After an opening weekend that didn’t disappoint, Women’s Professional Soccer kicks off its second week of the 2010 campaign with Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders.
Saturday’s double feature begins with St. Louis Athletica (1-0) traveling to Bridgeview, Ill., to battle the Chicago Red Stars (0-1) at Toyota Park. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET.
St. Louis began its season firing on all cylinders. Hope Solo was excellent in the net for Athletica while Eniola Aluko got off to a fantastic start, tallying both goals in the clubs 2-0 win over FC Gold Pride.
"I think the team needs to stay grounded and recognize this is a long season," said Aluko. "We have to have the same passion and desire to win. This is one of the factors that makes this team very difficult to defeat."
Surely, the Red Stars will have many eyes glued to Aluko, and she is ready for the challenge.
"Being marked tightly is something that I have been warned about and something I definitely take as a compliment," Aluko said. "My approach to the game will be the same as any game: to bring other players into play and take defenders on one v. one."
Chicago is coming off a 1-0 loss to defending champion Sky Blue FC where the Red Stars outplayed the champions for nearly the entire contest, minus the Tasha Kai goal in the first 10 minutes. Chicago totaled 20 shots at goal in the loss.
"We need to keep working on final third play. We are getting into good areas and creating chances, and that is half the battle," said Red Stars coach Emma Hayes. "Every keeper can be beaten and if we choose the right shot selection, we will beat (Hope Solo)."
In the loss to Sky Blue, the Red Stars failed to convert on several set piece opportunities. Hayes and the Red Stars crew have been working this week to capitalize on the opportunities this weekend.
"We have worked on set pieces and must do a better job to hit the target," Hayes said. "It's not good enough to just dominate [on creating chances]."
In the second match of the night, FC Gold Pride (0-1) will be making its home opener against Sky Blue FC (1-0) at 10 p.m. ET.
In the opening weekend, Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya felt his club outplayed Athletica in the team’s 2-0 loss; meanwhile, first-year coach of Sky Blue FC, Pauliina Miettinen, was happy to get the win, despite that she thought her club was flat.
"I didn't think we played as well as we know we can," said Montoya. "We were the better team most of the game. Credit St. Louis with taking advantage of their opportunities. We created great opportunities but couldn't finish.
"Hope Solo showed why she’s the best keeper in the world," Montoya added.
Montoya played all his offensive options -- Marta, Camille Abily, Christine Sinclair, Tiffeny Milbrett and Kelley O’Hara -- instead of having a holding midfielder. Becky Edwards was the odd person out in the lineup but is expected to return to the starting 11 this week.
Meanwhile, Miettinen and Sky Blue are hoping for a better showing this weekend, after a somewhat lackadaisical performance a week ago.
"I don't see the traveling as having that much of an effect on our play come game time," Miettinen said of the nearly 3,000-mile flight. "The team has looked very sharp over the past two days, and I am confident that we will perform to the best of our ability."
Moving to Sunday’s games, unbeaten clubs meet at Harvard Stadium at 6 p.m. ET when the Boston Breakers (1-0), coming off a 2-1 win over the Washington Freedom, host former teammate Amy Rodriguez and the Philadelphia Independence (0-0-1), who played to a scoreless tie against fellow expansion club, the Atlanta Beat.
"If you look at Philly’s line-up, they are mostly veteran players from the WPS last season," said Breakers coach Tony DiCicco. "They are talented in attack and we will need to be very good defensively."
Boston held Abby Wambach and the Freedom to one goal last week, courtesy of rookie goalkeeper Ashley Phillips. DiCicco is hoping for another solid performance from his young keeper, who has earned the starting spot.
"Ashley has been the most consistent (keeper) thus far and earned the start," DiCicco said. "She took full advantage of it and had a strong outing and has earned another start."
Meanwhile, on the Philadelphia front, coach Paul Riley hopes his speedy squad can take advantage of the narrow field at Harvard Stadium.
"We have speed, skill and creativity up front," Riley said, "so hopefully we will be able to cause Boston some problems."
And in the final game of the weekend, Atlanta Beat (0-0-1) travels to Boyds, Md., to take on Abby Wambach and the Freedom (0-1). Kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET.
In order for the Freedom to avoid falling to 0-2, coach Jim Gabarra feels the club needs to work on the basics.
"We need to compete, defend and do a better job with our possession and attacking mentality," said Gabarra.
On defense, the Freedom were playing with a brand new back line, featuring Cat Whitehill, Sonia Bompastor, Nikki Marshall and Rebecca Moros. Gabarra is confident they will work out well, but it will take some time. More importantly, Gabarra feels the offense needs to target its top scorer, Wambach, more often.
"No we did not," said Gabarra about the team’s efforts in targeting Wambach in last week’s loss to Boston. "We will try to do a better job of getting more players to support and serve her."
Gareth O’Sullivan was unavailable for comment, with the Beat having a small turnover from its game against Philadelphia to this weekend against Washington.
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