July 9, 2011

WPS Previews: Saturday, July 9

Western New York Flash at Philadelphia Independence (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
Leslie Quick Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Independence (6-2-3)
Coach: Paul Riley
Goalkeepers: V. Henderson, R. Jones
Defenders: K. McNeill, N. Krzysik, L. Robinson, H. Magnusdottir, E. Johnson, L. Barnes.
Midfielders: J. Buczkowski, C. DiMartino, S. Farrelly, J. Lohman.
Forwards: T. Kai, V. Boquete, L. Sanderson, L. del Rio, D. Adams, G. DiMartino.
Not active: N. Barnhart, L. Lindsey, A. Rodriguez, A. Falk, L. Fowlkes.

Western New York Flash (6-1-2)
Coach: Aaran Lines
Goalkeepers: A. Harris, B. Cameron.
Defenders: W. Engen, K. Wilson, G. Lewandowski, K. Brandao, A. Sahlen.
Midfielders: Y. Averbuch, B. Bock, B. Edwards, M. Zerboni, R. Moros (questionable).
Forwards: G. Davison, K. Fountain, B. Goebel.
Not active: C. Chapman, C. Seger, Maurine, Marta, A. Morgan, C. Sinclair, A. Riley, A. Bowers.

This will be a battle for first place in WPS, as Philadelphia has just overtaken Western New York with their victory on Wednesday. The Flash do have two games in hand. These two teams met nearly a month ago, with Philadelphia handing the Flash their first loss of the season. WNY hasn't played a match since.

Both teams will still be missing quite a few players. Western New York's two Canadian players are still listed as unavailable, although their work at the World Cup is now done. They have added Rebecca Moros, late of magicJack, but she is listed as questionable.

Tasha Kai is coming off of a hat trick and is great form right now. She now leads WPS with seven goals, surpassing the Flashes' Christine Sinclair who had held the lead. Veronica Boquete has played very well since joining the Independence. She has scored two goals and has four assists, which also is tied for the lead league. Depth up front is phenomenol for Philly, with Lianne Sanderson, Danesha Adams, and Laura del Rio.

With Lori Lindsey gone, the midfield is a bit shorthanded. Tina DiMartino is having a strong season with two goals and Jen Buczkowski is a tough defensive player in the midfield. Defensively, the Independence are led by Kia McNeill and Nikki Krzysik in the middle. Val Henderson was having a very good season, but gave up three to Sky Blue, although one was an own goal.

Western New York will be missing their top three forwards, which means Gemma Davison will have plenty of chances on Saturday. McCall Zerboni, a Player of the Month winner, has been playing excellent soccer and attacks well from the wing. Yael Averbuch and Becky Edwards will lead the midfield in the absence of Caroline Seger.

Defensively, the Flash will be missing Ali Riley and Candace Chapman, two key players. The Flash do have good depth at that position. Whitney Engen, who just missed making the USWNT, is the leader, with Bundesliga veteran Gina Lewandowski along side. Kandace Wilson's speed could be a problem for Philadelphia on overlapping runs. Ashlyn Harris, also a USWNT finalist, will be in goal for the Flash.

With this being such a key match, it's a shame that several players will be missing. A Flash victory puts them back in the driver's seat for WPS regular season title. A victory for Philadelphia means that they will be competing for the title until the end.

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

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

magicJack (5-4-0)
Goalkeepers: B. Maron, S. Myers.
Defenders: T. Ellertson, L. Vandenbergh, M. Dalmy, A. Gunning.
Midfielders: N. Washington, S. Huffman, S. Schmidt, O. Davis, A. DaCosta.
Forwards: E. Masar, C. Press, J. Rasmussen.
Not active: H. Solo, J. Loyden, C. Rampone, B. Sauerbrunn, S. Boxx, M. Rapinoe, L. DeVanna, A. Wambach, L. Tarpley (injury).

With nearly half their roster at the World Cup and sporting a two-game losing streak, things are not looking as good as they did a mere three weeks ago. They lost back-to-back matches against Philadelphia by a combined 9-1. Sky Blue's five game unbeaten streak was halted by that same Philadelphia team on Wednesday.

With their roster so depleted, one has to wonder if magicJack will have enough players to finish a match at times. In the dead of summer, they are extremely shorthanded. One thing they do have is three quality forwards in Christen Press, Ellen Masar, and Johanna Rasmussen. Press is looking like a strong rookie of the year candidate. She has four goals and is third in the league in that category.

Nikki Washington provides speed and striking ability in the midfield. Veteran midfielder Sarah Huffman is consistently strong in the middle. Defensively, Tina Ellertson is a speedy, tough-tackling center back. With their top two keepers gone, Brett Maron will likely get the start in goal.

Sky Blue scored three goals on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough. They will try to keep that scoring binge going tonight. They have Laura Kalmari, Casey Nogueira, and Adriana as their striking options up front. Rookie Alyssa Mautz scored her first WPS goal on Wednesday and will likely get another opportunity tonight. Carolyn Blank is a strong defensive mid, while Allie Long is always a threat to score out of her midfield position.

Sky Blue's defense must be sturdier in this contest. Carrie Dew anchors the back line, with Brittany Taylor being a quality outside back. Kendall Fletcher scored her first WPS goal on Wednesday as well. Jen Branam gives Sky Blue an advantage in goal.

One would think that Sky Blue would have the advantage later in the match as magicJack starts to tire. This is a battle for 3rd place in WPS and could be an important game in deciding playoff positions as the season progresses.