May 27, 2011

WPS Saturday: May 28

Atlanta Beat at magicJack (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
FAU Soccer Field, Boca Raton, Florida

magicJack (3-1-0, 8 pts)
Coach: Christie Rampone
Goalkeepers: H. Solo, B. Maron.
Defenders: M. Dalmy, T. Ellertson, B. Sauerbrunn, N. Marshall, L. Vandenbergh.
Midfielders: S. Boxx (questionable), S. Huffman, M. Schnur, K. White, O. Davis.
Forwards: A. Wambach, E. Masar, C. Press, L. De Vanna, R. Moros, J. Rasmussen.
Not active: C. Rampone (injured), L. Tarpley (injured), J. Loyden, A. DaCosta, M. Klingenberg, S. Schmidt.

Atlanta Beat (1-5-1, 4 pts)
Coach: James Galanis
Goalkeepers: A. Lipsher, A. Whitworth.
Defenders: C. Whitehill, K. Dowling, K. Reynolds, A. Marquez, J. Sitch.
Midfielders: L. Chalupny, C. Lloyd, M. Jesolva, B. D'Agostino, K. Wright, A. Salem.
Forwards: M. Lenczyk, K. Parker, L. Patterson.
Not active: H. Mitts (injured), K. Fraine, C. Flanagan, I. Trotter, K. Bethke, L. Sesselmann.

Coach James Galanis is hoping that the addition of Julianne Sitch and Kelly Parker to the roster will breathe new life into the Beat. They are currently on a four-game losing streak, being outscored over that time by a 10-1 margin. This will be the second of three consecutive road contests for the Beat.

Parker has played on winners just about everywhere she has been over the past few years. In 2008, she scored four goals on a FC Indiana team that finished second to Pali Blues in the W-League finals. In 2009, she played for the WPS champion Sky Blue FC. In 2010, she helped lead the Buffalo Flash to the W-League title. While this will be a bit of a different story, it is always good to have players that know how to win on your team.

The Beat have to find a way to score more goals. They've scored just once in that four-game losing streak and have only five goals all season. The Atlanta defense has been all too porous as of late. Obviously, this is a bad combination.

Last weekend, magicJack suffered their first loss of the season in a tough battle with Western New York. This match is important for several reasons. First of all, magicJack needs to win to stay somewhere within reach of the Flash and also to stay in second place. Second, this will be magicJack's last home match until July 27. They play their next six on the road.

In spite of the loss last week, magicJack held their own following an opening 20 minute onslaught by the Flash. Back at the friendly confines of FAU Soccer Stadium, they will try to regain their winning form.

Outside of Ella Masar, magicJack got very little offense out of their forwards last week. Abby Wambach, Christen Press, and Lisa De Vanna were held totally in check, while Masar was able to fight and claw her way to several scoring chances, but unable to find the net with any of them.

Injuries continue to be a problem for magicJack. Christie Rampone is still out with an injury and Lindsay Tarpley is lost for the season. To add to that, Shannon Boxx came up hobbled after last week's contest and is listed as questionable for this match.

While their three-back set didn't work very well against the Flash, it should net better results against the struggling Beat offense. Atlanta does have some speed which must be contended with in Parker, Meghan Lenczyk, and Lyndsey Patterson. But it is the midfield that is the focal point of the Beat's offense with Lori Chalupny and Carli Lloyd.

With both teams coming off shutout losses, they should be hungry for a victory and one would hope that would lead to attacking soccer this weekend. However, a narrower field could squeeze off some of the space needed to attack from the wings. It will be interesting to see how Parker and Sitch fit in with their new team and how magicJack rebounds from their first loss of the season.

Boston Breakers at Sky Blue FC (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey.

Sky Blue FC (1-3-1, 4 pts)
Coach: Jim Gabarra
Goalkeepers: J. Branam, K. Bardsley.
Defenders: B. Taylor, K. Fletcher, A. Asante, C. Dew, M. Wenino.
Midfielders: H. O'Reilly, T. Heath, T. Sjögran, A. Long, C. Blank, A. Kerr, A. Mautz.
Forwards: L. Kalmari, E. Aluko, Adriana, C. Nogueira.
Not active: L. Johnson (injured), D. Johnson (questionable), K. Arnold, E. Guthrie, J. Clark.

Boston Breakers (2-4-1, 7 pts)
Coach: Tony DiCicco
Goalkeepers: A. Naeher, A. Phillips.
Defenders: R. Buehler, A. LePeilbet, A. Scott, S. Cox, K. Moore, L. Bogus.
Midfielders: L. Osborne, K. Winters, N. Cross, K. Schoepfer.
Forwards: K. Smith, L. Cheney, K. O'Hara, K. Dallstream.
Not active: K. Davis (injured), N. Washington (injured), J. Angeli (injured), I. Dieke, L. Blayney, E. Reed, T. Hemmings, C. Zimmeck.

The injury bug continues to bite the Breakers. First it was Jordan Angeli and Kelsey Davis with significant injures and out for the season. Then it was Kelley O'Hara and Amy LePeilbet slowed with injuries. Now, O'Hara and LePeilbet are back, but Nikki Washington suffered an ankle sprain against Philadelphia last weekend and will miss this week's match.

While injuries have certainly been a big part of the problem, the Breakers' offense has been largely missing in action this season. Who would have thought with the attacking weapons that this team has, that Kasey Moore would be the leading goal scorer with two goals after seven matches. Not to take anything away from Moore who puts a lot of pace on her shots, but there should be more scoring from this group.

Admittedly, the Breakers' schedule has been rough, with five of their seven games coming against the league's top three teams, but those are exactly the teams Boston will have to beat if anything is to become of this season. And one can't exactly argue with where the Breakers are in the standings, given that both of their wins are against the two teams below them, while they are just 0-4-1 against the top three.

Kelly Smith, Lauren Cheney, and O'Hara form a dangerous triumvirate, but they will have to step it up if Boston is going to make any noise this season. The Breakers will soon be losing players to national team call-ups, so it is incumbent upon them to start producing some victories now.

Sky Blue finally got their first win last weekend against Atlanta. While their record is not very good, they are 1-0-1 at home this season, with this being just their third home match.

Sky Blue has also suffered quite a few injuries this season, but they are starting to get healthy with the return of Kendall Fletcher to their lineup. They are coming off of a very strong effort against the Beat and will be looking to build upon that momentum.

Laura Kalmari has been one of Sky Blue's most consistent scorers over the past two seasons. She opened the scoring last weekend, getting a goal off of a Casey Nogueira corner kick. Spanish import Adriana has continued to impress since her arrival and Sky Blue's offense has shown new life in the past two matches. Throw in Heather O'Reilly and very potent New Jersey midfield and they could turn things around.

This is a very big match position-wise. Sky Blue could move into a fourth place tie with Boston with a win and would have two games in hand. Boston could stretch their lead over Sky Blue to six points and possibly vault into second place with a victory if things fall right for them. At one time, Sky Blue was dominant in the series between the two teams, but that has been changing over the last few matches.