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WPS Week 15: A Look Ahead

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The Chicago Red Stars opened Week 15 on Wednesday with the league's first-ever come from behind victory.  With three more games on tap for this holiday weekend, let's hope for a few more surprises from some unsuspecting Women's Pro Soccer teams. 

Today, New Jersey's Sky Blue FC will kick things off against the Boston Breakers and the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride returns from a bye week to host the St. Louis Athletica. Sunday features the top rated L.A. Sol in its third and final meeting against the Washington Freedom, so overall there should be some pretty good match-ups.

As Washington approaches Sunday's game, the Freedom looks to not only bounce back from its two previous L.A. losses but to also rebound from a not so fortunate midweek result.

When the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Freedom took the pitch Wednesday, it was the Freedom who struck first with an Abby Wambach goal in the 34th, but it was Chicago who had the final say when Red Stars Cristiane (in the 48th) and Lindsay Tarpley (in the 61st) helped snap a nine game winless streak for Chicago.  With the win, the Red Stars became the first team in WPS history to come out on top after conceding the game's first goal.  In all other matches this season, the first team to score was either the team to win or the team allowing only the tying goal(s). 

In case you missed the webcast, these are some of the highlights:

Generally speaking, the two teams put on a great show, but it was obvious that the Red Stars had the clear advantage.  On the team's only goal against, Chicago defender Ifeoma Dieke had an unlucky deflection that landed perfectly on Wambach's foot for an easy finish.  Yet, Prior to that goal and within 30 seconds following, Chicago missed some absolute sitters and had even held possession throughout the most of the first half.  

The Red Stars' back line found center mids, and believe it or not but Carli Lloyd decided to not only to play but to play well. Chicago forwards made dynamic slashing runs, final passes were on and combination play made the Red Stars a serious threat in final third.  It helps that Cristiane's goal on a back heel gave the team some confidence, but it is also so nice to see that Tarpley, a U.S. Women's National Team star and American no less, has finally put something away again.

The biggest observations in this match is that the Chicago Red Stars need to have the confidence and accuracy to finish with time, possession, and an open goal on their side.  The Red Stars did everything else very well and came out with a win  Commend that heart and the will to come back from a deficit but also acknowledge that game could have easily ended with Chicago up by two or three more goals and that in the last 10 seconds, Washington almost scored.

Whatever was broken for Chicago has now been fixed with the exception of finishing and focus in the final minutes of a game.  Sure one out of five shots on goal isn't too bad for each half, but some of the chances were simply missed, easy opportunities.  

A good boost in confidence and a weekend off may be exactly the rejuvenation that the Red Stars need to gain that fourth and final playoff spot.  Chicago is currently sitting very close to the mark in fifth place after making the jump from dead last to almost middle of the pack.

Another team fighting its way out of the bottom is SBFC.  The New Jersey team has been digging itself out a hole since season's start and has battled to some unlucky results.

On Saturday, the New Jersey club will host Boston for a second time and hope for a second win against its nearest East Coast opposition.  In the first meeting SBFC took the 2-1 win in a great effort but Boston also had one of its worst performances of the year.  If both teams come out strong, it will be a very even match-up in final and defensive thirds of the field, but Boston may have the edge when it comes to who controls the midfield.  Predict a tie or a similar 2-1 Independence Day result with either team earning the win.

In Sunday's first game, St. Louis takes on the Bay Area for a second time this season. In the early pairing of these two teams, the Athletica found the team's first win of the season.  With a steady pace and some good finishes St. Louis should has few worries in this one.  The biggest concern for the Athletica is surprisingly one of its most important players, English international Eniola Aluko.  Aluko scored last week against SBFC, but she was questionably offsides on the finish and continued to fall into the offsides trap.  Her runs have become too direct even if she is "holding" with the line.  If she can cut across the defense and slip in behind as the ball is played, Aluko will not only leave FCGP center backs Carrie Dew and Rachel Buehler in the dust, but she should pick up a couple finishes as well.

FCGP is struggling and has had a tough time in the past two months.  Last week the team had the entire week away from WPS and hopefully Head Coach Albertin Montoya has worked out a few kinks in the attack.  Who knows which attacking midfielder and forward combos he will go with this week, but maybe he had a chance to analyze what worked early on and to rediscover the magic that was this Bay Area team.

At any rate, St. Louis from a confidence and momentum standpoint has a better shot at the win, but maybe, just maybe, Bay Area fans will see their team emerge from the seventh and last place to something a bit more respectable in WPS standings.

A top those standings is the L.A. Sol which has clearly defined itself as the class of WPS.  The league in an appropriate match-up pitted the Sol against the Washington Freedom to conclude the holiday weekend but maybe that scheduling just happened by coincidence.

In the first two meetings between the Sol and Freedom, L.A. held the advantage in both possession and the score line  with  2-1 and 3-1 wins.  The Sol is a tough team to face but any combination of Washington's Lisa DeVanna, Rebecca Moros and Abby Wambach should be able to put away at least one goal against L.A. goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.  Defensively, the Freedom's back four must do a near perfect job of shifting and pinching for cover since through balls are what will kill them most.  Service from the outside is also somewhat of a concern, but an early step to force play back into the midfield will force the Sol's Shannon Boxx to send balls either into the keeper or just over the top of the back line.  Freedom defender Cat Whitehill must at all costs, maintain that her back line keep Marta and any other international forward from even getting a first touch on that chipped service to keep L.A. from, above all, not even getting a sniff on goal.

Washington needs to the win but it seems that L.A. is just on too much of a roll not to sweep away the Freedom and everybody else in line.

As Week 15 in the WPS continues, it has already begun with an exciting and memorable start.  With three weekend match-ups on the way, which teams will score first and who just might come back to earn a surprise result?

What did you think of Chicago's midweek win?  Was a week off enough to revive FCGP or will St. Louis come out on top?  WIll the Sol's unforgiving broom sweep the Freedom?  Share your thoughts


  1. another clumsy challenge by abby wambach leads to another career threatening injury to the other team. its too bad she is considered our top striker for national team. she is just a thug.


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