Women’s Pro Soccer Weekend Wrap Up

Puma Ball Los Angeles Sol vs. Saint Louis Athletica

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.

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