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2010 WPS Power Rankings: Week 13

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2010 WPS Power Rankings: Week 13
Women's Professional Soccer had a bevy of matches during the week, and a number of national team players from the States and Sweden were called up for a couple of forthcoming friendlies.

As a result, we have some shakeups in the makeup, but you can be sure of this fact: FC Gold Pride is still first in this week's power rankings.

Congratulations, by the way, to Spain, the winners of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Well done, Andres Iniesta. Now then, off to the rankings.


1. FC GOLD PRIDE

Albertin Montoya's FC Gold Pride could have done better without having to hold on late in the second half. A whole lot better.

Still, they'll take the three points over giving up a three-goal lead any old day. Their 3-2 victory over the Washington Freedom puts them three more points ahead of the Philadelphia Independence for the top spot in WPS.

With Norway's Solveig Gulbrandsen set to call it a career in Women's Professional Soccer, she got the best going-away present she could ever have asked for: the game-winner in the 71st minute via France's very own Camille Abily.

Marta was instrumental in the Pride's fortunes, too. A penalty kick in the 13th minute combined with her 10th goal of the season in the 65th from Canadian Christine Sinclair puts the Brazilian franchise player in the driver's seat to earn some hefty honors by season's end.

Aside from the late surge by the Freedom, the Lionesses of the East Bay outshot the Freedom 17 to eight, with eight of those shots in the vicinity of Washington goalkeeper Erin McLeod. FC Gold Pride also had seven corners in the Sunday contest.

The Pride played without midfielder Shannon Boxx, forward Kelley O’Hara, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, and defender Rachel Buehler.

Next up for FC Gold Pride is a blockbuster contest at Pioneer Stadium against the Philadelphia Independence. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, July 17 at 10:00 p.m. ET in Hayward, California.


2. PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE
Paul Riley's Philadelphia Independence were off this week, but because of the action from the teams below them, they got an unexpected boost to the second spot in this week's Power Rankings. 

Over the week, the Indies' Amy Rodriguez earned WPS Player of the Month honors. The 23-year-old from Lake Forest, California, notched five goals and two assists for the Independence during the month, including two goals in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Washington Freedom on June 26. 

Rodriguez's performance throughout June helped lead the Independence into a solid second-place position in the WPS table behind FC Gold Pride. Rodriguez also notched a goal and an assist at the 2010 WPS All-Star Game playing for Marta XI in the side's 5-2 win over Abby XI. She has seven goals and three assists on the season.

Amy Rodriguez is the second Philadelphia player to be selected as the Player of the Month after midfielder Lori Lindsey won the honor in April. 

Philly will next travel to Pioneer Stadium on the campus of California State University East Bay in Hayward on Saturday, July 17 to face FC Gold Pride. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. ET.


3. CHICAGO RED STARS
Home cooking was the story of the week for Omid Namazi's Chicago Red Stars. 

They came out of the week's set of matches unscathed with four points and fresh wind in the sails of the Women of the Windy City.

The Atlanta Beat proved to be a tough test on Wednesday, July 7 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. All the Red Stars could manage was a 1-1 draw.

Down 1-0 late in the first half, Cristiane found Ella Masar on the far side for her third goal of the season. 

Overall the Red Stars outshot Atlanta 18 to six, with half of Chicago's shots in the vicinity of Beat goalkeeper Hope Solo. Chicago also had six corner opportunities on Wednesday.

That set the stage for the Red Stars' biggest win of the season thus far: a 2-0 victory over the defending champions Sky Blue FC at Toyota Park.

The victory was the first-ever in their history against Sky Blue FC.

Masar is proving to be a huge scoring boost for Chicago. She got her fourth of the season in the 38th minute off the feed from Natalie Spilger.

"I'm a strong believer that if your work ethic is there and you've played the way that you're supposed to play -- ball on the ground and you let the ball do the work -- you're going to create enough opportunities," Namazi said on Masar's performance on Saturday. "In soccer, as you know, the ball is round. Some days it'll go in for you, some days it won't. We've had too many days that it hasn't gone for us. Ella had a great shot, and that kind of opened up the game for us."

In an unexpected gift, a poor clearance from Sky Blue FC's Daphne Koster gave Chicago a 2-0 lead that it would not relinquish.

Chicago laid the barrage of Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, dishing out 23 shots compared to a paltry seven for Sky Blue FC. 10 of those shots were on target.

The Red Stars' push for the playoffs continues with a July 21 contest against the Atlanta Beat at Beat/KSU Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.


4. BOSTON BREAKERS
Tony DiCicco's Boston Breakers got a big break against the Atlanta Beat, coming from behind to give the league laggards a beautiful 3-1 beatdown on Sunday at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge. (That's a whole lot of B's right there.)

What made this victory special was that the three goals came in just a five-minute stretch. They are the fastest three goals in the history of the club.

Down 1-0 in the 49th minute, Leslie Osborne found Jordan Angeli for her second of the season. 

In the 53rd minute Kelly Smith's fourth goal of the season came off Brett Maron's botched clearance of a Lindsay Tarpley volley. Liz Bogus opened her scoring account in the 54th minute thanks to the delivery by Jordan Angeli to make it 3-1.

All in all the Breakers had 15 shots on Sunday with nine on goal.

"One of our goals is to win the first and second balls," DiCicco said after the match. "And I don’t think we won our first second ball until the 30th minute. Those are possessions and every time you lose that, you’re defending. That was one of the things we talked about and then we wanted to put players under pressure.

"When you put players under pressure, you turn good players into average players and we did a good job with that in the second half. And this is a team that sticks together and they fight together. I think you saw some of our depth, we’re missing four starters, but this is the first time we scored three goals all season."

The victory was even more special because it was the first for Boston at Soldiers' Field.

"It’s a relief, really pleased with everyone involved tonight," Smith said after the match. "We really deserved it after a poor first half performance by us, we really came back after half time. We put pressure on the players and got the first step to the ball, which we didn’t do in the first half. We played a great 20 minutes for us to get 3 goals."

And it's very likely there will be a lot more to come. They take on the struggling Washington Freedom at Harvard Stadium on Sunday, July 18. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.


5. SKY BLUE FC
Pauliina Miettinen's defending WPS champions Sky Blue FC had a rough go at things during the week. A draw was followed by a humiliation at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars.

On Wednesday, July 7 Sky Blue FC played to a scoreless draw with the Washington Freedom at Joe Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Goalkeeper Kristin Luckinbill made five saves to secure her shutout.

"Kristin was extra confident tonight in net, and her play reflected that," Miettinen said of Luckenbill's performance. "As a whole, we truly played together as a team. We had a very solid performance from our defense, and our midfield and forwards did a great job of creating opportunities up top. Unfortunately, the ball just doesn't drop in your favor sometimes."

"It feels great to get the shutout, but it was a result of excellent play from the defense in front of me," Luckenbill humbly noted after the match. "The effort of our entire defense was very strong tonight, and there was never a situation where an opposing player ran freely into the box. Every time they sent a ball across, we had bodies there to mark them."

Sky Blue FC outshot Washington 19-16 and had five shots on goal in the midweek affair.

On Saturday Sky Blue FC got a piece of humble pie rammed down their throats courtesy of the Chicago Red Stars. A 2-0 defeat at Bridgeview's Toyota Park on Saturday meant that Sky Blue FC took away just one point in two matches.

"We played against a very good team tonight, and Chicago gave us trouble with establishing our rhythm," Miettinen said after the match. "It's a long season, and that means we will experience our fair share of both ups and downs. What is most important is that we expand on the positives and learn from our hardships so we can continue to move forward."

Daphne Koster will rue the fact that she gave up an own goal in the 47th minute, while Sky Blue FC will chastise themselves for letting Chicago outshoot them 23 to seven. Luckenbill was valiant in the net, making eight saves in the defeat.

Next up for Sky Blue FC is a match with the Atlanta Beat on Sunday, July 18 at Joe Yurcak Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET.


6. WASHINGTON FREEDOM
The last thing Washington Freedom manager Jim Gabarra wanted was a brain explosion and a red card to go with it on Sunday against FC Gold Pride.

But it was that futile of a week for the Freedom, who only managed just one point in two games.

On Wednesday the Freedom played to a scoreless draw under humid conditions at Joe Yurcak Field.

Washington had 16 shots with five of them aimed towards Sky Blue FC's Kristin Luckinbill. Their best chance came in the third minute, when Lene Mykjaland's one-time volley saw Luckinbill stretch to make the save.

That led the Freedom to Sunday's contest with FC Gold Pride. This time, Washington was able to get some production, but it turned out to be too little, too late after it trailed 3-0 71 minutes in.

Not only did Washington lose 3-2, but Gabarra was also tossed after kicking one of the signboards. It was a moment that made you wonder, "Did this guy drink a little too much coffee this morning?"

No offense, Jim, but we can relate. Seriously. We can.

Myklajand earned her fourth of the season through a Brittany Bock delivery in the 79th minute of play. Rookie Nikki Marshall, after failing to hit her marker the first time in stoppage time, persevered in the 92nd minute to open her scoring account.

By then, however, the damage was already done, and the rally was no more.

The Freedom played without Abby Wambach, midfielder Sarah Huffman, and defender Allie Long.

Washington can only hope for two things as they head into they July 18 contest with the Boston Breakers at Harvard Stadium: that they don't fall behind early and often and that Gabarra's head stays cool for the full 90 minutes.

Kickoff at Soldiers' Field is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. ET.


7. ATLANTA BEAT
Gareth O'Sullivan has to wonder if his days as Atlanta Beat manager may be counting down before his very eyes.

His Atlanta Beat gained only one point and surrendered two rallies during the week to the teams outside of the cellar.

On Wednesday the Beat took on the Chicago Red Stars and fought them to a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. 

Johanna Rasmussen opened her scoring account in the 30th minute, as Red Stars' goalkeeper Jillian Loyden botched a clearance that instead found the Danish international.

However, that was just about all Atlanta could do offensively as it was on the defensive for the rest of the contest. Hope Solo made seven saves in the draw on Wednesday.

Things got a whole lot worse on Sunday against the Boston Breakers at Harvard Stadium.

After Rasmussen got her second of the season in the seventh minute thanks to Eniola Aluko, the Beat proceeded to let Boston steal their rhythm, their tempo, their...everything en route a 3-1 defeat that added one more to the L column.

Even though Atlanta outshot the Breakers 16-15 with nine shots on goal and five saves from Hope Solo, the Beat's finishing woes returned yet again, and all Boston did was take advantage.

O'Sullivan was visibly in shock after the defeat.

"At half time we just said let’s go try and get a second goal and it’s important to get the second goal and put this thing away," O'Sullivan said after the match. "We had a lot of opportunities in the first half to get the second goal. And amazingly enough we set the focus on our clearances and make sure they were long and high and they weren’t.

"It was a crazy 6 or 7 minutes when we gave up the 3. It’s difficult to swallow, difficult to fathom, but we’ll go back and watch the tape and then won’t comment too much on it, it’s definitely something that shouldn’t happen."

Of course, what should happen is O'Sullivan getting his walking papers with the way the season has unraveled. We'll leave that to T. Fitz Johnson to figure out.

Atlanta's next match is against Sky Blue FC, and any armchair owner in Fitz Johnson's shoes may wonder if the decision could get a little bit more obvious after the ordeal at Yurcak Field on July 18.

Kickoff is scheduled 7:00 p.m. ET.
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