July 29, 2011

WPS Weekend Preview: July 30-31

Western New York at Sky Blue FC (7 pm, Saturday)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, New Jersey.

Sky Blue FC (5-5-4)
Coach: Jim Gabarra
Goalkeepers: J. Branam, K. Bardsley.
Defenders: A. Asante, C. Dew, B. Taylor, K. Fletcher, P. Hogewoning.
Midfielders: C. Blank, H. O'Reilly, T. Sjogran, A. Long, T. Heath, A. Kerr, A. Mautz.
Forwards: Adriana, E. Aluko, C. Nogueira, L. Kalmari.
Not active: K. Arnold, J. Clark, S. Gray (injured), E. Guthrie, D. Johnson, L. Johnson (injured), M. Wenino.

Western New York Flash (8-2-3)
Coach: Aaran Lines
Goalkeepers: A. Harris, B. Cameron.
Defenders: C. Chapman, W. Engen, A. Riley, R. Moros, K. Wilson.
Midfielders: B. Edwards, Y. Averbuch, C. Seger, M. Zerboni, B. Bock, B. Goebel.
Forwards: C. Sinclair, Marta, A. Morgan.
Not active: A. Bowers, K. Brandao, G. Davison, K. Fountain, G. Lewandowski, Maurine, A. Sahlen.

Prior Meetings in 2011:
5/6/11 at WNY - Western New York 3, Sky Blue 1
6/3/11 at WNY - Western New York 2, Sky Blue 2
7/17/11 at SB - Western New York 2, Sky Blue 0

Western New York finds themselves in 2nd place, but have five matches left to make up the three points they trail Philadelphia by in the standings. However, with the Independence facing Atlanta this weekend, the Flash will want to win this one to keep pace.

Sky Blue is now all alone in 3rd place entering this match, with Boston and magicJack not far behind. This will be Sky Blue's last regular season home match, so they need to take advantage of it. They enter this match on a two-game winning streak.

For the first time since the World Cup, the Flash are at full strength as midfielder Caroline Seger returns after missing the last few matches with an injury suffered in Germany. Her presence in the midfield make the Flash an even more formidable side. She already has two goals against the Sky Blue this season.

Western New York has absolutely lit up the scoreboard against Sky Blue, scoring seven goals in three matches. In addition to Seger, Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, Beverly Goebel, and Marta have all score goals against New Jersey this season. Sinclair is tied for the league's best with eight goals in 2011. The Flashes' speed has given Sky Blue lots of problems in back.

Sky Blue's Jen Branam will have something to say about the outcome of this match. She now leads WPS with five shutouts in just 12 starts and is third in goals against average, just three one-hundredths of a point behind Alyssa Naeher.

Sky Blue has been using Casey Nogueira as their supersub. Nogueira leads the team with five goals scored on the season, two ahead of midfielder Allie Long. Both have scored this season against Western New York, with Long's coming on a penalty.

Ashlyn Harris will be in goal for the Flash. She is second in goals against average and has posted three shutouts. WNY has a solid back line, with Candace Chapman and Whitney Engen in the center and Ali Riley and Rebecca Moros outside. Becky Edwards is a fine two-way player in the midfield.

Sky Blue will need to find a way to slow down the Flash in this match if they want to win this match. Their midfield will likely be key with Carolyn Blank being the defensive-minded one of the group. They will also need a good match out of Swedish veteran Therese Sjogran.

Boston at magicJack (7 pm eastern, Saturday)
FAU Soccer Field, Boca Raton, Florida.

magicJack (5-6-2)
Coach: Abby Wambach
Goalkeepers: J. Loyden, B. Maron.
Defenders: T. Ellertson, C. Rampone, B. Sauerbrunn, L. Vandenbergh.
Midfielders: S. Boxx, M. Dalmy, S. Huffman, S. Schmidt, M. Rapinoe, N. Washington.
Forwards: A. Wambach, E. Masar, C. Press, L. De Vanna, J. Rasmussen.
Not active: H. Solo (injured), L. Tarpley (injured).

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

Prior Meetings in 2011:
4/23/11 at MJ - magicJack 1, Boston 0
6/5/11 at Bos - Boston 2, magicJack 1

These two teams enter the match tied for the fourth and final playoff berth. It is a crucial match for both sides, but especially for Boston since magicJack has a game in hand. They have split the previous two meetings, with the home team winning both matches.

Both teams will be missing key personnel due to injuries. Magicjack will be without USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo. Kelly Smith is still listed as questionable for the Breakers. She missed the match on Wednesday against Philadelphia and with the Breakers already without Lauren Cheney, Smith's presence is greatly needed by Boston.

In Smith's absence, Kelley O'Hara has been the focus of the offense. She has four goals on the season and leads the Breakers in that category. Katie Schoepfer is having a breakout season with two goals and two assists in 2011. Nikki Marshall adds speed to the Boston front, while Meghan Klingenberg is a threat from the wing. Aya Sameshima is a recent addition to the midfield group, after helping Japan win the World Cup in Germany.

Defensively, the Breakers are ranked second in the league behind Philadelphia. Alyssa Naeher ranks second in shutouts and is first in goals against average in WPS. She has the solid wall of Alex Scott, Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, and Stephanie Cox in front of her. Leslie Osborne is one of the league's best defensive players in the midfield.

Once battling for the top position in the league, this has been a tale of two seasons for magicJack in 2011. They started the year at 5-2, but have been 0-4-2 since. Their last three victories have come against the Atlanta Beat and they haven't beaten any other team since May 1.

Defense has been a problem for magicjack. They have given up two or more goals in seven of their last eight matches. Formation would appear to be part of the problem as they have used three in back for most of those matches. They have solid performers in Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Tina Ellertson on their back line. Jill Loyden starts in goal in Solo's absence.

The attack has been the strong point for magicJack for most of the season, but they have suffered two shutouts in a row. Christen Press leads with five goals, followed by Ella Masar and Abby Wambach with four each. Lisa De Vanna adds speed at forward. Nikki Washington has contributed an assist since coming over from Boston.

Look for a tough battle in the midfield throughout this match. Shannon Boxx and Sarah Huffman lead a veteran group for magicJack. Leslie Osborne and rookie Keelin Winters are strong, physical midfielders for Boston.

A win for magicJack puts them in the driver's seat as far a playoff spot goes. Boston almost must get at least a point out of this match, if not more. This all important battle for fourth place will be key to deciding the final playoff berth.

Atlanta at Philadelphia (6 pm eastern, Sunday)
Leslie Quick Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Independence (9-3-3)
Coach: Paul Riley
Goalkeepers: N. Barnhart, V. Henderson.
Defenders: N. Krzysik, K. McNeill, E. Johnson, L. Robinson.
Midfielders: J. Buczkowski, S. Farrelly, C. DiMartino, L. Sanderson, L. Lindsey, J. Lohman, G. DiMartino.
Forwards: T. Kai, A. Rodriguez, V. Boquete, L. del Rio, D. Adams.
Not active: L. Barnes, A. Falk, L. Fowlkes, R. Jones.

Atlanta Beat (1-10-4)
Coach: James Galanis
Goalkeepers: A. Whitworth, A. Lipsher, K. Fraine.
Defenders: C. Whitehill, K. Reynolds, H. Mitts, A. Marquez, C. Flanagan.
Midfielders: K. Wright, L. Chalupny, K. White, M. Jesolva, A. Salem, B. D'Agostino.
Forwards: K. Parker, L. Sesselmann.
Not active: K. Dowling (injured), M. Lenczyk, C. Lloyd (yellow card accumulation), J. Sitch, I. Trotter.

Prior Meetings in 2011:
5/15/11 at Atl - Philadelphia 2, Atlanta 1
6/4/11 at Phil - Philadelphia 0, Atlanta 0
7/16/11 at Atl - Philadelphia 1, Atlanta 0

You would think with the last place team traveling to the first place team, this game might be a mismatch. Atlanta has not won since their second match of the year and haven't scored a goal on the road yet. But one thing the Beat have done is play the Independence tough every single time they've met this season. There has been a tie and two one-goal Philadelphia wins in this series leading up to this match.

Not having scored on the road, Atlanta faces a tough task on Sunday. In Philadelphia, they will be facing the league's leading defensive side, giving up just one goal per game and they have already posted six shutouts this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be looking to stop their unfortunate record of 487 consecutive scoreless minutes dating back to June 11, when Kacey White scored in Atlanta's 3-2 loss to magicJack.

If Atlanta is to provide some offense in this match, it will be without the services of Carli Lloyd, who is suspended for the match due to yellow card accumulation (four in just eight matches). Canadian striker Kelly Parker and the midfield trio of Lori Chalupny, Megan Jesolva, and White will have to be the attacking force in this match.

Defense is one area that the Beat have shown improvement as the season has progressed. They have given up just four goals total in their last five matches and have two shutouts over that stretch. Allison Whitworth has played very well in goal over the past two months for the Beat. With Heather Mitts returning, it gives Atlanta two veteran defenders with center back Cat Whitehill.

While Atlanta has limited offense, the Independence has abundant options up front. Eleven different players have scored for Philadelphia this season. Tasha Kai leads WPS with eight goals and is having her best professional season ever.

Veronica Boquete has been one of the league's best players since coming over from Spain with four goals and four assists in just eight matches. USWNT striker Amy Rodriguez is now back from national team duty to add another dose of speed to Philly's arsenal. And the Independence doesn't lose anything when Laura del Rio and Danesha Adams enter the match.

Philadelphia has a talented midfield and one that is very strong defensively, starting with Jen Buczkowski and Sinead Farrelly. The Independence defense has been solid this season and that is without any national teamers on their back line. Philadelphia has been alternating at goalkeeper, with Nicole Barnhart starting most of the early matches until she left for Germany and Val Henderson getting the starts in Barnhart's absence. Both are very good.

Philadelphia has a three point lead on Western New York, but the Flash have two games in hand, meaning that a win is essential in this match. Atlanta has given the Independence problems this season, but they will need to find a way to score if they are to get any points out of this match.