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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.

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.

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

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

ABY           MRT

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


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

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FC Gold Pride stumbles in 2-0 loss to Sky Blue

Posted on 28 June 2010 by asu

The FC Gold Pride suffered their third loss of the season tonight against NJ Sky Blue. Playing in triple-digit weather seemed to have a different and opposite effect on each team, with the Pride limping into the game with heavy legs and only beginning to heat up too late into the second half while Sky Blue consistently sizzled with offensive aplomb and a composed and cool defense. Alice Hsu reports.

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Pride Stumbles in 2-0 Loss to Sky Blue

Posted on 28 June 2010 by asu

The FC Gold Pride suffered their third loss of the season tonight against NJ Sky Blue. Playing in triple-digit weather seemed to have a different and opposite effect on each team, with the Pride limping into the game with heavy legs and only beginning to heat up too late into the second half while Sky Blue consistently sizzled with offensive aplomb and a composed and cool defense.

The first five minutes of the game seemed like any other Pride home game. There were several offensive chances with a main play in the 4th minute on a Pride forward Kelley O’Hara cross from the left side of the field to a rushing Shannon Boxx. Unfortunately, Sky Blue goalkeeper and All-Star team pick, Karen Bardsley, shut down the duo by palm-punching the ball away from the mouth of the goal. Sky Blue defender and team captain, Christie Rampone, then cleared it from the penalty area. The rest of the first half was slow, with few other offensive attacks and with more passing by both teams than pressure by either. After the first 10 minutes, Sky Blue maintained clear possession, with several runs where their players got past the Pride backline. However, Sky Blue then held the ball far too long when in striking distance, which allowed Pride players to track back and regain possession.

As the first half wore down, Sky Blue seemed to pick up their pace while the Pride continued to hold the ball. The Pride back line consisting of Candace Chapman, Rachel Buehler, Kandace Wilson, and Ali Riley started being tested with frequency and ferocity. Sky Blue’s defensive trio made up of Heather O’Reilly, Laura Kalmari, and Rosana kept chipping away at the centerbacks with an endless flurry of crosses and give-and-gos. At the whistle, the score remained 0-0.

Seeming to sense the team’s lethargy, Pride coach Albertin Montoya made all three substitutions within the first 3 minutes of the second half. As a result, the second half saw more chances on goal by the Pride, but the runs were still a little slower and the reactions to set plays were still a little sluggish. Sky Blue took advantage of the Pride’s stupor in the 58th minute with a O’Reilly cross from the right side of the field onto the head of a speeding Rosana who tapped it over Pride goalkeeper Nicoe Barnhart’s head. The Pride finally reacted with a flurry of offensive activity, with a majority of activity coming from halftime substitute, Tiffany Millbrett, who had several shots on goal that were just wide of the target.

Unfortunately, even with the fresh legs of Millbrett and Montoya’s other substitutes, Kristen Graczyk and Camille Abily, the Pride’s offensive opportunities continued to be limited by Rampone’s organized back.

Sky Blue sealed the deal with second half substitute Natasha Kai’s goal in the 88th minute. Kai received a through ball from Jessica Landstrom and was able to put on the afterburners and beat Graczyk and Buehler for a one-on-one with Barnhart. While facing Barnhart, Kai stepped to the left and then slotted a driven ball to the outside post, just past Barnhart’s outstretched fingers and into the back of the net. The Pride was not able to launch a successful attack in the remaining minutes of the game. During stoppage time, Marta vocally expressed the displeasure and frustration that all the Pride players must have been feeling on the inside; she received a yellow card for her troubles. The game ended with a definitive 2-0 Sky Blue victory.

The highlight of the Pride’s latter half was Millbrett’s ability to tap into seemingly endless reserves of energy and make run after run, despite the heat and the physical play. But, the talk of the game was the ability of Sky Blue’s defensive line to shut down the offensive trio of Christine Sinclair, Marta, and Kelley O’Hara. Bardsley controlled the backline and cleared balls from her area with seemingly no feelings of pressure, even with Pride players running onto the backs of her defenders. When asked about key to shutting down the Pride offense, Bardsley cited the “constant communication between me and my back four and our midfield” and “trying to get them to stay proactive in finding marks.”

Sky Blue coach Pauliina Miettinen praised her team for being “being disciplined” and praised especially the defense, stating that, “defense is the most key to any game,” regardless of possession. Rampone acknowledged that shutting down Marta, Sinclair, and O’Hara was crucial, and “they definitely made us work,” so they had be “locked on [them] at all times.”

Montoya was understandably frustrated, yet focused on the positives, acknowledging that as a “team we were creating our chances,” and “didn’t give up” while “created some very good chances inside the 18 and it just goes back to having to finish your chances.” Buehler conceded that it was a “tough game” with the team struggling with the heat and ultimately not “capitalizing on our opportunities,” but that the frustration was “also part of the game.”

The Pride needed this win to solidify their first place ranking as the Philadelphia Independence were nipping at their heels with their June 26, 2010 win over the Washington Freedom. With this loss, however, there is a mere one point difference between these high-flying acts. The Pride travels to Atlanta this coming weekend to battle the Beat.

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Independence Thrash Sky Blue, 4-1

Posted on 20 June 2010 by lbarker

The story-line of the night should have been Christie Rampone playing the full 90 and donning the captain’s armband in her return to Yurcak. Instead it was two former Boston Breakers having two very different nights and one former Chicago Red Star who was left unprotected in the expansion draft delivering a breakout performance. Continue on to the story here.

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Yellow Crush? Independence Thrash Sky Blue 4-1

Posted on 20 June 2010 by lbarker

The story-line of the night should have been Christie Rampone playing the full 90 and donning the captain’s armband in her return to Yurcak.  Instead it was two former Boston Breakers having two very different nights and one former Chicago Red Star who was left unprotected in the expansion draft delivering a breakout performance.*  Turns out Philadelphia is not only the “City of Brotherly Love,” it’s also becoming the Ellis Island of Women’s Professional Soccer, a place where the struggling, forgotten, under-appreciated and/or displaced get a second chance.**

The Philadelphia Independence came to New Jersey on Saturday to face Sky Blue FC.  At stake was sole possession of second place in the WPS standings and bragging rights in the as-yet-to-be-named derby.    The expansion Independence beat defending WPS Champions Sky Blue two weeks ago in Philly and Jersey’s team would certainly be looking for revenge.  Right?

Turns out the Independence had other plans and Sky Blue had, well, no plan.  Both teams were missing several players due to UEFA World Cup Qualifiers – for Philadelphia Holmfridur Magnusdottir (Iceland), Sara Larsson (Sweden), Lianne Sanderson (England) and Caroline Seger (Sweden) were absent and Karen Bardsley (England), Laura Kalmari (Finland), Daphne Koster (Netherlands) and Jessica Landstrom (Sweden) missed class for Sky Blue FC.  Sky Blue’s absentees left the Blue and Orange exposed, while Philly’s missing members simply gave some not-often-utilized players a chance to shine.  Danesha Adams, who came to Philadelphia via Chicago and who’d played just 29 minutes all season for the Indys coming into Saturday’s match, had a goal and two assists as Philadelphia trounced Sky Blue FC 4-1.  When Sky Blue coach Pauliina Miettinen was asked about the impact that the missing internationals had on the match her response was simple: “It shouldn’t.  It shouldn’t.  We played last game with all the missing players.  It shouldn’t.”

In just the third minute Sky Blue would get their first of only a few opportunities as Rosana fed a ball to forward Tasha Kai.  Kai’s attempt hit the side netting and the Independence quickly countered.  In the fifth minute Philadelphia forward Amy Rodriguez sent a ball across the box, which Danesha Adams was able to put past Sky Blue ‘keeper Kristin Luckenbill to give the Independence a 1-0 lead.  Luckenbill was making her first appearance for the New Jersey side in place of recently named All-Star starting ‘keeper Karen Bardsley.

It took only thirteen minutes for Philadelphia to increase their lead, with the Rodriguez-Adams combination finding the back of the net again in the 18th minute.  This time the two worked in reverse, with Adams sending a ball over the Sky Blue defense to Rodriguez who beat Luckenbill for Philly’s second goal of the match.  It was Rodriguez’ third goal of the season – two more than she had in all of 2009 with the Breakers.  The Independence continued to pressure Sky Blue and in the 24th minute captain Lori Lindsey was able to carry the ball unimpeded through the midfield before taking a shot that went just wide of goal.

Although Sky Blue was unable to build much of an attack through the opening minutes, momentum [temporarily] shifted as the half wore on.  In the 26th minute Rosana played the ball to Heather O’Reilly who sent a cross into the box for Kai.  Kai was taken down in front of the goal and Rosana converted on the ensuing PK, sending a shot past Philadelphia keeper Karina LeBlanc to the upper 90.  The PK was the second in as many matches for Rosana and Sky Blue FC and the tally cut Philly’s lead in half.

Sky Blue looked to find the equalizer and nearly did in the 29th minute, as Kacey White attempted to cross the ball the to Kai who was waiting at the far post, but the Sky Blue striker was beaten to the ball by Independence goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.  And from there it was Philly’s game.

In the 29th minute Philadelphia was awarded a free kick after a foul on Adams just outside the box.  Lindsey took the kick and although her initial attempt went directly into the Sky Blue wall, she was able to collect the rebound, which she fired just over the crossbar.  In the 40th minute a sequence between Lindsey, Tina DiMartino and Heather Mitts nearly gave the Independence their third goal of the half, but the low shot was stopped by Luckenbill.

Sky Blue would get one more chance before the end of the first frame, this time with India Trotter feeding a ball to Kai in the 41st minute.  LeBlanc, who saw little action in the match, came out to take the ball away from Kai and the half ended with the Indys up 2-1.

Just ten minutes into the second half Philadelphia would increase their lead, this one care of Joanna Lohman.  Luckenbill made a save on a shot by Adams, but the Sky Blue defense failed to clear the rebound and Lohman was able to put the ball into the open net.

In the 74th minute, the Independence delivered the final blow, a goal by Tina DiMartino.  DiMartino caught Luckenbill out of position and was able to chip the ball over the former Boston Breakers ‘keeper and into the net.  For DiMartino, who came to Philly via the fiasco that was St. Louis Athletica, it was her second goal in as many matches.

A frustrated Heather O’Reilly received a yellow card in the 75th minute for contact with LeBlanc and then had the last of Sky Blue’s few chances in stoppage time, but her shot went right at LeBlanc.

“Any time you have a game like this you gotta pull together as a team, you gotta evaluate what’s going on…what you need to improve on and as long as this makes us a better team and we grow from it and we learn from it then…it’ll be a good thing” said Sky Blue newcomer Kendall Fletcher after the match.  “Obviously you never want a score like this, but as long as you take stuff from it then at least it’s not a complete loss.”

“It was flat.  It was just very flat” said Miettinen of her team’s performance.  “We can’t keep the ball.  We’re not supporting each other.  We’re playing as individuals and it’s gonna hurt us…”

*For “Breakout Performance” see: Bardsley, Karen – former backup goalkeeper and now All-Star starter Vs. Atlanta Beat

**For “struggling, forgotten, under-appreciated and/or displaced” see: Rodriguez, Amy; Buczkowski, Jen; Adams, Danesha; LeBlanc, Karina; DiMartino, Tina; Falk, Allison; Mitts, Heather; Lohman, Joanna; Lindsey, Lori


When Gina DiMartino came on for Lori Lindsey in the 81st minute, she joined older sister Tina on the field for Philadelphia – marking the first time in WPS history that two sisters have been on the field for the same team at the same time….Tina DiMartino has played two games for Philadelphia, she has scored in both…defender Kendall Fletcher made her first start for Sky Blue FC.  Fletcher was signed as a free agent after St. Louis Athletica folded and had previously appeared for SBFC as a substitute….Sky Blue FC has had a PK in each of the last two matches.  They are the only PKs in club history – Rosana has taken, and scored, on both…Goalkeeper Jenni Branam was listed on Sky Blue’s roster as available for the first time this season after suffering a knee injury in a preseason game – but did not play…Christie Rampone made her first start for Sky Blue FC this season and played the full 90 minutes – Rampone came in as a second half sub in the last two matches after returning from maternity leave….Sky Blue is 0-2-0 all-time against Philadelphia – the Independence are the only team SBFC has never beaten (either regular season or playoffs)…Sky Blue has now scored just two goals at home…Heather O’Reilly’s 75th minute yellow card was the first card of any color in her WPS career…Philadelphia’s four goals ties the record for the most goals by a team in a single game (Sky Blue and Washington played to a 4-4 draw in 2009 – the highest combined score in league history)


Sky Blue FC (4-4-2) vs. Philadelphia Independence (5-3-2)
Saturday, June 19, 2010 — Yurcak Field

PHI: Danesha Adams 1 (Amy Rodriguez) 5′
PHI: Amy Rodriguez 3 (Danesha Adams) 18′
NJ: Rosana 2 (Penalty Kick) 28′
PHI: Joanna Lohman 2 (Danesha Adams) 56′
PHI: Tina DiMartino 2 (Unassisted) 75′


SKY BLUE FC — Kristin Luckenbill, India Trotter, Christie Rampone, Brittany Taylor, Meghan Schnur, Kacey White (Keeley Dowling, 62′), Kendall Fletcher (Angela Salem, 72′), Rosana, Yael Averbuch, Heather O’Reilly, Tasha Kai (Kiersten Dallstream, 57′)

Substitutes Not Used: Jenni Branam, Shannon Myers, Katie Schoepfer, Danielle Johnson

PHILADELPHIA INDEPENDENCE — Karina LeBlanc, Heather Mitts, Nikki Krzysik, Allison Falk, Estelle Johnson, Joanna Lohman, Jen Buczkowski, Lori Lindsey (Gina DiMartino, 81′), Tina DiMartino, Danesha Adams (Karina Maruyama, 87′), Amy Rodriguez (Lyndsey Patterson, 78′)

Substitutes Not Used: Val Henderson, Sarah Senty

NJ           PHI

Shots     17     21
Shots on Goal           8     10
Fouls     7     5
Offsides     2     1
Corner Kicks     2     5
Saves     6     7

NJ: Heather O’Reilly (Caution) 75′

Referee: Daniel Fitzgerald
Referee Assistants: Amy Mahan, Emilie Buse
4th Official:
Attendance: 3362

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Weekend recap: Red Stars upset Gold Pride and a stalemate in the Garden State

Posted on 31 May 2010 by mwkajdas

Heather O'Reilly

In what could be considered the biggest upset win of this WPS season to date, the Chicago Red Stars, at the end of a tumultuous week of changing coaches, defeated league-leading FC Gold Pride and ended their five-game winning streak with an early second-half goal from Kosovare Asllani. Michael Kajdas reports from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., on that match.

The Boston Breakers came to Yurcak Field in New Jersey on Saturday night looking to stop two streaks, an all time winless record against defending WPS Champions Sky Blue FC and the five game winless streak they’ve carried since the second week of the season. After 90 minutes, the Breakers would leave with both still intact, playing to a 0-0 draw with Sky Blue in a game that saw Heather O’Reilly start at forward rather than her usual spot in midfield. The switch agreed with the U.S. international. “I have a lot of fun playing striker,” she said after the match. Lauren Barker reports from Piscataway, N.J.

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Stalemate in the Garden State

Posted on 30 May 2010 by lbarker

The Boston Breakers came to Yurcak Field in New Jersey on Saturday night looking to stop two streaks, an all time winless record against defending WPS Champions Sky Blue FC and the five game winless streak they’ve carried since the second week of the season. After 90 minutes, the Breakers would leave with both still intact, playing to a 0-0 draw with Sky Blue. The result leaves Boston winless in their last six and Sky Blue unbeaten in their last three, but also winless in their last two (ties are a funny thing, indeed).

Heather O'Reilly said she had a lot of fun playing striker ©ASN

Sky Blue FC pressured Boston early, finding their first opportunity in just the 3rd minute. The home team got behind the Breakers defense and managed to send a ball across the goalmouth and just wide. Four minutes later the blue and orange were at it again, with Sky Blue captain Kacey White feeding a ball to Heather O’Reilly. O’Reilly, who started the game at forward rather than her usual spot in the midfield, beat Breakers ‘keeper Ashley Phillips before sending her shot into the side netting. The New Jersey native broke a 14 game national team goalless streak last weekend in Cleveland as the US played Germany, but is still looking for her first league goal this season. After the match O’Reilly said she was happy with the position change. “I have a lot of fun playing striker. I think that’s what I find the most enjoyable about the game, is just being right on the restraining line…I think that up top suits my physical qualities. So I had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net today and that’s the job of a striker so what can you do? Hopefully next game we’ll have more goals for us.”

She also acknowledged that she’s ready to play wherever Sky Blue coach Pauliina Miettinen needs her (O’Reilly would indeed move back to the midfield when Jessica Landstrom entered the match in the 72nd minute). “Obviously I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do in terms of position…whether it’s midfield or up top.”

In the 11th minute Sky Blue midfielder Rosana took a deceptive shot from distance that seemed to surprise Phillips. The Breakers ‘keeper managed to recover enough to tip the ball over the bar for a Sky Blue corner. Nothing would come from the set piece and momentum shifted, with the next few opportunities belonging to the Breakers.

In the 14th minute Breakers forward Lauren Cheney fired a low shot, but it rolled wide of the net. Two minutes later, Boston nearly got on the board, with Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, and Laura Del Rio moving the ball into Sky Blue’s defensive third. The English to English to Spanish combination ended when Del Rio sent her shot over the crossbar. In the 21st minute Del Rio sent a low shot in that Sky Blue goalkeeper Karen Bardsley got her fingertips on, sending the ball out for a Boston corner.

Then it was again Sky Blue’s turn. O’Reilly had another opportunity in the 35th minute, but again shot the ball wide. Three minutes later Sky Blue defender Daphne Koster sent a ball over the Boston back line but Laura Kalmari’s shot went well over the crossbar. Just before the halftime whistle O’Reilly once again beat the Boston defense, but like so many of Sky Blue’s shots, hers too sailed over goal.

The second half started with a familiar face returning to the Sky Blue lineup. Forward Tasha Kai, who’s missed the last three matches with a knee/hamstring injury, replaced rookie forward Kiersten Dallstream after the break. “Pretty banged up” said Kai as she outlined her injuries after the game. Kai made her presence felt almost immediately, first playing a ball over the Boston back line for O’Reilly in the 47th minute. O’Reilly beat Amy LePeilbet and took a shot that Ashley Phillips had to stretch to keep out of the back of the net. In the 50th it was Kai again, this time taking the shot herself, but as seemed to be the theme of the night, the ball sailed harmlessly over the bar. “[Her] coming off the bench I know especially just lifts the entire team” O’Reilly said of Kai after the match. “Whether I start or if I come off the bench I know that whatever my role is I’m gonna do it. The team comes before me. If I play ten minutes I’m gonna come in and play the best ten minutes I can possibly give and do whatever I can do to help the team” said Kai.

The next few minutes were a back and forth, first with a defensive miscue leaving Cheney wide open in the box in the 52nd. Sky Blue defender Brittany Taylor won this battle of the rookies, doing well to clear the ball away from danger. In the 56th it was Kai again. The Hawaii native won a header and flicked the ball forward before sprinting to catch up to her own pass. Kai found White who fed a ball towards the middle and Yael Averbuch. Averbuch’s shot? Over the bar.

In the 71st minute Sky Blue’s defense seemed to break down. A scramble in the box nearly led to a the go-ahead goal for the Breakers, but Sky Blue’s back four of Meghan Schnur, Taylor, Koster and India Trotter worked to eventually clear the ball away. The combination of Taylor and Koster in the center of Sky Blue’s defense shut down another attack from Smith in the 75th minute.

As time ticked down most of the attack seemed to be coming from the Breakers. The Sky Blue defense was able to hold on and a save from Bardsley in final minute kept the clean sheet. “Daphne was very solid, Brittany was very solid, Schnur played very well. I think she ran out of gas a little bit in the end” said Miettinen of today’s edition of Sky Blue’s ever evolving back line. The scoreless draw was good for Bardsley’s league leading 4th shutout of the season and her five saves brought her season total to a league-high 46 stops. It was the second shutout for Phillips, the other coming from a 0-0 game against the Washington Freedom.

Sky Blue players came away from the game disappointed but hopeful. “You’re bummed about the missed chances, but you’re also excited for what it means for the future” said O’Reilly. Kai expressed a similar sentiment, “It was a back and forth game. A lot of offense. A lot of defense. There was a lot of holes and seams that we saw through their defense. We had our chances. Real real good chances. They had their chances. The goalkeepers came up big, our defense came up big. For us we just need to finish. You’re only gonna get one or two chances and those one of two chances you have to put the ball in the back of the net and we didn’t get that done today. But the result was something to work on for next week.”

Coaches for both teams felt their respective sides were better on the night but agreed on the disappointment. “We had ’em. We didn’t put them away and you know, one point, I think it’s a little bit disappointing” said Sky Blue’s Pauliina Miettinen. Boston head coach Tony DiCicco made a similar argument for his team “I’m disappointed that we’re not scoring goals. I think either team could’ve won but I think we were the dominant team…I’m very very proud of the way the team played. From a soccer standpoint we did so much right. But this game is about sticking the ball in the back of the net and so we’re frustrated.”


When the league officially announced on Thursday that financial troubles had forced St. Louis Athletica to close up shop and join the Los Angeles Sol in the category of “Former WPS Teams,” Sky Blue FC earned a dubious distinction: being the last team that both the Los Angeles Sol and St. Louis Athletica ever played (Sky Blue beat LA in the 2009 WPS final in August, the Sol folded the following January; Sky Blue and Athletica played to a 2-2 result two weeks ago, Athletica folded 11 days later)… Boston is the only WPS team still unbeaten on the road in 2010, with a 1-0-3 record playing in places that aren’t called “Harvard Stadium”… The Breakers have not won a game in more than a month, with their first (and only) win of the season coming on April 10th, a 2-1 victory over the Washington Freedom to open the season… India Trotter made her second start, and third appearance, for Sky Blue since being acquired from St. Louis… Sky Blue defender Christie Rampone was available for the first time this season, but did not play “We trust that back line now…If something happened she would’ve been ready to go in but, we still have so many games left that we don’t want to risk her” said Miettinen after the match about Rampone… Keeley Dowling did not play for the first time this season, and for just the second time in her career… Tasha Kai was not the only Sky Blue player to return to the field tonight; Meghan Schnur made just her third appearance of the season and played all 90 minutes after returning from a knee injury. In 2009 Schnur was the only Sky Blue FC player to start and play all 20 regular season games… Former Sky Blue (and Athletica) forward Sarah Walsh was not available for Boston. Walsh is away on national team duty with Australia… The tie puts Sky Blue at 3-0-2 all-time against Boston.


Sky Blue FC (3-2-2) vs. Boston Breakers (1-2-4)
Saturday, May 29, 2010 — Yurcak Field
Attendance: 3418



SKY BLUE FC — Karen Bardsley, India Trotter, Daphne Koster, Brittany Taylor, Meghan Schnur, Laura Kalmari, Yael Averbuch, Rosana (Katie Schoepfer, 85′), Kacey White (Jessica Landstrom, 72′), Kiersten Dallstream (Tasha Kai, 47′), Heather O’Reilly

Substitutes Not Used: Kristin Luckenbill, Christie Rampone, Keeley Dowling, Danielle Johnson

BOSTON BREAKERS — Ashley Phillips, Alex Scott, Amy LePeilbet, Kasey Moore, Stephanie Cox, Leslie Osborne, Tiffany Weimer (Fabiana, 64′), Laura del Rio (Jordan Angeli, 83′), Kristine Lilly (Liz Bogus, 88′), Kelly Smith, Lauren Cheney

Substitutes Not Used: Chioma Igwe, Alyssa Naeher



Shots 14 23
Shots on Goal 1 10
Fouls 6 3
Offsides 5 4
Corner Kicks 4 7
Saves 5 1



Referee: Donald Dellavia
Referee Assistants: Debbie Coleman, Mark Allatin
4th Official: Dario Urrutia

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Sky Blue FC deal Asante, Washington to Athletica for India Trotter

Posted on 04 May 2010 by lbarker

Sky Blue FC and Saint Louis Athletica announced today the completion of a trade that is the first of the 2010 WPS season.

Sky Blue FC acquired forward/midfielder India Trotter and St. Louis’ first round pick in the 2011 WPS Draft in exchange for defender Anita Asante, the rights to Nikki Washington and Sky Blue’s second round pick in the 2011 WPS draft. “Various versions of this trade have been in the works since January,” Sky Blue FC General Manager Gerry Marrone stated in a press release from the team. “The final pieces of the puzzle came together at 10 p.m. last night, as [Saint Louis Athletica Chairman] Jeff Cooper was boarding a plane. Any trade is a give and take – both sides need to feel like they’ve won. We both feel this way. However, as Anita was part of our Sky Blue FC family, we still feel the personal loss.” St. Louis GM Tim Owens, via the Athletica website, had this to say “This is a move we feel clearly makes our team better by addressing a need. We have acquired one of the world’s elite defenders, which was a priority for us. Plus, we were able to bring in a young, dynamic, and very versatile player that is one of the young, upcoming stars in U.S. Soccer ”

Anita Asante was part of the core of Sky Blue’s defense for much of 2009, anchoring the back line next to Christie Rampone. Asante, who has more than 40 caps for the English National Team, missed the 2009 WPS playoffs due to the European Championships. The 25 year old has also missed the beginning of Sky Blue’s 2010 campaign as she continues to recover from off season ACL surgery. She had resumed training with Sky Blue and was set to return to the lineup within a few weeks. By dealing away Asante, Sky Blue alleviates some of the congestion in back. With Rampone set to return soon after giving birth to her second daughter in March, keeping Asante would have likely meant that two of Sky Blue’s current starting defenders would have been relegated to the bench. With Asante out of the picture, Pauliina Miettinen’s decision about who gets the starting nod is perhaps made a bit easier. For St. Louis, the 5’5″ Asante can help shore up a defense that’s currently tied for fourth in the league in goals against, despite having the woman many consider to be the world’s best keeper, Hope Solo, in net.

Asante’s arrival in Saint Louis also means that the Athletica were forced to release an international player, and they went with Daniela. A Brazilian International, Daniela appeared in just three matches for St. Louis before an Abby Wambach tackle in May of 2009 left her with a broken tibia and several torn ligaments in her knee. She’s been on the injured list ever since. Daniela did make a contribution to Athletica during her time there, netting two goals, including the first in franchise history.

The departure of Nikki Washington is one with much less of an immediate impact on the Sky Blue. Washington was selected out of UNC (where else?) by the Los Angeles Sol in the 2010 WPS draft, then picked up by Sky Blue in the Dispersal Draft. Like Asante, Washington was recovering from a knee injury. Unlike Anita Asante however, Nikki Washington wasn’t officially on Sky Blue’s roster, the team only held her rights. Which means that St. Louis will still have to try and sign her if Athletica fans ever hope to see her in the green and white.

India Trotter comes to Sky Blue after appearing as a second half sub in three matches for St. Louis. Trotter was originally drafted by St. Louis in the 2009 WPS General Draft, but did not play for the team that year. She spent a short time in 2008 with the W-League side Pali Blues before heading to FFC Frankfurt, of the women’s Bundesliga. After starting ten games with Frankfurt, Trotter announced she was retiring from pro soccer. The 25 year old also has one appearance for the US National Team, coming in 2006. She was named as alternate for the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Olympics. The trade reunites Trotter with Sky Blue FC head coach Pauliina Miettinen, who she played for while at Florida State University. Miettinen was than an assistant with the Seminoles. While at Florida State Trotter tallied 24 goals and 18 assists. “I’ve known India for a long time,” said Miettinen. “She has a great attitude and willingness to work.” The addition of Trotter could add to a Sky Blue attack that has been depleted by injuries and underperformed thus far, scoring just three goals in four matches. “With Christie (Rampone) returning soon, we have an overabundance of players in the same position. We need someone like India, who is versatile and able to play in the back as well as up front as an attacker” said Miettinen of her former and now current player.

Miettinen also left Sky Blue fans with something to ponder. “The trade of Anita frees up an international spot, so we are looking at some top overseas options as well,” the coach said. [Feel free to do your pondering over at the new ASN WPS Forum].

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FC Gold Pride top Sky Blue, again

Posted on 02 May 2010 by lbarker

Two weeks ago Sky Blue lost to Gold Pride, going down 3-1 on the west coast. And while the home teams were switched, the end result was still the same, with the Pride topping Sky Blue, this time by a 1-0 score. Christine Sinclair, who missed last week’s match on National Team duty for Canada, scored the lone goal of the game in the 39th minute. Photo ©WomensProSoccer.com/ISI photos

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The WPS.ASN forum: For you, by you

Posted on 02 May 2010 by ASN Staff

For some time we have been looking for a way to implement forum functionality into this site. It appears we finally have a winner. The brand new WPS.ASN forum does not require separate registration. If you have a Facebook, Twitter, Gmail or Yahoo! username (and seriously who doesn’t nowadays) you are IN and can start posting! This doesn’t mean the forum isn’t moderated however (spammers beware). Obviously hate speech and threats of violence or other intimidation are not tolerated either.

The forum does not integrate comments posted to the site. Those remain a separate entity. Which is fine because it creates a church/state separation between the site’s proprietary content (and responses thereto) and topics that readers and fans are interested in discussing among themselves.

So go ahead and check it out!

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