Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
As Women's Professional Soccer approaches its fifth week of play, the quality of finishing is a main concern for at least four of the six competing teams . After scoring on only five of the possible 29 opportunities, everyone is coming into the weekend with at least a little bit to prove.
Without some key difference makers due to national team call-ups, it should be interesting to see which players come up big in the absence of a few superstars.
When play begins on Saturday, the first match-up pits the undefeated L.A. Sol (3-0) at the still win-less St. Louis Athletica (0-2) just before the number three ranked Chicago Red Stars (1-0-2) make a run against the number two Boston Breakers(2-1-0). In Sunday's action showcasing the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride (1-1-1) against the Washington Freedom, fans will take in this week's televised match-up (FSC 6 P.M. ET). New Jersey's Sky Blue FC (0-1-2) takes the week off.
In the first game of Week Five, St. Louis will look to stop its trend of surrendering second half goals, something Athletica must have worked on during its bye week. Los Angeles comes in undefeated with three shutouts. The Sol will be a very tough opponent as it brings the likes of WPS Player of the Week Aly Wagner and an untarnished back-line. Expect to see some changes in the Sol starting lineup as it loses the attacking strengths of Marta and Huan Duan (China) while the Athletica makes changes to compensate for losing midfielder Francielle (Brazil) and defender Sara Larson (Sweden).
Make no mistake that the L.A. Sol has already established team chemistry and, with the exception of last week, finishing comes pretty consistent for this team. With Marta out of the picture, the biggest challenge for St. Louis will be to get the first goal of the season.
There is a hint of a possible upset, but we will see how both teams adjust.
In the next game of the weekend, Chicago will face Boston in a battle between a proven finisher and one struggling to keep shots on frame.
The teams should match up well personnel wise as Megan Rapinoe, Marian Dalmy and Lindsey Tarpley lead the Red Stars attack while Kristine Lily, Angela Hucles, Kelly Smith, and Amy Rodriguez head up the Breakers' on the offensive end. Chicago's Christiane will be out with the Brazilian national team while English stars Kelly Smith (Boston) and Karen Carney (Chicago) will be back from duty in enough time for their WPS game. The Red Stars should be able to compensate with Cristiane away in the same way that it did when she came off in last week's first half with an injury.
As far as styles of play are concerned, both teams combine well to create dangerous service into the final third. Boston tends to keep the ball on the ground more and looks to play a driven ball across the six for a quick redirection goal. Chicago relies more on service over the top from the outsides.
If Chicago's can overcome its biggest issue right now, which is finishing off of crosses, it may have a chance to come out with an even score against the Breakers.
As for Boston, it should do just fine as long as more and more players continue to step up. Every week it's someone new,could it finally be A-Rod's turn?
Also in need of some key players stepping up will be the game between the Freedom and FCGP especially since they will lose the most players to call-ups this week. For FC Gold Pride, it will lose two Brazilians in Formiga and Erika . The Freedom will look to some new faces to fill the void for Wambach.
For fans' sake, let's hope that someone will be able to find the back of the net. Last week both had some great opportunities, but neither team was able finish even the easiest of sitters. At least FCGP still has the tag team of Eriko Arakawa and TIffany Weimer to lead its attack.
Coming into this game, the Bay Area sits in fourth place. Even if FCGP takes a loss, this fourth place team will remain unmoved on the leaderboard.
For the Freedom, however, it really needs to move away from the bottom of the table. With midfielder Sonia Bompastor away with the French National Team over the weekend, Washington will have much fewer opportunities to score. As repeated week after week after week, the Washington attacks needs find a way to finish more of its shots on goal and it needs a new goalkeeper. As the recently signed Erin McLeod minds the nets this week, at least one of those problems may be solved.
As weeks progress in this inaugural season, the teams become more competitive and the games are more exciting. Now that some international play is shaking-up the starting line-ups, a few good surprises in any of these three games could end with some unexpected results.
Below is the list of the players out on national team duty:
- Marta – L.A. (Brazil)
- Formiga – FCGP (Brazil)
- Christaiane – CHI(Brazil)
- Francielle – STL (Brazil)
- Sonia Bompastor – WASH (France)
- Camille Abily – L.A. (France)
- Huan Duan – L.A. Sol (China)
- Sara Larson – STL (Sweden)
With these key game changers out of mind, how do you think teams will compare in Week Five? Think St. Louis can pull the upset? Will the Red Stars win the battle of top teams?
Share your thoughts below.