May 21, 2011

Rivalry Renewed: Philadelphia at Boston

Philadelphia Independence at Boston Breakers (4 pm eastern, Sunday)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Boston Breakers (2-4-0, 6 pts)
Coach: Tony DiCicco
Goalkeepers: A. Naeher, A. Phillips.
Defenders: A. LePeilbet (probable), R. Buehler, A. Scott, S. Cox, I. Dieke (questionable), K. Moore.
Midfielders: L. Osborne, K. Winters, N. Washington, N. Cross, K. Schoepfer, L. Blayney.
Forwards: K. Smith, L. Cheney, K. O'Hara, K. Dallstream.
Not active: J. Angeli (injured), K. Davis (injured), E. Reed, C. Zimmeck, T. Hemmings.

Philadelphia Independence (2-1-1, 7 pts)
Coach: Paul Riley
Goalkeepers: N. Barnhart, V. Henderson.
Defenders: E. Johnson, N. Krzysik, H. Magnusdottir, L. Robinson.
Midfielders: L. Lindsey, M. Rapinoe, C. DiMartino, S. Farrelly, J. Buczkowski, J. Lohman.
Forwards: T. Kai, A. Rodriguez, L. Sanderson, L. del Rio.
Not active: K. McNeill (suspended-RC), A. Falk (injured), L. Fowlkes (injured), V. Boquete, D. Adams, L. Barnes, G. DiMartino, R. Jones.

The last time these two teams met in Boston, Danesha Adams scored an overtime goal to send Philadelphia into the WPS Finals. Adams is not active for this match, but the Breakers and the Independence will renew their rivalry on Sunday afternoon. To add a bit of spice to this match, these two teams sit next to each other at third and fourth place on the WPS table.

The Breakers have gotten off to a slow start, much like last year in many ways. They are now at two wins and four losses, as the season moves into its second third for Boston. For the time being, they are in possession of the fourth and final playoff position.

Boston enters the game with several players nursing injuries. Amy LePeilbet, Kelley O'Hara, and Ifeoma Dieke have all been hobbled as of late, adding to the Breakers' woes. The fact that they have several national team players on their roster complicates matters further, as many may not be able to go a full 90 minutes and may not even start the match. But the Breakers have rarely had their full roster available this season anyway and only Leslie Osborne, Keelin Winters, and Alyssa Naeher have played in all six matches.

After scoring four goals in their season opener, the Breakers have scored just four since. The leading goal scorer for Boston is the unlikely offensive threat, defender Kasey Moore, with two goals. Kelly Smith does have a goal and three assists, but Lauren Cheney is yet to score. This offense must get untracked if the Breakers are to be successful.

Philadelphia pulled out a hard-earned victory last week, being a player short and a goal down at the half. They hope to ride the momentum of that triumph into Boston this weekend. The Independence have many weapons, including Amy Rodriguez, Tasha Kai, Tina DiMartino, Lianne Sanderson, and Laura del Rio.

The one place Philly is hurting is on defense. Allison Falk is still out with an injury, as is Lauren Fowlkes. Kia McNeill's red card against Atlanta last week means she is not available for this match either, leaving the Independence razor thin on defense. The question is whether or not Boston will be able to exploit this vulnerability.

Both teams have strong goalkeeping, with Alyssa Naeher for Boston and USWNT keeper Nicole Barnhart for Philadelphia, with Val Henderson backing up Barnhart. If you go purely on momentum, Philly should have the edge, but it was about this time last year when Boston started to turn things around. The winner of this match could vault all the way into second place, if combined with a magicJack loss.