Los Angeles Sol And Boston Breakers Do No Harm

Neither team could hurt the other with a goal, so the two top teams in Women's Professional Soccer split the points in a draw.
CARSON, Calif. --The Los Angeles Sol and the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer battled to a scoreless tie on Sunday, in some ways befitting their positions as the top two teams in the league.

The Sol dominated the first half of action, creating some excellent chances at goal. Boston rallied to turn in a second half where they saw more of the possession and manufactured opportunities of their own, but nothing came together completely for either team to score.

First Half

Eager to avenge their only loss in league play thus far, when they fell to the Breakers in Boston, the Sol came out energetically on their home field.

Star forward Marta was in the mix immediately. In one thrilling run, she beat two Boston defenders, changing directions with the ball so quickly that one defender fell down trying to stop. However, once Marta crossed the ball into open space in front of the goal, it became clear that the effort was a waste, as no Sol teammate had yet arrived in that prime position for the score.

The Sol's other forward, Han Duan, also saw an excellent chance go for naught. The Chinese striker gathered in a long pass, getting behind the Breakers' defense in the 38th minute. Duan cut to the inside to avoid a defender and then slotted past the charging goalkeeper, Kristen Luckinbill. Unfortunately for Duan and the Sol, the ball hit off the post.

Without a single shot on goal in the match, Marta seemed to be focused on setting up her teammates, though Sol coach Abner Rogers lamented that generosity somewhat.

"We would like her to be a little bit more selfish," Rogers explained, though he also mentioned attempting to send players forward to meet Marta's speedy runs.  "We're trying to get players a little higher on the field to help her out."

Breakers star Kelly Smith acknowledged that even without shots on goal, Marta was a handful to deal with.

"She's just so fast and skillful; she's so hard to defend," said Smith. "She is the best player in the world."

Despite a couple of golden looks at goal, the Sol couldn't finish and the teams went into the break tied at nil

Second Half

Breakers coach Tony DiCicco probably pushed his team to respond in the second half, and Boston did maintain better possession.

The East Coast team also brought more of an edge to their play. Angela Hucles was given a yellow for a tough foul on Aya Miyama, after the first half saw no cards at all. In the second half, however, four were eventually handed out, two to each squad.

With Boston improved the Sol struck more on counterattack, trying to disrupt Boston's passing game.

In the 52nd minute, Marta played a little defense racing back to gather a ball that was bouncing free near the edge of the box. She cleared it with an overhead semi-bicycle kick that drew cheers from the crowd.

Smith and Kristin Lilly controlled most of passes for Boston, but had trouble breaking any players free with goal chances.

"I think the heat affected Kelly a little," said DiCicco, explaining that the weather in Southern California, especially with the 1 p.m. kickoff, was much warmer than in Boston.

Stephanie Cox of the Sol was charged with keeping Lilly in check and managed her former U.S. women's national teammate well.

"It's different in a game, when you have to bump them and stuff," said Cox of facing other USWNT players. "But it's a good challenge, because they are key players."

In the 70th minute Marta again broke free, beat a defender into the box with one move, then touched a pass back to Duan. Unfortunately, Duan passed up a shot with her unfavored left foot, then lost the ball before she could shoot with her right.

Boston created a couple of late corner kick chances, but Karina LeBlanc punched out the most threatening of Lilly's kicks into the box and the game finished all even, with the squads splitting the points.

"We didn't win the game, but we're happy with some aspects of our game, because we've come away from home and we haven't lost," said Smith. "We didn't have too many shots on target to threaten the goalkeeper. LA had a couple of good chances in the first half, but it wasn't their day."

As a promotion for that game, the Sol had promised attending fans that a win in the game would result in a free ticket for everyone at the match. However, Rogers denied feeling any pressure from the organizations promise.

"I wasn't even aware of that; I stick to what I need to do," said Rogers.

To him, the crux of the game was clear. "In the first half, we were the better team and we created opportunities -we just didn't put them away," Rogers said.

Andrea Canales, Goal.com

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