FC Gold Pride won the 2010 WPS Regular Season title this weekend. The team’s spoils of victory include both a guaranteed berth in the WPS Championship Game and the right to host the event. Which team will join them in the big game? That should be determined by the final weeks of the regular season, and then the playoffs. The postseason will ultimately reward the team left standing with a spot in the Championship game. This weekend was perhaps the most interesting of the 2010 WPS season. Former pretenders made legitimate claims as to why they’re worthy of a duel with FC Gold Pride on September 26th.
Boston Breakers 2, Atlanta Beat 3
The Atlanta Beat have undergone a whole lot of turnover this season, including inheriting an entirely new squad from the now defunct Saint Louis and ushering in new manager Jim Galatis last week. Galatis replaces beleaguered former head coach Gareth O’Sullivan. Atlanta knew they needed a shock result against the streaking Boston Breakers to have a shot at the postseason. And did they ever. Hope Solo had an exemplary day in goal while her teammates were equally as impressive. USWNT stalwart Lori Chalupny scored Atlanta’s first goal while English striker Eniola Aluko tallied a brace to put Atlanta up 3-0 in the first half. Boston stormed back in the final 15 minutes and managed to score two goals off of USWNT internationals Lindsay Tarpley and Kristine Lilly. Atlanta – and Solo – managed to withstand the pressure and earned their first win in four games. Meanwhile, this was Boston’s first loss in six matches.
Sky Blue FC 1, Philadelphia Independence 0
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The New Jersey outfit has won just once since stud goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was ordered out of commission due to a broken clavicle in early July. The team was coming off a poor streak in which they had been outscored five goals to one in their previous two matches. Philadelphia, on the other hand, have seemingly sealed second place with the league’s most potent offense. Yet another upset was in the works, however. After a rain delay that lasted nearly two hours, two goals were called off by both sides keeping the scoreline level at 0-0. Then in the 60’, Sky Blue FC midfielder Yael Averbuch one-timed a bullet shot into the upper 90 giving her team the crucial win.
Chicago Red Stars 2, FC Gold Pride 3
FC Gold Pride shook off the malaise that had enveloped the team to nab the regular season title with three games left to play. The Bay Area team was coming off three scoreless draws. The Chicago Red Stars have been inconsistent all season and needed three points to stay in the playoff hunt. The Red Stars have never been blessed by fortune, and Sunday night was yet another example of this. FC Gold Pride broke its 271-minute long goalless streak when Marta easily converted a lovely cross from rookie Ali Riley. The Red Stars struck back as FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart seemingly bobbled the ball near her line, giving Ella Masar an opportunity to equalize. FC Gold Pride centerback Rachel Buehler then scored off a Tiffeny Milbrett corner in the 33’. Chicago fought back yet again as comeback kid Ella Masar met a perfect cross from rightback Marian Dalmy. Disaster then struck as Red Stars defender Natalie Spilger was called for a handball in the box in the 78’. Marta stepped up and converted the penalty kick, giving the sublime Brazilian her league-leading 15th goal of the season and her team the regular season title.
What To Look Out For
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The suddenly-improved Atlanta Beat face FC Gold Pride this weekend. FC Gold Pride have absolutely nothing to play for. It’s quite the opposite for Atlanta.
The Washington Freedom then meet Sky Blue FC. Both teams are currently locked in that critical fourth place spot so gaining maximum points will be the ultimate task.
On Sunday the Philadelphia Independence host the Boston Breakers. This will really be a tussle for second place which doesn’t quite have much at stake other than bragging rights.
Stunning: Yael Averbuch/Sky Blue FC. The UNC product struck an absolute blinder against the Philadelphia Independence to give her team the much-needed victory. Sky Blue FC are now tied for fourth with the Washington Freedom.
Shocking: Chicago Red Stars. With Sunday’s heartbreaking loss, the Red Stars could become the first WPS team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs if they don’t beat the Philadelphia Independence in a week and a half. They have one less remaining game on their fixtures list than every other WPS team.
Streaking: Lindsay Tarpley/Boston Breakers. The former USWNT international now has two goals in two games. These goals are also the first she has scored in her career as a Boston Breaker.
Sputtering: Philadelphia Independence, Boston Breakers. The second and third-ranked teams respectively suffered shock losses this weekend. They may be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, but they may still need to watch their backs.
Stinging: Marta/FC Gold Pride. Marta got lumps kicked out of her by Brazilian compatriot Formiga. The feisty Red Stars holding midfielder earned a yellow card for her aggressive play and was lucky not to have received anything more severe.