Stanford vs Portland – 10:00 PM
It’s the showdown between the club who popularized the pass and move ethic at this level and the club that’s come closest to perfecting it in recent years. Portland will be trying to upset the odds again, knowing they haven’t beaten the Card since their run to the national title in 2005. The Pilots have entered the new season with no shortage of expectation after returning almost all of last year’s starters and adding a clutch of highly touted rookies to the bunch. Weekend one probably proved a little closer than the Pilots would have liked, with the club needing a scrappy goal to beat back Marquette before being taken to extra time by a dogged Oregon side in Eugene. Wins are wins though, and Portland heads south to Palo Alto with the very real possibility of coming back to Merlo 3-0-0 with a road upset on Saturday night. The Portland frontline, helmed by senior Micaela Capelle and rookie Danica Evans may have only combined for one goal last weekend but should grow in strength as chemistry between the duo increases. The defense was capable last weekend but could still use a little bit of tightening up with the amount of shots conceded, especially against a potentially dynamic offense that Stanford will be eager to flaunt.
The home side are equally well rested after returning home to The Farm following a weekend in New England. Stanford passed both road tests, though it’s hard to argue they did it with flying colors. The defense, a sticking point coming into the new season after some serious losses, didn’t exactly seem airtight against Boston College, though through nine Emily Oliver saves in goal and some Chioma Ubogagu assisted magic in front of goal, they managed to run out with a smash-and-grab win over the Eagles in the opener. The second match of the season was a bit of a mixed bag, with the club giving up a whopping seventeen shots overall but limiting UConn to just one on goal, with the Card getting Taylor Uhl’s first goal with the club to help propel them to a 1-0 win. The Uhl/Ubogagu combo was front and center in leading the offensive charge last weekend and will likely be eager to test a Portland backline using Amanda Frisbie, a forward last year, as a converted center-back. It’s the defense that’s going to be squarely in the crosshairs on Saturday night though. Capelle and Evans are the best forward duo the club’s faced thus far and might be one of the best they face all season. If Stanford can put the clamps on them, the dream of a national title could be a bit more attainable. At the very least, the Card will want victory here to stay front and center in the race for a high national seed come November, with the added bonus that a win would also damage a potential rival for such a seed.
Possible Tactical Lineup - Players in Parentheses Are Selection Questions
The Tactical Battle
Both clubs have questions and injury concerns, though Portland’s are more pronounced.
The Thorns have multiple injury problems, with the availability of Tobin Heath in particular a doubt. Heath, injured most recently in a clash with Desiree Scott, did not participate in final practice with the club and might be limited in her role on Saturday. Starting Heath could be a major risk for Cindy Cone, but at the very least, she figures to be an impact sub for the Thorns.
Alex Morgan, nursing an MCL injury, seems much more likely to start for the Thorns, and her pace and ability to test backlines on the break could be key for Portland’s chances. There’s no telling just how effective she’ll be though, as she hasn’t played since suffering the injury weeks ago.
WNY has the fitness of McCall Zerboni to sweat over. The Flash midfielder and captain made a successful return to the pitch as a late substitute last weekend in the semi-final against Sky Blue FC. The main question for the Flash isn’t whether Zerboni will play but if she can go a full ninety (or one hundred twenty). Her energy will be key for WNY, and she could be one of the match’s key figures.
Riley Barger scored the game-winning goal, her first as a Terrapin (file photo courtesy of Ken Harriford)
Except for the outcome, this game was close to the opposite of the Terrapins’ last game. Against Villanova, the team was nerve-wrackingly down until the last few minutes, then scored three quick goals to gain the win. Tonight, Maryland scored twice early and held on easily the rest of the way for a virtually suspenseless game.
Florida vs Florida State – 7:00 PM
It seems a bit hyperbolic at this stage of the season to be touting an “unstoppable force vs immovable object” matchup, but on a matchday short on outright elite showdowns, it’ll do. Florida’s Savannah Jordan had an immensely impressive debut weekend for the Gators last week, netting five goals in her first two collegiate matches. Jordan would come up big late in the club’s opener last week to net the winner and insurance goal in the final ten minutes against a stubborn Florida Gulf Coast, before a hat trick paced the Gators against Oregon State on Sunday. Obviously, it’s going to be tough to replicate that scoring pace for the rest of the season, more so considering the defense Jordan will be facing on Friday night. While the Gators do have other offensive outlets, most notably Havana Solaun, if the opening weekend of the season is any indicator, a lot of the offense is going to run through Jordan this season. The Gator defense was pretty stout last weekend, holding opponents to just four shots overall and conceding just once, to Oregon State. FSU’s a whole different matter though, and it will be interesting to see how the Gator defense copes and whether the club uses Nora Neset Gjoen or Taylor Burke in goal after each started once last weekend. It’s difficult seeing Florida struggle with any of the remaining non-conference opponents after FSU, so this might be the club’s last major test in a while.
The Seminoles were also very impressive in a perfect opening weekend. A 1-0 final against Oregon State in the opener perhaps flattered the Pac-12 side, with the scoreline not indicative of the dominance of FSU, who could have had many more had they not hit the woodwork multiple times. The defense was equally crushing, with FSU limiting OSU to just a single shot on goal. They were even more impressive in the match after, pounding Auburn, 4-1. Despite some squad rotation, the Noles, the ACC powerhouse held Auburn without a shot on goal until a flurry in the eighty-sixth minute that led to the Tigers’ goal. Redshirt freshman Berglind Thorvaldsdottir showed the Noles some of what they were missing last year with a brace and an asset on a third goal and looks like forming a fearsome attacking partnership with Dagny Brynjarsdottir for Florida State. The defense, anchored by center-back titans Kassey Kallman and Kristin Grubka, will have a big test in shutting down Jordan, and the duo has found an able full-back partner in Irish international Megan Campbell, who has won rave reviews for her early play for FSU. Jordan will likely need to find pockets of space away from the heart of Florida State’s defense, as 2v1 against Kallman and Grubka is almost always a losing proposition. FSU steps right back into the fire on Sunday against UCF, but a win here would give them momentum and likely a big piece on their resume come Selection Monday and the battle for national seeding.
Boston College vs UConn – 7:00 PM
Though they’d cough up a lead and lose in extra time against Stanford, Boston College has still made a pretty solid start to the new season. The Eagles were tipped by some to struggle a bit after losing some key players from last year but have made a decent start to the campaign this season. They were hardly outplayed in the defeat to the Card, peppering the visiting goal with shots all the while. There wasn’t a hangover after the defeat either, with the Eagles topping city rivals Boston University in what could be a nice resume booster come the end of the season if BU lives up to expectations in the Patriot League. The m.o. was kind of the same on Sunday, as the Eagles jumped out to an early lead, but they were able to hold that lead this time, limiting the Terriers to just one shot in the process. You certainly can’t accuse BC of not scheduling ambitiously in the first year of the mega schedule in the ACC. Hofstra and Ohio State remain after this matchup, and if BC could manage to gut out two or three more wins, they could be sitting pretty going into the league season.
Opponents UConn are under pressure. The Huskies have been game thus far in facing strong opposition, but eventually, they need to start turning gutty performances into victories. The AAC side probably have a little more breathing room and time with league play not starting for them until late September, but 0-3-0 still wouldn’t make for palatable reading despite the schedule easing up somewhat after this. UConn started the season by getting behind the eight-ball early against Wisconsin and fighting back from two goals down to equalize at 2-2 before falling to a late Cara Walls goal. A few days later, UConn managed to outshoot Stanford, 17-12…which would sound a lot better if all but one of those shots had managed to find the target. Yes, the Huskies had one shot on goal and sixteen shots that didn’t force Emily Oliver into a save, which is quite a dubious mark, and something the team is going to have to correct if they’re to get close to the NCAA Tournament this year. Wins are naturally going to come if UConn continues to prove as feisty as they were during opening weekend. It’s just how many of those wins will be significant which is up for question. Upsetting the Eagles on the road would go a long way in establishing a true barometer for this Huskies side.
It’s rare when a team that went 0-2-0 on opening weekend is at the front of the headlines, but it’s tough to discuss the first few days of the new season without speaking of Santa Clara, their reputation as a contender on the national stage largely in tatters after two meek displays over the weekend. Perception is everything, and the manner of the defeats was most disturbing, as two losses for SCU would have likely been more tolerable had they gone out on their shield. Instead, the Broncos were largely feckless in one hundred eighty minutes, managing four shots on goal combined. Morgan Marlborough was supposed to be the missing link for the attack, with the former All-American expected to shine for SCU but instead was utterly invisible for most of the weekend. What was most shocking though was how utterly out of their depth the Bronco defense looked against the athletes of an ACC side. The backline looked like they were running through quicksand in comparison with the frontrunners of North Carolina and Virginia, while goalkeeper Andi Tostanoski hardly helped her side’s cause, being culpable for multiple goals and eventually being pulled for Molly Mettler after conceding a soft third goal against Virginia.
There’s no question that many a reputation took major hits over the weekend. Marlborough likely could have played herself into being a first round pick in the NWSL Draft had she shined this past few games and put together a consistently strong season but may now have to settle for being selected in the second half of a striker loaded draft. Tostanoski looked a shell of the superior keeper she had been at one time and may not even be first choice any more considering her hook in the second half against Virginia. But head coach Jerry Smith and the Santa Clara brand figure to suffer most in the fallout from the weekend debacle. This was already a program straining for credibility as a contender for high honors on the national stage, and this season may well have been a Waterloo for the Broncos, with players like Johnston and, conceivably, Marlborough not falling off of trees. It’s already a long way back for SCU after just one week, and while wins over the likes of Maryland and Cal would at least see the program save a little face, only a win against Stanford would really salvage what’s left of the Broncos’ reputation as contenders this season. On this past weekend’s evidence though, it’s hard to have much faith in SCU’s chances against Stanford, a side that has lately done more with less when necessary, as opposed to the Broncos who did little with much in Charlottesville.
Brock (right) scored a hat trick and forced a DOGSO to lead Maryland to victory (file photo courtesy of Ken Harriford)
There were just eight minutes left in the game and despite 17th-ranked Maryland being a player up for most of the second half, they were still down, 2-1. Then senior Hayley Brock took over.
In the 83rd minute she corralled a flip pass from sophomore Ashley Spivey, dodged around Wildcats senior goalkeeper Jami Kranich on the right, and slotted it in to tie the score. Under two minutes later she settled the ball in the left side of the Terrapins defensive end and charged forward. She kept the ball despite open players on either side of her, brought it toward the top right corner of the box, and again fired it in to give Maryland the lead. And as if that weren’t enough, she drove in on a clearance by Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands, got behind her mark, again got around Kranich and put the ball in from a tough angle on the right. According to the official scoresheet, the hat trick took her all of four minutes and fourteen seconds.
Pepperdine vs Cal – 4:00 PM
It’s probably been an excruciating wait for Pepperdine supporters, who have had to watch an exciting weekend of soccer before the Waves make their debut proper in 2013 against Cal. It’s a rematch of the two clubs’ NCAA Tournament first round affair last season that saw Cal edge past a shorthanded Pepperdine side that was missing an injured Michelle Pao among others. The Waves will, hopefully, be at full strength for the rematch, meaning Pao will be back to rampage up the right flank in her senior season and will be looking to build on an impressive resume that has her likely rated as one of the top defenders in the forthcoming NWSL Draft class. If eyes aren’t on Pao, they’ll likely be on junior forward Lynn Williams, just as important to Pepperdine’s rise the past two seasons and a budding pro prospect herself. The Waves will be hoping the Fresno native can eclipse double digit goals as a junior and that the newly minted U23 international can help spur the team towards a postseason win after two years of falling at the first hurdle. The big question may be who ends up in goal for Pepperdine after the graduation of reliable South African international Roxanne Barker. Junior Carolyn Dapper has little experience, and head coach Tim Ward could instead roll with either of two freshmen, Sydney Socquet or Hannah Seabert.
Whoever ends up in goal will have to be ready from the off, because Cal has wasted no time in picking up a head of steam in 2013. Against a talented UC Irvine side in a difficult environment, Cal powered through for a 3-1 win that saw them lead after seventeen minutes and never let up before Irvine grabbed a late consolation. Cal didn’t exactly light UCI’s defense up with shots, but they were ruthlessly efficient, putting three of their six shots on goal in the back of the net. Some may feel that the gap between Cal and the Big Two of the Pac-12 may be shrinking ever so slightly, and performances like Friday’s from Cal will do nothing to dispel that notion. A second consecutive win on the road against a quality side would surely have Cal soaring up the rankings (for what its worth at this early stage of the season) and more importantly could have big ramifications for the Golden Bears when seeding is considered in the NCAA Tournament. A win here, and the club will likely be 6-0-0 before traveling to Santa Clara in a showdown that suddenly doesn’t look so daunting for the Pac-12 side after SCU’s opening weekend struggles.
It’s not hard to compile a litany of depressing statistics about the Washington Spirit. They finished with a 3-14-5 record, a point-percentage (points earned/maximum possible points earned) of 21.2%. That’s the 3rd worst in the history of US women’s professional soccer out of 52 team-seasons, with only the offensively challenged 2011 Atlanta Beat (1-13-4, 13%, 7 goals scored) and the defensively inept 2002 New York Power (3-17-1, 15.9%, 62 goals allowed) less successful.
Virginia vs Santa Clara – 2:30 PM
The spotlight will burn brightly on Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon as the Broncos try and prove they’re capable of sitting at the head table after a largely underwhelming performance against defending national champions North Carolina on Friday evening. It had been a hotly anticipated clash between national title hopefuls, but only North Carolina’s credentials emerged unscathed, as the Broncos’ much vaunted offense fired blanks for much of the affair. Senior transfer Morgan Marlborough was largely a peripheral figure for the Broncos, and the big forward must surely know that a similar performance against more top opposition on Sunday could send her NWSL Draft stock spiraling in a class loaded with burly forwards. Sofia Huerta was largely the more dangerous SCU forward, and the Broncos will naturally want to take advantage of her while she’s here as she departs for Mexico’s WNT ahead of the side’s early September clash with the USWNT. It seems hyperbolic in some measure, but SCU’s season may already be at a crossroads. After having been so feeble against ranked opposition for the better part of half a decade, another decisive loss on Sunday could almost irreparably damage the perception of their national title credentials after just a weekend. Stanford still looms on the docket later in September, but a big loss here would likely shake the faith of most in the Broncos. A win, and SCU would again be in the discussion for a College Cup challenge and stoke the flames of a potential rematch with UNC down the line.
Virginia’s problems Friday were more defensive than anything. Morgan Brian ran riot with six shots on goal and two assists, including an insane pass for the first goal, but the Cavs giving up multiple goals to mid-major opposition will surely make head coach Steve Swanson see red going into this one. Brian’s performance was one to savor, but there might be worries about the club’s forwards Makenzy Doniak and Gloria Douglas both going without a shot on goal on the evening. In the end, UVA was able to put the boots to VCU, thanks to their superior depth, but two goals allowed on two shots on goal has to be a concern given the superior opposition on Sunday. Danielle DeLisle and Churchill O’Connell split time in goal as well, leading to the belief that Swanson may not have made up his mind about his #1 just yet. Virginia also needs to show its offensive chops beyond Brian, because she’ll be missing during next weekend’s crunch clash against Penn State while on international duty with the USWNT. SCU doesn’t promise to be the easiest team to break down though considering they’ll be desperate for a win after Friday’s result. It’s high drama for sure in Charlottesville, and a winner here could have a big leg up in the battle for national seeding come November’s NCAA Tournament.