2009 WPS Power Rankings: Week 12

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2009 WPS Power Rankings: Week 12

St. Louis Athletica takes the top spot in this week's WPS Power Rankings. Jorge Barcellos's team is making a strong case for the postseason, while the Los Angeles Sol find things a bit slippery in Piscataway.

Let's take a look at this week's rankings.

1. ST. LOUIS ATHLETICA

Eniola Aluko scored the only goal of the weekend's matches in a 1-0 victory over the Boston Breakers on the road at Harvard Stadium.

Aluko's goal in the 43rd minute came off a feed from Kendall Fletcher, who slipped it past Breakers keeper Kristin Luckinbill. 

The victory puts Athletica second in the standings, 11 points behind the Los Angeles Sol.

“Absolutely brilliant ball from Kendall Fletcher,” said Aluko following the match. “She put me right into the channel and I just knew I had to finish. 

"Thankfully it went through the goalkeeper’s legs and we got the win away from home. Now its onwards and upwards.”

The latest victory also marked—at least in the eyes of Aluko—a turning point in terms of the team's confidence heading into the remainder of the regular season.

"As a team we’ve grown in every way, physically, technically, we know each other inside and out," she said. "We play with a lot more heart and passion.  

"The last time we came here, we got educated.  Looking back now, it’s the same team. 

"It’s fair to say that out of all the teams, we have grown the most since we were in last and now we’re in second. It feels great to be where we are and it proves that we’ve grown as a team."

Hope Solo was able to stop Boston from tying the score in the second half, ending her night with four saves for the match.

"We always believed we could move up in the standings,"Barcellos said following the match.

"It is very good for us right now and our supporters in St. Louis to be on this stretch of winning play.”

"Every game in this league is so important and three points moves you up and down in the standings a whole lot," said Athletica's Lori Chalupny following the match.

“This was a really important game for us. Coming back here to Boston and winning after we lost here early in the season is huge. 

"We felt like we didn’t play well that game and it was good to put together a good 90-minute performance here.”

A set of three matches in nine days awaits Athletica. 

The stretch begins with a return to the Anheuser Busch Soccer Park to take on the Washington Freedom. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, June 20 at 2:00PM ET.

2. LOS ANGELES SOL

Karina LeBlanc was the hero for the Los Angeles Sol, recording her eighth shutout in a 0-0 draw with Sky Blue FC at Joe Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University.

A waterlogged pitch at Yurcak victimized by inclement weather made it difficult for the Sol to get the lion's share of scoring chances.

“We were a bit disappointed with the way we played—we didn't adjust to the conditions in the way we wanted to," said LeBlanc following the match. "You have to give Sky Blue credit—they came out with energy, it was clearly an emotional game for them. 

"We're upset that we didn’t make the adjustments necessary to get the win.”

Perhaps Sol mamanger Abner Rogers could be responsible for not making those adjustments. Rogers elected to rest his players for the stretch that laid ahead, making only one subsitution. 

That stretch will see L.A. play three games in seven days, starting with a meeting with FC Gold Pride at the Home Depot Center. 

Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, June 21 at 6:00PM ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

3. WASHINGTON FREEDOM

A brutal, physical contest with the Chicago Red Stars awaited Jim Gabarra's Freedom at RFK Stadium. But in spite of all their efforts, they had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

The first 20 minutes of the match saw Washington pounce on Red Star keeper Caroline Jonsson with four shots on goal. The Freedom outshot Chicago, 24 to nine.

Of all the attempts on goal, none came closer than the attempt at the 41st minute mark.

Allie Long's shot just went over ther crossbar, sending groans of disappointment from the Washington Faithful.

A postive could be taken from the Freedom's effort. Erin McLeod earned her first—and the team's first—clean sheet of the season. Ali Krieger, formerly of Eintracht Frankfurt, made her first start in relief of injured defender Alex Singer.

The Freedom head off to the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park on Saturday, June 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00PM ET.

4. CHICAGO RED STARS

In the 0-0 draw with the Washington Freedom at RFK Stadium, Emma Hayes's Red Stars saw Karen Carney ejected in the 60th minute for a hard foul on Freedom captain Abby Wambach.

Chicago had a huge opportunity to take the lead in the 25th minute. Megan Rapinoe's volley went high of the bar.

A physical game saw the Red Stars concede 13 fouls against the Freedom's eight.

Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson made eight saves in her fourth shutout of the season, and leads WPS with 46 saves.

On Wednesday, June 17, Chicago will travel to Yurcak Field for a midweek match with Sky Blue FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00PM ET. 

The Red Stars will then head to Harvard Stadium to take on the Boston Breakers on Sunday, June 21. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 4:00PM ET.

5. BOSTON BREAKERS

After a bye week, Tony DiCicco's Breakers took on St. Louis Athletica at Harvard Stadium.

Eniola Aluko's goal in the 43rd minute for Athletica sent Boston back to Cambridge with a 1-0 defeat.

Boston's second half chances were denied by their lack of finishing...and the ever-outspoken Hope Solo. In the first five minutes of that half, Kristine Lilly had two attempts with one saved by the Athletica keeper.

Later in the half, a cross from Alex Scott ended up getting stuck in the barley fields as there was not a Breaker in sight to tap home what would have been a key equalizer.

“I was proud of the way we responded,” said DiCicco on Boston's second half effort. “We defended well, but today we had a breakdown and it cost us. 

"Give Saint Louis credit; they got the goal and defended it well.”

The Breakers finished with 17 shots compared to St. Louis's seven.

“I think we are digging in ourselves a hole and then we start playing," said Lilly following the match.  "It makes it more difficult for us. 

"We think we need to get more shots on goal. Then it’s getting that last chance in. 

"We ended well but we didn’t play that well in the first half.”

With Boston jammed in a three-way tie for fourth, the Breakers' next match with FC Gold Pride at home on June 17 is a crucial contest with significant playoff implications.

“The weekends off have been great," said Lilly on the match. "Hopefully, having another game on Wednesday will keep us in rhythm. 

"We need a win right now. Wednesday is a big game for us. We will need to take something positive from that second half and use it on Wednesday." 

Kickoff for the match with FC Gold Pride is scheduled for 7:00PM ET. The Breakers will then hit the road to take on the Chicago Red Stars at Bridgeview's Toyota Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00PM ET.

6. FC GOLD PRIDE

Albertin Montoya's FC Gold Pride were boosted by the addition of a coach to the roster.

Sisleide Lima Do Amor, known to the world as Sissi, was added to the team over the bye week.

"We never sold short the idea that Sissi would be on the field with our team," said FC Gold Pride General Manager Ilisa Kessler.

"She has been engaged with the team since the beginning on and off the field during training and she has been staying fit by playing with the [WPSL's California] Storm.  

"The player-coach model is not new to the game of professional soccer and we are looking forward to having Sissi continue to contribute her knowledge of the game as a coach and bring her experience as a player back to the field."

Sissi joins Formiga, Erika and Adriane with FC Gold Pride, who have the largest Brazilian contingency in the league.

For Sissi, it was clear that she wanted to be back on the field.

"I wanted this so badly you couldn't believe it," she said in an interview with FC Gold Pride.  

"I couldn't sleep the last couple of days after Albertin told me this was a possibility.  

"I know it will be a big challenge for me, but I also know I'm ready. It doesn't matter how many minutes I play, I just feel so blessed and honored to be a part of this. 

"I can't wait to be on the field and play with this very special team.  It will be a little weird since I was coaching them yesterday.  I feel honored that Albertin is giving me a chance to be on the field again.  

"This could be my last season so, any chance I have to be on the field, even if it's just for five minutes, I'm going to give everything I have."

But will it be enough? As the playoff ambitions of the Lionesses of the Bay are put on the make, nothing should be left to chance.

FC Gold Pride travels to Harvard Stadium on Wednesday, June 17 to take on the Boston Breakers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00PM ET. 

The Pride will then fly back to the West Coast and travel to the Home Depot Center on Sunday, June 21 for another crack at Marta and the Los Angeles Sol. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00PM ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

7. SKY BLUE FC

In the first of four straight home games, Kelly Lindsey's Sky Blue FC were unable to make up ground on the rest of the teams on the table, consigned to a 0-0 draw at Yurcak Field against the Los Angeles Sol.

And a number of players for the home side—including Natasha Kai—would have loved to have a bulk of the missed shot opportunities back. Sky Blue FC outshot Los Angeles 14 to five. 

But wide volleys combined with great saves by Karina LeBlanc added to the frustration Piscataway's cellar-dwellers had with the league leaders from the City of Angels.

It also didn't help matters when pouring rain made the playing surface a slipside affair for both team. But it sure didn't disappointed the interim manager for Sky Blue FC.

"We played New Jersey soccer today, getting down and dirty in the mud," said Lindsey after the match. "Our team was prepared for the conditions tonight—I thought they did very well with the weather. 

"I give our team a lot of credit, there was a ton of passion and energy today and I think that they deserved the result. We would have liked a victory, but today was a moral victory for us."

The biggest opportunity for Kai came early in the first half, when a shot in the 15th minute escaped LeBlanc but hit the woodwork. In the second half, a 55th minute header by Kai went wide left while a chip-in from Collette McCallum in the 72nd minute just went over the bar.

“When you're playing against the best player in the world, you're always on notice—no matter what minute of the game or what situation you find yourself in," said Sky Blue FC defender Christie Rampone after the match. "I thought offensively and defensively it was a total effort tonight. 

"We held our own and had a lot of scoring chances—it's very positive going into the game against Chicago on Wednesday.”

“The ground was very slick and you never knew what to expect," said Sky Blue FC forward Kacey White after the match. "We had to rush the defenders and the goalkeeper, and play off some of the mistakes they were likely to make back there. 

"We wanted to put pressure on them tonight, and I thought we did a good job of executing our gameplan.”

Sky Blue FC will play host to the Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday, June 17 at Yurcak Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00PM ET.

 

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