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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WPS Weekly by Rob Penner

Header

WPS Weekly – Tuesday, May 5

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

Weekend Report

Tiffeny Milbrett, Megan Schnur
The Boston Breakers became the first team to score upon and defeat the Los Angeles Sol on Saturday. The match also marked the fastest goal scored in WPS thus far – from Kelly Smith in the 2nd minute – and the second highest attendance numbers of the season with 8,031 fans at Harvard Stadium. Boston took the early lead with Smith’s goal, increasing her total goals scored to four. The game-winning goal came from Kristine Lilly, on a low left-footed strike in the 55th minute. The Sol was able to return late on a goal by Brittany Bock, her first this season, in the 63rd minute, but were unable to tie up the match and Boston earned a 2-1 victory.

In a physical match-up, FC Gold Pride edged Sky Blue FC in a 1-0 win Sunday. With back and forth chances in the first half, goalkeeper’s Jenni Branam (Sky Blue FC) and Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride) closed down all threats with spectacular saves. The best chance to score came in the 38th minute when FC Gold Pride’s Tiffany Weimer was fouled in the box. Sky Blue FC keeper, Branam, dove to the lower right and pushed Weimer’s penalty kick out wide. In the second half, the Bay Area eventually changed out their entire front-line, and the fresh legs in Adriane and Leigh Ann Robinson lead to the Pride’s goal in the 86th minute. Adriane served a cross ball from the left into Robinson streaking in on the right who drilled a shot near post for the game winning goal.

The Washington Freedom had another game of goals this weekend with a 3-3 match against the Saint Louis Athletica. The Athletica found the back of the net for the first time this season. Brazilian Daniela kicked things off for her team with two goals in the first half. In the 69th minute, the Athletica made it a 3-1 match off a far post shot from Eniola Aluko. The Freedom’s goals came from Sonia Bompastor in the first half, and two others late in the second half to tie the game. Lisa De Vanna headed the second goal off a serve from Abby Wambach and Bompastor scored the equalizer on a header as well. Wambach received her first yellow card this season after slide tackling Daniela, who suffered a knee injury on the play.

Line Up Notables

Saint Louis Athletica’s Daniela got her team on the scoreboard for the first time this season, not once, but twice, in a 3-3 match against the Washington Freedom. After a three-game scoring drought, Daniela spiced up the Athletica offense with an early goal in the 7th minute and later drilled a shot from 25 yards out into the upper corner of the net leaving no chance for Freedom keeper, Kati Jo Spisak, to make the save.

Following Boston’s drubbing at Chicago in Week 5, Kelly Smith re-entered the line-up and lived up to her WPS April Player of the Month title, coming out with a vengeance to redeem Boston’s status in the league. Smith secured her fourth goal this season in the 2nd minute of play, putting her atop the goal scoring leader board in WPS. The English international has tallied a goal in all four games she has played this season.

The Freedom’s Sonia Bompastor kept her team in Sunday’s match against Athletica by tying the match twice, once in the first half with a near post header just passed Saint Louis keeper, Hope Solo. Bompastor came back in stoppage time to do the same thing for the second. She headed in a long free-kick from Cat Whitehill to secure a 3-3 tie against the Athletica.

Leslie Osborne, Yael Averbuch

Quotables From Notables:

A few words from players and coaches…

“I am really proud of the players because they were embarrassed last week,” said Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco. “They played the number one team in the league who hadn’t lost a game or given up a goal, and I am very proud of the showing we had. The key to the game was mentality. I thought we started well in both halves, but Los Angeles is a very good team.”

“We have them at home next week,” said Los Angeles Sol keeper, Karina LeBlanc. “Anytime you lose, you want the chance to avenge that as soon as possible. We have that chance next week.”

“Obviously disappointed with the result, to come this far and to not get anything out of this game is pretty disappointing,” said Sky Blue FC head coach Ian Sawyers. “They had some excellent chances in the first half and again the in the second half and we thought we had a couple golden chances that we didn’t take care of. Overall all just pretty disappointed with the quality.”

“I think the things that we take away from this game are all positive in terms of coming back from a two-goal deficit,” said Washington Freedom forward Abby Wambach. “Sonia, obviously, basically carried us today – put us on her back and carried us. Lisa came in, scores a big goal. I think if we were able to break this game down it was a will of who was going to let the last goal in.”

Close Games the Standard So Far in WPS

So far in WPS play, 11 of 16 games have been decided by one goal or less, keeping games close, finishes exciting and demonstrating a level of parity across the league – in this the WPS Inaugural Season. Only one game has been decided by more than 2 goals. The top four teams in the league are currently separated by only 3 points with Los Angeles (10 points), Boston (9), Chicago (8) and FC Gold Pride (7) sitting atop the WPS Regular Season standings.

“I’ve been incredibly pleased with the quality of the soccer and the exciting finishes that we’ve seen so far,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “We’ve seen two stoppage-time goals that impacted the outcome the past two weeks on our WPS Sunday on FSC television game – and any given weekend, it seems that anything can happen in WPS.”

Already this season, the league’s first place team has been tied by the team sitting in last, while the league has also seen a rout between the 2nd and 3rd-placed teams in the league, as well.

First Place on the Line in WPS Week 7

With the top two teams in the WPS standings, Los Angeles and Boston, facing off for the second consecutive week, first place is on the line in the WPS regular season standings. A win by either Los Angeles or Boston would put them atop the WPS table, while a tie would open the door for the Chicago Red Stars – who have a game in hand against both Boston and LA – to catapult to the top with a victory over Sky Blue FC, edging out LA based on goal differential.

Attendance Watch

The Boston Breakers had the second-highest attendance on the young WPS season on Saturday, with 8,031 turning out to see the Breakers defeat the Los Angeles Sol at Harvard Stadium.

The league’s total attendance through Week 6 is at 88,492 with the chance to go over 100,000 in Week 7 and the league-wide average through 16 games coming in at 5,531 per game.

WPS Player of the Week: Week 6

Washington midfielder Sonia Bompastor has been chosen WPS Player of the Week for Week 6 after scoring two goals, including the 90th-minute equalizer, in the Freedom's 3-3 draw with visiting Saint Louis Athletica. The French winger scored in the 29th minute to answer Athletica's first goal, then capped Washington's comeback from two goals down to earn a share of the points. It was the second successive week a Freedom player has been selected WPS Player of the Week – Abby Wambach was the Week 5 choice after scoring twice in a come-from-behind win at FC Gold Pride. The WPS Player of the Week award is voted upon by a panel of journalists from the North American Soccer Reporters.

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)
Week 6: Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom)

Note: Weeks 1-2 selected by The Soccer Magazine; weeks 3-6 selected by North American Soccer Reporters panel.

WPS: APR 25 Sol at Athletica

Athletica Midfielder Daniela Sidelined Indefinitely

Saint Louis Athletica’s Brazilian midfielder Daniela will miss a significant portion if not all of the 2009 WPS, Women’s Professional Soccer, season due to a knee injury sustained on Sunday May 3 in a match against the Washington Freedom. The injury occurred late in the second half when Daniela was tackled by Washington’s Abby Wambach.

Athletica Head Team Physician Dr. Robert Brophy examined Daniela upon her return with the team from Washington on Monday afternoon May 4. Dr. Brophy confirms that an MRI reveals Daniela has two injured knee ligaments and has a crack in her tibia.

“Daniela will be out indefinitely,” said Dr. Brophy. “She does have a significant knee injury. Daniela has significant pain and swelling. She faces a lengthy recovery and extensive treatment before she returns to play.”

“It is a great loss to the team who were getting accustomed to playing with Daniela,” said Head Coach Jorge Barcellos. “We are going to have to restructure how our team is set up and our whole team will have to step up.”

Dr. Robert Brophy is a faculty member of Washington University’s Department of Orthopedics.

PK Conversion

WPS players have struggled converting PK’s so far this season. Only 1 of 5 PKs have been converted from the spot with Kelly Smith scoring a PK in Week 2 for a 20% league-wide success rate. Players who have missed converting include: Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom), Lori Chalupny (Saint Louis Athletica), Aly Wagner (Los Angeles Sol) and Tiffany Weimer (FC Gold Pride.)

WPS Sunday on FSC to Re-Air on Fox Sports Net starting in July

The WPS Game of the Week known as “WPS Sunday on FSC”will be re-aired on Fox Sports Net during the final six weeks of the WPS season with delayed coverage available in select markets. The six games that will be distributed starting on Mondays following the game by Fox Sports Net for delayed broadcasts include:

July 5 Washington Freedom vs. Los Angeles Sol
July 12 Boston Breakers vs. Saint Louis Athletica
July 19 Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
July 26 Saint Louis Athletica vs. FC Gold Pride
Aug. 2 Chicago Red Stars vs. Los Angeles Sol
Aug. 9 FC Gold Pride vs. Saint Louis Athletica

Updates and specific times for each market will be provided as they become available, or fans should check local listings.

April WPS Player of the Month Announced on May 1

Kelly Smith of the Boston Breakers won the first-ever WPS Player of the Month Award for April. The award was selected by team, media and online fan voting with each group accounting for one-third of the final tally. Nearly 1,000 fans voted at the league’s Fan Corner at http://fancorner.womensprosoccer.com/ to help select the monthly-award winner in the league’s Inaugural Season. Smith notched three goals in April, striking once in each of the Breakers’ first three games, along with one assist, leading Boston to victory twice and keeping them close with a terrific second-half goal against FC Gold Pride in their opening game 2-1 loss. Smith edged out the Los Angeles Sol’s star forward Marta and Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc in the final POTM results.

Honeymoon Interrupted

WPS Official Reschedules Honeymoon to Referee WPS Match

Get married May 2, referee a Women’s Professional Soccer match May 10, and then hop on a plane for your honeymoon? Not the standard sequence of events for newlyweds, but a WPS referee is doing just that.

Ted Unkel, 31, of Sarasota, Fla., received his first WPS referee assignment for the Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC match on May 10 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. The only problem was he and his wife Christina – as of May 2 – had planned to depart from Florida to San Diego, one-day prior, on May 9, for their honeymoon. After two months of planning, they had their flights, hotel and a car booked for the trip.

However, both the newlyweds are soccer referees, so naturally, the two rescheduled the trip in order for Unkel to referee his first WPS match.

“Our schedules are so tight as it is that it took a while to actually get the honeymoon finalized, so what was one more wrinkle,” Unkel said about rearranging their plans.

When told about the conflict the bride-to-be laughed, he says. Christina Ibanez, a huge soccer fan as well, was extremely supportive of the decision to postpone the honeymoon plans for a few days.

“She (Christina) loves the game of soccer, so she is more than willing to come to a match any chance she gets,” said Unkel. “She may have laughed and cried at the same time when I told her, but was genuinely excited about the opportunity. Ever since I found out I'd be a part of WPS, I've been looking forward to taking the field – and she knows that. Our life is going to be full of memories and this is going to be a special one.”

The newlyweds will enjoy Chicago on Saturday and Unkel will referee Sunday’s match, with Christina in the stands and his family and friends watching at home on the Fox Soccer Channel. Following the game the two will take flight from Chicago to San Diego and finally begin their honeymoon.

The couple of two years were engaged on October 3rd of last year, and met at a soccer tournament in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Ironically the two begin their new lives in much of the same way as they met, at a soccer match.

Unkel is a Grade 3 Professional Referee with the U.S. Soccer Federation and is extremely excited to get started with WPS, especially since it is the inaugural season. He referees at the collegiate level and also works from home as the Director of Business Development for Markland Consulting Group, LLC. His wife, Christina, will be attending Stetson University College of Law this fall. The couple resides in Sarasota, Fla.

(reprinting allowed for editorial purposes)

WPS Goal Update

Top Scorer – Boston Breakers’ Kelly Smith (4)

Goals by Team – Washington Freedom (9), Boston Breakers (8), FC Gold Pride (7), Chicago Red Stars (6), Los Angeles Sol (6), Saint Louis Athletica (3), Sky Blue FC (1)

Total Goals – 40 goals scored since WPS Inaugural Match on March 29, 2009 with an average of 2.5 goals per game.

Quickest Goal in League Play: Kelly Smith in 2nd minute of play, Boston Breakers vs. Los Angeles Sol (5/2/09)

Quickest back-to-back goals by one team: 2 goals in 3 minutes – 42 minute, 45 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), Daniela (Saint Louis Athletica – 5/3/09), Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom – 5/3/09)

Current Longest Scoring Drought: 194 minutes over 3 games - Sky Blue FC

WPS Camps – Coming to a City Near You

WPS Camps is the league’s network of summer camps which not only create a challenging and dynamic training environment, but will also allow players to personally experience what it takes to play in the pros...from the pros!

Over 20 cities will host WPS Camps, which include appearances from WPS players, with dates and locations already confirmed in Denver, Indianapolis, Raleigh, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Knoxville and Omaha.

For more information go to: http://www.womensprosoccer.com/Home/camps/camps.aspx.

The Weekly Forecast

Saturday, May 9

Saint Louis Athletica vs. FC Gold Pride (8 pm ET)
Korte Stadium, Edwardsville, IL

The Saint Louis Athletica face FC Gold Pride Saturday in St. Louis and the teams have one thing in common: they both gave up stoppage time goals to the Washington Freedom in the past two weeks and had to swallow a difficult result. Saint Louis did away with its scoring jinx and put away three goals against the Freedom – but against FC Gold Pride, they will have to a make a quick adjustment without the services of injured Brazilian star Daniela, who notched two first half goals on Sunday. The Athletica still have plenty of fire power with Lori Chalupny, Enoila Aluko and Melissa Tancredi but they will have to find someone who can control the midfield like Daniela has repeatedly done early in the season. FC Gold Pride threw out a new-look line-up on Sunday as coach Albertin Montoya played defenders Kandace Wilson and Leigh Ann Robinson at forward. The move paid off as Robinson scored her first professional goal for a 1-0 victory over Sky Blue FC. The Pride have notched one point in two away matches and will look for their first road win, playing one of two teams from the Midwest for the first time this season.

Sunday, May 10

Los Angeles Sol vs. Boston Breakers (4 pm ET)
Home Depot Center, Carson, CA

The Los Angeles Sol will only need a week to have their chance at a rematch against the Boston Breakers, who dropped L.A. from the unbeaten and un-scored upon ranks Saturday in front of 8,031 fans at Harvard Stadium with a 2-1 victory. A victory by Los Angeles would keep them atop the table, while a victory by Boston would put them in first place outright in the WPS Regular Season Standings. A tie would open the door for the Chicago Red Stars to take over the top spot based on goal differential with a victory in their match. It would be the first time this season that LA would not be atop the WPS table. Two of the top internationals in WPS, Kelly Smith and Marta, will go at it again, this time at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Aside from the change in climate from Boston, the Home Depot Center’s grass field could change the dynamic of the game from the speedy artificial turf field at Harvard Stadium, where the Breakers are 2-0. Likewise, the Los Angeles Sol are 2-0 at home. Though still early in the season, the game could have added meaning in the final WPS placings come August as a victory by Boston would guarantee the Breakers the tiebreaker over Los Angeles if the teams were tied on points at the end of the regular season. The two play one more time in their final game of regular season play on August 9 in Boston.

Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC (6 pm ET – FSC)
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

In the “WPS Sunday on FSC” game of the week, the Chicago Red Stars play their third of five consecutive home matches at Toyota Park, taking on a Sky Blue FC team in desperate search of some offense. Sky Blue FC has not scored in 194 minutes since a 76th minute strike by Heather O’Reilly in Week 3, including a 0-0 tie against Chicago three weeks ago in cold, wet conditions. In that game, Chicago outshot Sky Blue FC 18-7 but some timely goalkeeping by Karen Bardsley and Jenni Branam salvaged a point for Sky Blue. By contrast, the Red Stars scored four goals in their last WPS outing and have not given up a goal in 216 minutes, featuring the stingiest defense in the league led by goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson. The Red Stars had the week off this past weekend and their dangerous offensive trio of Karen Carney, Lindsay Tarpley and Megan Rapinoe will look for services from Brittany Klein, Cristiane and Carli Lloyd.

Off Week

The Washington Freedom are off this weekend.

On TV

The WPS Sunday on FSC match between the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC will air on the Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday, May 10 at 6 pm ET.

Standings

TEAM W L T GF GA POINTS

Los Angeles Sol 3-1-1 6 2 10
Boston Breakers 3-2-0 8 8 9
Chicago Red Stars 2-0-2 6 1 8
FC Gold Pride 2-2-1 7 7 7
Washington Freedom 1-2-2 9 12 5
Saint Louis Athletica 0-2-2 3 6 2
Sky Blue FC 0-2-2 1 4 2

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