Week 21 of Women’s Pro Soccer gave us six games to mark off the schedule, and a better playoff picture. With only one week of action left in the regular season, three teams (FC Gold Pride, Boston, and Philadelphia) secured a playoff spot, while Chicago and Atlanta were officially left out of the playoff race. The Washington Freedom and Sky Blue FC will find out who takes the fourth and final playoff spot on Saturday after they play their respective matches, which are scheduled at exactly the same time. I’m pretty sure the team’s general managers, coaches, and even players and fans will be checking twitter for updates on their phones during the game.
On Wednesday, Sky Blue FC hosted FC Gold Pride for a match that ended 1-1, the Atlanta Beat hosted the Boston Breakers for a 3-1 loss at home, and the Chicago Red Stars gave their home fans a 2-0 win against Philadelphia to be happy about.
Sky Blue FC took the lead in the 72nd minute of the match against FC Gold Pride after Heather O’Reilly found Natasha Kai in the middle of the field with a long ball into space. Kai used her speed to get to it first, tap the ball into space, and shoot a volley past Nicole Barhnart. After securing a spot in the final, FC Gold Pride continues to fight for wins. Not giving up, they were able to tie this game and get at least a point out of it. Carli Lloyd was shown a yellow card for a foul in stoppage time. The following free kick was taken by Camille Abily and sent home by Becky Edwards to save the day…sort of.
Down in Atlanta, the Beat continued to struggle to find the back of the while the Breakers continued to score their goals and secure a playoff match. The first goal came in the 20th minute and it went to the Breakers. Kelly Smith played a ball into the penalty area, which Lindsay Tarpley tapped past Hope Solo into the lower corner of the goal. In the 33rd minute, Boston struck again. Amy LePeilbet sent a free kick to Jordan Angeli, who sent a looping header over Solo to make it 2-0. Just before the first half was over, Kristine Lilly increased the lead after 2 defenders failed to get a cross from Alex Scott out of danger and left Lilly wide open to blast a shot past Solo. The Beat was able to score one goal in the second half after Aya Miyama played the ball to Eniola Aluko, who shot it over Alyssa Naeher.
Over in Chicago, the Red Stars came out with a win against a playoff-bound Philadelphia side. Led by Veronica Boquete, the Red Stars showed a glimpse of what we could see from them next year: a possession-based style with an attractive attack as long as key players are healthy and keep the chemistry after the offseason, and a great, composed defense. The first goal came off a Casey Nogueira free kick in the 4th minute of play. Boquete was there to deflect it at the near post past Val Henderson. In the 53rd minute, Marian Dalmy ripped a shot from to top corner of the penalty area to double the lead. With their loss, Philly moved down to 3rd place in the standings.
To finish up the week, three games were played on Sunday. The Atlanta Beat were able to defend their goal, but also didn’t score any as they hosted Sky Blue FC. FC Gold Pride defeated the Boston Breakers 2-0, and the Chicago Red Stars defeated the Washington Freedom 2-1. With the Freedom loss, and Sky Blue FC draw, the final playoff spot will have to be dramatically determined on Saturday in the final week of the regular season.
The Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue FC had their share of scoring chances and shots, but both keepers were there to save everything that came their way. Granted, neither Hope Solo nor Meghann Burke had any spectacular saves to make as neither team really produced anything too dangerous. Sky Blue FC faces the Boston Breakers (who will be without Kelly Smith and Alex Scott) next week.
The dominant FC Gold Pride managed to pull out a 2-0 win against Boston. The first goal came two minutes into the second half when Nicole Barnhart kicked the ball up the field. Kelley O’Hara flicked it further up to Christine Sinclair who brought it down to her feet, and played a perfectly weighed ball across the goal to Marta who made this her 18th goal of the year. Three minutes later, Tiffeny Milbrett and O’Hara combined for a second goal, which was a chip over Alyssa Naeher, to end the scoring. This was Milbrett’s sixth goal of the year. Not bad for the veteran.
Chicago started the year off slow, but had somewhat of a strong finish as a result of Veronica Boquete joining the team to lead the attack after Ella Masar was forced off the field to recover from a broken nose. It was Boquete who played a key role in the attack as Chicago’s season ended, scoring one goal on Wednesday, and earning two assists on Saturday’s game. The first goal against the Freedom came in the 50th minute. Casey Nogueira passed the ball to Boquete, who then attracted defenders towards her as Nogueira made the run into the box. Boquete passed it to Nogueira, who blasted a shot to inside of the far post and into the goal. The second goal came in stoppage time. Boquete quickly changed directions with two quick touches, after Megan Rapinoe flick it with her heel to her. She then fed the ball into space for Rapinoe to tap over Ashlyn Harris. This was Rapinoe’s first goal of the year. The Washington Freedom quickly retaliated with a goal from Beverly Goebel that just got sneaked past Jillian Loyden on the near post. Thus, the Freedom will have to anxiously wait until Saturday to make the playoffs.
Saturday’s games will determine who takes the fourth playoff spot, but also the final standings, which means that Philly or Boston could end up hosting the Super Semifinal. The only thing we are sure of is that on September 26, the WPS Final match will be played in the Bay Area after FC Gold Pride took the regular season championship.
Here is next week’s schedule:
- Boston Breakers @ Sky Blue FC, 7 pm ET
- Atlanta Beat @ Washington Freedom, 7 pm ET
- Philadelphia Independence @ FC Gold Pride, 8:30 pm ET