Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
Week 14 in Women's Pro Soccer began with two midweek match-ups and continued with a couple of weekend games.
The Bay Area's FC Gold Pride had a bye for all of Week 14 and has hopefully improved its attacking runs, finishing, and combination play. The Bay Area's Head Coach Alberti Montoya has experimented with an ever-changing tandem of players in both attacking midfielder and striker roles. Nearly every week, the starters in those positions change which makes it very difficult for the team to link-up and build together. Perhaps a week off gave did the Bay Area some good, and for fans sake, let's hope it solidified a confident starting line-up with the strongest players in their most dangerous positions.
As for the other six teams in WPS, Week 14 began on Wednesday as the Boston Breakers defeated the Washington Freedom 1-0 and the L.A. Sol took a 2-1 advantage over the St. Louis Athletica. Then over the weekend, the Sol crushed the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 on Saturday and the Athletica earned a 2-1 result over New Jersey's Sky Blue FC on Sunday. The Breakers, Freedom, and FCGP all spent the weekend away from WPS action.
In the Breakers Wednesday win, Christine Latham broke the silence with a header on a Heather Mitts free kick in the 38th minute to earn the 1-0 Boston result. The win gave Boston its second straight win as it moved the Breakers back into second place and dropped Washington down to third.
When St. Louis met L.A. in the second midweek battle, the Sol reigned supreme once again by earning the 2-1 result. After a scoreless first half, Sol internationals Han Duan and Marta scored at the top and midway points of the second half giving L.A. a 2-0 advantage in to the 74th .
Surprisingly enough, the Athletica's Kerri Hanks scored her first goal of the season in the 81st minute to net the lone St. Louis goal of the match. For Hanks, it only took her 11 games find the back of the net, and for the St. Louis, it was much too little much too late for its first round draft pick. On Friday, June 26, St. Louis traded Hanks along with Francielle and the rights to Renata Costa to SBFC for Australian Sarah Walsh, Brazilian midfielder Ester, and a conditional 2011 draft pick.
Following the recent player transactions, SBFC and St. Louis coincidentally met head to head on Sunday at New Jersey's home field. SBFC played a great match but St. Louis came away with the 2-1 win.
In case you missed the game, below are some highlights:
This Athletica win marks the second time St. Louis has defeated SBFC. In the first meeting, Amanda Cinalli hit the game winner in the 15 mintue; but this time around, it was her former Notre Dame temmate, Elise Weber, who put away the deciding goal. Although St. Louis maintained quality possession in the early minutes of the match, New Jersey came up with a few dangerous attempts in the first half. In the ninth, tenth, 21st, and 31st minutes, some dangerous SBFC opportunities resulted directly from a few St. Louis Athletica mistakes.
A chance in the tenth resulted from a quick restart when Athletica defender Tina Ellertson stepped off the field to check an injury. New Jersey found itself numbers up in the attacking third (4 v. 2) but the SBFC player on the ball chose a shot straight into St. Louis goalkeeper Hope Solo over the slotted ball to one of three other New Jersey teammates.
St. Louis came away with the result, but a couple finishes by New Jersey in some gimme situations could have easily changed the ending of this weekend's second and final game.
To backtrack a little bit, the weekend began on Saturday with a match-up between the Chicago Red Stars and the L.A. Sol.
As fate and luck would have it, the Red Stars fell 4-0 to L.A. stretching the Sol's unbeaten streak to 10 games. For Chicago, this loss makes nine straight games without a win and marks the biggest margin by which the Red Stars have fallen, four goals.
Overall, Week 14 featured some exciting moments. L.A. outscored opponents 6-1, St. Louis split for a loss and a tie, Boston moved up to second place in the standings, Washington fell back to third and Chicago took another painful loss. New Jersey came close to earning a tie, but crossbars and good goalkeeping squashed that effort. Of the seven teams, every club competed in Week 14 with the exception FCGP which returns to league play in Week 15.
WPS standings list the Sol at the top, the Red Stars at the bottom and the Freedom in the middle of the pack. Boston earned number two in league standings, but perhaps the Breakers are getting a little too much respect for a midweek result.
Since the league table may be a bit too generous for some teams, check out Week 14's SBI Power Rankings.
SBI WPS Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Sol (10-1-4)
Outlook: This week it's all about fives for the L.A. Sol. This Sol has earned at least five more wins than the closest competition, has outscored all opponents 23-5, and has only five games remaining in the inaugural WPS season. If the Sol wins just three of its last five games and Boston (currently ranked second) wins the Breakers final eight, L.A. will still finish the season at the top of the league.
2. St. Louis Athletica (5-5-2)
Outlook: St. Louis had a bit of trouble getting things started early in the season, but has done very well to work its way up to the top. The Athletica has one more loss than the Boston Breakers but in the grand scheme of things, has performed much more consistently throughout the middle part of the season. Where some teams may have peaked too soon, St. Louis came into its own at just the right time. The Athletica goes toe-to-toe with the Breakers in many categories but has been much more consistent since May. With a win-win-loss, win-win-loss, win… pattern, St. Louis has earned 5 wins, 3 losses and one tie where Boston has only three wins, also three losses, and three ties. The Athletica shocked some people with its first win and continued to surprise as time progressed. There is no doubt that St. Louis is definitely deserving of the number two spot.
3. Boston Breakers (5-4-3)
Outlook: The Breakers earned their second consecutive win in Week 14 and seem to be getting back on track. If Boston can win-out its final eight games or at least do no worse than a tie, they may be in a good position to reclaim second place in these rankings. Head to head, the Breakers and Athletica have split with one win each, so consistency is really the only determining factor that will gain Boston any new respect.
4. Washington Freedom (4-4-4)
Outlook: The Freedom has been very up and down throughout this middle part of the season. Washington has scored the second highest number of goals in the league (17) but has also conceded more than any other team (19). For the Freedom there is always a notion to take the good with the bad. Where the team does very well in one area and in one game, it performs terribly in another area and in the following game. Erin McLeod in goal is really the saving grace for Washington. However, at some point, the team needs to focus more on attacking, scoring and possession versus luck and watching their amazing goalkeeper make great saves.
5. New Jersey Sky Blue FC (3-6-3)
Outlook: SBFC is scoring goals and steadily gaining confidence. The New Jersey club was very close to pulling off a tie against St. Louis in Week 14, but should rebound well against Boston in Week 15. The new head coach and new found team unity are a driving force for the team. Again, the early season results hurt SBFC along with the the three wins, five losses, and one tie New Jersey has picked up since the beginning of May. Results are all they need and perhaps a few more goals in addition to that passionate fight will yield some better results soon.
6. Bay Area FC Gold Pride (3-6-3)
Outlook: FCGP has the same record as SBFC, but the Bay Area is completely out of sync these days. Luckily the team did not have an opportunity to further worsen its current state of disappointment since it spent the entire week away from WPS competition. In the last eight FCGP contests, the Bay Area has come away with only two wins, a staggering four losses, and two ties. It's all about the combination play between forwards and middies for this team, and with a week off, they have had ample time to address and to fix that lingering issue.
7. Chicago Red Stars (2-6-5)
Outlook: Chicago…Chicago…Chicago. When will they catch a break? Granted they took on the number one team in the league this week but they are really struggling to make things happen. The players, the tools, and the effort are there, but it seems that the chemistry, finishing, and midfield have disappeared for quite some time. Luckily, the Red Stars face an even match against the Freedom on Wednesday and have an opportunity to get out of this hole one game at a time.
Week 14 witnessed the number three team overtake number two, featured the usual internationals scoring game-winning goals, and it even showcased some big plays by a couple little known players.
The opening season in Women's Pro Soccer is entering into its 15th week of competition. The teams and the players are establishing their brands as the L.A. Sol has become the hands down best all-around team. The great thing about WPS is that no matter which two teams are playing, there is always an underdog and there will usually be a favorite.
What are your thoughts from WPS Week 14? What does Chicago need to get back in the running? Agree or Disagree with the rankings? Share your thoughts below.