Toyota Park becomes ground zero in the battle for dominance in the WPS inaugural season, as the league's best offensive and defensive powers clash this coming Saturday.
Host Chicago's Red Stars, led defensively by Keeper Caroline Jonsson, Ifeoma Dieke (pictured), Megan Rapinoe, the Santa Clara Triangle of Brittany Klein, Chioma Igwe, and Marian Dalmy have allowed one goal in three games—and that one occurred when the team was a woman down.
Much of the credit for Chicago's goals-against stat is Keeper Caroline Jonsson of Sweden.
In his WPS power rankings, Bleacher Report writer Jo Ryan Salazar has aptly described Jonsson's performance as "putting on a saving clinic." When quoted, he was referring to her play against FC Sky Blue, but he had even more effusive praise for her work saving the game against Washington while the Red Stars played one down most of the game after Frida Ostberg's ejection.
Jonsson logged 13 saves in that contest, many of which were highlight-film quality. So it is not hyperbole to declare Jonsson as the best keeper in the WPS and one of the two or three best in the world right now. We could call her a human anti-missile defense system.
In addition to an elite corps of defenders, the Red Stars midfielders are equally impressive on the defensive end. Megan Rapinoe was flicking, kicking, and deflecting balls all evening against Sky Blue last Sunday. Klein, Igwe, Tarpley, and Lloyd all pay their defensive dues as well.
While the Red Stars have not been an offensive machine thus far, they have tended to dominate on the offensive end and have had no shortage of chances when playing even with their opponents. With Ostberg back in the lineup on Saturday, they will add offensive and defensive strength.
With a typical defensive performance against the Breakers they will not likely need to score more than a goal or two to win. They have enough weapons in their arsenal to achieve this.
The Breakers are currently in second place. They have an explosive offensive unit but show some vulnerability on defense.
Todd Civin covers the Breakers for Bleacher Report and provides additional analysis of their assets. He is also in the process of providing a feature on each individual Breakers player.
The match opens at 7:30 Central Time in Chicago on Saturday.