Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
A few surprises and a some noteworthy performances made for a successful Week 13 in Women's Pro Soccer. As usual, the internationals did what they always do: make great plays and clutch finishes, and some familiar, big name Americans finally lived up to the hype. Of course that still means that a few others left fans wondering if they'll ever reach their potential in the WPS, but overall it was a good week.
With one tie, a couple of 2-0 results and a pair of 1-0 shutouts, Week 13 produced a combined total of eight goals from both midweek and weekend match-ups. The final game of the week featured a great televised performance by three-time FIFA World Player of the year, Marta, who finished with a goal, an assist, and who setup her teammates with at least a dozen other perfect opportunities to finish.
The week of play officially began with the two Wednesday results: a 1-1 tie between FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) and Boston Breakers followed by a 1-0 Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) win over the Chicago Red Stars. In the tie, it was Canadian international Christine Sinclair and the American-born Jennifer Nobis who scored a goal each while the Brazilian Rosana put one away in SBFC's third win of the season.
New Jersey continues to gradually move up the standings but took a bye over the weekend as the St. Louis Athletica fell 1-0 to the Washington Freedom, the Boston Breakers defeated the Chicago Red Stars 1-0, and the L.A. Sol swept the Bay Area for the third time this season.
The three weekend games drew the great interest with some exciting rematches and intriguing story line.
In the first of the three, St. Louis hosted Washington with hopes of putting to rest that ever so memorable Daniela incident. Neither the Athletica's Kia McNeill nor the Freedom's Abby Wabash earned a card this time around despite the two receiving suspensions for reckless play after their initial meeting back in Week 6.
St. Louis took the fall this week after a defensive mishap and some unlucky breaks. The team's recent finisher, Eniola Aluko ran onto some perfect balls into the box. But a strong Freedom defense, Erin McCleod in goal, and a little bit of luck were the unfavorable factors against St. Louis this week .
Here are some highlights from the game
On the Washington goal, defender Tina Ellertson stepped to the runner and exposed a gap in the back line. Since the covering defender to her right did not pinch-in enough to close down the passing lane, it left McNeill tracking in a one v. one situation on a through ball at the top of the box. Not really the bet idea for McNeill to risk a slide tackle there because a keeping her feet and making a good tackle could have better prevented the shot and given her a second chance to recover on a deflection.
Instead, the tackle deflected off Rebecca Moros' shins giving the Washington forward an open shot in the 83rd minute and giving the Freedom a 1-0 win. Honestly, Moros has earned more playing time than she gets after making big contributions not once, not twice, but three times to help the Freedom win.
When Wambach was out with a one game suspension and then again during the U.S.A versus Canada match-up, Moros made two consecutive starts and came up with the the Week Eight game winner ( in the 1-0 shutout against Boston) on her first WPS goal of the season. Then a week later, she put in the entire 90 minutes against New Jersey in the Freedom's 2-1 Week Nine win, and in Week 13 she finished the winning goal in the last ten minutes of the game. Moros, without a doubt, is a difference maker and a game changer. She may not earn the starting position over Wambach and Lisa DeVanna, but she should definitely be the 12th Freedom player in any do or die situations.
Other notable performances came from goalkeepers Hope Solo for the Athletica and Erin McLeod for the Freedom who made some incredible saves in both halves.
The Freedom and Athletica opened the weekend well with a great Saturday game and set the tone for the two Sunday match-ups.
In the first Sunday game, the Boston Breakers traveled to Chicago to avenge their Week Five, 4-0 loss to the Red Stars. Both teams presented an interesting starting line-up. The Red Stars left Megan Rapinoe and Cristiane on the bench and the Breakers held Jenny Nobis, Kelly Schmedes, and Christine Latham out until the second half.
An unfortunate sprained ankle to the Red Stars' Marian Dalmy sent Rapinoe on the field around the 18 minute mark. Although the cheeky Chicago attacker has not scored any recent goals, she should still always begin every game on the pitch. This week, the Red Stars exhausted the the right flank and truly used Rapinoe as the team's workhorse. From the opportunities she created and the dangerous chances from her teammates, Chicago (similar to St. Louis this week) hit everything but the the back of the net.
By everything, that even includes a pretty apparent Boston handball in the 68th minute that should have drawn a PK. The posts and the Breakers defense did well to prevent a Red Stars equalizer. Boston made two defender saves off the goal line and fought at all cost for the shutout and the win.
Cristiane came off the bench but did not provide anything amazing in this game. Plus, as to be expected, Carli Lloyd and her lacerated knee did not make an appearance until the final 20 minutes. Hate to say it, but Lloyd has been some what of a disappointment this season.
On a more positive note, Amy Rodriguez scored her first goal of the season when she finished the opening one of the match. Fans have been waiting for the league's number one overall draft pick to do something amazing , so hopefully she has found the confidence to do a bit more in the coming weeks.
Kristine Lily scored on a penalty to finish the final goal of the game and to lead the Breakers to a 2-0 win.
In the final contest of Week 13, Marta displayed why she is in fact a three-time World FIFA Player of the year. She tallied a goal, an assist, and had several near assists in the 2-0 Sol victory over FCGP.
The Sol's Camile Abily scored the first L.A. goal in the 17th minute and then Boxx played a perfect ball over the top to set-up Marta's just eight minutes later. On the second L.A. finish, Bay Area defender Carrie Dew had no chance at catching Marta in open space, but perhaps her center back counterpart should have offered more cover once the ball was heading to that side of the field.
To give credit where credit is due, Marta was as amazing as fans expected her to be. Run, after run, after run, she beat outside backs, got into the box, and played the ideal, slotted ball between the penalty spot and the six. Sol attackers misjudged and miss-hit most of these great balls; however, Bay Area GK Nicole Barnhart played a fantastic second half.
The Sol took another win in Week 13, which further sustains its obvious reign as the top team in the league.
WPS is halfway through its first season and the teams are becoming a bit more even. Results from the weekend include the Freedom defeating the Athletica head to head for second place, Sky Blue FC earning another win, St. Louis losing by only a single goal and both FCGP and Chicago coming away with a scoreless weekend loss. The minimal point differential in league standings has yet to completely eliminated any team from playoff consideration. It has determined that no one will ever catch the L.A. Sol but does not address the consistency of weekly play.
A team's performance week in and week out reveal a team's chemistry, growth, and nature of competition. Consistency of inconsistency are what have determined this week's power rankings.
SBI WPS Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Sol (8-1-4)
Outlook: The Sol is a great team from top to bottom, from starters to subs, and from forwards to goalkeeper. The team is truly without any weaknesses and continues to roll over its opponents. With a goal differential of +13, there are no arguments that another team deserves the top spot.
2. Washington Freedom (4-3-4)
Outlook: The Freedom defeated St. Louis head to head to reclaim the number two spot this week. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod definitely kept Washington in it with some key saves at crucial moments. Washington could be on its way to another positive streak if it earns the win against the Breakers on Wednesday.
3. St. Louis Athletica (4-4-2)
Outlook: What an unlucky break for the Athletica in this week's loss to the Washington Freedom. St. Louis moves down to third place and must really fight to maintain that position when it faces the Sol this upcoming Wednesday. St. Louis results are in a win-win-tie pattern, so perhaps the team will pick-up a result against L.A. It took awhile for the Athletica to get things together this season, but Aluko, Amanda Cinalli, Lori Chalupny and Melissa Tancredi will continue to provide the boost that will keep this team in the top half of the league.
4. Boston Breakers (4-4-3)
Outlook: The Breakers finally avenged their 4-0 loss to the Red Stars when the two teams met again this week. Boston's 2-0 result gives the Breakers a bit of confidence but by no means secures any type of position or validation. The Breakers are the exact definition of inconsistent and this week marks only the team's first in win six games.
5. New Jersey's Sky Blue FC (3-5-3)
Outlook: New Jersey earned a 1-0 result over Chicago in the midweek game and is steadily working its way into a rhythm. A couple wins here with a tie and a loss there must soon become a few strong, confident consecutive wins. The rough start has definitely hindered SBFC but it's resilient spirit will probably keep it afloat and out of the bottom two.
6. Bay Area's FC Gold Pride (3-6-3)
Outlook: The Bay Area started strong but has fallen into an unfortunate rut since the club's May 16 win over Chicago; and lately, FCGP has failed to pick up a win in any of its past four games. Part of the team's issue is losing Kandace Wilson at outside back and the team's overall failure to utilize the natural strengths of its players.
Tiffeny Millbrett has definitely earned her starting spot; however, Tiffany Weimer should probably get the nod since she needs more time to get into the flow of a game before she can be dangerous. When Weimer comes off the bench late in the second half, her contributions are minimal because it takes her so long to adjust to the game. Yet, Milbrett can come on as sub and bring that extra spark and extra energy.
L.A. was a tough match for FCGP this weekend and was not what the team needed to rebuild its confidence.
7. Chicago Red Stars (2-5-5)
Outlook: Poor Chicago Red Stars. Finishing is down, results are down, and Marian Dalmy went down this week. The Red Stars have earned a few ties here and there, but the team has yet to find a way to win in its last nine straight games. The only way for Chicago to get out of last place is to earn win, after win, after win which will be very tough when the Red Stars face the Sol in their next scheduled match-up.
Week 13 in the WPS proved positive consistency for L.A., negative consistency for Chicago, an up week for the Freedom and Breakers, and a down week for the St. Louis Athletica. The Americans finished with four goals to tie with the internationals this week, and an unselfish Marta probably could have scored five additional goal of her own.
For now, it's the beginning of Week 14 with game in only a couple days. On Wednesday, the Boston Breakers host the Washington Freedom and the L.A. Sol travels to the St. Louis Athletica.
What were some of your favorite moments from the weekend? Agree or disagree with the power rankings? Share your thoughts below.