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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

WPS Weekly by Rob Penner

FC Gold Pride v Los Angeles Sol
WPS Weekly – Tuesday, April 21

by Rob Penner, Communications Director of Women's Professional Soccer

Weekend Report

The Boston Breakers propelled themselves to a 3-1 victory against the Washington Freedom on Saturday, April 18. It was a game of firsts with the most goals scored in a Women’s Professional Soccer match to date, and the first two penalty kicks in WPS history, one converted and one saved. Kelly Smith put the Breakers ahead with her third goal of the season early in the second half on a penalty kick. The Freedom’s Lori Lindsey leveled the score four minutes later on a long range shot. Abby Wambach had the chance to give Washington the lead on a penalty kick 16 minutes later, but Kristin Luckenbill dove right – and guessed right – for the save. Christine Latham notched the game winner on a header and Angela Hucles added to the Breakers’ lead in the 81st minute.

The Chicago Red Stars opened at home to a crowd of 5,824 fans on Sunday, April 19th against Sky Blue FC (NJ/NY) in cold, rainy weather. The Red Stars out shot Sky Blue FC 18-7, but left the match with a 0-0 tie. Sky Blue FC goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley, did well to maintain a draw going into halftime with a barrage of 13 shots coming at her goal, including one bicycle kick from Megan Rapinoe that she tipped over the top of the crossbar – but left the game with back spasms before being replaced by Jenni Branam. Chicago moves forward with five points, while Sky Blue FC has two points on the year after recording its first shutout of the season.

Across the country, and in much different weather, California rivals, Los Angeles Sol and FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) battled to a 1-0 victory for the Sol on Sunday, April 19 in hot temperatures that have gripped the West Coast. Like the other two WPS games on the weekend, each team went into halftime with a blank scoreboard, but the Sol returned in the second half to capitalize early. Marta collected a chipped ball over the Bay Area’s backline from Aly Wagner, and placed it past FC Gold Pride keeper, Nicole Barnhart. The final scoreline maintained the Sol’s position alone atop the WPS Standings with three shutout victories and handed FC Gold Pride their first loss of the season.

Line Up Notables

This weekend, line-up notables include Marta and Kelly Smith, who maintained their status atop the scoreboards with three goals each this season, and several goalkeepers, including Kristin Luckenbill and Karen Bardsley, who recorded shutouts.

Sky Blue FC’s Karen Bardsley kept Chicago from scoring in what was a 13-3 shot advantage for the Red Stars in the first half, Sunday. In a series of shots on goal for the Chicago Red Stars in the 35th minute, Bardsley closed down the end of the sequence by tipping a bicycle kick from Megan Rapinoe over the crossbar.

The Boston Breakers Kristin Luckenbill took her team into halftime with a 0-0 tie and was faced with a penalty kick after a handball in the box in the second half. But she shut down the Freedom’s chance to take the lead and the Breakers score twice late in the game to move into second place in the WPS standings.

Los Angeles Sol goalie Karina LeBlanc kept her record perfect and extended her un-scored upon streak to 270 minutes this season, while Caroline Jonsson recorded her second shutout of the season for the Chicago Red Stars.

Attendance Watch

With all of the WPS home openers in the books following the Chicago Red Stars home opener on Sunday, April 19, attendance for the WPS home openers in seven cities totaled 47,288 fans with an average attendance of 6,755 per game. The home openers included nearly 15,000 fans at the Home Depot Center (Los Angeles Sol), a sell-out in Saint Louis (Saint Louis Athletica), near sell-out in New Jersey (Sky Blue FC) and a record crowd for the venue at the Maryland SoccerPlex (Washington Freedom).

Through Week 4 and 10 total games in WPS, the league’s average attendance is 6,039 per game.

“We are pleased with what we’ve seen so far in terms of crowds,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “It’s a long season and we continue to shoot for an average of anywhere between 4,000-6,000 fans per game over the course of the season. We had some very cold weather games and good crowds still turned out. I’m especially pleased with the great atmospheres that we’ve seen, the diverse crowds and the energy in the smaller venues that WPS teams are all playing in.”

FC Gold Pride v Los Angeles Sol
WPS Player of the Week: Week 4

Los Angeles midfielder Aly Wagner was chosen WPS's Player of the Week for Week 4 after leading the Sol to a 1-0 triumph Sunday over visiting FC Gold Pride in a top-of-the-table showdown at Home Depot Center.

Wagner, making her first start of the season, was the difference for L.A. with exquisite passing, including a beautiful ball over FC Gold’s backline for Marta to finish in the 47th minute. Wagner, playmaking from the center in the first half and the right flank most of the second, made another half-dozen dangerous passes to threaten the visitors during the game.

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 select a WPS Player of the Month.

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)

Brazil Calls Up WPS Stars for National Team Game

Pointing to the growth of the women’s game globally, Brazil plays Germany Wednesday at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt with more than 40,000 fans expected to turn out, according to the German Soccer Federation (DFB) estimates. This would break the record for a women’s soccer game in Europe set previously at the opening game of the 2005 European Championships in Manchester with 29,093 fans.

Several Brazilian WPS players will be called in for national team duty for the game and for their friendly against Sweden over the weekend and will not be available to their clubs teams, including Cristiane (Chicago Red Stars), Formiga (FC Gold Pride), Erika (FC Gold Pride), Francielle (Saint Louis Athletica) and Marta (Los Angeles Sol).

Also missing from WPS action this weekend for national team duty are Camile Abily (FRA – Los Angeles Sol), Sonia Bompastor (FRA – Washington Freedom), Han Duan (CHN Los Angeles Sol) and Sara Larsson (SWE – Saint Louis Athletica), who will play in Sweden’s friendly against Brazil on Saturday.

Goals and League Firsts

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

Goals by Team –Boston Breakers (6), Los Angeles Sol (5), FC Gold Pride (3), Chicago Red Stars (2), Washington Freedom (2), Sky Blue FC (1), Saint Louis Athletica (0)

Total Goals – 19 goals scored since WPS Inaugural Match on March 29, 2009 with an average of 1.9 goals per game.

Boston Breakers star Kelly Smith is the only player to score in all three matches her team has played.

Los Angeles Sol’s, Karina LeBlanc, is the only goalkeeper in the league to have three shutouts.

Quotables From Notables

A few words from players and coaches…

“That ball had eyes,” said Briana Scurry, referring to Christine Latham’s game-winning goal. “Latham got up well for it. It was like that in the first half too, but fortunately we were able to get our heads on the ball.”

"There was some good and some bad,” said Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco. “I thought our back line and our goalkeeper Luckenbill defended very well. Offensively we finished very well in the second half. I didn’t think we passed the ball as well as we normally have, and we gave a lot of balls away, but give credit to Washington for that.”

“It was hot and we were lethargic in the first half,” Aly Wagner said about a slow first half for both teams. “We had bad movement, bad everything. In the second half we changed our formation and got a little wind under our sails. We came out sharper and crisper. I think that helped open the game up.”

“Bardsley got back spasms at halftime,” said Sky Blue FC head Coach Ian Sawyers. “She was on the training table for a little while and we weren’t sure if she was going to be able to go or not. We don’t know what it is yet, probably having to make all those saves in the first half. I don’t know if the cold locked her up or what. We didn’t really want to (make a switch), but we were forced to do it.”


FC Gold Pride v Los Angeles Sol
Regular Season Tiebreak System

The WPS recently approved the tiebreak system to determine the final WPS Regular Season Standings which will determine the playoff seeding, including the hosts for the WPS First Round, WPS Super Semifinal and WPS Final.

In the case of a two-team tie:

1. Head-to-Head record
2. Head-to-Head goal differential
3. Overall goal differential
4. Overall goals scored
5. Away points
6. Away goal differential
7. Away goals scored
8. Coin Flip

In the case of a three-team tie:

1. Head-to-Head – as determined via points-per-game versus the other two teams (if two teams are tied in points-per-game head-to-head, the next tie breaker is goal differential)
2. Overall goal differential
3. Overall goals scored
4. Away points
5. Away goal differential
6. Away goals scored
7. Coin Flip

Notes:

  • In the case of an unbalanced head-to-head schedule among three tied teams, the tie-breaker will jump to tie-breaker #2 (overall goal differential).
  • Three-team tie breaker to be used for “three or more” teams.

Assist Correction – Washington Freedom vs. Boston Breakers

The Washington Freedom corrected a statistical error made during the Saturday’s match against the Boston Breakers, in which Rebecca Moros was credited with the assist on Lori Lindsey’s goal. After reviewing footage of the match, it was determined Jill Gilbeau should have been credited with the assist. The Freedom regrets this error. WPS League Stats have been updated to reflect this change.

The Weekly Forecast

Saturday, April 25

Saint Louis Athletica vs. Los Angeles Sol (4 pm ET)
Robert R. Hermann Stadium, St. Louis, MO

Saint Louis Athletica enjoyed a bye week this past weekend, using the opportunity to play a scrimmage against the University of Missouri and preparing to face league leaders Los Angeles Sol in a game that will be played at Robert R. Hermann Stadium in St. Louis. Saint Louis has yet to score a goal, Los Angeles has yet to concede a goal and the Athletica will be working hard to end both streaks. While the Athletica have been held scoreless so far it hasn’t been for lack of chances, notching 27 shots in two games. Kerri Hanks, who tallied 20 goals during her senior campaign at Notre Dame, and Lori Chalupny lead the attack for Saint Louis. With national team games this weekend, the Sol will be without the services of some key players including Marta, Camile Abily and Han Duan, while the Athletica will not have the talented young Francielle at their disposal or Sara Larsson. But the national team call-ups certainly work in the Athletica’s favor considering Marta has been scoring at a one-goal-per-game pace, Abily and Duan are playmakers, while Francielle has logged only 41 minutes on the pitch in two games. Look for WPS Player of the Week Aly Wagner to pick up the playmaking duties in the absence of the Sol’s top internationals.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Boston Breakers (8:30 pm ET)
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

The Chicago Red Stars play their second of five consecutive home games at Toyota Park as they take on the Boston Breakers, who are on a two-game winning streak that has carried them into second place in the WPS standings. It’s the second-placed team in the WPS table vs. the third-placed team with the offenses going in opposite directions. Boston has notched a league-leading six goals, while Chicago has struggled on offense, going scoreless for more than 150 minutes since Lindsay Tarpley’s goal in the 29th minute in Week 3 against the Washington Freedom. Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd were very active on offense in Sunday’s water logged game against Sky Blue FC but the two Red Stars standouts have yet to find the back of the net this season. Brazilian star Cristiane will also be out for national team duty. Look for an interesting clash between Karen Carney and Kelly Smith at times in midfield. The two will be coming off their national team friendly against Norway on Thursday night in England and it could be a test of endurance and physical conditioning. With two excellent keepers in Caroline Jonsson for Chicago and Kristin Luckenbill for Boston, this game could come down to which keeper makes the big save at the crucial time.

Sunday, April 26

FC Gold Pride vs. Washington Freedom (6 pm ET - FSC)
Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

The final game of WPS Week 5 pits the Washington Freedom against the FC Gold Pride at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, CA in a game shown on Fox Soccer Channel. Both teams are coming off tough losses with the Washington Freedom losing the momentum -- and the game -- in the late stages to a hard-charging Boston Breakers team. FC Gold Pride played in scorching heat in Los Angeles and had one defensive lapse that gave up a goal to Marta and cost them the game against their California rivals. Temperatures are expected to drop in California this week with game-time temps forecast in the low 60s. Look for FC Gold Pride to try and feature their quick passing, possession offense, while the Freedom counter with long ball services from Cat Whitehill on defense and from the sides into forward Abby Wambach. The Pride will be without Brazilian’s Erika and Formiga, while the Freedom will be without exciting playmaker Sonia Bompastor but can look to the standout play of Lori Lindsey this past week as a focal point for their offense. Japanese star Eriko Arakawa (FC Gold Pride) could make several runs against her country woman Homare Sawa (Washington Freedom) on the offensive half. Much like the WPS Inaugural Match in which Los Angeles Sol’s Aya Miyama outshone Sawa, the battle in the middle between the Japanese internationals could be a telling factor in the final result.

Off Week

Sky Blue FC is off this weekend.

On TV

The WPS Sunday on FSC match between FC Gold Pride and Washington Freedom will air on the Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday, April 26th at 6 pm ET.

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