October 9, 2010

Weekly Review - October 9

Two coaching decisions were made, the USWNT struggled to a tie in its last friendly before CONCACAF qualifying, the WPS Best XI were named, and the new WPS CEO gave us hints at what the league might look like next season.

United States Ties China in Last Warmup Match

A young squad from China pushed the USWNT to the limit in a 1-1 tie on Wednesday night in Chester, Pennsylvania. It took an Alex Morgan goal in the 83rd minute to prevent the US from losing on its home soil for the first time in six years.

While the US may have had the better of play for most of the match, their execution was very sloppy at times. The Chinese side continually frustrated the US, drawing several offsides calls, forcing several turnovers in the middle of the field, and limiting the US chances to a few headers through the first 75 minutes of the match. The Americans outshot the Chinese 16-8 and outcornered them 9-4, but few of the chances were particularly dangerous until late in the contest.

Ma Jun opened the scoring for China in the 37th minute with a beautiful volley off of a Zhou Gaoping cross. Several US players had gotten caught upfield which converted into a 4-on-3 situation for the Chinese and they were able to capitalize.

The USWNT were unable to solve the Chinese defense until less than 10 minutes remaining. With time growing short, Heather Mitts drove a long ball toward the Chinese goal. Abby Wambach was able to flick a header to Alex Morgan, who finished strongly to tie the match. It was Morgan's first goal for the senior National Team.

The US now heads into CONCACAF qualifying with a lot of unanswered questions after the tie with a Chinese side that didn't qualify for next year's World Cup. The USWNT will open against Haiti on October 28, followed by matches against Guatemala on October 30 and Costa Rica on November 1. While most think that their qualification for next year's World Cup is a foregone conclusion, it would only take a loss in the semis, presumably with their opponent being Canada or Mexico, to force them into playing a European team in a playoff for a World Cup berth.

Gabarra Takes Over at Sky Blue

Former Freedom head coach, Jim Gabarra, has been named the new head coach for Sky Blue FC. He was also named the team's Technical Director.

Gabarra had led the Washington Freedom to the playoffs in both seasons there with an overall regular season record of 16-16-12. The Freedom finished third in 2009 and fourth in 2010, but lost the playoff opener both times. Gabarra had resigned recently from his post with the Freedom.

For Sky Blue, this will be their sixth head coach in just over two seasons. Sky Blue won the 2009 WPS Championship under Christie Rampone, who finished that season as player/coach.

Galanis Named to Coach 2011 Beat

James Galanis, who took over as interim coach of the Atlanta Beat in August, has been named as their head coach for 2011. Galanis took over as Beat coach on August 17 following the dismissal of Gareth O'Sullivan.

The Beat finished in last place with a 5-13-6 mark in 2010. They were 1-3-1 in the five games with Galanis as head coach. The Beat got off to a very slow start, partially because of injuries to key personnel. An influx of talent from the folded Saint Louis Athletica squad helped Atlanta surge briefly in the middle of the season, only to see them fade again August.

The Beat will have a number of offseason decisions to make regarding personnel and one would guess that they might have to trim their payroll somewhat after picking up several large free agent contracts.

WPS Names Best XI

The WPS Best XI has been chosen by the media and the results were released last week. Five members of the champion FC Gold Pride squad were among the eleven chosen. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, defender Rachel Buehler, defender Ali Riley, forward Marta, and forward Christine Sinclair were all named from FCGP.

Boston had the next highest representation with three selections including Defender of the Year Amy LePeilbet, rookie midfielder Jordan Angeli, and midfielder Kelly Smith. Midfielder Lori Lindsey and forward Amy Rodriguez were named for Philadelphia. Freedom forward Abby Wambach rounds out the eleven.

Riley and Angeli were the only two rookies selected to the squad. No players were named from the bottom three teams in the league, Sky Blue, Chicago, or Atlanta.

WPS CEO Gives Hints about 2011

New WPS CEO, Anne-Marie Eileraas, gave fans a few hints about the 2011 season in an interview with http://www.womensprosoccer.com/. Among the highlights, the 2011 season will likely be shorter in length due to the 2011 World Cup and will likely end earlier. There will be some sort of break for the World Cup, although the length of that break is yet to be determined. It also appears that there will not be an All-Star game next season, with players having so many commitments elsewhere.

Eileraas also stated that she "loved" the championship match and that the playoff format will be reviewed as it was after last season, but it was uncertain if there would be any changes to that format for 2011. She also spoke about positive developments regardings sponsorships and opportunities regarding fan base.