in the battle for 3rd place and playing at home, one might think that Boston would come into this game with something to prove.

On the player front, Sky Blue signed Canadian Kelly Parker this past week. Parker helped Sky Blue win the championship in 2009 and just got through leading the Buffalo Flash to a W-League title. Perhaps, she can put a jolt into Sky Blue’s anemic offense that is averaging less than a goal a game. Not to mention that SBFC’s last two goals have been scored for them by the other team. Laura Kalmari, Tasha Kai, and Rosana have been their biggest goal scorers to date. One positive sign is that Sky Blue outshot Washington in their last match, something that has been a rarity this season.

Boston has a reasonably solid defense with Amy LePeilbet and Ifeoma Dieke in the middle and Alex Scott and Stephanie Cox on the outside. Alyssa Naeher is now established as the Breakers’ starting keeper. Surprisingly, the Breakers have posted just three shutouts this season.

Boston is experiencing a surge in offense, having scored in their last nine matches and scoring two or more in 7 of their last eight. For the most part, the goals have come from Kelly Smith and two rookies, Jordan Angeli and Lauren Cheney. Lindsay Tarpley does a good job of distributing the ball upfront and Liz Bogus is listed as probable for this game after missing several due to a hamstring injury. Bogus was just starting to hit her stride, scoring twice right before her injury.

Sky Blue’s defense is led by Jen Branam in goal and veterans Christie Rampone and Daphne Koster on the back line. But New Jersey has not posted a shutout in their last six outings and with their lack of scoring punch, they might need a shutout to win this one.

Boston is playing like a different team than the one that last faced Sky Blue back in mid-June. Now they are legitimate title contenders, but a loss here would leave Sky Blue breathing down their necks. SBFC would love to win this one and move closer to a playoff berth. Will history repeat for Sky Blue or will Boston finally overcome New Jersey’s dominance in this series?

Atlanta Beat (4-9-5, 17 pts) at Philadelphia Independence (9-6-4, 31 pts)
John A. Ferrell Stadium, West Chester, PA – August 15 (6 pm ET)

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

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Atlanta 0 @ Philadelphia 0
Atlanta 0 @ Philadelphia 1
Phladelphia 2 @ Atlanta 2

What To Look For: By the time the Independence take the field on Sunday, they may be only a victory away from clinching a playoff spot. A combination of a Washington loss and a Philadelphia victory would mean a berth for the Independence, quite an accomplishment for a team that no one gave much of a chance at the start of the year (including yours truly). Atlanta has to be in desperation mode. With just 17 points, it is likely that they would need to win four of their remaining six games to have a chance at a playoff berth.

On the home front, Philadelphia waived Japanese forward Karina Maruyama, leading one to believe that they will make some sort of a move for an international player before the trade deadline.

The last time these two teams met, it was a late goal by Tina Ellertson that gave the Beat a 2-2 tie. Ellertson is certainly one of the keys to the Atlanta defense, especially if they go with a three player back line. If Hope Solo is on top of her game and Atlanta is able to shut down the speedy offensive front of the Independence, they have a chance in this one.

The Independence does not win many 1-0 games, especially since early in the season. They have scored three or more goals in four of their last five victories. Amy Rodriguez leads Philly with 12 goals and 4 assists. Lianne Sanderson scored her fourth of the season on Wednesday, a game winner at that. They get a lot of offensive support from Caroline Seger, Lori Lindsey, Tina DiMartino, Joanna Lohman, and Frida Magnusdottir. Magnusdottir can be especially dangerous coming out of the back.

Defensively, Philadelphia is not going to shut out many teams. They have just four all season and only one in their last 13 matches. However, two of the four shutouts have come against Atlanta. Everybody is listed as being healthy for the Independence which means the return of Allison Falk, a key element of their back line. Karina LeBlanc has been in goal the last couple of games and appears to be the number one for now.

After clawing their way back into the playoff hunt, Atlanta’s has scored just one goal in their last three games. Of their four wins, three have been by 1-0 margins. They need to score more and with players like Eniola Aluko, Ramona Bachmann, Monica Ocampo, Mami Yamaguchi, Aya Miyama, and Johanna Rasmussen, there is simply no excuse for this team not to be scoring more goals.

Atlanta is just 1-5-3 on the road and Philadelphia has been an excellent home team at 6-2-2. Both teams have an enormous amount of incentive to win this game, Atlanta to stay in the playoff chase and Philadelphia to possibly clinch a playoff berth in front of their home fans. These two teams, with opposite fortunes to this point in the season, converge in Philadelphia on Sunday.