September 4, 2010

WPS Weekend Preview - September 5

Washington Freedom (7-8-7, 28 pts) at Chicago Red Stars (6-11-6, 24 pts)
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL – September 5 (6 pm ET, 5 pm CT)

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, B. Goebel, J. Gilbeau; F-A. Wambach, C. Welsh.
Not Active: L. Mykjåland, B. Klein, M. Abegg, C. Miskel.

Chicago: GK-J. Loyden, A. Whitworth; D-K. Markgraf, W. Engen, M. Dalmy, N. Spilger, L. Vandenbergh, C. Shaner; MF-K. Carney, K. Chapman, Formiga, M. Rapinoe, S. Reiser; F-Cristiane, E. Masar, C. Nogueira, V. Boquete.
Not Active: J. McDonald (knee), E. Weber (hip), N. Washington (knee), E. Masar (septum).

Previous Meetings (2010):
Chicago 2 @ Washington 2
Chicago 0 @ Washington 0
Chicago 0 @ Washington 2
Washington leads the all-time series at 2-1-4.

Playoff Outlook:
Washington can clinch a playoff berth with a win combined with a Sky Blue loss or tie. They can also clinch with a tie combined with a Sky Blue loss. They can still finish in 3rd place by winning their final two matches combined with a Philadelphia loss.
Chicago has been eliminated from playoff contention.

What To Look For: This is a big match for the Freedom, who could clinch a playoff spot depending on what Sky Blue does. With only a match against Atlanta remaining, the Freedom have the inside track on the fourth and final playoff berth. Chicago has nothing to play for except pride, but they showed quite a bit in their Wednesday night victory over the Independence.

While the Freedom are playing well as a team right now, three players have stood out over the past month of play. One is the obvious choice, Abby Wambach, who has scored six goals in Washington’s last six matches. In addition to her scoring, she is also tied for the league lead in assists with eight.

The other key players are rookies Nikki Marshall and Ashlyn Harris. Marshall scored three goals in her brief tenure at forward, but it was her return to the back line which has helped spur the Freedom’s recent success. The rookie out of Colorado has shown great versatility and ability in her first WPS season. After Erin McLeod went down with injury, Harris stepped in and had a stellar month of August, giving up just two goals in five starts, one of which was an own goal.

Meanwhile, Veronica Boquete made an instant impact for the Red Stars, playing in her first match on Wednesday after finally getting her visa situation cleared up. She scored just minutes into the game and came close on another, while giving the Red Star offense a spark that they have been missing for much of the season. Good thing, too, since leading scorer Ella Masar will miss this game after surgery to her septum.

Marian Dalmy has been one of the best offensive back line players in WPS this season and she scored her first goal against Philadelphia. In what has been an up and down season for goalkeeper Jill Loyden, she is now second in WPS with six shutouts.

Washington would like to clinch a playoff berth this weekend, but would need help. Anything less than victory could put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.

Sky Blue FC (7-10-5, 26 pts) at Atlanta Beat (5-12-5, 20 pts)
KSU Soccer Stadium, Kennesaw, GA – September 5 (6 pm ET)

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

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

Previous Meetings (2010):
Sky Blue 1 @ Atlanta 0
Atlanta 1 @ Sky Blue 0
Sky Blue 2 @ Atlanta 1

Playoff Outlook:
Sky Blue still has a chance at the fourth playoff spot, but a loss or tie could eliminate them depending on the outcome of the Washington match. Atlanta has been eliminated from playoff contention.

What To Look For: Sky Blue needs to keep winning and hope for help from someone against Washington. A Gold Pride goal in stoppage time was a blow to SBFC’s playoff hopes. Atlanta has been blown out in their last two starts, but hopes to rebound in their final home game of the season.

Sky Blue has scored more than one goal in only one of their last 11 matches. The bright side is that Tasha Kai has scored in the last two games, including a beautiful effort on Wednesday night. Patrizia Panico will be away on national team duty, but Laura Kalmari could be back from injury to give the Sky Blue offense a boost. Meghann Burke has taken over goalkeeping duties for Sky Blue following injuries to both Bardsley and Branam. Brittany Taylor, who is up for rookie of the year honors, is having a fine season.

Atlanta will be without Eniola Aluko, who has a hamstring injury. The Beat haven’t done a very good job in stopping their opponents lately, giving up 18 goals in their last six matches. With Aluko being their only consistent offensive threat, the Beat aren’t likely to outscore anyone in her absence.

The Beat have to feel a bit snakebitten in this series. In their two losses to Sky Blue, the winning goals were own goals. This is nearly a must win game for Sky Blue if they are to have a chance for a repeat of their 2009 season.

Boston Breakers (10-7-5, 35 pts) at FC Gold Pride (14-3-5, 47 pts)
Pioneer Stadium, Hayward, CA – September 5 (9 pm ET, 6 pm PT)

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

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

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

Playoff Outlook:
Gold Pride has clinched first place and home field advantage in the final.
Boston has clinched at least 3rd place and could clinch 2nd place with a victory here.

What To Look For: This will be a matchup that could be a preview of the WPS Final. Gold Pride has won all three matches this year, all by one goal margins. It is also a matchup of two of the world’s best players in Kelly Smith and Marta.

Smith leads the Breaker offense with 11 goals and 5 assists, but unlike 2009, she has a lot of help. Jordan Angeli has seven goals and Lauren Cheney has five. Add to that USWNT veterans Lindsay Tarpley and Kristine Lilly and Boston has gone from a team that had trouble scoring any goals to one of the most formidable offenses in WPS. The Breakers have now scored in 13 consecutive games. Alyssa Naeher has been reliable in goal since taking over at midseason.

Gold Pride has offense of their own starting with Marta and her 17 goals. Christine Sinclair not only has nine goals of her own, but she's become one of WPS’s best setup players with eight assists. Becky Edwards’ stoppage time goal earned a tie against Sky Blue. Rachel Buehler is having a standout season in the back and Candace Chapman has proven to be one of the better free agents signees of the past winter.

This game won’t have the intensity that a potential final between these two teams would, but it should be an interesting matchup nonetheless.