In Week 19 of Women's Pro Soccer, the Sky Blue FC (NJ) coach walked out on her team, a red card left the Boston Breakers shorthanded, and the two bottom teams pulled off some dramatic upsets. Of all the surprises in Week 19, the drama in New Jersey drew the most attention.
On Thursday, Sky Blue FC Head Coach Kelly Lindsey abruptly left the team with no explanation at all. According to General Manager Gerry Marrone, she handed him a one sentence letter that read: "Effective immediately, I am resigning my position as head coach."
Marrone mentioned that earlier in the day he had been trying to contact Lindsey for her take on a specific personnel issue within the organization but that his calls, texts and emails were all ignored. Lindsey showed up to the facility one minute before training started and told the team she was resigning.
"I honestly can't think of a good enough reason to abandon my team with only 10 days to go. I can't imagine what was going through her head," said Marrone."
Without a statement from Lindsey it is hard to get the whole story; however from what there is out there, Joe Dorini, the SBFC assistant coach, was being investigated for inappropriate behavior. Lindsey was very close to Dorini and was still very close to Ian Sawyers, who by the way was the first SBFC Head Coach this season. According to a few other sources, the team's CEO, Thomas Hofstetter said that Lindsey was not quite ready for the job and that she would likely not be the coach next season.
SBFC has endured a tough inaugural season but the players have always been able to bounce back. With any luck at all, interim player/coach Christie Rampone will lead the club to a couple wins this weekend and into the playoffs. All there is left to say is thank goodness SBFC had a bye during this whole fiasco.
As for the teams who competed in Week 19, the Boston Breakers lost two important games. On Wednesday, the Breakers lost defender Alex Scott to a red card in the sixth minute of play. It was an unfortunate situation made even worse when Head Coach Tony DiCicco criticized the officiating. DiCicco's comments resulted in his one game suspension and to his formal apology to the league and its referees.
Boston fell 1-0 to the Washington Freedom on Wednesday and fell 1-0 to the St. Louis Athletica on Saturday. St. Louis secured second place with the win and will host one of the two WPS Supersemifinals on Aug. 19. The Athletica's Eniola Aluko scored the game winner in the 36th minute earning the 1-0 victory.
In another Saturday match-up, no one saw this upset coming. For the first time in 11 weeks, FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) came away with a win. The Bay Area battled hard in a back and forth effort against the Washington Freedom, but even Homare's Sawa's two goal performance was not enough for a Freedom win. The Bay Area's Kimberly Yokers scored the game's opening goal in the first half before Tiffeny Millbrett tied the game at two goals apiece in the 46th. With little left, the Pride's Adriane finished off the win in the 83rd to earn a at least a moral victory for FCGP.
The Chicago Red Stars also earned a moral victory over the weekend when they defeated the top ranked L.A Sol on Sunday. In the first few minutes of the game, Chicago's defense was clearing balls straight to L.A. attackers. Despite two near chances by Marta in the first 15 minutes of the game, the Sol was unable to capitalize on any the Red Stars early mistakes. It appeared that initially the Chicago back line seemed a bit unstable, but ultimately it was the Sol's defense that had the bigger struggle.
The Chicago Red Stars played well and were very opportunistic. They finished their chances and did well to capitalize on the Sol's mistakes. On the first goal, a poor pass from the L.A. back line to the midfield went straight to Chicago's Carli Lloyd or combined with Tarpley on a good finish. The second goal came from a missed clearance by the Sol's Sharolta Nonen who passed straight to Cristiane's feet which ultimately led to the second Red Stars' goal. No team, much less the L.A. Sol, can afford these types of mistakes and giveaways in their defense third of the field. Based on Chicago's finishing and the Sol's critical mistakes, the 3-1 Red Stars win is an upset but still a fair result.
Week 19 across the league was business as usual for the St. Louis Athletica and an all out scramble for the Boston Breakers. The Washington Freedom split results in its two games while the bottom two teams fought their ways to win. Sky Blue FC fitting had and needed a week away from play which leaves their post season fate completely in their own hands.
There is a clear decision as to which teams should be in the top two and bottom two of rankings in this league. The biggest challenge still lies in the middle of the pack where three teams ( Boston Breakers, Washington Freedom, and Sky Blue FC) are all battling for the last two playoff spots.
Before the final week of the WPS Regular Season, these are the Week 19 Power Rankings.
SBI WPS Power Rankings
1. Los Angeles Sol (11-3-5)
Outlook: The Sol earns this distinction based purely upon its success for a large part of the season. Since posting zero wins in the last three games, the Sol is lucky to have already secured a place in the WPS Final and as WPS Regular Season Champions.
2. St. Louis Athletica (9-6-3)
Outlook: St. Louis is finishing the regular season strong with Eniola Aluko and Amanda Cinalli generating their usual offensive spark. The Athletica is solid all the way around with pace up top, strength in the midfield, speed and athleticism in the back, and a brilliant goalkeeper. In fact, the Athletica has only allowed two goals in its last six games with 1-0 results in its most recent four victories.
3. Washington Freedom (7-7-5)
Outlook: The Freedom split this week with a win over Boston and a loss to Bay Area. The loss is a tough one but the team did win one more game in Week 19 than both Boston and SBFC. Granted the New Jersey club had a bye last week, but the results still matter. The Freedom and SBFC will meet head to head on Saturday in what will most likely decide which of the two will make the playoffs.
4. Boston Breakers (7-8-4)
Outlook: A red card and a coach suspension are two things that can really put a team at a disadvantage. This is not to say that Alex Scott makes the Boston Breakers, but it is to say that she is the main defender who attacks out of the back and who keeps dangerous players from cutting inside. Boston took two losses this week which is a lot when a team is in a make or break situation. The Breakers have only one game left and they will face the L.A. Sol.
5. Sky Blue FC (6-7-5)
Outlook: SBFC had a tough PR week with all the drama but should be abel to bounce back well on the field. The New Jersey club has a great chance of at least one win this weekend and can clinch third place if it earns results in both. They face the Bay Area first and then will most likely be either in or out after a head to head pairing with the Washington Freedom on Sunday.
6. Chicago Red Stars (5-9-5)
Outlook: The Chicago Red Stars have had quite the up and down season, and it seems unfortunate that such a talented group of players fell into such a terrible rut during the winless months of May and June. This week's win showed how much of an impact Carli Lloyd can have on a good day and how well the team can capitalize when it serves to targets and finishes its chances. The reason not because the Red Stars haven't had the opportunities to get forward to create. They have just missed the frame of the goal on many great goal scoring chances. The back four has also had trouble preserving shutouts which may speak to some of its losses as well.
7. FC Gold Pride (4-9-5)
Outlook: FC Gold Pride hit a severe rough patch in the middle of the season and was really never able to recover. This week the Bay Area club defeated the Washington Freedom for FCGP's first win in 11 Weeks. It's nice to see that the players have not given up on the season even though they will not make the playoffs. Tough year for the Bay Area but at least they have another chance to earn one more win this weekend.
What was the biggest surprise in Week 19? Did either of the two upsets matter? What's going on with the Sol? Share your thoughts below.