September 5, 2010

WPS Weekend Wrap - The Plot Thickens

The WPS season could have gone into the last weekend of the season with virtually everything decided as far as playoffs berths go, but instead things stayed interesting. So we will head into the final weekend of the season with second, third, and fourth places all up for grabs.

Chicago Red Stars 2, Washington Freedom 1

The Red Stars played one of their best matches of the season, defeating the Washington Freedom 2-1. The Freedom missed an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, losing for the first time in six matches.

Chicago played a fairly dominating first half, controlling the tempo of the game and keeping the Freedom back on their heels. But in spite of their solid play and a nice edge in shots, the Red Stars went into halftime scoreless.

The Red Stars nearly got on the board in the opening minute of the 2nd half. A couple of bad passes by the Freedom back line gave Veronica Boquete an opportunity inside the 18. Ashlyn Harris made a great save on Boquete's blistering shot, parrying it over the net.

However, Harris could not save the Freedom in the 50th minute. From the center line, Megan Rapinoe sent a long pass to Casey Nogueira, who touched the ball to Boquete. Boquete then sent a nice through ball to Nogueira, who beat the defender and hit a low shot off the inside of the left post and into the net. Just seconds later, Boquete hit a low, hard shot that was saved by Harris.

The game was a physical affair. Abby Wambach received a shot or two from Chicago midfielder Formiga, not to mention taking one ball to the face and another to the abdomen. Formiga finally received a yellow in the latter stages of the match. Sarah Huffman received a yellow early in the 2nd half for a challenge against Rapinoe and later picked up a second yellow in the 87th minute and was sent off. Brittany Bock also received a yellow for Washington.

Chicago missed a chance to go up two in the 89th minute. Boquete again made a nice move at the six, touching a pass across to Cristiane, with first Harris then Beverly Goebel saving the Freedom from going down two. It was only for a short time, however, as Megan Rapinoe scored her first goal of the 2010 season, with the assist again going to Boquete.

Washington tried to make a comeback in the closing seconds as Beverly Goebel quickly brought it to 2-1 with her first WPS goal. But there just wasn't enough time left for the Freedom to get the equalizer in this one.

For the Red Stars, it was the first time they have put together consecutive wins since July, 2009. They move to within a point of the 4th place Freedom, but they are out of games. Washington remains in 4th place, just one point ahead of Sky Blue FC. The Freedom control their own destiny and will meet Atlanta at home next Saturday.

Sky Blue FC 0, Atlanta Beat 0

Sky Blue missed an opportunity to move in front of the Freedom into 4th place, settling for a scoreless tie against the Atlanta Beat.

Sky Blue outshot Atlanta 9-8, but Atlanta held an edge in shots on goal 5-2. Hope Solo for Atlanta and Meghann Burke for Sky Blue notched the shutouts for their teams. Carli Lloyd received a yellow card in her second consecutive match after returning from an injury that kept her sidelined for much of the season.

Atlanta moves to 5-12-6 and 21 points. Sky Blue now has 27 points, one shy of Washington with both teams having one remaining game. They will host Boston next Saturday. Sky Blue must win that game and hope from help from the Atlanta Beat to make the playoffs.

FC Gold Pride 2, Boston Breakers 0

For the fourth time this year, Gold Pride defeated the Boston Breakers, this time by a 2-0 margin. Marta and Tiffeny Milbrett scored goals early in the 2nd half to give FCGP the victory. Nicole Barnhart earned the shutout, her eighth of the season.

FC Gold Pride broke a record by stretching their unbeaten streak to 12 games. They have not lost a match since late June.

Boston missed a chance to clinch second place. They will travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue next Saturday. A victory will still clinch second place. If they tie or lose, it will depend on the outcome of Philadelphia's match with Gold Pride as to who finishes second and third.

1) FC Gold Pride (15-3-5, 50 pts); 2) Boston (10-8-5, 35 pts); 3) Philadelphia (10-9-4, 34 pts); 4) Washington (7-9-7, 28 pts); 5) Sky Blue FC (7-10-6, 27 pts); 5) Chicago (7-11-6, 27 pts); 7) Atlanta (5-12-6, 21 pts).

Playoff Update
FC Gold Pride has clinched 1st place and will host the final.
Boston has clinched at least 3rd place and will clinch 2nd place with a victory or a Philadelphia loss or tie.
Philadelphia has clinched at least 3rd place and can finish second with a victory and a Boston tie or loss.
Washington can clinch 4th place with a victory or a Sky Blue tie or loss.
Sky Blue FC can clinch 4th place with a victory and a Washington tie or loss.