2009 WPS Power Rankings: Week 13
All seven teams in Women's Professional Soccer were in action over the past week. And when all team are in action, we have movers and shakers about in this week's edition.
Let's take a look.
1. LOS ANGELES SOL
This week, Abner Rogers' Sol claim the number one spot once again. It must be the fact that they are only playing one match over this weekend, against a FC Gold Pride team that they took care of easily 2-0.
Who else than Camille Abily to start things off?
In the 17th minute, a badly saved ball by Nicole Barnhart found the French international, who slammed it home. Seven minutes later, captain Shannon Boxx delivered a long ball to Marta on the left flank, who used her speed to do the rest.
Karina LeBlanc made three saves for the match, but it was a dazzling defensive display that denied LeBlanc from not getting her ninth shutout delivered to her. Man, that's a lot of d's. That's defense for you. Or is it spelled defence?
You begin to wonder about that fact that it could have been worse.
The 71st minute should have made it a 3-0 victory, but opportunities for Han Duan, Aya Miyama, and Marta fell apart.
Flattering flattening, I fancy.
However, the Sol have little time to catch their breath. On Wednesday, they face St. Louis Athletica on Wednesday, June 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00PM ET at the Anheuser Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri.
Following the St. Louis tilt, they return to the Home Depot Center for a Saturday contest with the Chicago Red Stars. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00PM ET.
2. WASHINGTON FREEDOM
Jim Gabarra's Freedom also had the luxury of having one game to deal with, but it was against high-flying St. Louis Athletica at Fenton's Anheuser Busch Soccer Park on Saturday.
Hot muggy conditions could not stop midfielder Rebecca Moros.
A holdover from the 2007 side that won the W-League championship, she received a pass from Lisa De Vanna. St. Louis's Kia McNeill did not clear the ball enough for Moros to blast one past Hope Solo, under the crossbar.
That takes accuracy, all you aspiring footballers. Moros's 83rd minutre heroics equated to a 1-0 victory for Washington.
“It was on a fast break two on two, De Vanna drew the defenders in because of her speed and she fed it right to me,” said Moros on the goal after the match. “McNeill made a valiant effort to clear the ball but it came back to me.”
Gabarra was pleased.
“We played pretty well in the first half but did have to weather a few storms,” the Washington manager said after the game. “Both goalies played spectacular in the first half and each team was battling to just be the first one to score.”
But it was Erin McLeod who stole the show for the Freedom. The Washington goalkeeper made seven saves for the match in earning another clean sheet.
To their credit, Washington did outshoot Athletica for the match but barely (12 to 11 for St. Louis).
“I think St. Louis had the better play in the second half but we held strong defensively and that ended up being the difference in the game,” said Gabarra on the victory. “To get a win on the road against a team that is ahead of you in the standings and has [a] game in hand is critical at this time of the year.”
And just like the Sol, the Freedom have a Wednesday match on tap. Washington will travel to Harvard Stadium to take on the Boston Breakers on June 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00PM ET.
3. BOSTON BREAKERS
Boston's two-game swing saw Tony DiCicco's club take four out of a possible six points.
On Wednesday, June 17, the Breakers hosted FC Gold Pride. Boston was down 1-0 off a Christine Sinclair goal in the 15th minute. In the 76th minute, Jennifer Nobis opened her account with a header off a Kelly Smith corner to bring the match on level terms.
“We would have liked to have gotten a win; we saw the worst and the best in this team,” said DiCicco in pointing out the vast differences in his team between halves after the match. “It’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story.
"It was really disappointing in the first half, and then they came out and showed how good they really can be.”
Boston outshot the Pride 13 to 11 and had more shots on goal (nine to the Pride's five). In the second half, the Breakers outshot the Pride 12 to four.
It was a different case at Bridgeview's Toyota Park on Sunday, as the Breakers cruised to a complete 2-0 victory over the floundering Chicago Red Stars.
Amy Rodriguez opened the proceedings with a goal in the 22nd minute off a pass by captain Kristine Lilly. Lilly herself notched a 91th minute stoppage-time penalty.
“I think it was a gutty performance," said DiCicco following the match. "It was difficult to play in this weather and I thought it was really important to score first because chasing the game in this weather is not easy.
“Chicago probably deserved more, but we’ve been on that side of the games as well. So we’re delighted with the win and we went out with the right mentality.”
Breakers keeper Allison Lipsher made four saves in the shutout.
And like Los Angeles and Washington, Boston has a Wednesday night game. The Freedom come to town at Harvard Stadium on June 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM ET and will be televised by Comcast SportsNet.
4. SKY BLUE FC
The playing surface at Yurcak Field was in much better condition for Sky Blue FC on Wednesday, June 17 against the Chicago Red Stars.
In fact, it was in such a tip-top shape that Rosana paid tribute to it with a game-winning goal in the 24th minute to give the Jersey girls a much-needed 1-0 victory.
A loose ball in the penalty box found the Brazilian international, who sent it past Chicago net-minder Caroline Jonsson.
The victory was so impressive that manager Kerri Lindsey was named full-time manager, instead of interim.
"It was great to get [a] goal early, but now we need to focus on how we play when we have a lead," Lindsey said after the game. "In this league, every team has a dynamic attack and they will not stop coming at us. That's the next building block we're going to work on in order to round out our play."
Lindsey has a point. Sky Blue FC out-shot Chicago 13 to eight in the contest, but both teams each had five on goal.
"It was a battle for the full 90 minutes," said Natasha Kai following the match. "Both sides had plenty of chances, but it only takes one goal to win and we were the team that made our chances count.
"As a professional, you have to convert the few scoring chances you get in a game, and we did our job tonight."
Next Sunday, June 28, Sky Blue FC hosts St. Louis Athletica. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00PM ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
5. ST. LOUIS ATHLETICA
For Jorge Barcellos's Athletica, they let one get away from them at home against the Washington Freedom on Saturday, June 20.
Maybe it was the humidity. Maybe it was the heat. Or maybe it was the fact that St. Louis simply had knack for hitting the wrong place at the right time.
They seemed to confirmed those theories against Washington. But don't tell that to Athletica's manager.
“When you play at home you have to win,“ a disappointed Barcellos said. “Soccer is a game when you have opportunities you have to score.
"If you don’t score sooner or later the other team will.”
And that team was the Freedom. Rebecca Moros's 83rd minute goal broke green and silver hearts in Fenton.
Athletica had a huge opportunity to go ahead in the 47th minute, but Christie Welsh's header hit the crossbar and was cleared by the Freedom.
The 50th minute...it was deja bong all over again. Melissa Tancredi's header off an Athletica corner hit the crossbar and was cleared.
St. Louis can still put themselves back in contention. They host the Los Angeles Sol on Wednesday, June 24 at the Anheuser Busch Soccer Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET.
Athletica will then travel to Yurcak Field to take on Sky Blue FC on Sunday, June 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00PM ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
6. FC GOLD PRIDE
Albertin Montoya's FC Gold Pride failed to do themselves any favors by earning a draw and a loss over the week's set of matches.
At Harvard Stadium, Christine Sinclair scored her fifth goal of the season to give the Pride an early 1-0 lead on Wednesday, June 17.
However, they were unable to hold on to their lead as a barrage of shots from Boston resulted in Jennifer Nobis's first goal of the season for Boston.
Ironically for FC Gold Pride, who committed 11 fouls for the game compared to Boston's three, they were already thinking ahead to Sunday match with the Los Angeles Sol as the full-time whistle blew.
“We talked about preparation for Sunday already, it’s about being prepared for the game, getting a good meal, getting hydrated and taking care of your body,” said Montoya after the Boston game. “We have to start preparing now, not when we get back.
"It’s as simple as take care of your body, and get the proper rest so we can go into LA and play as well as we did in the fist half here. Right now, it’s more about rest than anything else.”
But just as the Lionesses of the Bay were unable to get any breaks against the Breakers, they could not find any Solace against the Sol.
A 17th minute goal by Camille Abily combined with a 24th minute breakaway by Marta consigned the Pride to a 2-0 defeat. It was the same old story in what is still a one-sided rivalry.
So much for rest.
And FC Gold Pride had their opportunities to get on the sheet, but one of the strongest defenses in the WPS, combined with Karina LeBlanc's ability to make saves, proved to be too much.
"I thought we gave an excellent effort on the field, especially against such a tough team following our game against Boston just a few days ago," said Montoya following the match. "We've worked extremely hard and came into this game with a lot of confidence thinking we could pull off a win.
"You have to give LA credit they keep seeming to find ways to win. I'm not disappointed in our team, they played their hearts out."
Nicole Barnhart faced a lion's share of the shots. The 71st minute saw the US international make some great saves on Aya Miyama, Han Duan and Marta. It could have been worse for the Pride.
"Barnhart was outstanding even more so in the second half," Montoya admitted. "She really made some spectacular back-to-back saves and really played a key role in keeping us in the game.
"We believed at half time if we didn't let allow the Sol to score in the second half, we could come back. A lot of credit goes to ‘Barney' [Barnhart] for keeping us in the game.
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to put one in the goal."
And that is the big issue facing FC Gold Pride: can they score once against their neighbors to the south?
They do have one more shot at the Sol-July 23rd at Buck Shaw Stadium on the campus of Santa Clara University-but they have yet to score even once against the league leaders.
And with every passing minute, and every missed opportunity, the Pride are putting themselves in a very cagey situation.
The Pride have a week to mull over what could have been before hosting St. Louis Athletica at Buck Shaw Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for July 5, 2009 at 8:00PM ET.
7. CHICAGO RED STARS
The Red Stars are sinking again. Only this time, it's worse than before. Much worse.
Chomp on this statistic: 313 minutes without a goal. That's five more than the previous record they set pre-Cristiane shot against Los Angeles.
This is what we call ignominy.
At Yurcak Field, on the campus of Rutgers University, Rosana pierced through the defense to sneak one past Caroline Jonsson to deal Chicago a 1-0 defeat.
In spite of the game, midfielder Carli Lloyd felt good to be back, if only for the nostalgia.
"I really enjoyed playing at Yurcak Field tonight. I miss being at Rutgers - this was my home for four years," Lloyd said after the match. "I had family and friends in the stands tonight, and while it was exciting to play in front of them it was unfortunate that we couldn't get the win."
"We simply lost the game in the first half tonight," said manager Emma Hayes after the match. "It's always difficult to come back from being a goal down, but particularly so in this league where you rarely see a team come from behind and win.
"We need to look at our personnel this week and find the players who are capable of making a difference in the final third."
Alas, it was all in vain against the Boston Breakers at Toyota Park.
Goals by Amy Rodriguez and Kristine Lilly told the story as the Red Stars lost again, 2-0.
It was a contest that saw Chicago outshoot Boston 13 to 4, rack up more shots on goal than Boston (five to two), and win more corners than Boston (seven to one).
Chicago also committed more fouls (15 to 11) and saw a couple of its players cautioned late in the game.
“We sent the team out today to show that they can perform as a team and I’m very proud of my players today," Hayes said after the game. "I think the better team lost the game and I think if we could extend the goal width in either direction then we wouldn’t be talking about a clean sheet."
But inside the Red Star dressing room sat a devastated, disappointed group of players.
“This is the first time since I’ve been the coach here that I have a real hurt dressing room," said Hayes. "They are hurt because they know that they put everything into the game and they performed to the best of their ability. The ball didn’t go in the back of the net, but you know there have been a lot of good performances.”
“From the people on the field to the people on the bench, we were a tight union," said Lindsay Tarpley after the match. "I think it hurts more today because we felt so unified. I think we’re going to build from this.
“I think that I had some chances tonight and I wish I could have finished them. I’ll be working on that.
"I have no doubt what our potential is for our team. I know we’re going to step up individually and collectively and find a way to continue to represent this club in a great way.”
Hayes, however, sent a stern warning to the rest of the league, primarily Abner Rogers and the Los Angeles Sol.
“For us, we executed our game plan and we’re going to take the momentum and energy from the team today into LA," Hayes warned. "If you want to write this team off it’s at your peril because we have very hungry players right now.”
In a league as compact as the WPS, no team would tare the opposition lightly. It is, one way or another, an unwritten rule.
But Chicago is the Windy City, and the current state of affairs sees the Red Stars lacking wind, lacking firepower, and lacking desire.
Given that, LA will not take a team that was the first to score-and nearly win-on its home turf lightly. In fact, the league leaders and number one team in the rankings, will be looking to do some flexing.
Another loss for Chicago, and the detractors who choose to write off Emma Hayes's Red Stars will be hungry to say, in the words of Johnny Warren, "I told you so."
Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1:00PM ET at the Home Depot Center.
Author side-note: The Power Rankings for Week 14 will be posted on Tuesday on Bleacher Report and my blog on the WPS Fans' Corner due to other commitments that week. Regular Wednesday postings will resume as scheduled for Week 14 onward on the WPS site and Week 15 onward on b/r and my blog on the Fans Corner.
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