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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WPS Weekly by Rob Penner

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WPS Weekly – Tuesday, May 26

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

Weekend Report

Week 9 in WPS concluded rivalry week with California teams clashing, Midwest clubs playing in Chicago and a match-up along the eastern seaboard with Washington downing Sky Blue FC. Los Angeles extended their stranglehold on first place with a 2-0 victory over FC Gold Pride moving six points ahead of idle Boston in the standings, while Saint Louis and Washington each extended their unbeaten streaks to four games, respectively, with victories.

Washington Freedom 2, Sky Blue FC 1

Sky Blue FC vs. Freedom
Returning to its home during its stint in the WUSA, the Washington Freedom found the confines of RFK Stadium to still be friendly as the team won its second match of the 2009 season, a 2-1 victory over Sky Blue FC on Saturday.

Normally the one on the serving end of the long ball, defender Cat Whitehill buried a Sonia Bompastor corner kick with her head – her first WPS goal – to put the Freedom up 1-0 in the 35th minute. Four minutes later, Lisa De Vanna intercepted the ball in Sky Blue’s defensive half and beat the goalie on a breakaway to give the Freedom a 2-0 lead.

While getting on the score sheet was nice for Whitehill, she said the outcome was even more rewarding.

“It’s just good to get a win right now,” Whitehill said. “It’s encouraging. The first half we came out and we really had possession of the ball. The second half we were a little sloppy and they came after us a little bit so I was glad to get the win.”

Sky Blue (1-4-2, 5 points) cut the lead in half in the second half as Rosana was able to put the ball past Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod in the 65th minute, but Sky Blue was unable to score an equalizer despite some solid offensive play towards the latter stages of the match.

“I think in the second half maybe the heat got to us like it did them in the first half,” Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra said. “We kind of stopped playing and weren’t really making the right decisions with the ball. We gave away possession easily and we were getting pulled apart and stretched there. It was pretty dangerous.”

After giving up nine goals in a three game span, the Freedom finally seems to have found its steadying force in McLeod, who has nine saves in two matches. Said Whitehill: “[McLeod’s] been huge for us. We’ve only been together two weeks and I already feel she’s been behind me for two months.”

The win was Washington’s second of the season and its first WPS win as the home team. Washington now sits at 2-2-3 (9 points) and sits in fourth place in the WPS standings pending the outcome of the Chicago Red Stars-Saint Louis Athletica match, also played Saturday.

Saint Louis Athletica 2, Chicago Red Stars 0

The Chicago Red Stars were shutout for the third consecutive game Saturday, falling 2-0 to Saint Louis in front of 4,461 at Toyota Park.

Athletica’s first score came off a Chicago own goal in the 25th minute. Eniola Aluko fired a shot that hit Red Stars defender Ifeoma Dieke and went over goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson’s stretched arms and into the net. Aluko found the net herself in the 41st off an assist from Kendall Fletcher.

Despite outshooting Athletica 12-5, including a 6-1 margin in shots on goal, the Red Stars (2-3-2) suffered their third consecutive loss. Chicago has not scored in 308 minutes – dating back to Brittany Klein’s second half goal against Boston on April 25.

Saint Louis deputy goalkeeper Jillian Loyden was impressive in her WPS debut, stopping a pair of strong Chicago opportunities in the first half. In the 17th minute Karen Carney’s corner kick was headed on goal by Cristiane, but Loyden perried it over the net to deny the Red Stars a goal. Carney fired a strong shot from the top of the box in the 38th minute, but Loyden again knocked it over the net.

With the result Saint Louis (2-2-2) moved even with Chicago for fifth place in the WPS standings – each team with eight points. Saint Louis has gone 2-0-2 in its last four games.

Los Angeles Sol 2, FC Gold Pride 0

Fan
A sell-out crowd of 6,280 packed Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday afternoon to see FC Gold Pride take on the Los Angeles Sol. The Sol emerged victorious putting away two goals and blanking the Pride for the second time this season in the California derby.

The Sol scored the lone goal of the first half on a penalty kick awarded to Los Angeles after Captain Aya Miyama was taken down in the 18-yard box. Midfielder Camille Abily took the PK and put it away in the 27th minute for the Sol, marking her second goal of the season and giving the visiting team a 1-0 advantage.

The match was closely watched by the officials, who handed out two cautions for unsporting conduct in the first half, one to the Pride’s Brazilian defender Erika and one to the Sol’s striker Marta in the 45th.

Pride keeper Allison Whitworth, getting her first taste of WPS action, saw more than her fair share of action in the game and denied Marta’s full force attack twice in the second half. In total, Whitworth made six big saves in her first career start, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Sol’s attack.

In a quick turn of events that saw Brandi Chastain nearly score a goal in the 85th minute, the Sol countered the Pride’s attack. Han Duan broke free behind the Pride’s defense and slipped one in past a diving Whitworth in the 86th minute of play to put the Sol up 2-0.

“We had one mental lapse, but we will learn from it,” said FC Gold Pride Head Coach Albertin Montoya. “We went from Brandi almost scoring to a missed ball off a goal kick. We lost our concentration for one second. When you have players like Marta and Duan, they’ll make you pay.”

The Pride executed on the game plan, marking tight on Marta and limiting the number of touches she had on the ball. Speedy defender, Kandace Wilson played a key role in containing Marta throughout the game keeping pace with the Sol’s crafty forward. Wilson was forced to leave the game late in the second half with a right hip injury.

With the loss, the Pride remains in third place with a 3-4-1 record and 10 points, remaining one point behind the Boston Breakers. The Sol stands alone in first place with a 5-1-2 record and 17 points. They have given up just 2 goals on the season. The west coast rivals will meet twice more before regular season play concludes.

Line Up Notables

Chicago Red Stars: Midfielder Jill Oakes earned her first start of the WPS season as the Red Stars played without four regular starters, including midfielder Carli Lloyd. 2006 U.S. Soccer Youth Female Athlete of the Year, Danesha Adams played in her second match of the season, tallying her minutes played to 67.

FC Gold Pride: Back-up goalkeeper, Allison Whitworth, earned her first start as Nicole Barnhart was out with U.S. WNT. The Auburn University alum posted tremendous saves, most notably shutting down two threats from Marta on sliding kick saves. Speedy outside back, Kandace Wilson, took a blow from Marta late in the game and was taken to the hospital with a right hip injury. Brandi Chastain got into her third match of the season, playing the last ten minutes of the match.

Los Angeles Sol: Karina LeBlanc’s understudy, Val Henderson, defended the net for the Sol, earning her first and her team’s seven shutout this season. Midfielder Lisa Sari stepped in for her first start as well. Han Duan after several missed chances finally found net and scored her first goal.

Saint Louis Athletica: Jillian Loyden, back-up goalkeeper to Hope Solo, stepped in as Solo was out on national team duty. Loyden did well to shut down the Chicago Red Stars 12-5 shot advantage and secured her teams second straight win. Former Los Angeles Sol player, Kendall Fletcher, posted her second start and third game played in WPS – this time for the Saint Louis Athletica.

Sky Blue FC: Hawaii native and Sky Blue forward, Mele French, stepped onto the pitch to post her first 11 minutes of play this season. Forward Noelle Keselica joined the first time playing ranks as well, earning 21 minutes in Saturday’s match. Natasha Kai started the match after suffering from an injury last week against the Sol. Kelly Lindsey, former Sky Blue FC lead assistant, served as interim head coach.

Washington Freedom: Center back, Cat Whitehill, headed home her first goal this season off a corner-kick from Sonia Bompastor. Parissa Eyorokon, played in her first game, tallying her minutes played to 12.

Quotables From Notables

A few words from players and coaches…

“It was certainly a change of pace from practicing everyday,” said Saint Louis Athletica’s Jillian Loyden. “But the transition was so easy thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff. I am just on cloud nine I am so excited.”

“I was one on one with the defender and I knew if I got past her I would be in a dangerous position,” said Saint Louis Athletica forward Eniola Aluko. “I got around her and was trying to put the ball in a dangerous spot and luckily for me it deflected off of her and went in.”

“We had one mental lapse, but we will learn from it,” said FC Gold Pride Head Coach Albertin Montoya. “We went from Brandi almost scoring to a missed ball off a goal kick. We lost our concentration for one second. When you have players like Marta and Duan, they’ll make you pay.”

“I wish as field players we could have done a better job for Allison because she was huge for our team today,” said the Pride’s Brandi Chastain, “and she deserves a lot of credit for how good we looked and how comfortable we were.”

WPS Player of the Week: Week 9

Saint Louis Athletica goalkeeper Jillian Loyden has been selected WPS’s Player of Week for Week 9 after leading Athletica to a 2-0 triumph at Chicago. The former Villanova University All-American, filling in for No. 1 keeper Hope Solo -- away on U.S. national team duty -- made six saves, including big stops on Cristiane and Karen Carney, as Saint Louis won its second successive match after an off-week in Week 8. 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) ‘
Week 7: Lori Chalupny (Saint Louis Athletica)
Week 8: Christine Sinclair (FC Gold Pride)
Week 9: Jillian Loyden (Saint Louis Athletica)

Note: Weeks 1-2 selected by The Soccer Magazine; weeks 3-9 selected by North American Soccer Reporters panel.

May Player of the Month – The vote for the WPS Player of the Month for May will be next week and announced on June 5. Nominations will come from this month’s WPS Players of the Week (including this coming weekend’s games) with write-in selections also eligible.

Goals by the Numbers

Top Scorers – Boston Breakers’ Kelly Smith (4), Los Angeles Sol’s Marta, (4)

Goals by Team – Washington Freedom (12), Boston Breakers (9), Los Angeles Sol (9), FC Gold Pride (8), Chicago Red Stars (6), Saint Louis Athletica (6), Sky Blue FC (4)

Total Goals – 54 goals scored since WPS Inaugural Match on March 29, 2009 with an average of 2.16 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: 308 minutes over 4 games, Chicago Red Stars

STATS LLC Announced as Official Statistician of WPS

Women’s Professional Soccer Names STATS LLC its Official Statistician and Distribution Partner; Sports Information Leader also providing Online Match Tracker, Editorial and Fantasy Game in 2010

San Francisco, CA and Northbrook, IL (May 20, 2009) – Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and STATS LLC have announced a multi-year partnership that makes STATS the league’s official statistician and exclusive data distribution partner.

"We are excited to have STATS on board for our inaugural season supporting us with their impressive platform of statistics and data services,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “The partnership will enhance the user experience on our website and supply teams, fans and the public with timely and accurate statistical data on our league.”

“We are extremely proud to be a partner of Women’s Professional Soccer from the outset,” said STATS Senior Vice President, Greg Kirkorsky. “This is an exciting time for soccer in the United States and we look forward to leveraging our world-wide network to distribute WPS information and grow this exciting new league.”

STATS is the league’s exclusive licensor to all multi-media entities looking to utilize WPS statistics and information for commercial use. As the Official Statistician, STATS will provide WPS in-game scores and box-score updates in addition to play-by-play and leaderboards for players and teams.

STATS’ WPS Match Tracker delivers an interactive web experience that goes beyond goals and goal scorers. The Match Tracker, available at www.womensprosoccer.com, combines real-time statistical information, editorial and interactive applications such as event animations, pitch maps and rich commentary. The Match Tracker provides the WPS with extensive branding, advertisement and sponsorship opportunities.

A salary cap fantasy game, the WPS Fantasy Challenge, will be introduced for the 2010 season and available for play at the WPS web site. STATS will provide turnkey management of the game -- including development, web hosting, technical operations and customer service.

WPS Disciplinary Rulings

San Francisco, CA (May 20, 2009) – Women’s Professional Soccer Disciplinary Committee issued the following statements last week:

The WPS Disciplinary Committee suspended Boston Breakers forward Christine Latham for 2 games and fined her $250 for an elbow thrown in the 51st minute against the Washington Freedom on May 17.

The WPS Disciplinary Committee suspended Washington Freedom midfielder Joanna Lohman for 1 game for an elbow thrown in the 90th minute against the Boston Breakers on May 17. Following an appeal, the suspension was upheld for illegal contact above the shoulder by Commissioner Tonya Antonucci on May 22.

The WPS Disciplinary Committee has fined Boston Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco $750 for making a statement on May 17 having an effect prejudicial and detrimental to WPS including public criticism of game officials and WPS officiating generally. He is also required to do 4 hours of community service in the sport of soccer.

Sky Blue FC Suspends Coach Indefinitely

Sky Blue FC announced Saturday that Ian Sawyers has been indefinitely suspended from his duties as General Manager and Head Coach citing differences between Sawyers and the ownership of the organization. Current Assistant Coach Kelly Lindsey took over as interim head coach starting with Saturday’s game against the Washington Freedom.

The Weekly Forecast

Saturday, May 30

Los Angeles Sol vs. Saint Louis Athletica (7 pm ET)
Home Depot Center, Carson, CA

Two of the hottest teams in the league face off at the Home Depot Center with Saint Louis – carrying a 2-0-2 record over the past four games – taking on Los Angeles, which has won its last two games. The two played to a scoreless draw on April 25 in St. Louis, which began the Athletica’s four-game unbeaten streak and also ended the Sol’s 3-game winning streak to start the season. Athletica coach Jorge Barcellos has made the necessary adjustments following the loss of star Daniela to injury, getting contributions from Eniola Aluko and recently-acquired Kendall Fletcher. Lori Chalupny continues to develop into a dominant game changer, while Hope Solo returns from national team duty, having seen her fellow teammate and keeper Jillian Loyden capture WPS Player of the Week honors. The Sol continue to be the dominant defensive team in the league giving up a paltry .25 goals per game through eight games. Han Duan notched her first WPS goal in Week 9 finally demonstrating that the Sol’s other standout internationals can contribute to the scoring beyond Brazilian sensation Marta.

Sunday, May 31

Washington Freedom vs. FC Gold Pride (4 pm ET)
Maryland SoccerPlex, Germantown, MD

The Washington Freedom come into the game having moved up the WPS standings with a four-game unbeaten streak at 2-0-2 following an 0-2-1 start to the season. The Freedom have fond memories of their first game against FC Gold Pride, in which they notched their first WPS victory, 4-3, through a stunning injury-time goal by Abby Wambach in one of the most exciting games of the young season so far. Look for another high-scoring affair on the East Coast return match. The Freedom have not lost a game since and now sit in fourth-place in the WPS standings, just one point behind FC Gold, with a game in hand. They will also have the services of Wambach again, after missing a game due to suspension and last week’s victory over Sky Blue FC as a result of national team duty. The Bay Area team has been up and down this season with exciting performances one week and less solid games in other weeks. Albertin Montoya’s side has been shut out on three occasions this year – all losses – and have given up 10 goals on the season, second only to Freedom’s 14 goals surrendered.

Sky Blue FC vs. Boston Breakers (6 pm ET - FSC)
Yurcak Field, Piscataway, NJ

The first match-up of these Northeast teams in WPS and the first game at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field following a five-game road trip for Sky Blue FC. Boston comes in refreshed from a bye week, while Sky Blue FC has lost two hard-fought, close one-goal decisions that have dropped them to the bottom of the WPS standings. Sky Blue FC recently suspended head coach and GM Ian Sawyers for differences with the team’s ownership and were led by interim coach Kelly Lindsey’s in last weekend’s game. But New Jersey has faced adversity before. Three weeks ago, they traveled to Chicago – the hottest team in the league at the time – looking for their first win and dismantled the Red Stars, 2-0, to win at Toyota Park. The Boston Breakers feature star Kelly Smith, making her return to New Jersey this weekend where she played college soccer for Seton Hall. The team relies heavily on its veterans. Boston is 3-1 when Smith scores a goal and 2-0 when Kristine Lilly scores.

Off Week

The Chicago Red Stars are off this weekend.

On TV

The WPS Sunday on FSC match between Sky Blue FC and the Boston Breakers will air on the Fox Soccer Channel on Sunday, May 31 at 6 pm ET.

League Standings

TEAM W L T GF GA POINTS

Los Angeles Sol 5-1-2 9 2 17
Boston Breakers 3-2-2 9 9 11
FC Gold Pride 3-4-1 8 10 10
Washington Freedom 2-2-3 12 14 9
Saint Louis Athletica 2-2-2 6 6 8
Chicago Red Stars 2-3-2 6 6 8
Sky Blue FC 1-4-2 4 7 5

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