WPS Previews: Week Eleven

Sunday six of seven teams take the pitch in Women's Professional Soccer action. The Boston Breakers sit out week eleven.
WPS action this weekend features three very intriguing match-ups sure to promise lots of excitement. The top two teams, Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom, will battle for dominance. While at the other end of the table the teams tied for last place, Sky Blue FC and Saint Louis Athletica, meet on the pitch. Meanwhile, middle of the pack dwellers FC Gold Pride and Chicago Red Stars fight it out to try to improve their respective standings. Boston, recently knocked out of second place, will get a week off to regroup.

Los Angeles Sol vs. Washington Freedom, Sunday, June 7 at 6pm ET, Home Depot Center, Carson, CA (showing on FSC)

The Los Angeles Sol (6-1-3) is still the hottest team in the WPS, having an impressive nine-point lead over second-place Washington Freedom. Of course, the Sol has played a couple games more than most teams, so that gap could close when the others catch up in number of matches played. Still, Los Angeles has lost only once so far this season, and has shown massive determination to keep it that way.

Los Angeles just played a midweek match against the Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday. While it looked like they would suffer a loss after Chicago scored near the end, the Sol fought hard and didn’t relent until they scored in stoppage time to scrape out a 1-1 draw. Los Angeles will look to continue its unbeaten streak with a win Sunday against the Freedom. Players to watch include Sol top scorers Marta and Camille Abily. Both have scored four goals, with three of Marta’s being match winners while two of Abily’s were. Also noteworthy is goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who leads the league with an incredible seven clean sheets.

The Washington Freedom (3-2-3) are on an unbeaten streak of their own, notching wins or draws in their last five games and climbing up the table to second place. Washington’s most recent match was a 3-1 home victory over FC Gold Pride on Sunday. Players to watch are Sonia Bompastor, with two goals and four assists this season, and Lisa De Vanna who has three goals and one assist. The Freedom has scored more goals than any team this season at 15, but also lead in goals allowed with the same number. They’ll need to improve that stat if they hope to challenge for first.

The last time L.A. and Washington met, in the March 29th WPS inaugural match, the Sol came away with a 2-0 win. L.A.’s home record (4-0-2) is daunting, and despite their positive performances lately, Washington will have a tough time this Sunday.

Saint Louis Athletica vs. Sky Blue FC, Sunday, June 7 at 4pm ET, Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, Fenton, MO

When Saint Louis Athletica and Sky Blue FC meet this Sunday at Athletica’s new stadium, it will be a scrappy battle between the league’s two last placed teams. They sit tied on the bottom of the table with eight points apiece, each in desperate need of a win. Athletica has the slight advantage since they have one game in hand.

Saint Louis Athletica (2-3-2) were on a four-game unbeaten streak until they played league leaders Los Angeles Sol last Saturday and suffered a 2-0 loss. Prior to their game against the Sol, Athletica beat both FC Gold Pride and the Chicago Red Stars, so they do seem to be starting to gel. Saint Louis won its last home game, a 1-0 victory over FC Gold Pride. A player to watch is Eniola Aluko, who posted four of Athletica’s eight total shots last match. She has scored two goals this season.

While still at the bottom of the league, Sky Blue FC (2-4-2) is coming off a huge 2-1 victory over the Boston Breakers, who were in second place at the time. Sky Blue FC was impressive from the outset of the match, looking energized and dangerous on attack. They will hope to build on that performance when they travel to Saint Louis. A player to watch is Natasha Kai, who scored her second goal of the season in the Boston game, and has taken fifteen total shots so far this season. Three of Sky Blue FC’s four losses have come from away games, though, so they will have to dig deep to improve on that stat this weekend.

With only four points separating last place from second place on the table, a win for either Athletica or Sky Blue FC will dramatically improve their position in the standings. Given the stakes, expect an open game as both teams go on attack and hope to notch the win.

FC Gold Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars, Sunday, June 7 at 8pm ET, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

Fourth-place FC Gold Pride come home this Sunday and take on fifth-place Chicago Red Stars. Just one point separates the two teams on the league table, though Gold Pride has played one more game.

FC Gold Pride (3-5-1) lost its lost two games, with the most league losses overall at five. In their last match, FC Gold Pride suffered a defeat on the road to the Washington Freedom, losing 1-3. Though their stats are pretty grim (most losses, worst goal differential at -4), the numbers don’t tell the whole story. They are in the middle of the table, and a win this weekend could see them jump to second depending on other teams’ results. Two of Gold Pride’s three wins have been at home, which may boost their confidence. Players to watch include Gold Pride top scorer Christine Sinclair, with three goals this season, as well as Tiffeny Milbrett, who has two goals and an assist.

Chicago Red Stars (2-3-3) haven’t won since a decisive 4-0 victory over the Boston Breakers on April 25th. After that win, things went drastically downhill for the Red Stars, with three consecutive losses. Chicago’s most recent match was a 1-1 draw with the L.A. Sol on Wednesday, which not only ended their losing streak but also a long scoreless drought. Players to watch include Cristiane, whose goal against the Sol earned Chicago’s first point in over a month, as well as Lindsay Tarpley, who has two goals and an assist this season.

The Red Stars have a better record on the road than at home, with no road losses, so that will be to their benefit this weekend in Santa Clara. FC Gold Pride will likely have a difficult time keeping Chicago off the scoreboard. This one could really go either way, with the slight advantage going to Chicago.

Jennifer Dawson, Goal.com

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