Photo by ISIphotos.com
By CHRISTA MANN
Week 20 marks the final weekend in the regular season of Women's Pro Soccer. It's last chance for two of the three middle teams to earn a spot in the playoffs with the Washington Freedom, Sky Blue FC (NJ), and Boston Breakers are all must-win situations.
SBFC defeated FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) on Wednesday to secure win number one of a necessary two this week. If the New Jersey club can take down the Freedom on Saturday, off to the playoffs SBFC will go.
Also handling some mid-week business was the St. Louis Athletica which took down the Chicago Red Stars on two Christie Welsh goals. It was unfortunate that Chicago ended the '09season with a shutout loss and the usual great chances hit straight to the keeper, but luck and finishing have never really been on the Red Stars' side. St. Louis did well to put away its chances but had a couple close calls with fouls just outside of the box. Offensively, the Athletica continues to do the little things right.
Doing the little things right will also be the major deciding factor in the opening game of this last weekend of play. New Jersey and Washington square off on Saturday in a what is basically a winner takes all match-up. On the attacking end, both teams have the strength, speed, and vision to create great scoring chances. The task will be which teams track players in the box, prevent service from the outside, and limit the number of set pieces in the defensive third of the field. A win is really the only way for either team to clinch a playoff spot right away; however a loss or tie will not necessarily put one or the other completely out before Sunday.
St. Louis will also play Saturday against FC Gold Pride for the battle of a moral victory. If the Bay Area can finish this one on top, it will have finally defeated St. Louis for the first time after four meetings. It would be nice to see the FCGP end the season on a positive note, but the Bay Area's defense has nothing on the Athletica's pace up top. St. Louis needs the win to maintain its stride and to finish the season well.
Sunday's game between the L.A. Sol and Boston Breakers will be a chance for both teams to recover from a pretty ugly Week 19. Going three straight games without a win, L.A. is the number one team in the league but has yet to show it lately. The Sol once had everything together but now seems to be falling apart at the worst possible time. This club needs to solidify it's back line and focus on quality clearing. Giveaways and errant passes were the cause of at least two goals against L.A. last week and will be the cause of any Breakers close calls this week.
Boston returns Alex Scott to the line-up and will use her heavily on both ends of the field. Offensively she provides one more attacker with great service, and defensively she has the speed to recover quickly. Breakers center back Amy LePeilbet should also play well after having the game of her life last week.
FC Gold Pride and Chicago are out of the postseason picture altogether while the L.A. Sol and St. Louis Athletica have already locked-up a place as the first and second seeds respectively. This final weekend of the regular season will make or break the playoff hopes for the remaining Washington Freedom, Boston Breakers, and Sky Blue FC.
Will the Breakers of Sol win on Sunday? Which two fo the three remaining teams will make the playoffs? Share your thoughts below.