Six Things That Happened in WPS Week SEVEN

A 5-4 win was in the making, but magicJack just couldn’t seize it.

It seemed as if the hoodoo that prevented Abby Wambach from scoring any goals against Japan last Wednesday had afflicted Ella Masar last night. On a different day, magicJack’s feisty forward could have left the field having notched her first career hat-trick. But it wasn’t to be, as magicJack’s swashbuckling attack was ultimately outdone by the crossbar and some tremendous goalkeeping by Ashlyn Harris. From the outset, the Flash made magicJack’s gutsy 3-4-3 formation look foolish as converted midfielders Marian Dalmy and Meghan Schnur were caught out badly by the Flash’s quick counter attacks. The red hot intensity lessened as the match wore on. Sarah Huffman provided wonderful service to the magicJack’s attackers while Abby Wambach assumed a playmaking role out wide and in behind Masar. Hope Solo also made some stellar saves in net, despite conceding a soft goal against Caroline Seger which was the result of some defensive miscommunication. magicJack’s high-flying offense looked tremendously dangerous at points, but the team was let down by an inability to finish a bevy of chances.

 

The WNY Flash looked as complete a team as ever.

The Flash’s golden triumvirate of Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Alex Morgan almost always get the credit. Statistics aren’t kept for how frequently a midfielder breaks up play and turns possession or how many times a center-back cuts off the run of an attacker. With this said, the Flash looked sound in every department. Candace Chapman and Kandace Wilson used their speed and athleticism to neutralize the speed of Masar and the physical presence of Wambach. Brittany Bock did well to prevent any fluidity in magicJack’s final third. McCall Zerboni showed her immense utility at left-back. Caroline Seger worked as hard as ever to keep possession in the Flash’s favor. Aside from the early goal, Becky Edwards continues to look sharp in midfield. Ashlyn Harris looked terrific, and looked Solo-esque with her last-gasp reactionary stops and shot-blocking. She’s a goalkeeper who can clearly raise the level of her game when necessary, which makes one wonder how she would fare with the hyper intensity of a tournament situation. And of course, the Flash’s gilded attack didn’t disappoint. Sinclair tallied two assists while Marta was just being Marta (the weight on some of her passes is something to admire). As was noted about Morgan by commenter Random, the 21 year-old routinely does well to get in to a favorable and dangerous positions while not being caught offside. Her off the ball movement is intelligent, but as of late, something has been lacking in her final pass or shot. That instinct to pull the trigger should come with age. Either way, the Flash are a stacked team with few faults.  

 

Sky Blue FC finally kicked into gear.

Goals have been hard to come by at Yurcak Field. Sky Blue scored just six goals at home last season over 11 matches. The tide has seemingly turned, however, as Jim Gabarra’s team has now registered five goals in just two home games. From all indications, Sky Blue took advantage of Atlanta’s attack-heavy formation. Laura Kalmari scored her second goal of the season off of a Casey Noguiera corner before Allie Long doubled the lead with a penalty kick after Analisa Marquez took her down in the box. SBFC killed off the game in the 70th minute with a Heather O’Reilly goal. As the press release reads, “After receiving the feed, O’Reilly turned on the afterburners and fled in the direction of the goal after Atlanta netminder Allison Lipsher overcommitted to the distribution.” With the result, Sky Blue remain tied with Atlanta at the bottom of the league. However, Sky Blue have scored six total goals to Atlanta’s five with two fewer games played.  

 

The Atlanta Beat are realizing everybody’s worst fears – or expectations.

Things looked so promising for a short while. The Beat’s 3-0 loss to Sky Blue means Atlanta are now winless in five matches with losses having come in each of the last four. Despite some apparent chances and decent possession, the Beat were outshot 15 to six on the night. Head coach James Galanis again laid blame on his players saying, “Our effort was good from some players but not good enough from other players.  Some are reacting rather than anticipating. Enough is enough. They are not reaching their potential and that’s the issue that I have.” Whether it’s a lack of effort or a gulf in talent, the Beat are in a rough patch. The team lay claim to the most lopsided goal difference in the league with five goals scored to 16 conceded – and this despite Alli Lipsher’s heroics. Perhaps worse, the team has the worst disciplinary record in the league by some distance. Atlanta’s 14 total yellow cards equal the total amount of cautions in the rest of the league combined. Five players are on the brink of suspension from yellow card accumulation, which is worrisome given Atlanta’s thin squad.

 

 

The Philadelphia Independence withstood Boston’s pressure in the second half.

The Philadelphia Independence came out of a tense second half with a 1-1 draw. It was a decent result for a team that are now unbeaten in three. Tasha Kai scored her second goal of the season one minute before halftime when she beat Amy LePeilbet and Alyssa Naeher with a solo effort. Lauren Cheney – or maybe Keelin Winters – snatched a goal mere minutes into the second half. Head coach Paul Riley sounded satisfied after the game saying, “I think a draw is a fair result overall. We created some great chances. Boston had some great moments. I thought it was a pretty good game.” The draw brings Philadelphia level with magicJack in second place.

 

The Breakers earned a much-needed result.

Boston snapped a two-game losing streak at home, thereby retaining mid-table status. The Breakers apparently had the lion’s share of the looks on goal and Boston’s first-class defense did well to keep Tasha Kai and Amy Rodriguez mostly quiet. Tony DiCicco praised his team by saying, “It was a good performance, especially in the second half for us, coming back and getting a goal. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the win, but I’m pleased with the performance.” It could be just what Boston needs to turn the corner. The team will have to prove it against Sky Blue next week.

 

Attendance watch:

WPS had a terrific week at the gate, averaging 5,717 people per match. That’s up 34 percent from last weekend. It’s also a whopping 54 percent increase from the league’s average so far this season.

The Flash’s attendance of 8,076 exceeded expectations.  Save for the Washington Freedom/DC United doubleheaders in 2009, is the second highest number in league history behind the league’s inaugural match between the Los Angeles Sol and the Washington Freedom that drew 14,832.  The attendance number was 34 percent higher than the Flash’s total amount of attendees the team had attracted in it three matches prior.

Boston saw the franchise’s third largest gate in franchise history as 6,128 people attended the match in which Kristine Lilly was honored. Similar to the number that was mentioned above, that’s a 54 percent uptake in attendance from the Breakers’ last home match.

Sky Blue FC, however, weighed down the average with an attendance of 2,947. That’s a slight improvement from the team’s only other home match of the season that saw 2,910 fans at Yurcak Field.

The true question is whether these kind of figures will reappear during the summer. Abby Wambach’s homecoming had a lot to do with the Flash’s excellent attendance and likewise with the Kristine Lilly event in Boston. For now, it’s a positive step but the league will hope these numbers return on a more permanent basis.

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