It is not inconceivable that, despite their dominance in Women's Professional Soccer thus far, the L.A. Sol could end up losing their lead in the standings and fail to win the championship game.
Right now, only two points separate the four teams fighting for the final two playoff slots, no team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, and only six points separate the middle five clubs.
Demonstrating the WPS's balance, there are scenarios by which five of the seven clubs could at least tie for first place at the end of the schedule.
Los Angeles jumped out to an early lead in the standings and never looked back; however, their fast start may be attributable as much to the structure of their schedule as the strength of their roster.
A cynic might be suspicious of the fact that Los Angeles had the bulk of their home games earlier in the season and all of their byes at the end of the season. As a result, until late in the season, the Sol had as many as three games in hand.
The final stretch will tell the tale, but L.A. is more vulnerable than most may imagine.
L.A. is the only club that hasn't had a meltdown at some point in the schedule. It could be their turn now, especially since they are approaching the toughest part of their schedule.
Futhermore, with all their byes at the end of the schedule, the Sol could lose their edge.
With all three remaining matches on the road and with each opponent more in need of a win than L.A., it is extremely possible the leaders could stumble—not only once or twice but three times.
L.A.'s final three matches break down like this:
The Bay Area club is wallowing in last place with little hope of moving up. But the in-state rivalry, the club's raw hunger for a rare win, and home-field advantage creates a scenario in which Gold Pride could take three points.
The Sol faces Chicago (at Chicago) on August 2. The Red Stars came within seconds of winning the first confrontation in the Tool Box, only to be tied 1-1 in stoppage time on a goal by Camille Abily.
Despite losing large to L.A. on the second encounter, again in L.A., the Red Stars outshot the Sol and generally dominated the match. With their final clash being the first on Chicago's turf and Chicago potentially needing the win to lock up the postseason, the odds are good that Chicago will prevail.
The Breakers are either on their way up or on their way out. Even if they continue their slump, however, it is again conceivable that L.A. could lose the match.
In the season finale for both teams, Boston is likely to be hungrier than L.A. Unless the Sol needs the match to protect first place, they will have less motivation, all else being equal.
In addition, L.A. could learn the psychological complexity of plaing through a slump, much as Chicago did.
Again, until recently, Los Angeles has been far ahead, losing no more than twice until the home stretch. If the Sol enter the Boston match with their first losing streak, it is extremely possible that the bogeymen in players' heads will come to Boston's aid.
And then, should L.A. lose their almost certain grip on first place, their momentum could continue to betray them and the newest, hottest club could take it all.
It could be Chicago, St. Louis, or NY-NJ, as all three seem to be peaking at just the right time. Meanwhile L.A., in their loss to St. Louis, has proven they too have feet of clay.
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