Week 5 of WPS saw 2 players score their first goals of the season and career in Lindsay Tarpley and Kelley O’Hara, respectively, the opening of the first soccer stadium built just for women’s soccer, another early candidate for Goal of the Year, and some more of the best women’s soccer on the world.
The Boston Breakers played the Washington Freedom at the SoccerPlex in DC to a scoreless tie on an extremely windy day. Abby Wambach had a shot in the 21st minute, but the wind affected the shot, making the ball sail high and wide of the goal. Kelly Smith kicked what looked like an intended cross into the box, but her shot forced Freedom goalkeeper, Erin McLeod, to make a diving save to the top corner of the goal in the 44th minute. Just seconds after that play, Kristine Lilly kicked a shot, but the wind picked the ball up and kept it in play for Lauren Cheney to head just over and behind the crossbar. Wambach came down in the 88th minute as she went up for a header on a long ball from none other than Cat Whitehill. After Wambach collided with Breakers goalkeeper Ashley Phillips, Phillips’ cleat hit Wambach in the face, causing a bloody nose. It seems like a cleat to the face hurts her more than two broken bones in her leg. Beverly Goebel replaced Wambach for her first minutes played in a professional match. Cheney had a shot in the 2nd minute of stoppage time that just went wide for the last significant chance at scoring of the game. You win, wind.
After many close chances for both teams, Allison Falk brought her team down with an own goal t put the St. Louis Athletica up 1-0 at the end of the first half. As Eniola Aluko and Lindsay Tarpley worked a one-two pass sequence, the final pass to Aluko deflected off Falk’s shin. Karina LeBlanc dove to her right to try to save the ball from going in, but was not able to get the ball out. In the 60th minute, Tarpley scored her first goal in her first start of the season after recovering from an ACL injury that occurred late last season. Chalupny played the ball into space inside the 18, Tarpley took the ball, spun around a defender and placed the ball inside the far post where LeBlanc had no chance of saving it. 14 minutes later, Lindsey Patterson scored a rebound of Hope Solo’s chest, but it was all the Independence would score, and the Athletica came away with 3 points.
FC Gold Pride shut out the Chicago Red Stars, earning their 4th win this season to add to their 1 loss. After Ifeoma Dieke pushed Kelley O’Hara in the penalty box and was shown a red card for being the last defender, Tiffeny Milbrett took a penalty kick that was saved by Jillian Loyden in the 25th minute. However, Milbrett made up for the missed chance in the 45th minute of the match. Kelley O’Hara one-timed a long pass into the box to Milbrett who half-volleyed a shot to the crossbar. The rebound went straight back to Milbrett who juggled it in blasted a volley that, this time, went into the goal. Kelley O’Hara scored her first professional goal to seal the win in the 78th minute after running down a pass from Kimberly Yokers and curving a shot past Loyden. FC Gold Pride are still in first place, 3 points ahead of Sky Blue FC.
The last game of this week featured the Atlanta Beat playing their first home game of the season hosting the reigning WPS Champions, Sky Blue FC, in their brand new, one-of-a-kind soccer stadium. After being on the road for a month, the Beat got to finally entertain their own fans at home, but an own goal from Leigh Ann Robinson spoiled the home opener 5 minutes into the first half. The Atlanta Beat dominated the match, and constantly attacked Karen Bardsley’s goal. Ramona Bachmann created havoc in the offensive third all night long along with her teammates, but great saves from Bardsley kept them away from the scoreboard. Sky Blue now have 9 points and are in 2nd place. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Beat have 1point with 4 losses and 1 tie, and sit at the bottom of the standings. It’s not the way they planned on opening the season, but once they start finishing chances, they’ll start earning the points. There is too much talent on that team to be on a losing season so far.
Next week, the Boston Breakers return home to take on FC Gold Pride on Friday, May 14 at 7:30pm ET. The Philadelphia Independence is back in the Midwest to face the Chicago Red Stars on May 15 at 7pm ET. On Sunday, the St. Louis Athletica will play against Sky Blue FC, who will be on the road for the second week in a row, at 4pm ET, and the Game of the Week on FSC will be in Atlanta once again as the Beat looks to turn its luck around against the Washington Freedom at 6pm ET.
Today was one of the few home games I didn’t attend at the Home Depot Center, and the No. 1 ranked LA Sol suffered a loss at the hands of the Saint Louis Athletica. Would the outcome have been different had I been there? Probably not but I still feel a bit guilty.
Despite the loss, the Sol remain in first place the WPS standings at 11-2-4 (37 points), while the Athletica tighten their grasp on second with a 23 points and 7-5-2 record.
According the league’s game report:
Saint Louis took the lead just 11 minutes into the match when midfielder Amanda Cinalli slotted home a pass from Eniola Aluko past a helpless Karina LeBlanc in the Sol net. The Sol nearly equalized in the 20th minute – Marta hit a low, first-time shot towards the goal that the Athletica’s Hope Solo dove to her left to smother.
Chinese forward Han Duan almost drew the Sol even in the 31st minute after collecting a pass from Marta and eluding a couple of defenders in the penalty area, but Solo knocked her low shot out of danger. Neither team threatened for the remainder of the first half and the visitors clung to the slimmest of margins at the interval.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Sol threatened a couple of times in rapid succession, but were unable to break through the Athletica defense and the visitors remained in the lead.
Marta nearly equalized for the Sol in the 58th minute, but Solo parried her curling corner kick out of danger. Defender Brittany Bock got her head to a corner five minutes later, but Solo reacted quickly, covered the near post well and punched the ball off the line.
Miyama collected a pass from Marta in the box in the 67th minute, but she hesitated before taking a low shot and Solo cut off the angle and again made the save to preserve the victory.
This was the last home game of the 2009 season for the Los Angeles Sol. Their next match will be on Thursday, July 23, when they take on FC Gold Pride at Buck Shaw Stadium at 7pm PT / 10pm ET in Santa Clara, Calif.
I am looking forward to a play-off game back at HDC. And I’ll be sure to be in attendance and cheering for the home team.
The Los Angeles Sol defeated the Saint Louis Athletica 2-0 on a chilly and cloudy Saturday afternoon at The Home Depot Center.
With the victory, the Sol improves its record to 6-1-2 and remains atop the WPS standings, while the Athletica drops to 2-3-2 and is tied for fifth position in the seven-team circuit.
The Sol had the first real chance of the game in the 25th minute, when a lofted ball from Martina Franko found Camille Abily just outside the six-yard box, but the French midfielder mis-hit her volley and it went right into the waiting hands of Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo.
The Athletica nearly broke the scoreless deadlock themselves in the 32nd minute when Angie Woznuk played Eniola Aluko through behind the Sol defense, but her effort could not get past Sol ‘keeper Karina LeBlanc.
The Sol finally got on the board in the ten minutes before the half when Shannon Boxx lofted a cross into the penalty area from the left wing that Marta got her head to, playing the ball to Abily waiting at the far post. Abily calmly collected the ball and put it in the roof off the net past an on-rushing Solo for the 1-0 lead, her third of goal of the season and second in as many weeks.
The hosts doubled their advantage in the 50th minute when Boxx waited patiently for, and then drilled home, a cross from Han Duan. Solo stood flat footed on her line as the ball zipped past her and into the goal.
Neither team capitalized on any of their chances for the remainder of the game and the home side trotted off the pitch with a comprehensive 2-0 victory.
Washington Freedom vs. FC Gold Pride
The Maryland Soccerplex Stadium was filled with screaming youth girl soccer players and their families and as well the US Women’s National Team Head Coach Pia Sundhage was in attendance, and the Washington Freedom did not disappoint. Taking on the FC Gold Pride, the Freedom won 3-1 in one of their most convincing performances of the season.
The Pride’s starting lineup was without 1999 Women’s World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, who began the game watching from the bench. After a frenetic first few minutes, the game settled down, with the game’s first scoring chance falling to Pride midfielder Tina DiMartino. After a savvy spin in the box to get by two defenders, DiMartino blasted a shot on frame that was turned away by Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Although Freedom and US National Team star Abby Wambach struggled to get involved in the game early, Lisa De Vanna was active along the left flank making probing runs through the defense and posing a dangerous scoring threat. Following the first scoring chance by the Freedom that saw a Wambach touch go begging, the Freedom got on the scoreboard in the 15th minute. Defender Cat Whitehill made a long run down the right flank and crossed a low dangerous ball into the six-yard box that was deflected in for an own goal by the Pride’s Kristen Graczyk.
The Pride almost evened the score a minute later on a shot from inside the six by Pride forward and Canadian international Christine Sinclair that sailed over the crossbar. Sinclair squandered a pinpoint through ball from former US Women’s National Team player, Tiffeny Milbrett, a minute later when her touch let her down and went across the end line for a Freedom goal kick.
In the 22nd minute the Freedom would double their tally when De Vanna produced a chance from nothing, receiving a pass from midfielder Sonia Bompastor and pushing the ball through to herself and past a central defender. She touched it around onrushing Pride goalie Nicole Barnhart and tapped it in for an easy finish.
As the half wore on, the Freedom’s superior ability took over, highlighted by a few world-class tackles by center back Becky Sauerbrunn and defensive center midfielder Lori Lindsey. Lindsey in particular was instrumental in winning possession for the Freedom and controlling play.
In the 32nd minute, Wambach was taken down outside the area, setting up a dangerous free kick. After a bit of deception, the ball was rolled to Sonia Bompastor, who stopped the ball for center back Whitehill who blasted a shot past Pride net minder Barnhart to push the Freedom lead to three goals to nil. The Freedom scored again at the end of the half when a bad Pride giveaway in the center of midfield resulted in a run into the box by Bompastor who was taken down. Despite the contact in the area no foul was called and Bompastor was given a yellow card for diving. FC Gold’s Formiga got her name taken just before halftime as well for a bad foul on Wambach.
The beginning of the second half saw the Pride take control as they fought to get back into the game. The Freedom lacked much of the confidence going forward that had gotten them their three goal cushion and had to absorb the Pride’s pressure. This pressure eventually got the Pride on the board in the 57th minute, when following a corner won by forward Adriane, a Tiffeny Milbrett cross found Christine Sinclair, who nodded home the first goal for FC Gold.
Following the Sinclair goal, Wambach started to get herself more involved, and her teammates found her feet as she helped the Freedom control play in midfield. With her renewed involvement came a few hard fouls and Wambach found herself hitting the turf routinely as the half wore on, eventually earning Pride defender Carrie Drew a yellow card in the 65th minute. Her hulking presence in the box produced another dangerous scoring opportunity for the Freedom when another Whitehill free kick banged off the shoulder of the Pride’s Barnhart as Wambach applied pressure. The loose ball fell to a Pride defender who cleared the danger.
After a flurry of substitutions from both teams, the Pride switched to a three-forward system led by goal-scorer Sinclair and subs Eriko Arakawa and Tiffany Weimer. This three-headed monster combined with midfielder dynamo DiMartino to produce a flurry of dangerous crosses and opportunities for the Pride, culminating in a counterattack that saw Weimer deliver a perfect cross to Sinclair, only for her effort to clang off the post.
Wambach’s tenaciousness annoyed the Pride defenders all half and in the 82nd minute, the frustration boiled over. Wambach received a ball in the offensive third and pushed it past Pride defender Drew. Drew hacked Wambach down and then said something to the center referee, earning her a second yellow card and an ejection from the game.
The Freedom quelled any tension following Drew’s ejection by dominating the possession for the last seven minutes and into stoppage time, settling the game down and pleasing the home crowd.
Boston Breakers vs Sky Blue FC
The Boston Breakers saw their three-match unbeaten streak come to an end after a 2-1 loss at Sky Blue FC in WPS action on Sunday evening at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J.
The Breakers (3-3-2) dropped to third place in the standings, one point behind the surging Washington Freedom who defeated FC Gold Pride, 3-1, earlier in the day. Sky Blue FC (2-4-2) moves into a three-way tie for fifth place.
Kacey White scored the winner in the 29th minute to break a 1-1 tie off of Meghan Schnur’s second assist of the match. Schnur sent a cross into the middle of the box which White flicked over the top of Luckenbill and into the goal for her first tally of the year.
“It wasn’t a good enough game for us today,” said Boston head coach Tony DiCicco. “Give Sky Blue FC credit, they scored two good goals, dug us a hole and we were not able to get out of it. We fought hard until the end of the game, but were unable to create quality soccer.”
Sky Blue FC took an early lead in the 4th minute on Natasha Kai’s second goal of the season. Schnur sent Kai through with plenty of room on the left side. She ran into the box, turned defender Amy LePeilbet and beat goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill to the near post.
Boston answered back thanks to a misplayed ball by Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Jenni Branam in the 12th minute. Stacy Bishop played a ball into the run of Alex Scott on the left side. Scott hustled to send a low cross just before the ball could go over the goal line, but Branam was unable to handle the ball and Kelly Smith tapped in the loose ball in front of goal to level the game at 1-1 with her league-leading fifth goal of the season.
Down 2-1 following White’s goal, Amy Rodriguez had a chance to equalize for the Breakers before the half was done with a header in the 43rd minute off a Kristine Lilly cross, but the ball hit the cross bar and was cleared away.
DiCicco was forced to make a substitution just before the half after Smith picked up an apparent knee injury, replacing the England international with Maggie Tomecka.
The Breakers had an early chance in the second half as Lilly was in on goal after a quick free quick in the 53rd minute. Branam, however, was well positioned to turn Lilly’s shot away for a corner at the near post.
The Sky Blue FC defense kept the Boston attack at bay for the majority of the rest of the half, although the Breakers did create a couple late chances in stoppage time on shots from Lilly and Angela Hucles.