Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
In Week Seven of Women's Professional soccer, the two bottom teams earned a first win, the only undefeated club took its first loss, and two of the top-rated finishers played to a scoreless tie.
After last week's decision in an unfortunate situation regarding the St. Louis Athletica and Washington Freedom, the WPS showed some mercy in granting St. Louis defender Kia McNeill a special exception to play Saturday against the Bay Area.
As the Athletica worked out some other options for the future, it is still unknown whether either of the two suspended players will appeal the Commissioner's decision.
In a celebration Mother's Day weekend, a few results brought the WPS back into a more positive light.
While the St. Louis Athletica earned the 1-0 result over FC Gold Pride (Bay Area), New Jersey's Sky Blue FC defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-0, and the L.A. Sol tied 0-0 with the Boston Breakers.
In case you missed SBFC's win and Natasha Kai's first WPS goal of the season, here are the highlights from New Jersey at Chicago.
To begin the weekend, the Athletica showed some resilience as captain Lori Chalupny finished the game-winner in the 16th minute for the 1-0 win over FC Gold Pride.
The Athletica controlled much of the first half and not only led 5-1 in shots on goal but once again held an opponent to a scoreless opening half.
As FCGP battled in the second to take the 4-1 advantage in shots on goal, St. Louis goalkeeper Hope Solo made two key saves to prevent an equalizer.
After much of the damage done to the St. Louis team last week, a shutout win will do a lot of good for this club.
With newcomers Kendall Fletcher and Christie Welsh recently acquired in a trade with the L.A. Sol, it seems that St. Louis might be alright after all.
To make a note of the recent situation and where it stands now, league officials confirm that McNeill has not yet made an official appeal.
St. Louis confirms that "she was allowed to play pending the appeal" and further notes that "[McNeill and the team] now need to decide if they are formally appealing or if they are accepting the decision."
Under normal circumstances, a player must file an appeal within seven days of the decision and may not compete during the process. The league office also revealed that "The Commissioner has determined that the one-day window between the Thursday-evening decision and the Saturday game is a unique and extenuating circumstance and will make a one-time exception to allow McNeill to play this weekend during the pendency of any appeal, should there be one."
Despite this messy situation, an Athletica win brought some much needed confidence back to St. Louis and helped rebuild on a few more positives aspects of the team.
In every game with the exception of Washington, St. Louis has held opponents to a scoreless first half and has had the a few of the better scoring opportunities.
Goals from from Sara Walsh and Natasha Kai helped New Jersey's Sky Blue FC take down a the undefeated Chicago Red Stars 2-0.
As SBFC controlled much of the game, the Red Stars linked a few passes here and there but struggled with the pace, texture, and accuracy of the final pass. The usual build-up of possession for Chicago seemed a bit forced and out of sync this week as even the commendable service from outside back Marian Dalmy was sub par this week.
Credit New Jersey for having a bit of composure in the box and for the solid defense of its back line. There were a couple of poor touches and one goalkeeper mistake that almost cost SBFC a couple goals.
Chicago exhausted use of the flanks and was quick to find Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley on the long ball. Skipping the midfield is really what limited the opportunities of this team because it does well to switch the point of attack and to combine with the forwards. In the few times that Karen Carney was able to get the combination play going, final passes and slotted balls were too heavy or misread.
With an early goal in the 8th and a second in the 79th to earn its first club win, SBFC shutout over Chicago held the Red Stars scoreless for the second time this season.
The Red Stars weren't the only team that struggled to score last weekend.
The L.A. Sol and Boston Breakers hit everything but the back of the net. In fact, the Sol's Han Duan had three opportunities of her own to put away goals in the first half.
On her first chance, Marta sent in the through ball. After beating a defender in the sixth minute of the game, Duan missed just wide of the goal. That happened just moments before the Chinese international headed a cross by Martina Franko well over the goal. Then, in a one v one with Boston goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, Duan's final chance hit the post in the 38th minute.
Call it unlucky, call it poor accuracy in the final third, or call it great defending. Whatever it was, neither team could finish.
The Breakers earned chances from Kelly Schmedes, Kelly Smith, Kristine Lily and a few others, but a total of only three shots out of the 11 made it on frame.
In the second half, the defense picked up on both sides as the two top teams revealed that they both have the talent to stop two of the world's best finishers. Holding both the Brazilian native Marta and the English Kelly Smith to scoreless games is something to be said about each team's back line.
With some even records and some up and down teams, every weekend reveals a new method to determining the bets. Since two teams have only one loss and three teams have identical 1-2-2 records, this week's ranking came down to head to head results and number of goals scored.
Below are the Week Seven rankings:
SBI WPS Power Rankings
1. Boston Breakers (3-2-1)
After defeating the Sol head to head in Week Six and then coming out with a 0-0 tie in Week Seven, the Breakers are at the top team of the league and are tied with L.A. for the most wins. Although the Breakers do have an extra loss after deciding not to show up against Chicago, the Breakers have proven by both result and number of goals scored that they are a better than the L.A. Sol.
2. Los Angeles Sol (3-1-2)
The Sol falls a spot from last week after finishing three consecutive games without scoring. L.A. does has a slight advantage over Boston with one more tie and one less loss. However, with a loss in the head to head match-up last week and a tie in the one this week, Boston gets more comes out better. If the Sol had come out with a goal or at least a win in Week Seven, perhaps the club would still be worthy of the top spot.
3.Chicago Red Stars (2-1-2)
The Red Stars suffered their first loss this week as they went scoreless for the second time this season. Chicago had momentum coming into this game and was playing a team that it had completely dominated in the first meeting. With one loss and a still a game behind Boston and L.A., the Red Stars' only consideration for a lower position are their six goals to FCGP's seven. If the Red Stars had earned a win this weekend, they would be vying for one of the top two positions.
4. FC Gold Pride (2-3-1)
The Bay Area had a down week since its usual patient possession and combination play up top just wasa not as clean and consistent as it has been in recent weeks. Without a goal and without a win in Week Seven, FCGP's number of wins is the only reason it somehow remains in the middle of the pack.
5. Washington Freedom (1-2-2)
The Washington Freedom had the bye this week.
With an identical record to both St. Louis and New Jersey, Washington has the edge based upon total number of goals scored with nine. The Freedom also came from a two goal deficit to tie St. Louis 3-3 last week and earns a slight advantage for its late goals. With a strong attack and great finishing lately, The Freedom produces goals week after week. Although a head to head win against FCGP is noted, one less win overall keeps the Freedom in fifth.
6. St. Louis Athletica (1-2-2)
St. Louis earned its first win this week with a 1-0 defeat of FCGP. The Athletica does well to prevent first half goals against, but it has struggled in finishing some wide open opportunities. If St. Louis can score a few more goals and maintain the lead as it did this week, there is a chance that another win will boost this team to higher ranking. Allowing the Freedom to make a two goal comeback definitely hurts the cause for this team to earn the sixth spot; however finally scoring some goals is keeping the Athletica out of the very bottom.
7. Sky Blue FC (1-2-2)
SBFC earned its first win with a 2-0 result over one of the top three this week. Goal scoring has been the main concern for this team as it only has only finished three up to this point. If Sky Blue can earn another win and score a few more goals, it too may have a chance to move out of the bottom.
What are you thoughts regarding Week Seven? Agree or Disagree with the Power Rankings? Share your thoughts below.