posted 03/29/14 at 3:44am
on Looking ahead to the Sweet 16
posted by All White Kit
Saturday, July 23, 2011 at 1:39pm EDT
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Are you a new fan who found your way here after being sent into a soccer-related Googling frenzy by the awesomeness of the World Cup (Hello!)? Perhaps an old friend who just got a little too caught up in the tournament and accidentally maybe neglected WPS a little bit? Bored at work and just looking for something to read? Yes?
You’ve come to the right place! Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of what’s been going on in the land of WPS while all that awesome was happening in Germany. All six teams are in action this weekend and the playoff race is tighter than ever as the season hits the homestretch. So read on and catch up. (Or don’t – it’s really up to you, but you’ve already made it this far.)
Atlanta Beat (1-10-3, 6 points 6/6 – 4 Games Remaining)
Previously: Atlanta was 0-5-0 in the month of May, conceding 14 goals and scoring just one.
At the end of May the Beat acquired Kelly Parker and Julianne Sitch from Western NY – perhaps a nod to the fact that the whole “youth movement” thing had gone way more awry than they’d planned. With Sitch and Parker Atlanta managed a 0-0 draw at Philadelphia to start June off with a point. Then Parker made Canada’s World Cup roster and Sitch got relegated to the bench, and has played just 118 minutes since joining the team.
Atlanta also lost Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts to the World Cup. The Beat picked up Kacey White from magicJack in exchange for a 2012 fourth round draft pick – and promptly lost 3-2 to White’s old team – even after Dan Borislow called the Beat a “high school team”.
A sleepy 0-0 draw with Boston earned Atlanta their second point of the month, but cost the Beat defender Keeley Dowling, who went down with an ACL injury. And then, not to be outdone by Borislow, James Galanis dropped this gem after the Beat closed out the pre-World Cup part of the season with a 1-0 loss at Sky Blue, stating that “Nothing changes for us, we just continue. We didn’t expect to make the playoffs and even if we did we don’t know how far we would have gone with the lack of experience we’ve got…” So, yeah. White flag: raised.
To start the post-World Cup part of the season, Atlanta waived Katie Bethke and mutually terminated Lyndsey Patterson’s contract. Atlanta has yet to score a goal since play resumed, losing 2-0 at Boston and 1-0 against Philadelphia.
With just four games remaining, not a single road win this season, the league’s worst goal differential by a landslide (7 for, 27 against, -20), and just one win thus far, Atlanta is en route to a worse finish than when it was an expansion team last season. Quite a feat.
Next Up: Atlanta will host magicJack on July 23rd in front of a sold-out crowd. Mitts should be back – and is probably pretty well-rested after not seeing the field in the World Cup. Lloyd will also be back, but probably not for long – she’s just one yellow card away from suspension. In 2010, Lloyd was a yellow away from suspension when she broke her ankle. She earned a caution her first game back. So, Atlanta, you’ve been warned. Mitts, for the record, is two cautions from a suspension of her own. Sigh. Well, at least Lori Chalupny gets to play somewhere.
Boston Breakers (4-5-3, 15 points 3/6 – 6 Games Remaining)
Previously: Boston, the team that looked destined to be in real trouble when the World Cup rolled around, is riding a four game unbeaten streak. Despite losing Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Amy LePeilbet, Lauren Cheney, Kelley O’Hara, Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Aya Sameshima, the Breakers are actually in a better position than they were with those players.
Boston traded Nikki Washington to magicJack in exchange for Meghan Klingenberg and a player to be named later on June 1st. Four days later Klingenberg scored one goal and assisted on the other in her new team’s 2-1 win over her old team. The “player to named later” was revealed to Nikki Marshall, who would continue playing for magicJack until late-July. On June 9th Boston officially signed Japan outside back Aya Sameshima, who made her WPS debut three days later in a 0-0 draw at Sky Blue FC.
The Breakers signed backup goalkeeper Kati Jo Spisak in mid-June, but she didn’t get to make her debut against her old team – or at all, because Alyssa Naeher was busy earning clean sheets (and her old teams are Washington and St. Louis). Boston closed out pre-World Cup play with that 0-0 draw at Atlanta and then Tony DiCicco got on plane to go be on ESPN to analyze the World Cup sit at a shiny desk in a big blue truck and interrupt Brandi Chastain and Bob Ley.
With assistant coach Lisa Cole at the helm, Boston beat Atlanta 2-0 when play resumed. In order to make room for Marhsall the Breakers terminated Kiersten Dallstream’s contract on July 18th, a little more than two months after acquiring her from Sky Blue. Marshall officially became a Breaker on July 21.
Next Up: Boston play host to Western NY on June 24th, live on Fox Soccer. Stephanie Cox, Alex Scott and Kelley O’Hara, will be back. Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney are listed as injured while Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, and Aya Sameshima are also expected to miss the match. With six to play and the Breakers even on points with magicJack and Sky Blue just two back, Boston’s playoff fate is still very much hanging in the balance.
magicJack (5-5-1, 15 points 4/6 – 7 Games Remaining)
Previously: MagicJack may have been unbeatable early on, but Dan Borislow’s team made quick work of the “un” part in June.
After realizing that both Hope Solo and Jillian Loyden (and Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Sophie Schmidt and Lisa De Vanna) would be gone, mJ signed backup keeper Shannon Myers at the beginning of June. Then Meghan Klingenberg and a player to be named later were traded to Boston in exchange for the opportunity to help Nikki Washington have a chance to be a part of every WPS team ever.
MagicJack lost 2-1 to Boston Klingenberg and since it worked out so well the first time, traded another player – this time Kacey White – to the team they were playing the following weekend. Borislow took a cheap shot at the Beat and White did score, but mJ ultimately pulled out the 3-2 win.
MagicJack signed Ashleigh Gunning, who spent 2010’s preseason with Sky Blue. Then they met the Philadelphia Independence and showed us all what being on the wrong side of a drubbing looks like. The Indys topped mJ 6-0 in a comedy of goalkeeping errors. Meghan Schnur and Rebecca Moros were waived three days later, because after losing 6-0 getting rid of defenders is always a solid plan. As evidenced by the fact that magicJack lost to Philly again the following weekend, this time 3-1 in the rescheduled version of a game from April that was postponed due to weather. But the trip to Philly wasn’t a total loss, as Borislow did some shopping, picking up pre-World Cup star version of Megan Rapinoe, reportedly for a post-World Cup star price.
Borislow also got suspended and then decided he didn’t really feel like being suspended and then got suspended again for unsuspending himself the first time. Briana Scurry, who was theoretically the team’s GM, went to Germany to work for ESPN. Where in the World Carmen Sandiego Scurry is now remains unclear, although reports indicate she’s no longer associated with magicJack.
When play resumed Sophie Schmidt made her WPS debut as magicJack faced Sky Blue for the first time this season, grabbing a 2-0 lead before Sky Blue went all New Zealand to mJ’s Mexico and got two back in the span of 56 seconds to salvage the draw. Then Borislow got suspended again, this time really for real and also for forever – or at least for the rest of the season. MagicJack terminated the contracts of Myers and Amanda DaCosta on July 18th.
The next day Abby Wambach and Hope Solo (and the rest of the USWNT) were on every TV show ever and kicked soccer balls at cabs with David Letterman. Neither played in the homecoming match for WPS’s WWC stars (as didn’t Christie Rampone, Megan Rapinoe or Shannon Boxx). Abby Wambach and Richard Bone (Who? Am I the only one having trouble keeping track?), but mostly Abby Wambach, coached mJ to a 3-1 loss to Western NY in front of a record-breaking sold-out crowd of 15,404 in Rochester. The Wambach as coach, but also player thing looked like it could be permanent. Well, when she’s not busy giving her headband to Jon Stewart so he can attempt to re-create her stoppage time goal against Brazil. Becky Sauerbrunn started a whole new iron-woman streak, going the full 90 in Rochester.
On July 22nd Beau Dure revealed that Wambach as player coach was for real, and also shed some light on that suspension, reporting that magicJack players had filed a grievance through the WPS Players Union alleging that Borislow “sent emails to his players that ‘demonstrate his practice of bullying and threatening players, and his creation of a hostile, oppressive, and intimidating work environment which adversely affects players’ ability [to] perform.’”
Next Up: MagicJack travels to Kennesaw to take on the Beat on July 23rd. At least some of the World Cup players Christie Rampone and maybe Abby Wambach, who missed the WNY match, should be back on the field. Wambach will at the very least be behind the bench. MagicJack has seven games to play – at least one more than anyone else – but are teetering very close to the edge of being out of playoff contention. At 15 points mJ sits even with Boston and in fourth on the table, but Sky Blue are just two points back. Of the seven remaining games, four are against either Sky Blue or Boston. The point mJ lost earlier in the season for being WPS’s too-rebellious child could end up being the difference between making the playoffs and not so much.
Philadelphia Independence (8-2-3, 27 points 1/6 – 5 Games Remaining)
Previously: The Independence currently sit atop the table, riding a seven game unbeaten streak that started with a 0-0 draw with Atlanta at the beginning of June.
After going goalless against the Beat Philadelphia handed the Flash its first loss of the season with a very late goal from Danesha Adams. Then there were the 6-0 and 3-1 wins over magicJack to close out the pre-World Cup season. Philly dealt Megan Rapinoe, who they really weren’t using anyway, to magicJack for cash and being without World Cuppers Amy Rodriguez, Nicole Barnhart and Lori Lindsey didn’t slow the Indys down a bit.
Philly’s stayed hot since play resumed, topping Sky Blue in a wild 4-3 game, knocking off magicJack yet again – this time 2-1, and earning a 1-0 win in Atlanta. Vero has proven to be exactly the missing link the Indys needed and Tasha Kai is experiencing an Amy Rodriguez-like resurgence under the tutelage of Paul Riley. Kai scored a hat trick against her former team and is tied with Christine Sinclair for the Golden Boot with eight goals. Kai’s previous season-high was six in 2009.
Next Up: The Indys head to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC on July 23rd in a rematch of the season opener. Rodriguez, Lindsey and Barnhart should all be back – none played in the World Cup final. Philadelphia is just one point ahead of Western NY for the top spot, and the Flash have a game in hand.
Sky Blue FC (3-5-4, 13 points 5/6 – 6 Games Remaining)
Previously: Sky Blue headed into the World Cup break with a five game unbeaten streak, capping off June with a come-from-behind 2-2 draw against the Flash, a usual 0-0 game with Boston and a 1-0 win over the Beat – that game’s only goal coming when Casey Nogueira put the ball in the net with the outside of her right foot, directly from a corner kick. Even without the services of Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath, Eniola Aluko, Anita Asante, Karen Bardsley or Therese Sjogran, Sky Blue tightened the playoff race. Adriana made her debut and has served as a better-than-fine replacement for Aluko, despite playing with a full arm brace after an elbow injury.
Things haven’t gone quite as well since coming back from the break. After the 4-3 loss at Philadelphia, SBFC came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw with mJ and then suffered its first home loss of the season, a 2-0 decision to Western NY. That one kicked off less than an hour after the World Cup final ended and featured a Sky Blue own goal among the highlights of a disjointed effort from both sides as Asante and Aluko returned to the lineup. Sky Blue added Sheree Gray and Petra Jacoba Hogewoning to the roster at the beginning of July. Gray made her debut against magicJack.
Next Up: Sky Blue hosts Philadelphia on July 23rd in a match that could mark the return of Heath, O’Reilly and Sjogran. Currently two points behind both magicJack and Boston for the final playoff spot, Sky Blue has just six games remaining and will close out the season with a three game road trip. The New Jersey team will face magicJack twice and Boston once over the final weeks. Oh, and with 12 games already under his belt, Jim Gabarra is set to become Sky Blue’s longest tenured head coach on the day of the final home game, which would be his 15th at the helm. Pauliina Miettinen holds the previous record, making it 14 games in the 2010 season.
Western NY Flash (8-2-2, 26 points 2/6 – 6 games remaining)
Previously: That new team shine started to wear off as the World Cup got closer. Without Marta, Maurine, Caroline Seger, Ali Riley, Candace Chapman, Christine Sinclair or Alex Morgan Western NY fell flat, squandering a lead to earn only a draw with Sky Blue and losing for the first time ever to Philadelphia. What once looked like a stranglehold on the top spot disappeared as the Flash fell to second on the table.
Post-World Cup, things have started to turn around. Western NY scooped Rebecca Moros out of the free agent pond after she was let go by magicJack. Since losing to Philly 2-1 on July 9th, WNY has won two straight. A 2-0 victory at Sky Blue as the Canadian and New Zealand contingents returned to action was followed up by a 3-1 win over mJ. Alex Morgan and Marta returned to action while Caroline Seger sat out with a calf injury as the Flash inched back within a point of the top spot in front of a sold out crowd in Rochester.
Next Up: Western NY heads to Harvard to take on the Breakers on July 24th on Fox Soccer. Seger and Maurine remain out, but the Flash should otherwise be at full strength.
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