May 21, 2011

WPS Saturday: Atlanta at Sky Blue

Atlanta Beat at Sky Blue FC (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey

Sky Blue FC (0-3-1)
Coach: Jim Gabarra
Goalkeepers: K. Bardsley, J. Branam.
Defenders: A. Asante, B. Taylor, C. Dew, K. Fletcher, M. Wenino, D. Johnson (questionable).
Midfielders: A. Long, T. Heath, H. O'Reilly, T. Sjögran, C. Blank, A. Kerr, A. Mautz.
Forwards: E. Aluko, L. Kalmari, C. Nogueira, Adriana.
Not active: K. Arnold, E. Guthrie, L. Johnson (injured), J. Clark.

Atlanta Beat (1-4-1)
Coach: James Galanis
Goalkeepers: A. Lipsher, A. Whitworth.
Defenders: K. Dowling, C. Whitehill, K. Reynolds, A. Marquez, H. Mitts (injured).
Midfielders: L. Chalupny, C. Lloyd, I. Trotter, M. Jesolva, B. D'Agostino.
Forwards: M. Lenczyk, L. Patterson, K. Bethke, L. Sesselmann.
Not active: K. Fraine, C. Flanagan, K. Wright, A. Salem.

In a battle between the 5th and 6th place teams in WPS, Atlanta travels to New Jersey to meet Sky Blue. Both teams will be looking to turn things around, as the Beat are in the midst of a three game losing streak and Sky Blue is still searching for their first victory.

The Atlanta Beat had to be disappointed in last week's result. Up a goal and a player after 45 minutes, they were outplayed in the second half and fell to Philadelphia. Now they start a three game road trip and Coach James Galanis will be looking to recapture some of that early season magic.

The Beat made two roster moves during the week, waiving both Kristina Larsen and Vendula Strnadova. The release of Larsen was particularly surprising, given that she had started three matches and accounted for nearly a third of teams shots through six games, looking to be one of the Beat's few offensive threats.

Indeed, scoring has been a problem for Atlanta. They've scored just once in their three game losing streak, last week's goal by Lori Chalupny with a player advantage. It has been Atlanta's midfield that has provided most of their scoring with both Chalupny and Carli Lloyd scoring two goals apiece. So far, the only forward that has cracked the scorer's book is Meghan Lenczyk.

Defensively, the Beat were sturdy early in the season, but have been not as strong since. Goalkeeper Alli Lipsher looked human last week after a great early season run and she was certainly a good part responsible for Atlanta's early success.

If you look at Sky Blue's roster, they look like they ought to be better. All of their matches have been close, with only the match against Western New York having a spread of more than one goal.

There is some good news on the Sky Blue front. Adriana made an instant impact in her first action for New Jersey, scoring a goal in 25 minutes of action against WNY. The Spanish striker could very well be the answer to some of SBFC's scoring woes. The other good news is that Kendall Fletcher may be fit to play after battling injury for a few weeks.

Sky Blue is in very good hands with regards to goalkeeping, as the tandem of Karen Bardsley and Jen Branam is solid. With the exception of the game against the Flash, Sky Blue has played reasonably well defensively, but they are still looking for their first shutout.

Sky Blue seems to be best offensively when Brittany Taylor is able to get forward into the attack. After scoring two goals in the first half of their opener, Sky Blue's attack hasn't been the same since.

The midfield is the biggest strength for New Jersey, but they need to get more offense out of this talented group of players. With three national team players plus Allie Long, they should be controlling the middle of the field more than they have been. Sky Blue also needs to get Eni Aluko untracked. The speedy English striker is on a four-match drought to start the season.

The Beat won the previous meeting between these two teams at home, but they appear to be overmatched when on the road. Sky Blue is playing just their second home game, having earned their only point at Yurcak. If either of these teams are going to make a push for the playoffs, this match would be a good place to start.