Tag Archive | "Chicago Red Stars"

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Red Stars close out their season with a 2-1 win over the Freedom

Posted on 07 September 2010 by mwkajdas

It was the Washington Freedom’s first and only road trip to Toyota Park this season and Emma Hayes’ first visit back to her old stomping grounds where she poured her heart into building the Red Stars team before being “relieved of coaching duties” four months ago. On the line for the Freedom was a chance to hang onto the last remaining spot in the WPS playoffs. For Ms. Hayes, there might have been a little extra incentive to serve some smackdown to the players who had gotten her fired. Either way, the Red Stars were having none of it, ending their season on a high note behind goals by Casey Nogueira and Megan Rapinoe. Washington added a last gasp score in extra time from Beverly Goebel that proved too little and too late.

The game started out to be a lively affair. For the first fifteen minutes both teams were creating opportunities off some slick one-touch passes but both goalkeepers proved equal to the task of stopping any and all shots that came their way. Sonia Bompastor got the best of the exchanges when, in the 2nd minute, she intercepted a blocked pass and ran the ball up the left side before unleashing a blast that goalkeeper Jillian Loyden was just able to tip over the crossbar. In the 12th minute, Bompastor deked around two Red Stars defenders and lofted a shot over Loyden that barely floated wide of the far post.

For the second fifteen minutes of the game the play became a little more ragged with haphazard passes and blocked shots aplenty. The most excitement came from the stands where fans kept attempting to start a wave that only made it halfway across the stadium each time.

Finally, in the 37th minute, Chicago came close to drawing first blood when a corner kick from Karen Carney bounced off the Washington defense right to Casey Nogueira, stationed on the penalty kick spot, but Noogie’s shot flew up over the crossbar. A minute later, Chicago took a free kick from 36 yards out that Megan Rapinoe headed on frame but goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris managed to push it out of harm’s way.

With a few minutes left in the half, Karen Carney had to be helped off the field and Cristiane was brought in to replace her, but the half ended in a scoreless draw.

Chicago got the second half off to a good start. In the 46th minute, Noogie crossed the ball in from the left wing and found Veronica Boquete waiting unmarked just 12 yard from goal but Ashlyn Harris pushed Vero’s shot over the crossbar. Just four minutes later, it was Boquete’s turn to pass the ball between two Washington defenders where Casey Nogueira caught it and fired, ricocheting the ball off the far post and into the net for the opening score of the game.

The Red Stars almost grabbed another score in the 65th minute, when Noogie held the ball at the right corner of the penalty area, fending off Washington players before pushing the ball inside to Megan Rapinoe. Pinoe fired a cross to Veronica Boquete at the opposite corner of the 6-yard box but, once again, Harris pushed the shot wide. Three minutes later, Boquete pushed off defenders and passed the ball up to Cristiane in open space. Cristiane lobbed a shot over Harris but the ball landed wide of the net.

The last great scoring chance in regular time came in the 89th minute when Boquete took the ball up to the 6-yard box, deked two defenders and passed inside to Rapinoe. Pinoe’s point-blank shot was blocked by the Washington defense but the rebound came right out to Natalie Spilger. Spilger uncorked a cracking shot but the swarming Freedom defenders blocked it just the same.

With four minutes of added time, the scoring came fast and furious. Veronica Boquete either shot or passed from the left of the Washington net, sending the ball scooting down the goal line where Megan Rapinoe was able to tap it in. The Red Stars celebrated their inevitable win enthusiastically but perhaps a bit prematurely. In the ensuing kickoff, the Freedom took the ball down field and fired it toward the net. Natalie Spilger tried to head the ball away but sent it straight up into the air. Beverly Goebel was able to fire a volley that glanced off Loyden’s glove and caromed into the net. Abby Wambach ran the ball back to the center line in a desperate bid to try for the equalizer but the whistle sounded a few moments later to send this game into the history books.

The Red Stars held another jersey auction for the Red Stars Charitable Foundation. Below is a listing of the items on the block along with their winning bids:

$275 – Karen Carney autographed game-worn English national team jersey along with her autographed Red Stars locker room nameplate

$250 – 2010 Red Stars home jersey autographed by the entire team

$300 – 2010 Karen Carney autographed game-worn jersey

$300 – 2010 Kate Markgraf autographed game-worn jersey

$300 – 2010 Cristiane autographed game-worn jersey

$300 – 2010 Marian Dalmy autographed game-worn jersey

No minimum bid – 2010 Veronica Boquete autographed game-worn jersey (Red Stars fans will be kicking themselves for letting this jersey slip away like this when Boquete most assuredly becomes a star player on the roster next year).

Match Summary
Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Freedom
September 5, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 4067
Weather: 77 degrees under partly cloudy skies

Scoring
50’ Red Stars: Casey Nogueira (Veronica Boquete)
90+ Red Stars: Megan Rapinoe (Veronica Boquete)
90+ Freedom: Beverly Goebel (unassisted)

Misconduct
66’ Freedom: Sarah Huffman (yellow card)
73’ Freedom: Brittany Bock (yellow card)
86’ Red Stars: Formiga (yellow card)
87’ Freedom: Sarah Huffman (yellow card/red card)

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Natalie Spilger
Kate Markgraf
Whitney Engen
Marian Dalmy
Formiga
Katie Chapman
Karen Carney (45+: Cristiane)
Megan Rapinoe
Casey Nogueira (88: Lydia Vandenbergh)
Veronica Boquete

FC Gold Pride:
Ashlyn Harris
Cat Whitehill
Nikki Marshall
Rebecca Moros (85: Beverly Goebel)
Becky Sauerbrunn
Sonia Bompastor
Allie Long
Homare Sawa (46: Brittany Bock)
Sarah Huffman
Anita Asante
Abby Wambach

Officials
Referee: Ted Unkel
Asst Referees: Christian Ibanez, Greg Dopka
4th Official: Victor Herrera

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Red Stars break their Philly jinx with 2-0 victory

Posted on 02 September 2010 by mwkajdas

Even though the Red Stars were mathematically eliminated from the WPS playoffs last Saturday when the Washington Freedom beat Sky Blue FC, they still had a lot to play for against the Philadelphia Independence Wednesday night at Toyota Park. The Red Stars had been winless against both Philadelphia and the Atlanta Beat this season and, going into their final game against the Independence, this would be their last chance to avoid being skunked by both expansion teams this year. Happily for their fans, the Red stars managed to save face by shutting out the Independence 2-0 on goals from Veronica Boquete and Marian Dalmy. Both players notched the first tallies of their WPS careers.

With their scoring leader, Ella Masar, scheduled to miss the final two games of the season as she recovers from surgery on a broken nose suffered when she scored off a header against FC Gold Pride on August 22nd, Red Stars coach, Omid Namazi elected to sit out Cristiane, his other starting forward, in favor of Casey Nogueira and his latest acquisition, Veronica Boquete, whose visa problems have finally been resolved. The decision proved fortuitous for the Red Stars as Boquete wasted no time scoring the opening goal in just the 4th minute of the game. Casey Nogueira sent a free kick screaming from the right corner of Philadelphia’s 18-yard box to the near post of their goal, where Vero deflected the ball straight up into roof of the net.

Just put a purple wig on her head and wrap a Zorro mask around those piercing blue eyes because Veronica “Hit Girl” Boquete is proving to be the real deal for the Red Stars. Three minutes after scoring her goal, she dribbled the ball down the right wing and slotted a smooth pass inside to Megan Rapinoe who, unfortunately, pushed the ball just wide of the far post. For the next twenty minutes, the Red Stars played a decent game of “Keep Away” as they relentlessly passed the ball back and forth between their defense and midfield. Neither team looking intent on scoring anytime soon.

The game picked up in the 28th minute when Casey Nogueira ran the ball into the left corner of the Philadelphia zone before passing it back to Formiga at the top of the box. The Brazilian fed the ball inside to Karen Carney waiting at the open net on the far post but the crowd could only gasp as Carney stretched in vain to get a touch on the ball. Two minutes later, the Red Stars passed a free kick out wide to Marian Dalmy on the right wing, who then crossed the ball through Philadelphia’s 6-yard box. Katie Chapman slid in to tap the ball into an unguarded patch of netting but failed to make the necessary contact, inciting more anguished cries from the fans.

Philadelphia decided to get into the game in the 34th minute when Jen Buczkowski fired a shot across Chicago’s bow. The ball zoomed past Jillian Loyden’s diving attempt at a save and barely missed the far post of the net. Only a minute later, Chicago had its best scoring chance of the game when Vero broke through with the ball from the centerline and charged on a breakaway toward the Philadelphia goal. Just before she reached the penalty area, Vero passed inside to Casey Nogueira, who found herself in a one-on-one showdown with the Independence keeper. Noogie fired but Henderson blocked the shot with her left leg, leaving no second chances for a rebound.

Philadelphia made one more attempt to score before the half when Amy Rodriguez broke free of the pack on the outskirts of the Chicago penalty area and wedged between Whitney Engen and Kate Markgraf on the Chicago back line. Loyden charged out to disarm her but missed the ball with her sliding block, leaving both A-Rod and the ball standing by their lonesomes in front of the net. Fortunately for Chicago, Engen swooped in to clear the ball before Rodriguez was able to pounce on it.

Philadelphia began to look more alive at the start of the second half. Lori Lindsey, Amy Rodriguez and Joanna Lohman all took turns scrambling around the Chicago penalty area with the ball before A-Rod fired it up over the top of the crossbar. Two minutes later, they moved the same play inside the box but this time Jillian Loyden made the save on their shot.

In spite of all these efforts, it was Chicago who once again found the back of the net. The play started in the 54th minute, when Whitney Engen stripped the ball away from a Philadelphia attack and centered it up the field to Megan Rapinoe. Pinoe passed the ball out wide to Katie Chapman, who carried it into the right corner and dropped it back to Karen Carney, trailing on the wing. Carney flipped the ball in to Marian Dalmy who, from 24 yards out, fired a shot that found its way inside the far post.

Philadelphia thought they got a goal back in the 66th minute when Caroline Seger launched a pass toward the Chicago goal that was mishandled by their keeper. In the ensuing pileup in front of the net, a Philadelphia shot was blocked by the Chicago defense but ricocheted out to A-Rod on the opposite post. Rodriguez popped the ball into the net only to be ruled offside amid much protest from her teammates.

After that, it was Chicago’s turn to create some more fireworks. In the 72nd minute, Casey Nogueira captured the ball off a blocked Philadelphia free kick and passed it out to Cristiane running up the right wing. Cristiane calmly closed in on goal but fired her shot wide of the far post. A minute later, Vero dribbled the ball to the left of the Independence 6-yard box and crossed it to Katie Chapman on the opposite corner. Chapman’s shot hit the crossbar but bounced right back at her. She headed it back once more but Allison Falk was waiting to make the save off the line.

Beginning in the 76th minute, Philadelphia made its final two attempts to even the match. Lianne Sanderson crossed the ball into Chicago’s penalty area where Natalie Spilger, sporting a braided mohawk reminiscent of an old Mad Max movie, came up short on her clearing header. Player and ball both dropped to the ground, leaving Danesha Adams licking her chops at the mishap. But Jillian Loyden threw herself on the ball like it was a live hand grenade before Adams could take advantage of the situation. Three minutes later, Adams fed the ball through to A-Rod on one of her customary breakaways forcing Loyden to come all the way out of the penalty area to slide onto the ball and preserve her clean sheet.

“I don’t think we particularly played that well,” Omid Namazi gave his assessment of the game afterward. “I think we had decent spurts of good play and we could have scored a lot more. But overall, the possession I didn’t think was as good as it was in other games that we’ve had and we’ve lost. So, having said that, I’ll take the win.”

Now that the playoffs are out of reach, what becomes more pertinent to the future of this team is the future of their front line. With Boquete providing a real spark to their offense and Ella Masar emerging as their scoring leader, one has to wonder if Cristiane and her hefty wage demands have suddenly become surplus requirements for the Red Stars. As the off-season quickly approaches, it will be interesting to see where all these chips fall into place for next season.

Match Summary
Chicago Red Stars vs Philadelphia Independence
September 1, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 2173
Weather: 83 degrees under overcast skies

Scoring
4’ Chicago: Veronica Boquete (Casey Nogueira)
54’ Chicago: Marian Dalmy (Karen Carney)

Misconduct
36’ Chicago: Katie Chapman (yellow card)
77’ Philadelphia: Caroline Seger (yellow card)

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Marian Dalmy
Kate Markgraf
Natalie Spilger
Whitney Engen
Karen Carney (57: Cristiane)
Katie Chapman
Formiga
Megan Rapinoe (73: Lydia Vandenbergh)
Casey Nogueira (84: Sophie Reiser)
Veronica Boquete

Philadelphia Independence:
Val Henderson
Nikki Krzysik
Sara Larsson (46: Joanna Lohman)
Allison Falk
Holmfridur Magnussdottir
Caroline Seger
Kelly Henderson (70: Danesha Adams)
Lori Lindsey (64: Lianne Sanderson)
Jen Buczkowski
Tina DiMartino
Amy Rodriguez

Officials
Referee: Moo Hacket
Asst Referees: Said Ravanfar, Ian Gut
4th Official: Miguel Panduro Jr.

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Marta and Masar trade braces in 3-2 Red Stars loss

Posted on 22 August 2010 by mwkajdas

FC Gold Pride finally found the goals that had eluded them for the last three games, scoring three times before a season-high crowd of 6,089 in Toyota Park to clinch the WPS regular season title. Ella Masar brought the Red Stars back twice after Marta and Rachel Buehler each put the visiting team ahead but Marta’s penalty kick late in the game provided the kicker for the Pride.

It took less than eight minutes for the Pride to open the scoring when Rachel Buehler passed deep to Ali Riley charging into the left corner. Riley lofted a cross into the 6-yard box where Marta tucked the ball away past the left glove of Jillian Loyden.

Megan Rapinoe came close to tying the score in the 13th minute when she outwrestled Buehler for the ball at the top of the penalty area but her shot was aimed directly at Nicole Barnhart, who easily made the save. Five minutes later, Ella Masar passed the ball out left to Cristiane who dribbled the ball to the corner of the 6-yard box. She unleashed a left-footed shot that Masar was able to redirect under Barnhart for her seventh goal of the season. “I took a touch on it, I think, and then there was a collision between me and Buehler and Barnhart,” Masar described the goal afterward. “Barnhart had a touch on it and then there was a collision and the ball just got underneath her.”

The Red Stars threatened again in the 22nd minute when Formiga threaded a pass up through the midfield into open space in front of goal but Barnhart charged out to fall on the ball before Cristiane could catch up with it.

Marta raising the ire of the crowd four minutes later when she was called for a foul on Formiga and then openly accused her compatriot of diving, pantomiming a flop to the referee to no avail. Those jeers turned to cheers when she later repeated the foul on Megan Rapinoe and received a yellow card for her effort.

The Pride clawed their way back into the lead in the 33rd minute when Tiffeny Milbrett fired a corner kick from out left that pounced into the net off the head of Rachel Buehler. The half ended with the score at 2-1.

The Red Stars nearly equalized again just three minutes into the second half when Ella Masar, running up the right wing, deked around Buehler and passed the ball off to Cristiane. Cristiane crossed the ball to Marian Dalmy on the opposite wing but her header just missed the open net. Six minutes later, Cristiane found space on the right wing and pushed the ball ahead for Megan Rapinoe, who was charging on a breakaway with the ferocity of Lisbeth Salander. Unfortunately for Red Stars fans, Nicole Barnhart slid to smother the ball before The Girl with the Woodpecker Haircut could catch up to it.

The Red Stars showed some flash in the 59th minute when Lydia Vandenbergh drove deep along the left wing and crossed in front of goal where Cristiane fired a bicycle kick that was blocked by a Gold Pride defender. Megan Rapinoe trapped the rebound for a second bite of the apple but her shot flew wide of the left post.

The Red Stars fought back for the second time when, in the 61st minute, Formiga intercepted a clearing pass 30 yards from the Gold Pride net and passed the ball out to Marian Dalmy charging up the right wing. Dalmy fired a cross through the six-yard box where Ella Masar was waiting to deflect it into goal.

The Pride nearly took the lead again just one minute later when Christine Sinclair stripped the ball from the Red Stars defense and broke free on goal. Sinclair was able to maneuver around Loyden, who had charged out of her goal, but Lydia Vandenbergh slid in from behind to block her shot on the empty net.

Sinclair threatened again just one minute later when she ran behind the Red Stars defense to catch a pass but her point-blank shot from the corner of the 6-yard box was saved by Loyden. A minute after that Sinclair was at it again, pushing Natalie Spilger off the ball and crossing it in from the right. Kelley O’Hara was wide open on the opposite post but she just missed getting her header on frame.

The clincher for the Gold Pride came in the 78th minute when the Pride was awarded a penalty kick after Natalie Spilger was caught handling the ball in the penalty area. Jillian Loyden took the opportunity to enjoy a cool beverage while Marta cooled her heels waiting to take the kick. Eventually the referee intervened to end the stalling tactic. Loyden dove to her left and Marta kicked straight into the middle of the net for her second goal of the night.

The Red Stars had a chance to come back for a third time with a corner kick in the 87th minute but the ball rattled in front of net between Masar and Casey Nogueira and neither was able to get off a shot. The Gold Pride provided the only attack in extra time when Kelley O’Hara shook off three defenders but shot the ball over the goal. Marta had a chance for the hat trick when she intercepted a goal kick and charged the net unmarked but she pushed her shot just wide of the left goalpost.

“I liked the way we played, I liked the way we fought,” Red Stars coach Omid Namazi commented after the game. “A couple of unfortunate calls against us. I gotta see the video on their third goal, the penalty kick, to see if it was a legitimate handball. I think I saw it hit her hand or hit her arm. I don’t know if, in that situation, I would call it. I thought the first goal was clearly offsides but we don’t look for excuses. We got beat and the results are disappointing. But, again, some of the things that we did in that game I liked: the fact that we scored two goals for the first time in a while was a good thing, was something that we’ll take positive from this game.

We’re down a little bit, injury-wise. We’ve got internationals coming in fifteen minutes before the game. Kate Markgraf, fifteen minutes before the game, I’m told she can’t play because of her concussion and her symptoms. So, all in all, with what we had, not too bad. But, obviously, it’s disappointing to lose. Anytime you lose, it’s no good… The playoffs, obviously don’t look good but we’re not gonna give up.”

This was also the Red Stars’ annual “Green Game,” where Red Stars players wear special green-colored kits and fans are invited to bid on the game-worn jerseys with the proceeds going to the Red Stars Charitable Foundation. This year, the Red Stars wore white jerseys with green names and numbers in place of the customary green. The minimum bid for each jersey was $50 and a bid of $250 guaranteed that you took the shirt home. The winning bids were as follows:

$250 – Ella Masar
$250 – Natalie Spilger
$250 – Kate Markgraf
$250 – Cristiane
$250 – Karen Carney
$250 – Megan Rapinoe
$250 – Formiga
$250 – Marian Dalmy
$250 – Julianne Sitch
$210 – Casey Nogueira
$160 – Sophie Reiser
$150 – Jessica McDonald
$150 – Katie Chapman
$130 – Jillian Loyden
$125 – Allison Whitworth
$120 – Whitney Engen
$100 – Nikki Washington
$100 – Elise Weber
$100 – Christie Shaner
??? – Lydia Vandenbergh (sorry, missed that one)

Match Summary
Chicago Red Stars vs FC Gold Pride
August 22, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 6,089
Weather: Sunny, clear skies and 82 degrees

Scoring
8’ Gold Pride: Marta (Ali Riley)
18’ Chicago: Ella Masar (Cristiane)
33’ Gold Pride: Rachel Buehler (Tiffeny Milbrett)
61’ Chicago: Ella Masar (Marian Dalmy)
79’ Gold Pride: Marta (Penalty Kick)

Misconduct
43’ Gold Pride: Marta (yellow card)
45+ Chicago: Formiga (yellow card)

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Lydia Vandenbergh (85: Nikki Washington)
Natalie Spilger
Whitney Engen
Marian Dalmy
Formiga
Katie Chapman (74: Karen Carney)
Megan Rapinoe
Casey Nogueira
Cristiane
Ella Masar

FC Gold Pride:
Nicole Barnhart
Kandace Wilson
Candace Chapman
Rachel Buehler
Ali Riley
Kiki Bosio (58: Kelley O’Hara)
Shannon Boxx (78: Carrie Dew)
Becky Edwards
Christine Sinclair
Marta
Tiffeny Milbrett (83: Kristen Graczyk)

Officials
Referee: Michael Donovan
Asst Referees: Debbie Coleman, Victor Herrera
4th Official: George Ghawi

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Red Stars lose 2 players in 2-1 loss to Philly

Posted on 12 August 2010 by mwkajdas

Red Stars fans wilted in the heat and humidity Wednesday night at Toyota Park as they watched their team’s playoff hopes wither along with them. Despite fighting back from a one-goal deficit, the Red Stars gave up the game-winning goal to the Philadelphia Independence on a controversial free kick, eventually losing the game 2-1. To add injury to insult, two Red Stars players had to be helped off the pitch: Kate Markgraf with a concussion and Julianne Sitch with what Red Stars coach Omid Namazi described as a possible ACL tear.

The game started out in typical fashion as, for the first ten minutes, the Independence players attempted to execute give-and-go passes through center midfield and the Red Stars attacked up the sidelines but neither team could link the requisite number of passes together to threaten the other team’s net. For the next ten minutes, the Red Stars managed a couple of weak shots from outside the 18-yard box that were easily scooped up by Philadelphia goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc.

The first real scoring chance came in the 23rd minute when the Red Stars were awarded a free kick on Philadelphia’s goal line just five yards left of the 6-yard box. Casey Nogueira sent the ball curling to the far post but Marian Dalmy headed it over the top of the open net. Two minutes later, the Red Stars created a golden opportunity when Formiga stripped Heather Mitts at the center line and dished the ball to Cristiane, who burst out on a breakaway with Nogueira and Megan Rapinoe following on her flanks. However, the Brazilan chose to samba instead of shoot in front of the lonesome LeBlanc and eventually the Philadelphia defense closed the play down before anyone got a shot off.

Neither team mounted a serious attack for the next twenty minutes and the first half ended in a scoreless draw.

The Independence didn’t wait too long to open the scoring in the second half when Amy Rodriguez took a pass from Lori Lindsey in the 53rd minute and split between the right-side defensive duo of Marian Dalmy and Whitney Engen. A-Rod dribbled the ball to the corner of the 6-yard box and slotted the ball between Red Stars goalkeeper, Jillian Loyden, and the near post.

The Red Stars struck back in the 62nd minute when Casey Nogueira ran the ball up the right sideline and launched a mortar shot toward the goal. The ball appeared to arc over the Philadelphia defenders and find its way into the far corner of the net untouched but Ella Masar was credited for tipping the ball in for her sixth goal of the season. “Ella just kind of threw her body at the ball and she headed it in… I think,” Nogueira sort of confirmed after the game. “That’s what it looked like.”

Noogie almost sent the Red Stars into the lead in the 72nd minute when she fired a wicked bender off a 30-yard free kick that Karina LeBlanc was just able to push over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Nogueira lofted a corner kick to the far post but Formiga’s diving header flew up over the open corner of the net.

Red Stars fans got a scare in the 76th minute Amy Rodriguez intercepted a back-pass from Lydia Vandenbergh to Natalie Spilger and charged unmarked toward the Chicago net. However, Spilger gave chase and went to ground to foil A-Rod’s attempts to curl the ball around her into the exposed goal. Nevertheless, those heroics went for naught just a minute later when A-Rod tried to squeeze between Spilger and Engen and Spilger was cautioned for a hand ball. On the ensuing free kick, just outside the penalty area, Joanna Lohman faked the shot and Lianne Sanderson came up behind her and shot the ball inside the left post for the game-winning goal. “Two players running side-by-side and one getting in front of the other one. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there,” Namazi commented after the game. “Absolute terrible call. And I’ll take a fine for it if I have to.”

For the remainder of the game, both sides exchanged long passes in an attempt to take advantage of tired legs but it all amounted to much ado about nothing. Philadelphia beat the Red Stars for the third time this season and the Red Stars remain without a win against either of the two WPS expansion teams.

“We’re not a very good team when we go down a goal, you know, based on records,” Namazi summed up the game. “We’re very good when we go up a goal. And tonight we went down a goal, we fought, we came back and we had the momentum going. And one obvious bad call just changes the momentum of the game. But I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We gotta be better than that. We need to take the initiative to score the first goal. The more important thing is we lost a player before the game (referring to Karen Carney, who did not play due to illness) and we lost a couple players during the game. That’s the hardest.”

Coach Namazi also disclosed that there is a visa problem with Veronica Bouquete that prevented her from playing in the game. “We found out on Sunday, when we traveled back from San Jose, that there’s a discrepancy between what we were told is her actual status as far as her visa. So we gotta work through that process of obtaining the proper paperwork. That’s another one I was counting on to play and we find out we can’t play her. I’m hoping that she’s ready for the Washington game.”

Wednesday night was also the Red Stars’ annual “Green Game,” where fans are invited to bid on special jerseys worn by their favorite Red Stars players during that game. In place of the customary green-colored jerseys, this year the Red Stars decided to auction off Puma Project Pink practice kits that the players wore during the pre-game warm-up. Winning bidders took home the autographed jersey along with matching shorts and socks. The winning bids were as follows:

$210 – Ella Masar
$200 – Natalie Spilger
$165 – Kate Markgraf
$130 – Cristiane
$130 – Karen Carney
$125 – Megan Rapinoe
$120 – Jillian Loyden
$105 – Formiga
$100 – Marian Dalmy
$90 – Katie Chapman
$85 – Nikki Washington
$85 – Veronica Boquete Giadans
$80 – Allison Whitworth
$80 – Elise Weber
$80 – Lydia Vandenbergh
$80 – Casey Nogueira
$80 – Whitney Engen
$80 – Kelsey Davis
$75 – Julianne Sitch
$65 – Sophie Reiser
$50 – Jessica McDonald

Match Summary
Chicago Red Stars vs Philadelphia Independence
August 11, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 3,152
Weather: Hot and humid 85 degrees

Scoring
53’ Philadelphia: Amy Rodriguez (Lori Lindsey)
62’ Chicago: Ella Masar (Casey Nogueira)
78’ Philadelphia: Lianne Sanderson (unassisted)

Misconduct
37’ Chicago: Formiga (yellow card)
67’ Chicago: Megan Rapinoe (yellow card)
77’ Chicago: Natalie Spilger (yellow card)
90+ Chicago: Katie Chapman (yellow card)

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Marian Dalmy
Whitney Engen
Kate Markgraf (73: Lydia Vandenbergh)
Natalie Spilger
Casey Nogueira
Katie Chapman
Formiga
Megan Rapinoe
Ella Masar
Cristiane (71: Julianne Sitch, 82: Nikki Washington)

Philadelphia Independence:
Karina LeBlanc
Heather Mitts
Sara Larsson
Nikki Krzysik
Holmfridur Magnussdottir
Christina DiMartino (64: Lianne Sanderson)
Lori Lindsey
Jen Buczkowski
Caroline Seger
Joanna Lohman (84: Estelle Johnson)
Amy Rodriguez (90+: Lindsey Patterson)

Officials
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Asst Referees: Shelley Finger, George Ghawi
4th Official: Miguel Panduro Jr.

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Red Stars grasp precarious hold on playoff berth

Posted on 08 August 2010 by mwkajdas

Last Saturday night, the Chicago Red Stars grappled league-leading FC Gold Pride to a scoreless draw—the second time in their three meetings this season in which the Red Stars have shut out the presumptive season champs—to move into fourth place in the league standings and tentatively assume the final playoff spot in WPS. The Red Stars are tied in points with Sky Blue FC but maintain a two-goal advantage in the deciding goal differential.

Their hold on fourth place is tenuous at best, however, as Sky Blue have two games in hand on the Red Stars, having played only 17 games so far this season compared to Chicago’s 19. Moreover, the Washington Freedom and Atlanta Beat each also hold a game in hand on the Red Stars while only trailing them in points by one and four points respectively. With only five games remaining on their schedule, the Red Stars find themselves in the dire situation of needing to maximize their results in their final few outings.

The good news for Red Stars fans is that four of the five remaining games will be played at home in Toyota Park, giving them ample opportunity to help their team “Defend Their Turf.” The bad news is that the Red Stars will have to play one of those game against the dominant Gold Pride team and two more against the Philadelphia Independence, a team that has beaten them handily in their two previous encounters. The first showdown against Philadelphia takes place this Wednesday, August 11th at 7:30 p.m.

To make matters worse for the Red Stars, they will be without one of their star forwards. Kosovare Asllani, who scored the game-winning goal against Gold Pride last May, has decided to return to her home country of Sweden to gain more playing time this winter in preparation for next year’s Women’s World Cup. She “mutually terminated” her contract with the Red Stars last Thursday and will be rejoining Linköpings FC, her former team in the Damallsvenskan, the premier women’s league in Sweden.

In her stead, the Red Stars have signed Veronica Boquete Giadans, the diminutive Spanish forward who recently completed a championship season with the USL W-League’s Buffalo Flash while displaying a goal-scoring prowess that caught coach Omid Namazi’s eye. Vero, as she prefers to be called, immediately made her Red Stars debut in the game against Gold Pride, substituting for Cristiane in the 80th minute. In acquiring Vero, however, the Red Stars had to relinquish their International Discovery rights to Swedish forward, Lotta Schelin, of Olympique Lyonnais.

But if Chicago fans did not already have enough reason to attend Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia, it will also be the Red Stars’ annual “Green Game.” Once again, the Red Stars will don unique one-of-a kind green jerseys that fans are invited to bid on in a silent auction being held during the game to benefit the Chicago Red Stars Charitable Foundation. Interested participants will have until the beginning of the second half to enter their bids at a table conveniently set up near the refreshment booths on the upper concourse of Toyota Park.

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Dog day for Red Stars results in 3-1 loss to Breakers

Posted on 26 July 2010 by mwkajdas

Sunday was “Dog Day” at Toyota Park—the Red Stars invited their fans to bring their pet pooches to their game against the Boston Breakers—and, as if caught up in the spirit of the occasion, the Red Stars played a dog of a first half, allowing three goals in the game’s first fifteen minutes. The early onslaught was enough to seal the Red Stars’ fate, handing them a devastating 3-1 defeat and dropping them back into fifth place in the league standings, where they have resided for nearly the entire season.

The Breakers drew first blood in the 9th minute, when the ball took a bad bounce between Marian Dalmy and Whitney Engen and neither was able to control it. Kelly Smith intervened to give them both a lesson in ball handling as she calmly strode into the 18-yard box and deposited the ball into the net.

In the 12th minute, Lindsay Tarpley burned her old teammates when she headed the ball over the Red Stars’ defense and straight onto the boot of Kelly Smith, who, once again, charged the net and slid the ball just inside the right goal post. Two minutes later, Kelly Smith launched a free kick into the penalty area, which Marian Dalmy unwisely let roll for goalkeeper Jillian Loyden to scoop up. Unfortunately for them both, Ifeoma Dieke ran in behind Dalmy and—thank you very much—tucked the ball away past a helpless Loyden. The goal must have been sweet revenge for Dieke, who was released by the Red Stars earlier this season.

“I’m embarrassed about our performance in the first half,” Red Stars coach, Omid Namazi, admitted after the game. “When you put yourself in the hole like that, it’s tough to come back, especially with a team like ours, who struggles to get any goals. So I’m very, very disappointed and very embarrassed about the way we played in the first half.

“You want to have somebody on your team where, when you go down 1-0, that someone grabs your team by the throat—by the seat of the pants—and you say, “Let’s go.” But unfortunately, you give up the first goal and it seems like everybody has their head down. And the second goal happens real quickly after that… I’m embarrassed. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that in 12 years of coaching, where a team is going down the field and scoring at will.”

Down by three goals and desperate to catch up, Namazi pulled defender Natalie Spilger in the 25th minute to add an extra attacker in Kosovare Asllani. The change almost paid off a minute later when a Red Stars’ cross in front of goal was headed out by the Boston defense and right to Cristiane, who was stalking just outside the 6-yard box. Unfortunately, Cristiane’s blast bounced off the crossbar and Asllani’s rebound header arced back just over the net. In the 28th minute, Cristiane crossed the ball in front of net again but, this time, it was just out of reach of Ella Masar, who slid to the ground in a valiant attempt to punch the ball into the open net.

The Breakers almost scored again in the 32nd minute when Kelly Smith drove the ball down the right sideline and passed it back to Lindsay Tarpley. Tarps crossed the ball to the right goalpost where Lauren Cheney pushed her diving header just outside the frame.

In the second half, the Red Stars continued their flurry of attack, denying the Breakers any chance to take advantage of their depleted defense. In the 52nd minute, Marian Dalmy crossed the ball from the right corner to Kosovare Asllani, waiting in front of net, but Asllani’s tap-in attempt went straight into Alyssa Naeher’s gloves. A minute later, Megan Rapinoe dragged a couple of Boston defenders up the left sideline, then dropped the ball back to Kosovare Asllani. Asllani crossed the ball to Cristiane but her shot hit the left post. In the 57th minute, a corner kick from Karen Carney found Asllani just 3 yards from net but Naeher made another crucial save on her shot.

The Red Stars finally broke onto the scoreboard in the 80th minute of play when Laura del Rio fouled Cristiane just outside the left corner of the penalty area. Casey Nogueira’s free kick cruised through the box untouched until Asllani redirected it inside the left post.

But the goal proved to be too little and too late for the Red Stars. Boston almost tallied back in the 84th minute when Laura del Rio out-muscled Kate Markgraf and made a solo charge into the 18-yard box. She blistered a shot at the far post but Jillian Loyden came up big with a diving save to prevent further humiliation to her team. After that, Boston switched to defensive mode, substituting out Kelly Smith for defender Taryn Hemmings, and ran out the remaining minutes on the clock.

“My strategy from now on, going into every game, is high pressure,” Namazi vowed after the game. “Because, I feel like our team, when we sit back, our energy level drops. So, let’s force the action. Let’s go out there. And, when we’ve done that, we’ve been successful.

“We need to be playing with a mean streak, playing with a chip on our shoulder, playing with an edge. It’s what we lack on this team… We’re a very young team. And, unless we grow up quickly, we don’t have any chance of making the playoffs.”

Match Summary

Chicago Red Stars (4-7-5) vs Boston Breakers (5-6-4)
July 25, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 3673
Weather: 83 degrees under sunny skies

Scoring
9’ Boston: Kelly Smith (unassisted)
12’ Boston: Kelly Smith (Lindsay Tarpley)
14’ Boston: Ifeoma Dieke (Kelly Smith)
80’ Chicago: Kosovare Asllani (Casey Nogueira)

Misconduct
None

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Natalie Spilger (24: Kosovare Asllani)
Kate Markgraf
Whitney Engen
Marian Dalmy
Megan Rapinoe (69: Nikki Washington)
Formiga
Karen Carney
Katie Chapman
Cristiane
Ella Masar (59: Casey Nogueira)

Boston Breakers:
Alyssa Naeher
Stephanie Cox
Ifeoma Dieke
Amy LePeilbet
Alex Scott
Lindsay Tarpley
Leslie Osborne
Jordan Angeli (72: Laura del Rio)
Kristine Lilly
Kelly Smith (88: Taryn Hemmings)
Lauren Cheney

Officials
Referee: Allen Chapman
Asst Referees: Vicente Cortes, Miguel Panduro
4th Official: Victor Herrera

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Has the coaching change made a difference for the Red Stars?

Posted on 14 July 2010 by mwkajdas

Two months ago, the Chicago Red Stars fired Emma Hayes, their coach of one and a quarter seasons and replaced her with their current coach, Omid Namazi. Despite building a team that, for the most part, dominated play against its opponents, especially in the second halves of games, the complaint against Hayes was that her team was not only not winning enough games but it was not scoring very many goals either. So has the Red Stars new coach solved the two problems that plagued the tenure of Emma Hayes? Read on at ASN’s WPS page.

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Has the coaching change made a difference for the Red Stars?

Posted on 14 July 2010 by mwkajdas

Two months ago, the Red Stars fired Emma Hayes, their coach of one and a quarter seasons and replaced her with their current coach, Omid Namazi. Despite building a team that, for the most part, dominated play against its opponents, especially in the second halves of games, the complaint against Hayes was that her team was not only not winning enough games but it was not scoring very many goals either. So has the Red Stars new coach solved the two problems that plagued the tenure of Emma Hayes?

On first glance, it would seem to be the case. In the first six games of this season under Emma Hayes, the Red Stars compiled a record of 1-4-1 and scored three goals while allowing 6. In their first seven games under new coach Omid Namazi, the Red Stars compiled a record of 2-1-4 and scored 6 goals (plus an own-goal from Sky Blue) while allowing 5.

However, the more things have changed, the more they have also stayed the same. Under Emma Hayes, the Red Stars’ lone victory was a 2-0 win over the Boston Breakers, currently the second worst team in the league. Omid Namazi’s two wins were a 2-1 victory over the same Boston team plus a 2-0 win over a Sky Blue team that was missing four of its players due to national team duty. Moreover, Emma Hayes’ squad lost to teams that were ranked above them in the league standings—Sky Blue FC, FC Gold Pride and the Philadelphia Independence. She did not stay on the job long enough to have the “luxury” of playing a single game against the Atlanta Beat, owner of the worst-ever record in WPS history. Omid Namazi, on the other hand, has played Atlanta three times already, earning two draws and the distinction of being the only team in WPS to lose to the Beat.

But the most important measure of a team’s progress is their place in the league standings. After six weeks of play, Omid Namazi’s Red Stars still remain ensconced in fifth place, out of playoff qualification, despite his taking over the job just after interim coach, Marcia McDermott, spotted him three points with a win over league-leading FC Gold Pride. In post-game press conferences, Namazi’s words still conjure up the ghost of Emma Hayes as he continually expresses frustration at the lack of finishing by his team’s forwards, calling out Cristiane in particular after the July 7th game. Of the six goals scored by the Red Stars since Namazi took over, four have come from Ella Masar instead of the high-priced Brazilian forward.

So did the Red Stars make the right move to change coaches so soon after the start of the season? Or is their real problem a lack of chemistry between Cristiane and the rest of the players on the pitch? The Red Stars play their next game July 21st at Atlanta for their fourth meeting with the Beat this year. Let’s see if Cristiane can prove her worth in that game and if the Red Stars can finally rack up at least one win against the last-place team in the league.

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Red Stars just can’t beat the Beat after a 1-1 draw

Posted on 09 July 2010 by mwkajdas

If a tie in sports is like kissing your sister, then the Chicago Red Stars seem to be having a makeout session with their sisters from Atlanta this season, registering their second draw against the Beat in three games. On the plus side, it wasn’t another scoreless game like the last time they played in Toyota Park as both teams managed to find the back of the net, albeit only one time each.

The play throughout the match was lively on both sides of the ball. For the first ten minutes of the game Megan Rapinoe led the attack for the Red Stars as she kept trying to slip balls to Ella Masar up the center of midfield while Johanna Rasmussen sent in numerous crossing passes from the left sideline for the Atlanta Beat. When those attempts repeatedly failed, both teams spent the next ten minutes looping long but overly ambitious passes downfield that remained well out of the reach of their intended targets.

The standoff was finally broken in the 30th minute when Karen Carney fouled Lori Chalupny just beyond the midfield line and Atlanta launched their free kick into the midst of Chicago’s penalty area. Red Stars goalkeeper, Jillian Loyden, charged out of her goal to punch the ball away but sent it bounding straight to Johanna Rasmussen, who lobbed a shot back into the abandoned net.

Chicago equalized twelve minutes later when Cristiane headed a corner kick from Formiga into the fray in front of Atlanta’s goal and Ella Masar used her own head to push the ball into the left corner of the net. “She (Cristiane) sent it across the goal where I was supposed to be and I was just lucky enough to turn it into the back of the goal,” Masar humbly described her third notch in three games. The Red Stars had a chance to take the lead just before halftime when Cristiane back-heeled another pass to Masar in front of Atlanta’s goal but Ella’s shot flew up over the crossbar.

The first real scoring opportunity of the second half did not come until the 60th minute when Rebecca Nalin was charged with handling the ball just outside Atlanta’s penalty area. Marian Dalmy took the free kick but sent the ball soaring over Atlanta’s goal. Five minutes later, the Red Stars defense gave the ball away to Eniola Aluko at the top of their box but Aluko shot the ball wide of the left goalpost.

For the rest of the match, the Red Stars dominated play. In the 71st minute Ella Masar directed a pass to Casey Nogueira, who had just come into the game replacing Cristiane. Noogie dribbled into the right side of Atlanta’s penalty area and unloaded a shot that was saved by Hope Solo. Six minutes later Katie Chapman fed Noogie the ball in the exact same spot but again her searing shot was stopped by Solo. “Casey Nogueira gets a shot, she finishes nine out of ten of those in practice. Unfortunately, tonight, she hits it right at the goalkeeper,” Red Stars coach Omid Namazi lamented afterward. “We just need more out of people. We need production from Casey Nogueira, from Koso, from Cristiane in particular. Those are the players we count on scoring game in and game out. Unfortunately we’re not getting that production from them right now. Hopefully, that will change.”

After that, the Red Stars seemed to lose some of their patience as Megan Rapinoe and Formiga took turns firing futile long-distance shots on Atlanta’s goal from well outside the penalty area. The hearts of the 3091 fans attending the game skipped a beat in the 84th minute when a shot from Casey Nogueira bounced out of Hope Solo’s hands but Karen Carney was whistled offside just as she swooped in for the rebound in front of the prone keeper. Three minutes later Rapinoe stripped the ball from Rasmussen and crossed it down the end line toward Atlanta’s goal but Kosovare Asllani deflected the ball short of the left goalpost.

Chicago had two more chances to win the game in extra time when Megan Rapinoe and Kosovare Asllani each took shots right in front of Atlanta’s net. But neither was able to put the ball on target and the game ended in another draw. “It’s frustrating, you know,” Namazi summed up after the game. “I think over the last, I want to say, four games we’ve been playing very well. We got the majority of the possession. We keep the ball. We get our chances. Unfortunately, we haven’t turned those chances into goals. And that’s been the story. It’s really frustrating as a coach because I can’t ask for a lot more as far as our play. I think we’re playing well. It’s just that we’ve got to be clinical in front of the goal. And the key thing is for our group not to get frustrated. I can get frustrated but the players need to keep driving on and making sure that we play the same way we have been in the last four games and, hopefully, at some point, we break that dam and we get some goals.

From the sound of those words, it almost seems like former coach Emma Hayes hasn’t left after all.

Match Summary

Chicago Red Stars vs Atlanta Beat
July 7, 2010 – Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
Attendance: 3091
Weather: Intermittent rain and 85 degrees

Scoring
30’ Atlanta: Johanna Rasmussen
42’ Chicago: Ella Masar (Cristiane)

Misconduct
31’ Atlanta: Aya Miyama (yellow card)
61’ Chicago: Katie Chapman (yellow card)
90’ Atlanta: Amanda Cinalli (yellow card)

Lineups
Chicago Red Stars:
Jillian Loyden
Elise Weber
Kate Markgraf
Whitney Engen
Marian Dalmy
Megan Rapinoe
Formiga
Karen Carney (82: Kosovare Asllani)
Katie Chapman
Cristiane (69: Casey Nogueira)
Ella Masar

Atlanta Beat:
Hope Solo
Katie Larkin
Stacy Bishop
Rebecca Nalin
Leigh Ann Robinson
Johanna Rasmussen
Aya Miyama
Angie Kerr
Lori Chalupny (46:McCall Zerboni)
Mami Yamaguchi (72: Carolyn Blank)
Eniola Aluko (89: Amanda Cinalli)

Officials
Referee: Daniel Fitzgerald
Asst Referees: Vicente Cortes, Miguel Panduro
4th Official: Stephanie Toth

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Fun, Flair on Display as Marta XI Wins 2010 WPS All-Star Game

Posted on 03 July 2010 by lbarker

As the world focuses on the World Cup in South Africa and takes in every match in crisp, clean high definition, it’s easy to forget summer days playing in the park.  As the debates rage on about referees and instant replay and goal-line technology, it’s easy to forget games with garbage cans as goalposts.  As fans fill stadiums and complain about (or embrace?) the vuvuzela and as players complain about (or embrace?) the Jabulani, it’s easy to forget middle-of-the-street games stopped not by a referee’s whistle, but by the simpler sound of someone yelling “car!”  On Wednesday night as the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer All-Star Game took place, it was about remembering.  This year’s game came to KSU Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw, GA with a very unique format and a very simple goal; a return to the playground, schoolyard or middle-of-the-street roots where so many first found soccer, a tribute to why and how we came to love this game back when.

No good playground game is complete without picking teams and on Monday night in downtown Atlanta the two team captains, FC Gold Pride’s Marta and the Washington Freedom’s Abby Wambach picked their starters in a public event.

On Wednesday night it was game time.  Of course, the players weren’t playing in the street, but rather at the brand new KSU Soccer Stadium, which serves as the home for the Atlanta Beat when it’s not filling the role of “nicest schoolyard you’ll ever see.”  The 4,610 fans that filled KSU’s bright yellow seats saw Marta XI, the team whose starters included four-time FIFA World Player of the Year (Marta), the greatest Canadian Women’s player in history (Christine Sinclair) and the most capped player, male or female, of all-time (Kristine Lilly)  post a 5-2 victory over Abby XI.  Not a bad result considering the Abby XI starters included the woman many consider the world’s best goalkeeper (Hope Solo), the 2009 WPS Defender of the Year (Amy Lepeilbet) and scorer of 107 international goals (Wambach).

In keeping with paying tribute to soccer’s roots, it was only fitting that US National Team legend Michelle Akers delivered the first kick.  Older WPS fans likely know Akers (and know that without her and what she contributed to the game WPS probably wouldn’t be around), but some of the younger fans needed a little educating, which they got courtesy of current US National Team and Washington Freedom star Abby Wambach.  “The little girl next to me, who was walking out with me, she says ‘is she as famous as Mia Hamm was?’  And if you know anything about soccer you know, I mean MIa earned every credit that she deserved, and she did it with hard work, but I think that she would be the first one to say that Michelle was the star, the heart, the soul of the National Team, and she was the one that I was looking up to so I kind of was a little star-struck when I saw her” said Wambach.  And while the younger fans may not fully grasp Akers significance to the women’s game, Wambach certainly does, “To see her here to support us, she’s still ripped, she probably could still kill anybody.  To see her supporting this league, it’s special.”

Once the opening whistle blew, it took just minutes for Marta XI to put pressure on their opponents, forcing Abby XI ‘keeper Hope Solo to make a save in the 4th minute.  Three minutes later, Marta would put her side up 1-0.  English International and Boston Breakers midfielder Kelly Smith fed a ball through the Abby XI defense to the Brazilian superstar, who put the ball past Solo in the 7th minute.

One minute later Marta XI doubled their lead, again courtesy of their captain.  This time the FC Gold Pride star was able to slip a ball past Solo near post.  “I tried to beat my defender and brought the ball to my [sarcastic] powerful left foot.  And all I could see is that space there and I tried to hit it in that space and that was it” said Marta of the goal after the game.  The Marta XI had earlier in the week nicknamed themselves ‘The United Nations’ due to their international heavy roster.  Seven different countries were represented by the ‘white and teal team’ – the US, England, France, Switzerland, Brazil, Canada and Japan.

Neither Abby XI coach Paul Riley or Marta XI coach Albertin Montoya put much emphasis on defending early in the week (both teams had just three true defenders in their starting lineups), but come game time the Marta XI back line was up to the task, stopping an Eniola Aluko pass destined for Lauren Cheney in the 9th minute.  In the 18th Abby XI was able to break through the Marta XI defense, but Cheney shot the ball across the open net and wide.

As the opening half wore on, things calmed down, as both teams, who had had only one 90 minute practice session together prior to the match, seemed to settle in. But in the 31st minute ‘The United Nations’ found the back of the net again.  Solo made a save on a low, hard shot from Marta XI and Philadelphia Independence defender Allison Falk but the rebound landed at the feet of an open Christine Sinclair, who tapped in the ball to put her team up 3-0.  “At 3-0 I was getting a little frustrated, I’m not gonna lie.  As a competitor and somebody who doesn’t like to lose, from the time I was five years old I would storm off in a fit because my brothers would never let me win, being the youngest of seven,” said Abby Wambach after the match about her team going down early.

Abby XI began to pressure late in the half.  In the 33rd Eniola Aluko was beaten to the ball by Marta XI ‘keeper Erin McLeod.  A minute later Wambach sent a cross through the box, but it was again McLeod who got there first.  In the 35th the pressure paid off and Aluko put her team back within two.  US National Team and Sky Blue FC midfielder Heather O’Reilly crossed the ball to Wambach, whose point blank header was blocked by Freedom teammate McLeod.  Aluko, who plays for the English National Team and the Atlanta Beat, collected the rebound for Abby XI’s first goal of the night.

The night’s most egregious foul (and one of just seven in the game) came near the end of the half, as Marta XI and Atlanta Beat forward Ramona Bachmann went in for a very late tackle on O’Reilly, after being ‘megged by the Abby XI midfielder.  The two had several battles in the midfield on the night.  After the match O’Reilly laughed it off.  “I guess I don’t really know what to say to that” she said, before ultimately coming up with the diplomatic answer.  “I didn’t quite know what, uh–  Yeah, you know I think that we’re all competitive and even if it’s an all-star game, you know, there’s some competitive moments out there.”

Marta XI’s ‘United Nations’ went into the halftime break up 3-1 on the decidedly more US based Abby XI (just one starter and two reserves for Abby XI were not domestic players).

At halftime WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci spoke about the game.  “I think it’s fantastic.  As a fan I’m enjoying it myself.  You know, there’s not a lot of defense being played and that’s fine.  We’ve seen, what, four goals so far?  And I think we’ll see many more before the night’s out and it’s just fun to see the creativity and the flair and the flow and also, some of these players, they just don’t normally play together, it’s the nature of an all-star game,” the Commissioner said.  “I think also, unique about this year is having 34 of our players.  Last year we played Umea, a club team, so we had fewer all-stars involved.  This time we have more of the great players from our league getting to go head-to-head and I think they’re having a lot of fun and the fans are too.”

In the 53rd minute Solo came up with what was the game’s biggest save, sliding in to pull the ball away from her Atlanta Beat teammate Bachmann on a breakaway.  Two minutes later the US National Team goalkeeper made another save, this time on second half sub and Brazilian International Cristiane.

Both teams made a flurry of changes in the second half, as in true schoolyard fashion unlimited substitutions were allowed.  Apparent lobbying from other WPS coaches worried about their players legs for this weekend’s league matches also led to a late rule change that allowed players who were subbed out to re-enter the match.  Although not originally part of plan, the change only further captured the spirit of the playground game.

After each side had a share of opportunities it was again Marta XI that got on the scoreboard in the 74th minute.  Japanese International and Atlanta Beat midfielder Aya Miyama took a shot that beat second-half Abby XI ‘keeper Jillian Loyden.  Philadelphia Independence and US International forward Amy Rodriguez brought the ball into the area before feeding a pass back to Miyama, who took a fired a shot from distance to put Marta XI up 4-1.

Abby XI tried to make a comeback, getting their second goal on the night care of Lauren Cheney in the 79th minute.  The US National Team and rookie Boston Breakers forward headed an O’Reilly cross past Marta XI second half ‘keeper Nicole Barnhart to put her team back within two.  But just a minute later Marta XI would score again, the goal coming from Rodriguez.  The recent WPS player of the week went 1 v. 1 with Abby XI defender Tina Ellertson and then chipped the ball over Loyden for the night’s final goal.

Abby XI’s Natasha Kai scored for her side in the 88th, but the Sky Blue FC forward’s tally was called back for offsides.  The match ended two minutes later, final score: Abby XI 2 – 5 Marta ‘The United Nations’ XI.

After the match, the players and coaches, whether on the winning or losing side, all agreed on one thing: it was fun.

“It’s just all about attack, it’s all about scoring goals.  I’m not used to a 5-2 game, but I think it was a lot of fun.  I mean, world class talent out on the field, it’s an honor to be with a lot of those players.  Great crowd here so, all in all great night.  I wish I could be on the winning end of it, of course as a competitor, but this game is about the fans and just about celebrating WPS and the wonderful league that it is” said Heather O’Reilly.

Marta XI captain Marta agreed, “I think the game was a great game.  I think we gave the fans what they came for, which is to have fun, enjoy.  And of course I’m really happy because we won the game.”  And like O’Reilly she too  was thrilled to be playing with the league’s best.  “When you get together that many good players, it makes it easier for anybody on the field.  And right now, if you can see everybody on the field, there’s probably the top players in the world right now.  And it’s easy to play and enjoyable to play” the FC Gold Pride forward said through a translator. “It was a celebration.  The All-Star Game was celebrating the soccer here.”

Abby Wambach also had a good time, “I thought today was a perfect environment for people to come, enjoy themselves, see good soccer, see great goals, see individual flair and talent and obviously by the scoreline their team was better than ours, but all in all it was a fun day.  I’m proud to be a part of it, obviously honored to be named the captain, but you know, everybody on that field is a captain in my opinion” she said.  “I think that that’s obviously what we come here– as individuals to create an all-star team there’s not gonna be a lot of fluidity, there’s probably not gonna be great tactics, it’s just gonna kind of be individual flair and I thought that, obviously Marta’s the best in the world at individual flair, so, they got successful at getting in behind us early on and you know it’s just a matter of getting everybody off the field with no injuries, giving the fans something to cheer about and having some fun along the way” Wambach continued.  The Abby XI captain also acknowledged the fans, “Not too often do you get to play with some of these players and it was fun.  It was exciting and a lot of the kids out there were just telling me how much fun it was to see everybody on one field.”

Everyone also agreed that KSU Soccer Stadium was indeed a sight to see.  “My first time here and this is unmatched, anywhere else.  I haven’t seen a facility this incredible.  It’s just, it’s perfect for a women’s game.  It’s not too big and the field is, I mean this one of the best fields we’ve played on this year,” said Marta XI coach Albertin Montoya.  “The locker rooms.  I mean, to tell you the truth, I got lost in there today.  And I’m like ‘this is.. come on, this is out of this world.’  Things that they provide for the players.  And that’s how it should be.  I mean, it’s great that these players feel – that they feel like professionals.  And that’s how it should be.”  Commissioner Antonucci agreed, “The stadium is tremendous.  It’s the first of its kind in our league and as a women’s soccer specific stadium it’s really kind of groundbreaking for the sport.  And I think it’s just a real testament to the quality of play, the players on the field and what they bring in terms of their world class talent, for them to have a stadium that fits what they bring.”

Let’s let Abby Wambach bring it home:  “Nobody likes to lose, but, this is an all-star game, and like I said before, as long as everybody had a good time, we saw some great goals, some great individual talent and if everybody’s healthy coming out of this game, that’s what’s important.  And you know, obviously the fans getting something for them to cheer about – I think it happened tonight.”

Photos from the Pick ‘Em Event, Training and the All-Star Game here.

FUN FACTS AND OTHER NOTES:
The six Sky Blue FC players taking part in the All-Star Game – O’Reilly, Kai, Christie Rampone, Karen Bardsley, Brittany Taylor and Laura Kalmari – had a whirlwind few days of travel, taking a red-eye from the Bay Area to Newark on Sunday night after defeating Gold Pride and then flying to Atlanta in time for Monday night’s Pick ‘Em event.  After Wednesday’s game they had an early morning flight to Washington DC, where Sky Blue was being honored by President Barack Obama for their 2009 Championship victory.  “Luckily I have a bye-weekend this weekend coming up.  So I tried to keep that in mind as I was running up and down those flanks.  But tomorrow I’m off to meet the President with Sky Blue FC, so you don’t need legs for that, right?” O’Reilly joked after the match… Sky Blue goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was originally named as an All-Star starter and was selected to Marta XI, but couldn’t play in the match after injuring her clavicle in a collision with Cristiane during Tuesday’s training session – reserve Erin McLeod replaced her as a starter and FC Gold Pride’s Nicole Barnhart, who was in Atlanta ahead of Gold Pride’s match against the Beat this weekend, was named a reserve.  Bardsley is out indefinitely for Sky Blue and her injury will be reevaluated when the team returns to NJ… Marta XI coach Albertin Montoya did triple-duty on Wednesday, first playing, a scoring a few goals, for the PR and New Media team in the Media Game that morning (final score TV & Radio 8 – 6 PR & New Media), then holding a training session for FC Gold Pride in the afternoon and finally coaching Marta XI to a victory that night… Marta was named All-Star MVP, but was humble about the award “Before I even played professional I always dreamed to play for the Brazilian National Team.  And I always dreamed to be playing at such a high level and today I was not the MVP.  The whole team was the MVP.  And it’s nice to be playing at this level.  And I don’t think like everyday the stuff that I’m getting, I just go with it” she said…WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci talked expansion at halftime: “I think it’s very likely that we’ll be in a position to announce by the end of the year a new expansion team…More likely for 2012” the commish said.  “We’re talking to enough interested parties for 2012 that by the end of this year we’ll probably be in a position to announce that one will be coming for 2012.  And we have a particular focus on west, west coast, middle-to-west.  We just want to balance out the national footprint for sure” she said… The Commissioner also talked about the possibility of WPS taking a break during the 2011 World Cup next summer “Potentially yeah.  We’re just starting to engage with US Soccer and the other federations to try to – best plan for next season.  Obviously we want to do right by the national programs and make sure the Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport as far as an event so we want to work together with them but we also want to preserve as much of WPS’s regular season as we can.”… Antonucci said that the unique Pick ‘Em format for the All-Star Game actually came from a fan’s suggestion in an online forum… Because of the unlimited subs and the late rule change to allow re-entry there were 18 substitutions made in the match.

MATCH FACTS:
Abby’s XI vs. Marta’s XI
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 — KSU Soccer Stadium
FINAL

SCORING SUMMARY:
Team                    1                    2                    F
ABY:                    1                    1                    2
MRT:                    3                    2                    5

MRT: Marta (Kelly Smith) 7′
MRT: Marta 8 (Unassisted) 8′
MRT: Christine Sinclair 5 (Unassisted) 31′
ABY: Eniola Aluko 5 (Unassisted) 35′
MRT: Aya Miyama 1 (Amy Rodriguez) 74′
ABY: Lauren Cheney 2 (Heather O’Reilly) 78′
MRT: Amy Rodriguez 7 (Cristiane) 80′

ABBY’S XI — Hope Solo (Jillian Loyden, 56′), Cat Whitehill (Heather O’Reilly, 63′, Kelley O’Hara, 52′), Amy LePeilbet, Tina Ellertson, Lori Chalupny (Cat Whitehill, 66′, Heather O’Reilly, 63′, Kelley O’Hara, 52′), Lori Lindsey (Laura Kalmari, 57′), Shannon Boxx (Angie Kerr, 57′), Lauren Cheney (Karen Carney, 52′), Heather O’Reilly (Kelley O’Hara, 52′), Eniola Aluko (Tasha Kai, 52′), Abby Wambach (Lauren Cheney, 73′, Karen Carney, 52′)

Substitutes Not Used: n/a

MARTA’S XI — Erin McLeod (Nicole Barnhart, 57′), Brittany Taylor, Allison Falk (Christie Rampone, 49′), Rachel Buehler (Becky Sauerbrunn, 49′), Sonia Bompastor, Kelly Smith (Alex Scott, 49′), Kristine Lilly (Aya Miyama, 69′, Cristiane, 48′), Ramona Bachmann (Kristine Lilly, 78′, Aya Miyama, 69′, Cristiane, 48′), Aya Miyama (Cristiane, 48′), Marta (Rachel Buehler, 69′, Becky Sauerbrunn, 49′), Christine Sinclair (Amy Rodriguez, 47’)

Substitutes Not Used: n/a

TEAM STATS:
ABY           MRT

Shots     15     23
Shots on Goal           6     8
Fouls     2     5
Offsides     5     5
Corner Kicks     3     3
Saves     3     4

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:
none

Referee: Margaret Domka
Referee Assistants: Amy Mahan, Patrick Baker
4th Official: Felisha Mariscal
Attendance: 4610

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