WPS: Defense proves to be at a premium
Week 12 of Women's Professional Soccer was a week in which defenses more than held their own. St. Louis Athletica tallied the lone goal of the weekend in their 1-0 win over the Boston Breakers. With the win, St. Louis (4-3-2, 14 points) moved into second place in the WPS standings.
Despite a 0-0 draw with Sky Blue FC, the Los Angeles Sol (7-1-4, 25 points) continued to distance themselves from the pack.
The Washington Freedom's 0-0 tie with the Chicago Red Stars drops them to third place (3-3-4, 13 points). The Red Stars (2-3-5, 11 points) moves into a three-way tie for fourth place. Sky Blue FC (2-5-3, nine points) remains at the bottom of the standings.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Eniola Aluko tallied the lone goal to spark St. Louis at Harvard Stadium. It marked Boston's first home loss of the season.
St. Louis almost scored in the 17th minute. Amanda Cinalli tallied a goal, only to have it ruled offside by the officials.
In the 44th minute, Athletica midfielder Kendall Fletcher sent a ball to Aluko. She broke through the Breakers' defense and challenged Boston goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, sending a low shot past the keeper and into the net.
Boston's Amy Rodriguez almost tied it up moments after the goal. Alex Scott sent the ball to Rodriguez, who sent the ball wide.
The home team didn't go down without a fight. Kristine Lilly forced Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo to make a save early in the second half. The Breakers out shot Athletica 17-7 and maintained possession for most of the match. But Athletica's defense, including Solo, held strong. Solo made four saves to collect her fourth shutout of the season.
"I was proud of the way we responded," said Boston head coach Tony DiCicco about the team's effort after giving up the goal. "We defended well, but today we had a breakdown and it cost us. Give St. Louis credit. They got the goal and defended it well.
"We are creating the chances, we just need to score," said DiCicco.
WASHINGTON -- There was no shortage of shots as the teams combined for 33. But neither team found the net.
In the 25th minute, the Red Stars had their best opportunity of the first half. Megan Rapinoe had a great look at goal, when she sent a perfect shot just over the post.
Washington had its best chance in the 41st minute. Allie Long sailed a shot over the net.
In the 60th minute, the home team received a huge advantage. Chicago's Karen Carney took down Abby Wambach with a hard foul. Carney was shown a straight red, giving Washington a one-player advantage for the remainder of the match.
It was a bit of déjà vu for both teams, as Chicago lost defender Frida Ostberg to a red card the first time these clubs met.
The Freedom turned up the heat in the final 30 minutes, recording 13 shots on goal. But Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson held strong, making eight saves for a league-best 46 total. She also posted her fourth shutout.
Freedom netminder Erin McLeod made one save on the night. But the restructured defense held strong. Washington lost Alex Singer to injury. They inserted newly acquired defender Ali Krieger to the mix. Chicago had eight shots on goal, but all were stopped for the Freedom's first shutout of the season.
Chicago is the lone WPS squad that is still undefeated on the road with a 1-0-4 record. Red Stars coach Emma Hayes referred to her side as the draw specialist. "We just need to put it in the back of the net," Hayes said.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The Los Angeles Sol and Sky Blue FC battled through rainy conditions Saturday night, but neither team was able to find the net at Yurcak Field.
Los Angeles was held to just five shots, including three on goal. Sky Blue FC took seven shots in each half, sending four on goal in the first half.
Sky Blue FC started firing shots toward goal from the first whistle. Natasha Kai, Hosana and Heather O'Reilly took shots in the first five minutes of play. None of them threatened Los Angeles goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
In the 11th minute, Los Angeles midfielder Aly Wagner sent a long ball into the box. Sky Blue goalkeeper Jenni Branam blocked it at the last second, keeping her net clean.
Kacey White forwarded a long ball to Kai, who sent a low shot off the left post in the 15th minute. Just before the half, Hosana blasted the ball wide of goal.
Sky Blue FC controlled play in the second half, outshooting the Sol 7-2. But both teams only registered one shot on goal apiece.
In the 55th minute, Kai, who had six shots on the night, headed a shot just wide left. Four minutes later, the Sol's Shannon Boxx launched a long ball toward the net. Branam dove and made the save.
Sky Blue FC's Collette McCallum launched a ball toward goal in the 72nd minute. It sailed just over the bar.
"We played New Jersey soccer today, getting down and dirty in the mud," said Sky Blue FC interim Head Coach Kelly Lindsey. "I give our team a lot of credit, there was a ton of passion and energy today and I think that they deserved the result. We would have liked a victory, but today was a moral victory for us."
Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc recorded three saves for her league-best eighth shutout. Branam held strong in goal for the home team, also making three saves and collecting her second shutout of the season.