by DAN LAULETTA
The Canadian National Team plays a friendly away to China on Saturday meaning several prominent WPS players will miss their weekend club matches. Most notably, Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman will miss FC Gold Pride’s home match against the Atlanta Beat.
Sinclair scored twice in Gold Pride’s first win of the season and Chapman has been playing central defense next to Nicole Barnhart. And in Washington the goalkeeping matchup will feature a battle of backups with Erin McLeod and Philadelphia’s Karina LeBlanc having been called into the Canadian team.
Here is a quick look at what to expect in Week 3 of the WPS season:
ATLANTA BEAT at FC GOLD PRIDE
FC Gold Pride’s offense struck for three goals against Sky Blue FC last weekend, but just as quickly they will be shorthanded for a visit from the Beat. Sinclair is with Canada but the bigger story is Marta’s ankle, which has her listed as questionable. Sinclair’s absence means Tiffeny Milbrett likely rejoins the starting lineup to run up from next to impressive rookie Kelley O’Hara. Marta will be a game-time decision.
The club is already without midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen, likely to miss her second straight match with a hip injury. On the Atlanta side, defender Kia McNeill was issued a one-game suspension for a foul against Abby Wambach last week. The foul did not draw a card, but it is the second year in a row McNeill has been suspended by the league disciplinary committee for a play involving Wambach.
The Beat have one goal in two matches and sit at the bottom of the WPS table.
BOSTON BREAKERS at ST. LOUIS ATHLETICA (FSC, 6pm)
The only undefeated sides left in WPS will play for early supremacy at Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park. Athletica is looking to get Sarah Wagenfuhr back after a hamstring injury held her out of last week’s draw in Chicago. Up front they will be looking for Madelaine Edlund to begin clicking with Eniola Aluko.
The Breakers felt like they squandered a victory last week against the Independence and will be looking to get back on track. Their back four is quickly becoming a strength of the team with Ashley Phillips gaining confidence behind them in goal.
WASHINGTON FREEDOM at PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE
Both teams will be reduced to using backup goalkeepers and both backups make for interesting stories. The Freedom are likely to turn to Briana Scurry, one of the best ever to play her position but an utter disaster while playing hurt for a short time in 2009. She is still looking for her first WPS win. The Independence will counter with Val Henderson, whose only prior WPS experience was a shutout while playing for the Sol last year, also as LeBlanc’s backup.
The Independence traded for Henderson with an eye on making her the starting keeper, but when LeBlanc was made available in the dispersal draft, she came in to bump Henderson back to bench duty. The Independence have more concerns than goalkeeping though. Jen Buczkowski is suspended after being sent off last week, leaving a hole at defensive midfield. And they are the only team yet to score a goal in the run of play.
SKY BLUE FC at CHICAGO RED STARS
In a rematch of Sky Blue’s 1-0 opening night win, the champions will look to get back on track following a 3-1 disaster to FC Gold Pride. Meghan Schnur was pronounced healthy and should return to her familiar left back slot. Last week’s replacement Danielle Johnson is not even on the travel roster.
The Red Stars thought they were the better side in the opener but need to start scoring goals soon or risk having confidence plummet after a 2009 season that saw their glut of creative players struggle to score. Furthermore they have never scored against Sky Blue. Megan Rapinoe and Jessica McDonald are unavailable.