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WPS Week 16: A Look Back

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Week 16 in Women's Pro Soccer featured a midweek upset, an East Coast rivalry, and a Brazilian hat trick.  

On Wednesday the St. Louis Athletica defeated the L.A. Sol 1-0 with an early goal by Athletica midfielder Amanda Cinalli.  The 1-0 result handed L.A its first shutout loss and only home loss of the season.

On Sunday, the Boston Breakers fell 2-1 to Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) marking  the Breakers' second loss in consecutive weeks and third straight loss to SBFC. Then the Chicago Red Stars finished the weekend with a 3-1 defeat over FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) on three goals by Brazilian forward Cristiane.

WPS Week 16 was short, sweet and exciting.  Here's a closer look into what made these games, goals, and  results.

In this week's opening match-up, the  St. Louis Athletica traveled to sunny, Southern California to challenge the L.A. Sol's in its last home game of the regular season.  The Sol approached the midweek match-up only a single win away from clinching the WPS Regular Season Title as it defended its home unbeaten streak. Th Athletica, on the other hand, was seeking its third straight road win and sole command of second place. Thanks to Amanda Cinalli's goal in the 11th minute and a game saving performance by Athletica keeper Hope Solo, St. Louis came out with the better end of things. 

Statistically speaking, LeBlanc led 5-4 in saves as L.A. held the advantage in two other major categories. The Sol held a 13-9 advantage in total shots and tallied eight corners to the Athletica's one. The game came down to team defending and goalkeeper play despite great possession on both sides of the ball. There is no doubt that St. Louis deserved the win but the result is still just as shocking as it was on Wednesday.

In first of two Sunday match-ups, SBFC was able to get in behind the Boston defense on more than a couple of occasions to create some dangerous scoring opportunities. 

On SBFC's first goal of the game, Boston goalkeeper Allie Lipsher was too far off her line and could not recover in enough time to make the save.  If she hadn't been so far out or if she dropped as soon as New Jersey midfielder Collette McCallum struck the ball,  Lipsher would have made the easy save. Credit New Jersey's Natasha Kai for getting a head on the service, but fault Boston's Lipsher for giving one away.

SBFC's second finish was brilliant but quite possible also preventable.  This is not to say that Heather O'Reilly's ball across the box wasn't perfect, that Rosana's finish wasn't a great strike, or that SBFC didn't complete a beautiful play.  It is simply to say that the center back could have been tighter on Kai to make the clear before the ball even gets to Rosana.  Candace Chapman doesn't step to Kai, so both the outside back and Christine Latham step late. Kai dummies the ball, and Rosana in essence has a free shot on goal. It was a great play by New Jersey but was also mediocre/lazy/indecisive defending by Boston.

SBFC fought for the win and absolutely deserves it.  Time and time again, this club proves that finishing a chance and a half chance may be all you need to win the game.

In the final match of the weekend, Chicago and FCGP met in the battle of the two bottom teams.   It was unfortunate that they had to meet each other because neither was really in a position to take a loss. These two teams began the season strong and were, at one time, evenly comparable in their style of play. However at this point, it seems that they could not be more different.

From observations in this game alone, Chicago looks to exhaust the flanks while the Bay Area tries to force it down the middle, get the ball to targets, and watch those targets take on the other team's defense.  When thing were not working for the Bay Area, FCGP continued to force the issue and never really tried anything new.  Thankfully, after forcing play down the right side for the first 15 minutes, the Red Stars finally realized that they could switch the ball to Megan Rapinoe on the right and that Rapinoe could beat the left back to all day.  Had Chicago continued to force play in tight spaces on the left side, there may have been no success all game long.

The Bay Area struggled to maintain possession and showcased another very serious issue. Since losing Kandace Wilson at outside back, FCGP had Kristen Graczyk to fill some of that void.  Graczyk took an unfortunate boot to the face and had blood running across her forehead.  There were hopes that a quick stitching would get her back into the game but those hopes failed after she was replaced in the second half. 

On Cristiane's second goal, the Brazilian beat FCGP center back Rachel Buehler in three strides to go one v. one with Bay Area GK Nicole Barnhart.  Credit the hustle from Adriane and Buelher to recover into the goal, but somehow Cristiane's slow roller still made it in to score.  For sure the pace of this shot was screaming for a goal line clear, but even a prayer couldn't keep this slow roller from going in.

Congrats to Cristiane for the hat trick, but minus a bogus PK call and a saveable goal, Chicago's Brazilian star should have only earned one goal in this game. In fact, the scoreline should have been 1-0 becuase both penalties should have been no calls.

Three games made for a short Week 16 in the WPS.  the upset, the hat trick, and another SBFC win reveal that these final regular season match-ups are more competitive than stats and the leaderboard may suggest.

There is no doubt that even with a loss, the L.A. Sol is the top team in this league.  St. Louis makes a wonderful case for number two, and the middle of the pack is a week by week toss-up for third through fifth place.  Boston, New Jersey, and Washington either show up or fall ona week by week basis, so fourth place may be up for grabs as late as the final game of the season. Chicago and the Bay Area remain at the bottom as we take at look at this week's SBI WPS Power Rankings.

SBI WPS Power Rankings

1. Los Angeles Sol (11-2-4)

Outlook:L.A. has a ridiculous advantage on every team it faces. The Sol has confidence at every position and has show that even the best team in the league can be imperfect at times.  The Sol took its first loss in 12 games and was unable to score for the first time in five games.  After Shaner went down against the Freedom, there were worries regarding the Sol's back line.  However, the recent acquisition of former WUSA standout Sharolta Nonen from FC Indiana will give restore some speed, experience, and confidence to the team's defensive make-up.

2. St. Louis Athletica (7-5-2)

Outlook: St. Louis continues to surprise.  Not only has the team won three straight games for the first time this season, but it won each of those games on the road.  Defeated the Sol was huge this week.  It looks like the Athletica is peaking at just the right time. 

3. Sky Blue FC (5-6-3)

Outlook: SBFC has a better concept of team than any other club in this league.  The players work extremely hard for each other and even go after some of the half chances that they seem out of reach.   In fact, that's how Natasha Kai scored the team's first goal this week.  SBFC is not afraid to fight for a place in the playoffs.  If the team continues to play at its current standard, there is no doubt that New Jersey will be in the top four.

4. Boston Breakers (5-6-3)

Outlook: Boston is struggling to hold on at this point.  Two straight losses after two straight wins further explains the inconsistency of the Boston Breakers.  At some point, the back line needs to sort things out and the midfield needs to prevent opponents from switching the point of attack.  Scoring is still an issue for the Breakers and they will not win or make it to the playoffs unless something finds the back of the net.

5. Washington Freedom (4-6-4)

Outlook: The Freedom earns the benefit of the doubt after spending this weekend away from WPS competition. Washington had no choice to earn points or to leave points on the table, so the team remains slight below average.

6. Chicago Red Stars (4-6-5)

Outlook: Chicago has played one more game than the Washington Freedom but the Red Stars are still making up ground from some pretty poor mid-season performances. Cristiane is coming up huge for this team with four finishes in the last two games.  If Chicago continues to finish and can pull out a couple more wins in these last few games, perhaps the Red Stars just might sneak into fourth place after all.  

7. FCGP (3-8-3)

Outlook: Whoa is the Bay Area.  It almost seems as if the team is lost on the field.  Where is that beautiful possession from Weeks 1-7?  What happened to the combination play up top?  FCGP has players who can finish, but it is a matter or working the ball to get open shots and of supporting the attacking players.  When Tiffeny Millbrett makes a run, the rest of the FCGP attackers and midfielders admire her work and hope that she can do it all herself.  Brandi Chastain got burned really bad by Crisitane and maybe reflects the dive-in and give-up nature of this team.  The players go hard but are quick to give-up once they are beaten.  FCGP also desperately needs some speed on the backline because it seems that if one is beat, all are beat.  When an entire back four gets beat off one or two touches, that doesn't say much about the quality or chemistry of the defensive unit.

What are you thoughts about this weekend? Who finished the best goal? Agree or Disagree with the Power Rankings?  Share your thoughts below.


  1. which hype? – the Be Extraordinary or We are the best soccer league in the world?

    Posted by: daisy


    They are anything but “extraordinary”. What kills me is just how freaking ordinary they look half the time.

    I didn’t get to see the game last night (road game no tizzzube here in the DC area) but they gave up four goals (yes, I realize that the other side did as well and “a road point”, that they came back, blah, blah).

    As far as the “best league in the world”, I haven’t seen enough of the German or Swedish leagues to really make an educated comment. I have just read about them. I have seen a bit of the English game and I think that WPS is better than that…

  2. I am very happy about the league but was disgusted to see Boston have to play on a football field @ Harvard…sooner or later the soccer folks are going to realize what a detraction it is… I would rather play at a smaller venue with a nice pitch… MLS is slowly learning this too.

  3. When is the Freedom going to live up (consistently) to the hype?!?

    Posted by: yankiboy


    which hype? – the Be Extraordinary or We are the best soccer league in the world?

  4. Ms Mann and others, sorry that I don’t have a more articulate take. Right now I am so disgusted with the Freedom that while I can appreciate what some of the other clubs are doing, I have only one thing on my mind when it comes to the WPS:

    When is the Freedom going to live up (consistently) to the hype?!?

  5. All I’m going to say is that the Washington Freedom need to “woman up” and start getting better results (again).

    Enough with the mediocrity. Are they going to be contenders or scrubettes? Sometimes they look “fit”; othertimes they look straight up “counterfit” and like incredible overachievers.

    Enough already. Finish strong. Maybe it is a Maryland pro soccer thing. Each of the 3 clubs based here in the Freestate is “up and down”. Sometimes it seems like they might as all wear the same jersey.

    Time is running out for all three.

    C’mon Freedom!!!


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