CARSON, Calif. -- St. Louis Athletica is becoming quite the spoiler where the Los Angeles Sol are concerned. And all they really spoiled was the Sol becoming the WPS regular-season champion early. Amanda Cinalli netted an 11th-minute goal to give the visitors the lead. Athletica held on Wednesday for the 1-0 win.
With the win, Athletica (7-5-2, 23 points) secured the No. 2 spot in the WPS standings. Back-to-back wins give Athletica a comfortable five-point cushion. With six games left on the season, St. Louis has plenty of time to keep pushing. Athletica has a 10-day hiatus before playing at the Washington Freedom.
The Los Angeles Sol (11-2-4, 37 points) drop just their second match of the season and still sit a top the standings. The Sol have just three games left to play in the regular season, all of them on the road. They take the pitch again July 23 at FC Gold Pride.
St. Louis didn't waste any time getting started. In just the 11th minute, Athletica found itself on the board. Forward Eniola Aluko passed the ball to midfielder Amanda Cinalli. Cinalli sent the ball into the net, beating Karina LeBlanc for just the second time all season.
It soon looked as if the Sol would tie things up. In the 20th minute, Los Angeles forward Marta hit a low ball toward goal. Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo dove to the left to make the save.
Athletica's Angie Woznuk looked to add to St. Louis' lead in the 24th minute. But LeBlanc made the save. Cinalli took another shot four minutes later. Again with the same result.
Los Angeles continued to pressure Athletica. Marta found an open Han Duan in the 31st minute. Duan beat a couple of defenders and attempted to sent the ball toward goal. Solo blocked the attempt.
Los Angeles nearly struck in the beginning of the second half when Aly Wagner and Aya Miyama both sent shots toward goal in the first five minutes of the half. But Athletica's defense took care of both attempts.
Marta bent a corner kick into the box in the 58th minute. Solo sent the ball out of danger. Los Angeles defender Brittany Bock almost headed an attempt in five minutes later. Solo again got to the ball in time, punching out of harm's way.
In the 67th minute, the Sol almost tallied when Marta forwarded the ball to Miyama in the box. Miyama struck a low ball toward goal. Solo again made the save, her fourth of the afternoon.
St. Louis took three more attempts before the end of the match, with Aluko and Woznuk sending back-to-back attempts toward goal in the 73rd and 74th minutes. LeBlanc saved both attempts. Melissa Tancredi entered the match in the 78th minute as a replacement for Cinalli, who injured her arm after a collision in the box with LeBlanc. Seconds after Tancredi entered the match she forced LeBlanc to make her fifth save of the night.
"The loss today is a small bump in our successful season," Los Angeles Sol coach Abner Rogers said. "It's a true mark of a champion to bounce back after a loss." --