By CHRISTA MANN
When the midweek match-up between the L.A. Sol and St. Louis Athletica opened Week 16 in Women's Pro Soccer, it set the stage for tonight's games between Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) at the Boston Breakers (6:00 PM on FSC) and the Chicago Red Stars against the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride (8:00 PM Comcast).
St. Louis stunned L.A. in the 11th minute on Wednesday when Athletica midfielder Amanda Cinalli put one past Sol keeper Karina LeBlanc to finish the team's second goal this season against the Canadian GK. Both that finish and an incredible effort from Athletica GK Hope Solo allowed St. Louis to not only pull of the win but to also solidify second place for the time being, to score in consecutive games against the Sol, and to become the only team in the Sol's most recent six games to get anything past LeBlanc.
Here are some highlights:
No one expected St. Louis to defeat the L.A., so this upset shows five other WPS teams that the Sol, on occasion, is definitely beatable. The Sol entered the match with a chance to clinch the league title and the rights to host the WPS Championship game. Now, it looks like that opportunity will have to wait at least until the Sol travel to FC Gold Pride next Thursday.
With a Week 16 game against the Chicago Red Stars today, at least the Bay Area takes on a less intimidating opponent before it tries to play spoiler to the L.A. Sol.
As things currently stand, the Bay Area is nearing the end of its season and, surprisingly enough, is still not playing its best soccer. Call it poor luck, poor chemistry, or poor finishing, but poor ol' FCGP needs a prayer and it needs one soon. Ranked worst in the league, and fittingly playing to that standard, the FCGP is lucky that it faces the Red Stars this week.
Chicago is only sitting in sixth place right now and just two points way from the bottom of the table. The Red Stars' confident showing against the Washington Freedom last week should be able to keep this team afloat; however, it's always hard to tell if the Red Stars will come out of the gate in consecutive weeks.
FCGP looking for a win any way it can get one and is not afraid to send the old ladies (Brandi Chastain and Sissi) out on the pitch to get the job done. At this point in the season, it's really do or die for five of the seven teams in this inaugural season of WPS. Both teams have a chance to come out strong and to play well. Whichever club fails to have composure, intensity, and a win or die attitude will end the weekend sitting in last place.
The other Sunday match-up features another rivalry game between the two northernmost East Coast teams. Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) travels to Boston for the third and final match between these two clubs. New Jersey took the two previous meetings with a 2-1 win in late May and last week's early 1-0 finish, but don't be too quick to count Boston out of this one.
The Breakers have a strong attack and have been experimenting with some different combinations along the back four. Some might call it strange that a team would change the back line so late in season, but if the frontrunners can score, maybe the Breakers don't care so much about the chemistry in the only third of the field that should, ideally, always remain the consistently solid. Boston is tired of losing and is really tired of losing to SBFC.
The Breakers will pick up their own pieces and will refuse to go out in three straight games against the New Jersey club. SBFC is making a run for the fourth and final playoff spot and is riding on a lot of emotion in the process. If SBFC concedes an early goal, the Breakers may find it a little easier to put away goal number two and to keep alive their own hopes of appearing in the post season.
Week 16 began with an exciting David over Goliath win when the St. Louis Athletica took down the L.A. Sol in the midweek match-up. On Sunday, when Boston hosts New Jersey, the Breakers are playing for pride and for control over third place in the standings. As for the bottom teams this week, if some luck and bit of combination play leads the Bay Area to a confident showing, perhaps FCGP will have a chance to get Chicago back pedaling again.
What did you think about the Athletica win on Wednesday? Who wins in Boston v. New Jersey? Does FCGP have a chance or is Chicago finally back to its old self again? Share your thoughts below
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