By CHRISTA MANN
Week 11 in Women's Pro Soccer began with a meeting between the L.A. Sol and Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday in the first WPS midweek match of the season. Late goals by Chicago's Cristiane in the 88th and the Sol's Camile Abily in the 90th opened this week of play with 1-1 tie.
Three Sunday games followed as Chicago and Bay Area also finished tied 1-1. The L.A. Sol finished 3-1 against the Washington Freedom, and St. Louis defeated New Jersey's Sky Blue FC to earn the Athletica's third shutout win in the past four games. The Boston Breakers took another break from the league as they enjoyed their second bye week.
In the weekend's opening game, St. Louis hosted New Jersey in a battle between the league's two bottom teams. An early Athletica goal by Amanda Cinalli decided the game in the 15th minute off the service of Eniola Aluko.
Cinalli, member if the U-23 U.S. Women's National team, has spent the first half of the season on the bench since picking up an injury the day before season's start. This very technical Notre Dame product easily maneuvers around opponents, marks well in the midfield, and has a dangerous aerial presence. Look for her to remain in the starting lineup and to continue to contribute to the Athletica's success.
Some other changes in the Athletica's starting 11 include a couple shifts in the back line. Both Tina Ellertson and Kia McNeil moved to the outside while Stephanie Logterman and Kendall Fletcher held it down as center backs.
The change put the better paced and better one v. one defenders on the outside to contain New Jersey's attack. Ellertson has gone back and fourth between the inside and outside for a couple weeks now, but this was McNeil's first look at a new position.
By the end of the game, SBFC had unloaded more overall shots (14-10) and shots on goal (6-4)than the Athletica; however, the New Jersey club had no luck in finding the back of the net.
The 1-0 result moves St. Louis into a tie for third place in the standings but leaves New Jersey at the bottom and two points away from sixth place.
In the battle between the two top teams, the Washington Freedom traveled for a second time to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California to take on the L.A. Sol. This rematch of the WPS inaugural game saw the Sol's Camily Abily finish her second and third goals of Week 11 in the 3-1 L.A. victory.
The French international Abily had a bit of luck on her side as a solid strike on her first goal found the back of the net despite a deflection by Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Abily then finished her second goal on a penalty kick in the 60th minute (that followed Cat Whitehill's handball in the box) to give the Sol a 2-1 advantage.
The PK took all momentum from Bompastor's 58th minute equalizer, and the Freedom fought hard to generate a few more attacks in the second half. Once a Brittany Bock goal for L.A. in the 66th closed the door on the Washington Freedom, the game was pretty much decided.
Washington was more successful in the first half by possessing well and creating goal scoring opportunities. The Freedom's Lisa DeVanna had several chances to score early on, but she continually took three to five extra touches on the ball and closed down her options. If she can strike on the first or second touch, the Australian may open up some better shots on goal or more quality services into teammates.
The L.A. result keeps the Sol well respected in first place and boosts it 12 points ahead of the second placed Washington Freedom.
In the final match on Sunday, Chicago and the Bay Area ended with the second 1-1 result of the week.
The Bay Area's Christine Sinclair opened the scoring early with a goal in the 14th minute off an Eriko Arakawa cross to maintain the 1-0 advantage going into the half. Chicago came back with a goal by the Brazilian, Cristane, just two minutes after the break to bring things level with the final finish of the match.
The Red Stars are steadily making progress since their recent five game skid and have earned two 1-1 ties from a couple of good finishes. Chicago's Lindsay Tarpley has been in the right place at the right time for Chicago in the past two games; however, as she continues to keep her shots on goal, her attempts are lacking a bit of pace and some better placement.
The Pride finally put Eriko Arakawa and Tiffany Weimer back into the starting line-up this week which immediately paid dividends for the Bay Area club. Arakawa created much of the dangerous play for FCGP and held a high position as the go-to target. There were a few times when the Japanese International could have made better decisions as she played almost too unselfishly at times. On a couple of occasions, she passed on wide open shots to serve low driven balls across the box.
Weimer was relatively quiet this week, but the few touches she did have on the ball contributed to the attack.
Chicago played well in spurts, but the Red Stars forwards lost the ball on almost every possession.
A tie in this one brought Week 11 to a close and kept both Chicago and the Bay Area in the middle of the pack in official league standing's. Obviously, the L.A. Sol has nothing to worry about as far as the leader board is concerned. But, Sky Blue FC the Chicago Red Stars will definitely need a win in the game to improve.
The WPS is 11 weeks into this inaugural season and this is how the teams compare.
SBI WPS Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Sol (7-1-3)
Outlook:The Sol gave up two goals this week but still managed to come out with the wins in both contest. Camile Abily continues to be the spark for this L.A. club as teams find a way to shut-down Marta. The Sol are 12 points and four wins above the next closest contender and are in no position to to fall from the top anytime soon.
2. Boston Breakers (3-3-2)
Outlook: The Breakers had an off week to regroup after losing to the league's bottom team in Week 10. Boston earns the number two position not only because it is the only team to defeat the L.A. Sol but also because it has the same number of wins and losses as Washington ranked in third. Honestly, these two teams are pretty much dead even at this point, but Boston takes the advantage based on head to head results. The two teams tied in the most recent meeting, but the 3-1 Breakers victory in April decided this weeks 2-3 breakdown.
3. Washington Freedom (3-3-3)
Outlook: The Freedom caught a tough break this week as it fell 3-1 to the L.A. Sol and ended a five game unbeaten streak. Washington had a fighting chance this week, but with Whitehill's handball (that led to the PK )and with the team's failure to capitalize in the final third, the Freedom took itself out of second place this week. Washington's extra tie beats out St. Louis for the third spot but is not enough to earn it a place in the top two.
4. Saint Louis Athletica (3-3-2)
Outlook:This is the highest ranking ever for St. Louis this week. The win over Sky Blue FC determined that the Athletica is better than the bottom of the league. As far as its overall record, St. Louis has the exact same marks as the Breakers. The difference is that Boston earned a win and tie against the Sol while St. Louis earned a tie and a loss against the top team. The Athletica is in a perfect position in the middle of the pack and needs to maintain its current stride.
5. Chicago Red Stars (2-3-4)
Outlook: Chicago came out off the bye with a tough midweek match-up against the Sol. The Red Stars did well to come out with a 1-1 tie against the top team and carried that momentum into the weekend. The club's second 1-1 tie, this one against FCGP, boosted the Red Stars' morale after they took four straight losses in recent weeks. The midweek game helps position the Red Stars at number five because it gives the club two ties and a loss in the past three games.
6. Bay Area FC Gold Pride (3-5-2)
Outlook:Five losses is quite the big number in WPS. Granted the FCGP has played more games than five of the other teams in the league, but the Bay Area club has gone four games without a win. In the past three games, FCGP took two losses and a tie which ranks the Bay Area club below the Red Stars.This week's tie with Chicago helps FCGP get back on track. The upcoming bye will not help the club earn any points this week, but at least it can work on possession and defensive shape.
7. New Jersey Sky Blue FC (2-5-2)
Outlook:New Jersey has the same number of losses and ties as the Bay Area but remains the only team yet to earn three wins. With the coaching change and some more confident players, the game against St. Louis was a great opportunity to get some points. Unfortunately, a loss to the Athletica keeps SBFC at the bottom as it prepares for the L.A. Sol this week. New Jersey has pulled the upset twice, but is there a chance for a third against the top team in WPS?
What were some of your favorite moments from the weekend? Agree of Disagree with the Power Rankings? Share your thoughts below.