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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WPS Weekly by Rob Penner, Communications Director of WPS

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WPS Weekly – Tuesday, April 28 by Rob Penner

Freedom-Pride Week 5 Thriller Set for Primetime Re-Air on FSC

The signature game so far of the young WPS season – a thrilling 4-3 victory by the Washington Freedom in stoppage time over the FC Gold Pride – has been designated as an instant classic and will be re-aired in primetime by Fox Soccer Channel on Friday, May 1 at 11pm EST/8pm Pacific. The game featured an explosion of goals in the last 20 minutes and several exciting offensive plays throughout the match.

“We are pleased that our fans have another primetime opportunity to watch this game on Fox Soccer Channel,” said Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “The quality of soccer in WPS has been tremendous so far in the first five weeks and this game was indicative of what we’ve seen. Both teams turned in a tremendous performance on the field.”

Weekend Report


WPS: APR 25 Sol at Athletica
Ending their three-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Sol came away with their first draw of the season in a 0-0 match against Saint Louis Athletica, Saturday, April 25. The game came down to the keepers, with Saint Louis Athletica’s Hope Solo closing down Aly Wagner’s penalty kick in the 73rd minute and Sol goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc maintaining her blank slate for the season on a blocked penalty kick from Lori Chalupny in the 83rd minute. Angie Woznuk nearly scored in the closing minutes of the game for Saint Louis with an upper left shot. However, LeBlanc made a spectacular reaching save to secure the 0-0 tie.

After a nil-nil tie with Sky Blue FC two weekends ago, the Chicago Red Stars came out with avengeance on Saturday and smashed the Boston Breakers. In a 4-0 match, the Red Stars offense hit its rhythm with goals from Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Karen Carney and Brittany Klein, who also notched two assists during the game. Chicago outshot Boston 20-8. The Breakers were only able to create some late scoring opportunities, but Chicago keeper, Caroline Jonsson secured her third shutout this season.

Abby Wambach posted her long-awaited first goal of the season in the Washington Freedom’s 4-3 victory over FC Gold Pride, Sunday, April 26. However, Wambach did not stop there. She later secured the game-clinching goal with a header off of Cat Whitehill’s free kick, the same play that resulted in her first goal, in the 90th minute of the match. The Freedom and FC Gold Pride headed into the second half with a 1-1 tie, but Washington soon put away two goals from Lori Lindsey and Allie Long. The Bay Area responded with two goals in a twelve minute span of play to tie the match before Wambach scored the game-winner.

Becky Sauerbrunn, Tiffany Weimer

Line Up Notables

Karina LeBlanc and Hope Solo played significant roles in the Los Angeles Sol vs. Saint Louis Athletica tie match, Saturday. Each posted a penalty kick save and closed down every opportunity the other team had for a goal. The game also saw LeBlanc secure her fourth shut out this season.

The Washington Freedom’s Abby Wambach tallied not one, but two goals, on Sunday against FC Gold Pride to get on the score sheet for the first time this season. With two outstanding headers right past Bay Area keeper, Nicole Barnhart, and an assist to Lori Lindsey, Wambach was the most notable player of this match.

Chicago Red Stars midfielder, Brittany Klein, posted a goal and two assists in her team’s 4-0 victory over Boston. Klein generated outstanding offensive play for the Red Stars, scoring the fourth goal and assisting Megan Rapinoe and Karen Carney. She helped lead her team forward into the second place of league standings.

Quotables From Notables:

A few words from players and coaches…

“Everyone can say there’s a monkey on my back, I do want to score goals for my team but most importantly I want to win games,” said Abby Wambach. “There are still some things to work on – defensively we had a few break downs. We put some goals in the back of the net today and that’s a big reason why we came out on top today.”

“It was a very difficult game and we had very good chances. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made huge saves for the team,” said Los Angeles Sol head coach Abner Rogers. “It was a physical game and St. Louis had that edge on us. Overall, it was a very exciting game for the fans.”

“I don’t think she struck it very well,” said Hope Solo on Aly Wagner’s missed penalty kick. “Nevertheless I was going to my right.”

WPS: APR 25 Sol at Athletica

“Chicago was better in every aspect of the game,” said Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco on the Red Stars thrashing Saturday. “We have to extract the lessons learned from this game and get better.”

“The whole week we have been working on our final third play and our finishing,” said Chicago head coach Emma Hayes. “All week the press has asked me about our wonderful goal scorers and where have they been; they came and played tonight. I thought they turned it on not just with some quality moments but I’m talking about world class finishes.”

WPS Player of the Week: Week 5

Washington midfielder Abby Wambach has been chosen WPS Player of the Week for Week 5 after scoring two goals, including the stoppage-time winner, in visiting Freedom's 4-3 thriller over FC Gold Pride.

Wambach netted her first two goals of the season, both on headers, sending the Freedom to an 18th-minute lead, then nodding home Cat Whitehill's free kick in the second minute of stoppage to give Washington its first victory. The decisive goal settled a back-and-forth encounter in which Gold Pride twice rallied from deficits to pull even, the last time in the 83rd minute.

The WPS Player of the Week award is voted upon by a panel of journalists who cover WPS from the North American Soccer Reporters. The league will announce a WPS Player of the Month for April on May 1 at www.womensprosoccer.com.

Week 1: Aya Miyama (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 2: Marta (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 3: Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers)
Week 4: Aly Wagner (Los Angeles Sol)
Week 5: Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)

April WPS Player of the Month Voting begins

WPS began its April Player of the Month voting for fans, media and teams. The nominees come from the WPS Player of the Week winners and any write-in selections are also accepted. Fans can vote at http://fancorner.womensprosoccer.com/ with votes closing on Thursday, April 30. The winning player will be announced on the league website on May 1.

WPS Players by State

27 of the 50 states are represented by American players in WPS, with California, Illinois, and New York ranking highest in amount of players on WPS rosters (including developmental players).

California 28 Players Colorado 3 Missouri 2
Illinois 11 Hawaii 3 Oregon 2
New York 9 Maryland 3 Utah 2
New Jersey 7 Massachusetts 3 Virginia 2
Texas 6 North Carolina 3 Georgia 1
Ohio 5 Alabama 2 Iowa 1
Connecticut 4 Florida 2 Minnesota 1
Pennsylvania 4 Indiana 2 New Mexico 1
Washington 4 Michigan 2 Wisconsin 1

Abby Calls Mia (reprinted from www.womensprosoccer.com)

No player should be taken to task for not scoring three matches into a new league, especially after major surgery, but the whispers were starting to get louder about Abby Wambach. It wasn’t only that she had not scored, but that she had come so close, never more so than a penalty kick telegraphed for Breakers goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill two weeks ago.

“It’s weird what you do, especially as a goalscorer, when you’re not scoring goals,” Wambach said after scoring twice on Sunday. “You over think it. You go out early and shoot a thousand balls in the week before games. I did everything that I possibly could to prepare myself. Ironically, all I had to do this past week was call Mia.”

Mia, of course, is Mia Hamm, all-time leading international goalscorer, WPS logo inspiration, and former teammate of Wambach on the National Team and the WUSA Freedom.

“She gave me a lot of really great things to listen to, to think about,” Wambach said. “Whenever you’re in a slump or not playing to what your potential is, you have to reach out to the people you trust, and she is obviously one of those people for me. She told me a lot of things in terms of not putting too much pressure on myself, having to feel like you have to win games by yourself because this is a team sport.”

Goals by the Numbers

Goal-o-Rama: Prior to Week 5, WPS had 19 total goals in 10 games before 11 goals were scored in two of the three games this past weekend for a total of 30 goals in WPS and an average of 2.31 goals per game through Week 5 of the 2009 WPS Season.

Top Scorers – Los Angeles Sol’s Marta (3), Boston Breakers’ Kelly Smith (3)

Goals by Team – Boston Breakers (6), FC Gold Pride (6), Chicago Red Stars (6), Washington Freedom (6), Los Angeles Sol (5), Sky Blue FC (1), Saint Louis Athletica (0)

Total Goals – 30 goals scored since WPS Inaugural Match on March 29, 2009 with an average of 2.3 goals per game.

Quickest Goal in League Play: Allison Falk in 6th minute of WPS Inaugural Match, Los Angeles Sol vs. Washington Freedom (3/29/09)

Quickest back-to-back goals by one team: 2 goals in 3 minutes – 42nd minute, 45th minute – from Marta in Los Angeles Sol vs. Sky Blue FC match (4/5/09)

Most Goals in One Game by one team: 4, Washington Freedom 4-3 FC Gold Pride (4/26/09) and Chicago Red Stars 4-0 Boston Breakers (4/25/09)

Most Goals in One Game by both teams: 7, Washington Freedom 4-3 FC Gold Pride (4/26/09)

Most Goals in a Game by a player: 2, Marta (Los Angeles Sol – 4/5/09), Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom – 4/26/09)

Longest Scoring Drought: 270 minutes over 3 games, Saint Louis Athletica

Soccer Hall of Fame Receives Inaugural WPS Match Ball

Oneonta, NY – The National Soccer Hall of Fame has received the First Goal Ball from the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Inaugural Match played on Sunday, March 29th between the Los Angeles Sol and the Washington Freedom at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Allison Falk of the Sol scored on a header in the 6th minute of the game off a free kick from the right wing played by Aya Miyama. Also arriving with the First Goal Ball were the official line-up cards submitted by each coach prior to the game.

WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci, who presented the ball in pre-game to Hall of Famer Mia Hamm, said: “The WPS is taking the first step in creating a new history in women’s soccer. By sending this ball to Oneonta, we memorialize the first goal in WPS history. The league looks forward to creating more moments of history for American soccer and to contributing more memorabilia to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.”

The WPS Match Ball will go on display in early May.

Scheduling Note

The June 20 game between the Chicago Red Stars and Boston Breakers at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL, has been rescheduled. The game will now be played on June 21 at 7:00 pm CT (8:00pm EST) at Toyota Park. The league website at www.womensprosoccer.com has all the latest times and schedules for the 2009 WPS Season.

The Weekly Forecast

Saturday, May 2

Boston Breakers vs. Los Angeles Sol (7pm EST)
Harvard Stadium, Cambridge, MA

What a difference one week makes. Going into last weekend’s slate of WPS games, it looked as if the Boston Breakers vs. Los Angeles Sol two-game series at Harvard Stadium and Home Depot Center would be a showdown of the league’s top two teams from the first month of the season. That notion was quickly erased when the Chicago Red Stars stormed to a 4-0 win over the Breakers in the most lopsided game of the young WPS Season thus far. Instead, Boston will be looking to re-assert their standing as one of the premier teams in WPS against the league-leading Sol in the first of two games between the clubs in a Champions League-style home and away series set for Boston on May 2 and Los Angeles May 10. Boston will get back the services of WPS Player of the Month nominee Kelly Smith, who sat out last weekend’s game, after being called up for national team duty, while Los Angeles will have playmakers Marta, Han Duan and Camille Abily back in the line-up after they played in international friendlies last weekend. The young Los Angeles Sol defense, which has yet to give up a goal, will be tested by a veteran crew – the likes of which they have yet to see this season: standout Smith, experienced Kristina Lilly and top scorer for the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Angela Hucles. The Breakers defense, which was shelled for four goals, will have to shore itself up – especially on the left side where three of the Chicago goals originated. Following the two game series, the Breakers and Sol don’t play again until the final week of the WPS Regular Season.

Sunday, May 3
Washington Freedom vs. Saint Louis Athletica (6 pm EST - FSC)
Maryland SoccerPlex, Boyds, MD

The Washington Freedom return to the Maryland SoccerPlex with its first win under its belt and a jolt of confidence from a thrilling 4-3 victory over FC Gold Pride in Santa Clara, CA. The Sunday national television game against Saint Louis Athletica will be the fourth time in six weeks that the Freedom will be featured on FSC, with Saint Louis making its first appearance in front of a national television audience. Despite the win, the Freedom will have to firm up its defense. They’ve given up nine goals on the season, the most in the league, for an average of more than two goals per game. Saint Louis has yet to score but it hasn’t been for lack of opportunities. They have notched an impressive 46 shots in three games and U.S. National team stalwart Lori Chalupny missed a PK against the Los Angeles Sol, as the Athletica nabbed their first points on the WPS season in a scoreless draw. It will be interesting to see which players who started for the Freedom for the first time against FC Gold Pride – KJ Spisak, Jill Gilbeau, Kristen DeDycker and Rebecca Moros – will start again in Jim Gabarra’s re-tooled line-up. For Saint Louis, it’s a question of getting on the board and ending their 270 minute scoreless drought. Even with the arguably the world’s best keeper in Saint Louis’ Hope Solo, no team can thrive without occasional goal scoring.

FC Gold Pride vs. Sky Blue FC (8pm EST)
Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

In the late Sunday game, FC Gold Pride host Sky Blue FC. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in New Jersey in Week 3 and are the first two teams to play each other for a second time in WPS league history. Albertin Montoya’s Santa Clara-based side can take solace in knowing they fought until the end and looked impressive offensively to tie Washington late, but that doesn’t ease the pain of Abby Wambach’s game-winner for the Freedom in stoppage time as the FC Gold Pride are now staring at a two-game losing streak since playing Sky Blue. Still, they remain one of the most exciting teams on offense in WPS with creativity coming from all over the pitch in Tiffany Weimer, Tiffeny Milbrett, Eriko Arakawa and Christine Sinclair along with exciting overlaps from defenders Leigh Ann Robinson and Kandace Wilson on both sides. Sky Blue FC has been steady if not solid the past three weeks and could be fresh coming off a bye week. They look to Heather O’Reilly for goals but will need contributions from other players in the offensive half to make a move up the WPS ranks. The game marks the return of Ian Sawyers to the Bay Area where he was head coach of the San Jose CyberRays in the WUSA from 2001-2003, being named WUSA Coach of the Year in 2001.

Off Week

Chicago Red Stars are off this weekend.

On TV

The WPS Sunday on FSC match between the Washington Freedom and Saint Louis Athletica will air on the Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday, May 3 at 6 pm ET.

Standings

TEAM W L T GF GA POINTS

Los Angeles Sol 3-0-1 5 0 10

Chicago Red Stars 2-0-2 6 1 8

Boston Breakers 2-2-0 6 7 6

Washington Freedom 1-2-1 6 9 4

FC Gold Pride 1-2-1 6 7 4

Sky Blue FC 0-1-2 1 3 2

Saint Louis Athletica 0-2-1 0 3 1

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