The St. Louis Athletica kicked off their 2010 WPS season with a 2-0 win today, defeating FC Gold Pride.
In front of 3,356 fans at Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, a solid Athletica defense shut down Marta and the Gold Pride, rendering them scoreless. Goalkeeper Hope Solo played a fine game with six saves to her credit.
Eniola Aluko scored twice to lead the Athletica to the victory. The goals were both set up beautifully by midfielder Shannon Boxx, who made her debut with St. Louis today.
"I could not have wished for anything better to be honest," Aluko said following the game. "It was very important that we get off to a good start this year, especially after our start last year. We didn't want to go through what we did last year, so hopefully it is onwards and upwards from here."
The first goal came from a forced turnover made possible by Boxx, who intercepted a pass near the center of the field and threaded the ball to Aluko. With a neat sweep, Aluko finished cleanly past Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
The second goal began as a corner kick taken by Aya Miyama in the 61st minute. The corner found Shannon Boxx, who headed the ball through the six-yard box. It found Aluko's head, and she calmly nodded it home to make the score 2-0.
Aluko scored six goals in 2009. With the two today, she is already a third of the way to that total for 2010.
"As a team, we said let's start the season off right, let's get a win," Shannon Boxx said. "Chalupny said it best before the game: 'Let's show everyone what we are about, come out strong and hard, be on every tackle.' And we did that today."
The Athletica defense kept Marta and the FC Gold Pride front line of Kelley O'Hara, Tiffeny Milbrett, and Christine Sinclair frustrated and quiet for the entirety of the match. The best chance for FC Gold Pride was a shot that went wide off of the foot of Milbrett.
"It was great to get off to a good start after digging ourselves in a hole last year," said Lori Chalupny after the match.
Chalupny played a full 90 minutes today, returning to active duty after taking time off for concussion-related injuries during preseason. She was also suffering some back pain throughout the week leading up to the home opener, but it didn't appear to bother her today as she took several hard hits, and gave as good as she got.
Head coach Jorge Barcellos had good things to say about his team after the game.
"The team was very good today, all of the team. Eniola Aluko was unbelievable," he said. "I think she will score a lot of goals this year. The support she got from Boxx was terrific. Plus, we did not make our defense work a lot today."
Athletica will be back in action next Saturday night at Toyota Park in Chicago, taking on the Red Stars at a 7:00pm kick-off.