Monthly Archives: May 2012

Maryland Teams Memorial Day Weekend Roundup

Contrary to expectations, I did not make an odyssey to Somerville this weekend as both my wife and one of our cats were feeling under the weather. Instead, I stayed close to home, went to a concert, and attended the DCU Women’s match Sunday evening. (Boy, I could get used to this journalism gig: I get to sit in the air-conditioned, rain-protected pressbox during the match and talk with whatever female soccer players I want afterwards without being thought a stalker. Okay, on to the actual reporting.)

W-League: DC United Women 3, Northern Virginia Majestics 0

Story of the first half: One of Tiffany Brown's many shots that were saved by Emma Kruse

Another perk of the press badge was being allowed to stand a few yards back of the end line with my camera waiting for what I thought would be the inevitable onslaught of goals by the DCU Women against the hapless Majestics, who last won a game in 2010. Instead I got numerous photos like the one above, with NoVa goalkeeper Emma Kruse turning aside one shot from Tiffany Brown after another. I think Brown is going to have nightmares about green-jerseyed monsters.

DCU accumulated 14 shots in the first half, 7 on goal, though with nothing to show for it. The biggest excitement was Carolyn Blank entering in the 34th minute, replacing Kristen Schmidbauer just as she was about to take one of United’s 7 corner kicks. (The Majestics had none.)

Well, I take that back, the biggest excitement was watching the dark clouds roll in and the lightning get closer while wondering whether we’d get to halftime before the game had to be suspended and also if the Soccerplex’s lightning proximity detectors were working – particularly considering that there was a young woman standing on the roof of the pressbox filming the game. The warning horn sounded at the very moment the scoreboard clock hit the 43:00 mark, and, appropriately, just as Mikaela Howell entered the box on a breakaway with only the goalkeeper to beat.
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WPSL News: Toni Pressley Suddenly A Member of Western New York

Courtesy U.S. soccer

After making her first appearance of the season with the New England Mutiny Sunday night against Philadelphia, former Florida St. defender Toni Pressley was abruptly – and somewhat surprisingly – let out of her contract Thursday so she could sign with WPSL Elite rival Western New York.

“There is no argument that Toni Pressley is a very good player but we felt that her needs would be best served with WNY,” New England owner Joe Ferrara said in a statement.  “As a first year WPSL Elite franchise at this level, we are still analyzing the metrics of what makes sense when it comes to viability and sustainability.”

Pressley was drafted in the second round of the WPS draft in January by Philadelphia and finished her Florida St. career third all-time in school history with 96 appearances, and scored 11 goals (with 11 assists), impressive numbers for a defender. She has been a member of several youth national teams, most recently with the U-23s, which delayed her start to the WPSL Elite season until last Sunday night.

Pressley joins former college teammate Tori Huster in upstate New York, and could be a key piece in the Flash going after a WPSL Elite title after winning the WPS title a year ago.

The move, however, does illustrate the gap in resources (as Ferrara alluded to) between the “professional” teams of WPSL Elite – Boston, WNY, New York, and Chicago – and the “amateurs” – New England, Chesapeake, Philadelphia, and FC Indiana. The Flash are at Boston Saturday night before traveling to New York on June 3. The Flash and Mutiny meet twice in the month of June (9th and 24th).

 

WPSL Elite: Breakers Open With Sell-Out On Day WPS Breathes Its Last

The teams line up at sunny Dilboy Stadium before the Breakers-FC Indiana game last week.

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Officially, the plug was pulled on Women’s Professional Soccer last Friday, and while its certified demise led some that were out of the loop to shed a tear or two over its death, most of us that saw it in its vegetative state the last few months were able to say our goodbyes long ago.

And so, on the very day, the old league was put out of its misery, there were plenty of smiles from the people who used to be a big part of it. The Boston Breakers hosted FC Indiana in their home opener in the newly formed WPSL Elite before a sell-out crowd at Dilboy Stadium, and it seemed like – for everyone involved – the pressure was off.

Yes, it was great that 2,312 paying customers showed up to watch, but the number didn’t really matter, unlike last year, where that number seemed to be everything. There was a decent amount of media present, but there was no lamenting that the major media outlets weren’t there with cameras and beat reporters. In short, it seems that in WPSL Elite thus far, everyone is free to be themselves, which is refreshing.

If there was a problem evident with the WPSL Elite Friday night, it might be finding good competition for the clearly talented teams at the top of the pyramid. Much has been made about FC Indiana and the wonderful work Shek Borkowski has done in Haiti in a short time, but his almost exclusively Haitian outfit was outclassed from the opening kickoff.

Borkowski came out in a 3-4-3 hybrid, but Indiana gave Boston plenty of space to start their attack. And anyone who has watched Cat Whitehill over the years knows that if you give her time and space anywhere within a 40-yard radius of your goal, she’s going to take aim. You could almost see Whitehill’s eyes light up from the press box as her first shot just minutes in forced an uncomfortable save out of Indiana keeper Geralda Saintilus, who would be more than a little busy in this match. In the ninth minute, Saintilus got a hand to another Whitehill missile to push it off the crossbar, but Katie Schoepfer was there for an easy tap-in.

To Indiana’s credit, they came back two minutes later to tie the game. Sophia Batard, probably Indiana’s best player, got the ball on a counter and slipped in Nadia Libertin and the game was even.

But that would be Indiana’s only shot of the first half, and Kyah Simon’s brace before halftime pretty much sealed Indiana’s fate. The visitors’ shape in defense was much better in the second half, and they conceded only once after the break, when Simon found fellow Aussie international Tameka Butt in the 57th minute, making the final 4-1.

It is the additions of the Aussies that might push Boston to the favorite role in WPSL Elite this summer. Simon, particularly, did just about as she pleased Friday night, and her workrate will make her a handful for anyone in this league to stop. She doesn’t turn 21 until next month, and has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world. She signed with the Breakers when the WPS was still alive back in January, and there was some question whether she and Butt would still come over when the league collapsed, but there was little doubt in her mind.

“I think any opportunity to go overseas was definitely in the cards,” Simon said. “What better place to come than America? I’d definitely prefer rather to be here rather than in Denmark or in Sweden where the weather is cold, but definitely going overseas was an easy choice at all stages. Hopefully, I might be back here next year, too.”

I’m assuming if you’re here, you know most of Simon’s remarkable story, but if you haven’t seen “No Apologies” and you’re a women’s soccer fan, it’s definitely worth your time.

Boston, like New York, has a veteran core that starts down the spine with Whitehill and Taryn Hemmings in the middle, joined by Leslie Osborne and Mary Frances Monroe playing holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 for coach Lisa Cole. Cole made an interesting sub late in the game when Kristi Lefebvre replaced Monroe, significant because both are Division I head coaches in the same conference, Monroe now running Albany, while Lefebvre is at Vermont (both are always former UConn standouts, although they played at different times). Both are splitting time between their job and the Breakers this summer, meaning they probably won’t be available for every road game, but will be a big veteran boost to the squad nonetheless.

Butt tucked in behind a front three of Simon, Schoepfer, and Jess Luscinski, who picked up an assist. The Breakers should also get Melissa Henderson in uniform at some point this summer. Courtney Jones – formerly of UNC – and Julie King round out the backline, and you start to understand why the Breakers are the likely league favorites.

“We’ve played a different lineup in all three games,” Cole said. “We’re still missing three of our U-23s today, they’re all starters, so it will change in and out throughout the season.”

It’s been nearly 12 years since Whitehill made her full debut for the U.S. national team, so she has certainly earned the right to speak about the state of women’s soccer these days. And she, like many players, just seemed happy Friday that the WPS ordeal of the last few months can finally be put to a semi-permanent rest.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of blocks to go down, then you have to keep building it up to keep making it stronger,” Whitehill said. “We keep learning from our mistakes from each one. This is an awesome opportunity for so many young women, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Hopefully this season will be a good, relaxing start:

Elsewhere in WPSL Elite:

SATURDAY

NEW ENGLAND 4:2 CHESAPEAKE

Kevin had a good recap on this game and included our conversation with Chesapeake coach Albert Oni, which had some good responses on joining WPSL Elite.

Oni’s squad didn’t roll over for the Mutiny, trailing 3-1 at halftime, they were the better side in the second half, and nearly equalized on a couple of occasions. And while no one is ever happy to lose a game, I left impressed by the Charge, who had a goal scorer – Shannon Collins (a phenomenal left-footed curling strike from a good distance out) – and the player that impressed me most – Riley Barger – that were both high schoolers. You knew it was a young team when you saw some of them giddy after the game about the opportunity to grab some free pizza, and a couple of voices yelling, “Mom, get my bag.” The juxtaposition of a team like that against the likes of the veteran Breakers and Paul Riley’s New York Fury should be interesting.

Incidentally, the Charge played without Christine Nairn – their most accomplished player – whom Oni said had to take care of some things at Penn State.

New England was without Morgan Andrews – at her high school prom – and has had trouble getting a full roster together, seemingly more so than other squads. They also faced a scheduling dilemma with another game at Philadelphia 24 hours later. But three points is three points, I guess.

Another beautiful night at East Longmeadow High as the Mutiny and Charge squared off.

Random cool fact of the night: Jenny Maurer – who scored the opening goal from long range – not only played her high school soccer on the East Longmeadow High field where the Mutiny plays, but is now the varsity coach there. So at least we know she knows how to get to the games, which is nice.

WESTERN NY 0:1 NEW YORK

The Flash can take plenty of positives out of this one, but it was Brittany Taylor’s goal off a corner kick early in the second half that gave the Fury three points and kept them perfect in the early season. The Flash, though, showed that they will probably be a factor in the league before all is said and done, although you have to think the Fury will keep getting better as well.

SUNDAY

CHICAGO 2:0 INDIANA

As expected, the Red Stars dominated possession in their opener, but had more trouble than expected breaking Indiana down, eventually getting goals from Julianne Stich and a Lauren Fowlkes penalty kick to get the result.

Other than the new uniforms (I like them), Lori Chalupny continues to be a factor in whatever league she plays in, taking the field without headgear and dominating. Tough to get a read on the Red Stars after just one game, we’ll have to wait until they play one of the top teams to get a genuine read on whether they’ll be a factor in the title race.

PHILADELPHIA 2:2 NEW ENGLAND

Like Chesapeake the day before, the Fever proved to be feisty and – according to reports – could have won the game at the end a couple of times. Tiya Gallegos has scored in all three Mutiny games and her brace here gives her four on the young season, a nice problem for Tony Horta to have. Unfortunately, his defense – in flux for various reasons – has now conceded nine times in three matches – and that’s going to have to be sorted out quickly if they want to make a playoff push.

As much as it was disappointing for New England to struggle this weekend, it is probably good for the league, which feared that Chesapeake and Philadelphia may struggle to be competitive. Neither has played one of the “big clubs”, but it’s a good (and entertaining) start.

New York hosts Boston on Wednesday in a marquee league matchup, as the league should finally start to stabilize with schedules and rosters soon.

The scene outside Dilboy Stadium before last Friday's game.

Mixed weekend for Maryland club teams

DC United goalkeepers Danielle DeLisle (left) and Didi Haracic warm up prior to their shutout performance

W-League: DC United Women 2, Virginia Beach Piranhas 0

Okay, there’s no Washington Freedom any more and WPS just disbanded, but for the first time since 2008 you can get fresh-grilled hamburgers at the Soccerplex, so for me it’s a wash.

Well, not really, but coming to the ‘plex to see the resident team play the Virginia Beach Piranhas, one of the old W-League Freedom’s frequent opponents, was as much a blast from the past as the cheeseburgers. The Freedom usually handled them easily (in 2010 the Freedom Futures won 5-0), but this proved to be a tougher challenge, though the DC United Women eventually prevailed on the strength of two goals from Mikaela Howell.
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The teams line up before the opening WPSL Elite contest.

WPSL Elite Opens: It’s Not WPS, But It’s Something

The teams line up before the opening WPSL Elite contest.

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Even for someone who was but a passive WPS observer for most of its history, I couldn’t help but be a bit nostalgic as I pulled into East Longmeadow High Saturday afternoon for the opener of the new WPSL Elite between the host New England Mutiny and the New York Fury.

ELHS is a fine high school facility, and much easier for me to get to than Harvard Stadium – former home of the Boston Breakers and an hour or so to the northeast – but my mind flashed back to the buzz surrounding WPS last summer, when Alex Morgan sent kids scurrying for her autograph just by walking out to tape a Fox Soccer Channel promo. When 15,000 people showed up in Rochester and nearly 10,000 in Atlanta to watch professional women’s soccer.

Of course, you know the rest. If you don’t, it’s all here on this site for you somewhere, complete with the sordid details.

But as the hard-working Mutiny staff got things together for the opener, it was quite obvious that 10,000 people were not walking through that gate. And with only three portable toilets available, that was probably a good thing on that front.

Surely as Paul Riley walked out onto the field and took a look around, somewhere in his mind, those thoughts must have been there. As two-time defending WPS Coach of the Year with Philadelphia, Riley has to be considered one of the top women’s coaches in the nation. The league was coming off a World Cup bump last summer, Riley’s star was rising, it looked for a fleeting moment like WPS would thrive, and surely Riley’s reputation would right along with it.

Even when WPS collapsed, Riley still held out hope for some kind of return in 2013, which was surely part of the reason why when he returned to Long Island with the Fury he initially stayed out of WPSL Elite. But as it became (becomes?) increasingly obvious that WPS might be gone for good (and an opening left by Aztec MA made it convenient), Riley and the New York Fury were in the WPSL Elite for its inaugural run in 2012.

It can be a dangerous hobby to focus on the past. What’s done is done, and a few (or a good deal more than a few) mistakes shouldn’t deter us from looking toward the present and the future.

“I said to the players in the locker room, ‘After seven months of what has happened, you’ve got to want to play.’ To put the uniform with your name on the back means a lot,” Riley said. “I’ve been a social director and a psychological director the past several months trying to give them the best advice I could, whether it be abroad, whether it be here, for another team in their neck of the woods. That includes not just our players, layers from Sky Blue, players from Atlanta, just because we’ve got connections. I’ve been trying to help everyone as best we can. We’ve obviously got quite a few players from WPS.

“It’s nice to be back on the field, it’s nice to be coaching again, to put a suit back on and feel like you’re back at church again on a Sunday night. I enjoy the games , that’s what we all live for is the games. Hopefully, this will be the start of getting back into a WPS-like league, making it full-time for the players. We’re doing our best to make it full-time.”

(You can see my complete postgame interview with Riley here.)

Full-time or not, Riley has put together a squad (not even including his Supergroup that will play in some exhibition games this summer) that looks like a favorite in WPSL Elite. After a brief bright start from the host Mutiny, the Fury had four goals by halftime, three by Merritt Mathias. But a look around the Fury lineup saw basically what would be a WPS team, perhaps minus the stars.

Yes, there were no national team players and Vero Boquete is in Sweden, but Brittany Taylor at right back was too strong for anyone the Mutiny had to offer. Riley gave full credit to veteran Kim Yokers for dominating as a holding midfielder in a 4-4-2, and rightfully so. Tina and Gina DiMartino ran the wings, while Meghan Lenczyk played an attacking role in support of what would be two WPS rookies in Jasmyne Spencer out of Maryland and Mathias.

(Tobin Heath is on on the New York roster, but it’s not clear if she’ll be able to play at all with the national team schedule. Heath was on the roster as No. 19, and late in the game, Riley put a No. 19 in the game, who was announced by the PA announcer as “Tobin Hearth”. But it obviously wasn’t her.)

The Mutiny, while pretty clearly outclassed in this game, did show signs that they could be competitive in the new-look WPSL Elite, mostly because of who they didn’t have. Kristen Mewis, Toni Pressley, Vicki DiMartino (who missed the chance to play against her sisters), and Morgan Andrews are all with various age level national teams. The team also looked much more comfortable when defender Kate McCarthy was inserted late in the first half. Coach Tony Horta decided not to start McCarthy because she had arrived to the team after finishing finals at Boston College just a couple of days before kickoff. A game against Chesapeake this Saturday (with Andrews) should give us a better gauge of where they’re headed.

Mathias is an interesting story in her own right. She was as highly touted as they come as a youngster out of Alabama, playing in the youth national teams, and committing to North Carolina very early (sophomore year). But after two inconsistent years under the microscope in Chapel Hill, Mathias decided she would rather be at Texas A&M, where she was a two-time All-Big 12 selection and was one of the best college strikers in the nation. However, since U-17, she hasn’t made an appearance in the national team, and went undrafted in WPS.

Riley, though, saw potential, and when WPS collapsed, and with the national team players (as well as stars like Boquette and Marta) basically out of commission in the States for 2012, it was an opening for players like Mathias. And Saturday was certainly a good start to making a big impact.

“With the league (WPS) folding, the dreams and ambitions of all these players were kind of crushed,” Mathias said. “It was hard to rebound from that, but everyone has come full circle. It’s heartbreaking that the league’s not around, but we’re doing the best we can. It’s still awesome to be able to play at good facilities and against these kind of players.

“Right now, it’s about playing and enjoying it.  I think it’s sad that the girls from college don’t have what they had two years ago. It’s a huge bummer, but this is a great opportunity. So long goal ahead, get to the World Cup and Olympics, that would be awesome. But for right now, enjoying playing and playing as long as I can. It’s what I love to do.”

There was a delay, a pregnant pause even, before that last sentence, almost like she had to apologize for it.

I thought of the curious – or really not so curious – case of Boston College goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni, who grew up near me and rose to be one of the best in the nation at her position. She was drafted by Sky Blue in January, and with a couple of WPSL Elite teams in Massachusetts needing help in goal, it was assumed she would play for the team of her choosing.

Instead, with a degree from Boston College in her pocket, Mastroianni chose to “retire” and go out into the real world. For 99 percent of America, they nodded their heads at Mastroianni’s choice and said to themselves, “Good for her.” But those invested in women’s soccer probably just sighed and shook their heads, not in a judging manner, but in a sad one.

Surely, Ciara McCormack is one of those headshakers. ­Since graduating from college in 2001, McCormack has gone from Boston to Vancouver to Denmark back to Vancouver to Ottawa to Norway back to Vancouver again all while representing Ireland (qualifying through her father) internationally in the last decade. She started at center back for the Mutiny in the opener last Saturday.

Along with Tiffany Weimer and Manya Makoski (two former WPS players who are playing in Denmark and Finland, respectively), she runs GirlsCANFootball, also just a few miles from my abode in Connecticut (Weimer and Makoski are both local products from our sometimes great state), which has helped her keep playing.

“It’s been a cool way of marriaging the opportunity to continue playing and then also mentoring younger players through coaching them, that’s sort of allows us to continue our dream and ability to play at this level,” McCormack said.

McCormack has also written for various publications and on her blog (check out this moving tribute to her “Mum” on her 60th birthday recently), sometimes controversially, as she has called out the Canadian soccer federation, WPS stars, and anyone else that draws her ire.

If I have sympathy for people like McCormack, it’s because there is a kind of kinship there. God knows how many times along my life’s journey, people (including family) have wondered why I do what I do, why I spend so much time coaching and writing about soccer (and other sports) when I almost certainly could have a more lucrative profession. But when I asked Ciara – who went to Yale (with one graduate season at UConn) – about it, she summed it up much me eloquently than I ever could.

“I’ve had border guards at the airport ask me what’s my connection with the U.S., and I say, ‘coach and play soccer’, and then they start laughing when I tell them where I went to school,” she said. “I get it from my parents. I mean, again for me, I think the most important thing is knowing what your passion is, and obviously going to a school like Yale was a great opportunity educationally, and exposed me to a lot of fantastic things, but soccer has always been where my passion is. Whether or not that fits the mold of what an Ivy League graduate is supposed to be doing at 32, I’m not sure, but I have no regrets. I obviously still love the game enough to be out here, so here I am.”

And here we are. The WPSL Elite will not be the caliber of WPS this season, there likely won’t be any games that 10,000 paid customers show up for. But in the next couple of months, we’ll try to bring you as many stories as we can from the league as best we can while holding down real jobs and other commitments just as many of the players and coaches we’ll be reporting on do.

It’s what we love to do.

The uniforms of Kate McCarthy (#21) and Rebecca Mays (#10) await their owners prior to the New England Mutiny's opening game.

MWSJA Maryland Club Players of the Week

Maryland Club Player of the Week Didi Haracic takes a goal kick during Saturday's warmup


The Maryland Women’s Soccer Journalists Association* is pleased to announce its first-ever selections for Maryland Club Players of the Week.** We considered selecting an entire starting lineup, but that seemed a bit overdone. On the other hand, selecting just one player seemed inadequate, not to mention that it doesn’t give us much to write about. So we split the difference and picked one player in each category of position from the three top-level club teams based in Maryland. (If you haven’t been paying attention, that’s the ASA Chesapeake Charge, the DC United Women, and the Maryland Capitols.) And here they are:

Goalkeeper of the Week: Didi Haracic, DC United Women. A sophomore at Loyola, Haracic in her coach’s word had a “phenomenal” performance against the Boston Breakers Saturday night, stopping numerous shots and keeping the game within reach for her team throughout.

Defender of the Week: Remi Kriz, Maryland Capitols. Kriz, a Maryland senior, was the core of a defense that turned away numerous Chesapeake Charge chances and was the most active player on a strong back line.

Midfielder of the Week: Christine Nairn, ASA Chesapeake Charge. Despite having joined the team only a few days earlier, the Penn State junior was consistently the most dangerous attacking player for the Charge in their match against Boston. Meanwhile, a special honorable mention goes to Joanna Lohman of the DC United Women, who was a major force for her team despite having been on a different continent 48 hours prior to the match and having no opportunity to practice with her teammates before the game.

Forward of the Week: Alexis Prior-Brown, ASA Chesapeake Charge. Prior-Brown, a Mercy High School senior (!), gets the nod this week as the only player on any of the three teams who managed to score a goal during one of these early-season games.

Player of the Week: Didi Haracic. Not just the “best player on the field” Saturday night, as Joanna Lohman described her, but the best Maryland player in all three matches.

*Currently Jennifer Gordon of The Equalizer and me, but we’re still recruiting.
**Actually slightly more than a week. So sue us.

Cool finishes and hot starts: Winners from the weekend

Gotta love the giant killers: Sarah Hagen inspired Bayern Munich past Frankfurt en route to a historic DFB-Pokal Cup win

Bayern Munich managed to revel in DFB-Pokal glory this weekend, but the victors weren’t the usual suspects. While the club’s men’s side got humbled by Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final, its women’s team pulled off a mighty upset against FFC Frankfurt (highlights). The Bavarians remained resolute and compact against the holders. Frankfurt’s form has been infamously bipolar this season, and the club’s Mr. Hyde persona made an appearance on Saturday. The team seemed to revert to its former self and lacked much bite. Frankfurt’s lifeless performance is particularly worrying for its prospects in the Champions League final.

In contrast, Bayern Munich’s attack closed out the match with vim and vigor. Sarah Hagen’s free header gave the underdogs the surprise lead. Ivana Rudelic’s follow-up goal cemented Bayern’s shocking, and indeed historic, win. This marks the first time a team other than Frankfurt, Turbine Potsdam, or Duisburg has won the DFB-Pokal since 1997 – before the Frauen-Bundesliga era. Referring to Bayern Munich as ‘giant killers’ sounds ridiculous, but it holds true for the women’s side. This is Bayern Munich’s first major trophy; a fact not lost on the team, as evidenced in its post-match celebration. With the men’s team’s Champions League date with Chelsea to come, the 2011-2012 season could serve up a storybook ending for FC Hollywood.

 

It was mission accomplished for Albertin Montoya and his U.S. U-17′s. The team eked out a 1-0 win over Canada to win the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Guatemala. The U.S. also exacted some revenge on its regional rivals, avenging the loss that eliminated them from World Cup qualification two years ago. Amber Munerlyn’s 21st minute goal made the difference. She became the tenth different U.S. player to find the back of the net in the tournament. Summer Green lit up the competition with an unstoppable goal-scoring streak. Her record-breaking 12 goals managed to get some pub in her local paper. Meanwhile, Mexico hammered Panama 6-0 to clinch the final World Cup berth.

 

Kyah Simon produced a memorable performance on Mother’s Day as she led the Boston Breakers past DC United in cross-league play. Boston ran out 1-0 winners on the day. Simon spearheaded Boston’s attack with seven shots, five of which were on goal. The Breakers combined for 15 shots in all but DC United goalkeeper Didi Haracic weathered the storm. Haracic was subbed late and came off to a standing ovation. The Breakers have collected two wins from two games and will meet FC Indiana at home on Friday, May 18. For more on this match, check out Kevin’s firsthand report below.

 

A first half rampage propelled the New York Fury to a comprehensive 5-1 victory over the New England Mutiny. The stage was set for a memorable home opener, but the visitors stole the show. Former Texas A&M Aggie Merrit Mattias helped herself to a hat-trick that put the Fury up 4-0 before the halftime whistle. Jasmyne Spencer netted the second goal of the night. Mutiny coach Tony Horta tried to turn the tide in the second half. “I thought we got a little flat after the first goal, we got a little confused,” he said. “But I thought the second half with the information we gave them, they took it well. We made some adjustments and the game was even.” The Mutiny has a chance to right the ship next Saturday when they host the ASA Chesapeake Charge. Next weekend will see a reunion of sorts for the Fury as they meet the WNY Flash; foes in a different form.

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Breakers complete sweep of Maryland teams with 1-0 win over the DC United Women

Joanna Lohman, Amanda DaCosta, Leslie Osborne, and others duel at midfield

The Boston Breakers should go home happy after coming away from their Maryland road trip with two wins in three days. The deciding score came in the 56th minute as a Cat Whitehill free kick from about 30 yards out was initially cleared but went to flank defender (and converted forward) Courtney Jones on the right, who sent a cross back in to an open Kyah Simon, who put it away.

It was a fair result. The Breakers, with one match under their belts already, had the better of play through most of the match and dominated possession for the first 25 minutes, though without a lot to show for it. At that point, DC United put in their most recent acquisitions, Joanna Lohman and Lianne Sanderson, formerly of the Philadelphia Independence. Even though the pair had only arrived in the area about 1 am Friday morning (after flying in from England) and hadn’t yet practiced with the team, their presence was enough to turn the tide in favor of the home team.

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2012 W-League Preview

Tony Danza Army

The W-League's Most Infamous Supporters Group Hopes To See A Pali Blues Title in 2012

Seattle’s dominated the headlines, but the Sounders don’t figure to have it all their way on the road to a W-League title, with numerous challengers lining up to lift the trophy come July including a resurgent Pali Blues side and defending champions Atlanta. In contrast with the rival WPSL Elite league, most of the power for this year’s W-League is concentrated out West, though the likes of Atlanta, Ottawa, and D.C. United Women certainly won’t be going down without a fight. Whether the bottom tier of the league can keep it respectable against the W-League’s big guns remains to be seen.

Title Challengers

Ottawa Fury

The Fury looked to be setting themselves up for a coronation in the W-League last year after rolling over the competition in the regular season and making it to the final against Atlanta. But Ottawa’s lack of competition in the erstwhile Central Conference showed as the Fury were dissected by their opponents in the title game, slumping to a humiliating 6-1 reverse. The Fury at least know they’ll be back in the Final Four this year as tournament hosts, though they’d be overwhelming favorites to return even if they weren’t. 2011 W-League MVP Mallory Outerbridge ripped apart opposing defenses and returns to the fold again, while UConn’s Melissa Busque and Jessica Shufelt also give this team some more attacking class. The Fury also managed to poach Canadian international goalkeeper Cynthia Leblanc from Laval, adding depth to a team already containing standouts Jasmine Phillips and Audrey Bernier-Larose. Formidable and hungry, Ottawa should again be the class of the Central Conference, but do they have what it takes to get over the top?
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Leslie Osborne and the victorious Breakers practice before the match

Experience 3, Youth 0 – but don’t count Youth out just yet

Leslie Osborne and the victorious Breakers warm up before the match

The main question hanging over the new WPSL-Elite league was a simple one: Is a league with teams consisting of downscaled WPS teams and upscaled WPSL teams really going to be competitive top-to-bottom? Or is it going to be half truly elite teams and half teams for the elites to beat up on? This inaugural match seemed designed to answer that question, with the Boston Breakers, late of WPS and stacked with players like Leslie Osborne and Cat Whitehill, taking on the Chesapeake Charge, late of WPSL, whose best player from last year is college senior and central defender Jessica Hnatiuk.

After a mere forty-five seconds, the worst seemed to be true: The Breakers’ Courtney Jones brought the ball down the right flank and easily got around Hnatiuk to get off a cross, which Veronica Napoli knocked into the lower left corner of the net. The Breakers had been practicing such plays before the game with only a goalkeeper defending, and this looked about the same. “This is going to be ugly,” I thought, and I doubt I was the only one.

But the Charge buckled down and took it to the Breakers, earning the game’s first corner kick three minutes later. That went ineffectually through the box, but at least the home team was putting on some pressure and continued to do so for most of the next ten minutes.

The momentum turned again approaching the fifteen minute mark as the Breakers scored two quick goals, one by Katie Schoepfer and assisted by Napoli, and the other by Jessica Luscinski assisted by Leslie Osborne. The latter was set up by a turnover deep in their own end by the Charge. The ball ended up under Osborne’s control, and the former national teamer calmly turned and slid the ball over to the open Luscinski, who knocked the ball off the right post and in. The score: Breakers 3, Charge 0, with 5/6ths of the match yet to be played.

But after that rather dismal start, the Charge stepped up their game for the next 75 minutes, and the score held the rest of the way. My impression was that Chesapeake improved almost literally minute-by-minute, picking up strategy and techniques from the more experienced Breakers players as they went. As time went by, they got more physical, they fought back better on the shoulder-to-shoulder challenges, and they made better use of their superior speed and agility, forcing the Breakers into turnovers of their own. Believe it or not, there were a few minutes toward the latter part of the game where Breakers defenders were literally slipping and falling to the ground as they tried to maneuver quickly enough to keep up with the Chesapeake attackers. That was the battle, in a way: the Charge’s unpolished athleticism up against the Breakers’ experience and superior technique. Those forces met in little battles all over the field, which along with the enthusiasm and undying energy of players on both sides made it a very enjoyable game to watch.

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