Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
Great play and key match-ups made for an incredible third week of WPS competition. As Boston edged out St. Louis 2-0, Washington against Chicago and Jersey at the Bay Area both ended in a 1-1 draw.
These tied results mark the first stalemates of the season and produced some intriguing drama along the way.
After a red card left Chicago down for much of the second half, a strong defensive effort kept the Red Stars from conceding to an impressive Freedom attack. Then, in battle back from behind, Sky Blue FC made a second half effort to meet the challenge of FC Gold Pride.
In case you missed the action, here are some highlights:
The league and FSC definitely chose the best game to televise this week.
For starters, both teams really maintained quality possession and created some spectacular opportunities.
The Red Stars’ Lindsay Tarpley goal caught everyone by surprise when a Chicago midfielder completely sold the dummy for Tarpley to get in behind. At best, most fans were expecting a touch end line and a cross into the box. Instead, Tarpley struck it first-time from an impossible angle.
Tarpley has done well to give Chicago the advantage in both games. After finishing the first half this week, the Red Stars maintained a 1-0 edge over the Freedom.
Almost 10 minutes into the second half, Sonia Bompastor took a set piece and found Becky Sauerbrunn’s head for the finish. At that point, the momentum shifted in Washington’s favor. Now tied at 1-1, play went back and forth until a red card put Chicago a player down.
Frida Ostberg was charged with a yellow early in the second half and then found herself in a must-foul situation against Washington’s Lisa De Vana. When a player is obviously beat, makes no attempt on the ball and then clotheslines the opposition, the call is automatic.
In Ostberg’s defense, Ifeoma Dieke (the nearest centerback) is not in a position to cover her overcommitted outside back. By stopping the play, Ostberg prevents a more dangerous scenario from developing closer to goal. After analyzing the replay, the foul was probably necessary and it warrants the penalty. The back-line should have made the shift that would give the center back (Dieke) a chance to get there and the outside back (Ostberg) a chance to recover back into her line.
Although this match-up ended in a tie, it proved exactly what it needed to prove. The Washington Freedom had a poor showing in the league opener and is a much better team than first advertised. It took a bye week to work the kinks out but this team is starting to play great soccer. As for Chicago, the Red Stars are still one of the best teams up to this point. They’ve scored first in two consecutive games and held off an attacking powerhouse for nearly three quarters of the second half. If someone other than Tarpley can score some goals, they may finish in the top three. Washington deserved the victory in this one but, but Chicago played well enough to keep the draw.
In the only match-up that did come away with a clear winner, both the Boston Breakers and St. Louis Athletica came into the game with a season opening loss and a great deal to prove.
For much of the first half, St. Louis had more dangerous scoring opportunities but could not capitalize and score. Tied at zero after the first, Boston found its rhythm and owned the second half.
As predicted, the Breakers made the right move in starting Kelly Smith who contributed to both goals in a 2-0 win over St. Louis. She scored the first goal in the 53rd and then had some great combination play to assist Kristine Lily’s first goal of the season.
In the match-up of FCGP (Bay Area) and SBFC (NJ), play went back and forth and remained level for most of the first half. FCGP scored in the 33rd off of a corner and held the 1-0 advantage at the half. As play progressed in the second half, SBFC finally found its stride when Heather O’Reilly netted Jersey’s first goal of the season in the 76th minute.
From a weekend where teams showed signs of coming into their own, here’s a breakdown of how the seven teams in WPS stack up after three weeks of action:
SBI WPS POWER RANKINGS
1. LA Sol (2-0)
Boasting a perfect record, which includes having yet to allow a goal, the Sol deserve the top spot.
2. Chicago Red Stars (1-0-1)
The Red Stars attack teams rights out of the gate and have scored first in both games. Not to mention, they held a strong Freedom team to a 1-1 tie with only 10 players and have yet to play at home.
3. FC Gold Pride (1-0-1)
FCGP defeated Boston in the season opener on two great run of play goals. Arakawa and Wiemer up top are constantly around the ball and create dangerous plays in the attacking third. FCGP also has Buehler to hold down the back-line as an enforcer and as an experienced USWNT player. It will be interesting to see how this team matches up against Chicago and Washington.
4. Washington Freedom (0-1-1)
The bye week gave this team a chance to become more comfortable offensively and utilize every player up top and in the midfield. After playing two strong teams early on, the Freedom has faced more of a challenge than Boston and therefore earns a higher ranking.
5. Boston Breakers (1-1)
Though it was a decisive victory, the team is still coming into its own and hasn’t been tested by L.A., Chicago, or Washington. With Smith and Schmedes around the ball, goals will come consistently with some key play out of Lily. The shutout over St. Louis is noted, but a win against Chicago would better validate a higher position. (Chicago beat St. Louis in the season opener)
6. Sky Blue FC (1-1)
Taking the sixth spot, SBFC scored its first goal of the season this week and brought itself out of another losing scenario. It will take a decisive win to move this team any higher than fifth.
7. St. Louis Athletica (0-2)
After conceding all three goals all in the second half after somehow out-shooting the opposition, the Athletica should have at least one goal recorded.
What did you think of the action in Week Three? Agree or disagree with the rankings? Share your thoughts below.