July 15, 2011

WPS Saturday: Philadelphia at Atlanta

Philadelphia Independence at Atlanta Beat (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
KSU Soccer Stadium, Kennesaw, Georgia.

Atlanta Beat (1-9-3)
Coach: James Galanis
Goalkeepers: A. Whitworth, A. Lipsher, K. Fraine.
Defenders: C. Whitehill, K. Reynolds, A. Marquez, L. Sesselmann, J. Sitch, C. Flanagan.
Midfielders: L. Chalupny, K. White, K. Wright, I. Trotter, M. Jesolva, B. D'Agostino, A. Salem.
Forwards: M. Lenczyk, K. Parker.
Not active: C. Lloyd, H. Mitts, K. Dowling (injury).

Philadelphia Independence (7-2-3)
Coach: Paul Riley
Goalkeepers: V. Henderson, R. Jones.
Defenders: K. McNeill, N. Krzysik, L. Robinson, E. Johnson.
Midfielders: J. Buczkowski, T. DiMartino, S. Farrelly, J. Lohman, H. Magnusdottir.
Forwards: T. Kai, V. Boquete, L. Sanderson, D. Adams, L. del Rio.
Not active: N. Barnhart, L. Lindsey, A. Rodriguez, L. Barnes, A. Falk, L. Fowlkes, G. DiMartino.

This match features the first place Philadelphia Independence against the last place Atlanta Beat. Philadelphia will be trying to maintain their hold on first place, while Atlanta will be trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Philadelphia has been on fire as of late, winning their last five matches and sporting a six game unbeaten streak. If I am not mistaken, they are currently tied for the longest winning streak in WPS history. Gold Pride twice had five game winning streaks in 2010 and Western New York did so earlier this season. The last team to gain as much as a tie against the Independence? The Atlanta Beat tied them back on June 4.

Philadelphia has scored 15 goals over their past four games. No one in WPS is hotter than Tasha Kai is right now. Coming off of a four-goal week, she leads WPS in scoring with 8 goals. With Veronica Boquete, Lianne Sanderson, Danesha Adams, and Laura del Rio, the Independence have been a scoring machine. Rookie Sinead Farrelly scored her first WPS goal last weekend.

Val Henderson is just one behind the league lead in shutouts with three, pretty good when you consider she is a backup. She has two sturdy central defenders in front of her in Nikki Krzysik and Kia McNeill.

While Atlanta wouldn't be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, there are very few scenarios that would see them slipping into fourth place. Therefore, they truly need a win in this match.

Two key Beat players have been nursing injuries, Lori Chalupny and Megan Jesolva. Chalupny was a late scratch last weekend with a knee injury. Both are listed as being active for this match, but both were considered to be questionable in the Atlanta midweek report.

We have seen brief flashes that this team is coming around, but they have been too few and far between. Their lack of experience shows when it comes to finishing in the offensive third and when it comes to knowing how to win close matches. They have missed one of their offensive leaders, Carli Lloyd. Rookie Meghan Lenczyk is tied for the team lead with two goals.

Atlanta will be playing at home for this match and they have been very competitive at home with a 1-3-2 record, with two of the three losses coming by a single goal.