By DAN LAULETTA
For the first time in its short history, every WPS team will play on the same day. And for only the second time in the regular season, there will be no games this Sunday. Highlighting today's matches is a nationally televised match featuring the two teams deadlocked atop the standings, Sky Blue FC and FC Gold Pride.
Let’s take a closer look:
FC Gold Pride at Sky Blue FC (6pm, Fox Soccer Channel)
Last week’s top-of-the-table clash saw the Breakers and Athletica play to a draw, dropping both in the standings. The same could happen here, but if either team comes out on top it will make them 3-1-0 and in a very strong position early in the season.
When they met two weeks ago in the Bay Area, Gold Pride ran circles around a Sky Blue defense that did not include Meghan Schnur. Schnur is back, but Carli Lloyd broke her ankle last week and is out at least a month and Tasha Kai tweaked a hamstring in training this week and will not play.
Meanwhile FC Gold Pride has won two straight for the first time and did well to secure a late game-winner last week while playing without Canadian internationals Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman. A big crowd and nice weather are expected to Yurcak Field should be rocking.
Atlanta Beat at Philadelphia Independence
The Independence had quite a first month, going undefeated (1-0-2) and having Lori Lindsey win Player of the Month honors. The Beat on the other hand have earned only one point from a scoreless draw in Philadelphia in the opener. Compounding matters is an ankle injury to Tobin Heath that will have her sidelined several weeks.
The bright spot has been Ramona Bachmann, a factor in two matches after getting sick and missing Opening Day. This is the final match before they christen their new stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia and they would like nothing more than to head home off a victory.
Philadelphia has Karina LeBlanc, Heather Mitts, and Jen Buczkowski back for the weekend so coach Paul Riley has some lineup decisions to make.
Chicago Red Stars at Boston Breakers
For the first time this season the Red Stars have Megan Rapinoe available for selection and her presence comes in the nick of time. For starters the Red Stars have only one goal in three matches. Secondly, Kosovare Asllani emerged from last weekend’s loss to Sky Blue with a fractured rib and will miss up to a month. Scoring in Boston will not be easy.
The Breakers have a strong back four and have allowed only one goal in the run of play this season. Their weak link has been set pieces, which they defended poorly on equalizing goals each of the last two weeks (both 1-1 draws.)
Saint Louis Athletica at Washington Freedom
The Freedom host the back end of an RFK Stadium doubleheader that opens with D.C. United (0-4-0) trying to get their season on track against the Red Bulls. They will be hoping for a United win to keep the mood light in the old stadium, but the Freedom have their own problems having begun this season much like last by surrendering six goals in three matches. Their back line looked flat and slow on three goals scored by the Independence last week. Erin McLeod returns in goal.
Athletica continue to be without defenders Elaine and Sarah Wagenfuhr but they have held up well in their absence. Of greater concern is getting scoring help up top for Eniola Aluko.