2010 WPS Power Rankings: Week 21

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2010 WPS Power Rankings: Week 21

The race for the final Women's Professional Soccer playoff berth will go down to the final week of regular-season action.

The Washington Freedom had their chance to secure a postseason berth; however, that will have to wait until Sept. 11.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Red Stars end their 2010 season strong while the Atlanta Beat are left to sing the blues.

Let's go ahead and take a look at this week's WPS Power Rankings.

 

1. FC GOLD PRIDE


Albertin Montoya's FC Gold Pride rule the WPS Power Rankings this week. With four points in two matches, the Lionesses of the East Bay continue to roar their way towards the season finale on Sept. 26 at Pioneer Stadium at California State University, East Bay in Hayward, Calif.

On Wednesday, FC Gold Pride took on Sky Blue FC in a match that could have been a 1-0 victory for the home side at Joe Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.

Instead, a late goal by Becky Edwards in the 90th minute salvaged a 1-1 draw, putting the Sky Blue FC's title defense on ice for the time being.

"It was exciting being able to score, and I was happy to help the team out when we were down a goal," said Edwards after the match. "In the second half, I thought we did a good job of putting high pressure, created chances, and believed in ourselves to keep pushing to get that goal."

The goal off the delivery from Camille Abily opened Edwards's scoring account for the season.

"This team is special because we have different players that can come up big and change a game at any given time," Montoya said after the match. "I thought that the first half was outstanding but we lacked finishing, but in the second half, we created opportunities and kept plugging away to get that equalizing goal."

The Pride outshot Sky Blue FC 20-12 but only managed seven shots on goal. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart made four saves to secure the draw.

Sunday proved to be a much different story, as the Pride returned to Pioneer Stadium to take on the Boston Breakers.

There is a reason why Marta Vieira da Silva is, for what it's worth, a lock to win the Michelle Akers Player of the Year Award. On Sunday, Marta added to her goal heist with her 18th of the season in the 46th minute, thanks to Christine Sinclair.

Tiffeny Milbrett earned her sixth of the campaign from Ali Riley in the 50th minute. And that really was all the Lionesses of the East Bay needed, as they roared to a 2-0 shutout win over Boston.

The Pride outshot the Breakers 15 to 10, with seven shots in the direction of Boston goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Barnhart made five saves in securing the shutout.

FC Gold Pride has one more regular season contest on tap: a Sept. 11 match with the Philadelphia Independence at Pioneer Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel, with the tag team of Mark Rogandino and Jenn Hildreth during the play-by-play and commentary honors, respectively.

 

2. BOSTON BREAKERS


It wasn't FC Gold Pride that read the last rites for Atlanta's failed campaign. It was Tony DiCicco's Boston Breakers, who remain second in this week's WPS Power Rankings.

The Breakers will be hosting a home playoff contest, that's for sure. But whether it will be the Super Semifinal or the First Round remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, the Breakers traveled to Kennesaw State University, in Kennesaw, Ga., to take on the Atlanta Beat at the Beat/KSU Soccer Stadium. They ran away with a 3-1 victory and a playoff ticket punched.

In the 22nd minute of play, Lindsay Tarpley earned her fourth of the season from Kelly Smith to make it 1-0 Boston. The 33rd minute saw potential WPS Rookie of the Year Jordan Angeli make her case known with her seventh of the season from Amy LePeilbet.

Not to be outdone, Kristine Lilly showed that she has lost none of her touch, scoring a golazo via Alex Scott in first half stoppage time.

"The last 10 minutes of the first half we started giving them the ball," DiCicco said after the match. "They've got some really great attacking personalities. That third goal was really critical for us.

"Atlanta's a good team, and I know they haven't got results, but there's a lot of talent on this team. They keep this new piece together and they'll be dangerous next year."

Boston outshot Atlanta 11-10 with eight shots on goal. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made eight saves in securing the victory.

Sunday, however, wasn't so nice to the Breakers. Boston needed to beat FC Gold Pride to secure the second seed and fire off a warning shot to the league leaders in WPS. Instead, they head to Joe Yurcak Field drowned in blushes...and a 2-0 defeat.

The Breakers' best chance came in the 27th minute, when Lauren Cheney's shot from a tight angle was parried away by the Pride's Nicole Barnhart. Naeher made five saves in the loss.

Boston must come away with a win against Sky Blue FC to be guaranteed the second seed and the honor of hosting the Super Semifinal. Of course, cheering for the likes of the Pride wouldn't hurt, either...

Kickoff at Joe Yurcak is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

3. WASHINGTON FREEDOM


Jim Gabarra will be scratching his head as to wonder, "How did those wheels fall off?"

The Freedom were looking to punch their ticket on Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

Unfortunately, their brand of direct football backfired as they fell 2-1. Adding to the woes was Sarah Huffman's dismissal in the 87th minute, which meant that the Freedom had to play with 10 in the closing minutes of the game.

Beverly Goebel opened her scoring account in the third minute of stoppage time, but it was too little, too late.

Ashlyn Harris was a workhorse in the net, making nine saves in the defeat.

Washington will need to prevail at home against the Atlanta Beat to secure a spot in the postseason. The Boston Breakers could use some help from the home fans at the Maryland SoccerPlex as well.

Kickoff is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

4. PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE


Paul Riley's Philadelphia Independence clinched a playoff berth over the weekend, and they had the Lionesses of the East Bay to thank for it.

In spite of falling to the Chicago Red Stars 2-0 on Wednesday, FC Gold Pride's last-minute equalizer gave the Indies a punched ticket to the WPS Playoffs.

Philadelphia had 12 shots on goal, but the four that were on target were saved by Jillian Loyden. Goalkeeper Val Henderson made five stops in the defeat.

A victory by Philly over FC Gold Pride, combined with a draw or loss by the Boston Breakers against Sky Blue FC, will give the Independence the second seed. While it may feel out of place to actually cheer for your rival, exceptions are just that—exceptions.

Kickoff is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 8:30 p.m. PT and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

 

5. CHICAGO RED STARS


Omid Namazi's Chicago Red Stars may have seen their playoff dreams die already. But the Women of the Windy City have fresh air in their sails to fuel the Red Stars' ship for the 2011 campaign.

That fresh air is coming from a player by the name of Veronica Boquete. On Wednesday, she scored the first goal of her WPS career against the Philadelphia Independence at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

A free kick from Casey Nogueira found the Spanish international in the fourth minute of play.

"It was very tough to know that I could not contribute," Boquete said after the match. "Yet because of some visa issues I couldn't get on the field and help the team and get into the playoffs. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

"I'm happy that now I've sorted out the visa and obviously very happy with what I did tonight."

Of course, red tape is the least of the issues the Red Stars will have to iron out for next season.

"Any time we get that first goal it seems like if we can ride it out. Tonight was no different," Namazi said after the match. "we had decent spurts of play, but we could have scored a lot more. But overall, the possession wasn't as good as some of the games we've lost. Having said that, I'll take the win.

"I felt our back line did a great job of containing [Amy] Rodriguez. She really puts a lot of pressure on the defense and has outstanding speed. So we dropped off.

"The space in front of us was pretty occupied by Formiga. She did a great job, [Katie] Chapman. We weren't worried about that space. We were worried about the space behind. I thought our back line, especially our two central defenders, did a great job."

Marian Dalmy opened her scoring account in the 54th minute from Karen Carney to make it 2-0 Red Stars.

Chicago outshot Philadelphia 16-12 and had seven shots on goal. Goalkeeper Jillian Loyden made four saves in the shutout win.

The Red Stars wrapped up their 2010 campaign with a home match against the Washington Freedom on Sunday.

A few days after Nogueira provided the assist on Boquete's first goal, Boquete returned the favor in the 50th minute for Nogueira's third of the season.

Megan Rapinoe scored her first goal of the season with the last Chicago Red Stars goal of the year in the first minute of stoppage time to make it 2-0 Chicago.

They did give up a late goal in the third minute of stoppage time, but the Red Stars were able to hold on to a 2-1 victory and end their season with optimism.

Chicago outshot Washington 22-10 and had 11 shots on goal to the Freedom's three. Loyden only had to make one save all match.

Chicago ends their season with a 7-11-6 record and 27 points, good for either fifth or sixth place, depending on how Sky Blue FC does on Saturday against Boston.

 

6. SKY BLUE FC


Rick Stainton's Sky Blue FC will have the Women of the Windy City—that is, the Chicago Red Stars—to thank for buying them some much needed time to mount one final push for the playoffs on Sept. 11.

Of course, Sky Blue FC would have helped their cause much more if their last two matches were W's rather than D's. But hey, at least it's better than L's.

On Wednesday, Sky Blue FC hosted FC Gold Pride at Joe Yurcak Field on the campus of Rutgers University. In all honesty, this had 1-0 Sky Blue written all over it.

Natasha Kai would have been the hero. Tasha's 72nd minute goal from Heather O'Reilly was her fifth of the season.

But football hurts in a number of ways, and a last-ditch equalizer consigned the Ladies of the Raritan to a 1-1 draw with the Lionesses of the East Bay.

"It's very unfortunate to see such a well-played game end the way this one did, but we have to keep our heads up and continue to have the belief that we are still in this," Stainton remarked after the match.

O'Reilly put it in a more positive light.

"Overall, we were pretty happy with the way we performed," O'Reilly said after the game. "Obviously, it was a bit of a heartbreak there in the end when they were able to tie it.

"As a team, we know we have to continue to move forward with a positive approach, and we know we still have some soccer to play."

Next up for Sky Blue FC was a match with the Atlanta Beat. Stainton's crew outshot the Beat nine to eight but couldn't drive one it, and so they had to settle for a scoreless draw.

Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Meghan Burke made five saves to secure the draw.

"This was a back-and-forth game that saw both teams create their fair share of opportunities," Sky Blue FC head coach Rick Stainton remarked.

"In the second half, we looked to sway the tempo in our favor by changing our formation, which allowed us to pressure their backs and give us more chances on goal. We had some open looks, and it was a bit unfortunate that we were unable to find the go-ahead.

"There is a reason why we are still alive right now," Stainton stated. "We must keep pursuing the opportunity in front of us, and we must make it our mission to seek out the reason why we remain alive for the postseason.

"Needless to say, we must approach next Saturday's match with Boston as if it is a playoff game."

News flash, Rick: the reason is simple. The Red Stars bought you time, and they say you're welcome.

Of course, Sky Blue FC will be having a tough go at it with the Breakers at Joe Yurcak Field. Don't be surprised if they are pulling for the Atlanta Beat to end their season off with a bang. Perhaps they will have a chance to defend their trophy after all.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET.


7. ATLANTA BEAT


It hasn't been an inaugural year James Galanis's Atlanta Beat will want to remember. All the efforts of his predecessor, Gareth O'Sullivan, merely amounted to a 5-12-6 record, O'Sullivan's dismissal, the Beat sinking to the bottom of the Power Rankings, and Galanis consigned to picking up the pieces for next season.

On Wednesday, Atlanta hosted the Boston Breakers at Beat/KSU Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga.

Eniola Aluko scored her ninth goal of the season from Aya Miyama in the 64th minute, but it wasn't enough as the Beat fell 3-1, ending their chances of making the playoffs.

"I think that we came out a little unsure because we came off a bad second half in the previous game, so we didn’t know what was going to happen," Galanis said after the match. "We came back and I think we did well, but the damage was done."

Beat goalkeeper Hope Solo made five saves in the loss.

Atlanta may have been eliminated from the postseason, but they had their chance to play the spoiler against Sky Blue FC on Sunday in Kennesaw.

All the Beat could drum out, however, was a scoreless draw with the visitors.

While Atlanta had more shots on goal than Sky Blue FC (five to two), goalkeeper Meghan Burke just added to the frustrations of the Beat's lack of rhythm on both sides of the ball.

Not the best way to end a home campaign, either, even though Hope Solo did earn a shutout, making just two saves.

The Beat do have one more chance to play spoiler: this time against the Washington Freedom at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

Kickoff is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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