The Los Angeles Sol (11-2-5, 38 points) clinched the regular-season championship on Thursday with a 0-0 draw against FC Gold Pride. But the battle for playoff spots two through four remains as heated as ever at the end of week 18 of the Women's Professional Soccer season.
St. Louis Athletica (8-6-3, 27 points) jumped into second place last Wednesday, and maintained it for the remainder of the weekend. The Boston Breakers (7-6-4, 25 points) sit in third place. Sky Blue FC (6-7-5, 23 points) and the Washington Freedom (6-6-5, 23 points) are tied for fourth place.
The Chicago Red Stars (4-9-5, 17 points) lost their third straight match on Sunday and were eliminated from playoff contention. FC Gold Pride (3-9-5, 14 points) earned two points this week with two draws, but it was also bounced from the playoffs.
ST. LOUIS -- Eniola Aluko tallied a 48th minute goal, which led Athletica to a 1-0 win over Sky Blue FC on Wednesday.
Sky Blue's Natasha Kai had the best attempt of the half for the visitors in the 44th minute, rocketing a shot toward goal that just missed the top bar.
St. Louis started the second half with a huge advantage: a goal. In the 48th minute, Aluko stole the ball from a Sky Blue defender. She dribbled around Branam and sent the ball into the net for a 1-0 Athletica lead. It was her fifth goal of the season.
"I could see the defender playing around with the ball a bit and I knew she was a bit uncomfortable so I pressed her," said Aluko. "[Coach] Jorge Barcellos talked about how they would give up a ball if we pressed them. That's what I did and it paid off."
The New Jersey squad continued to press through the end of the match. Yael Averbuch headed an attempt toward goal in the 88th minute, while Kacey White sent a shot toward goal in stoppage time. St. Louis goalkeeper Jillian Loyden stopped both attempts, keeping her net clean and earning her second shutout in her third appearance.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Despite numerous shots, nether the Los Angeles Sol or FC Gold Pride were able to find the net in a 0-0 draw.
Ten shots per team were enough to keep the game entertaining. Los Angeles had just one shot on goal in the 67th minute, when Han Duan blasted an attempt toward goal. FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Allison Whitworth blocked the attempt.
The Pride kept the Sol busy, with three shots on goal. Tiffeny Milbrett, Formiga and Brandi Chastain all threatened to score. Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc stood strong, making three saves and collecting her league-leading 12th shutout of the campaign.
With the draw, Los Angeles earned the WPS regular season championship. The Sol will host the WPS Championship on August 22nd.
"We are delighted to win the WPS Regular Season title," Los Angeles Sol Head Coach Abner Rogers said. "We have had a great a great five months and are very happy to have won for the city of Los Angeles and our great fans."
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- After 90 minutes, the Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC ended in a scoreless draw.
Boston started attacking early in the first half. In the 11th minute, Maggie Tomecka recovered a bouncing ball and hit it toward the center of the net. Sky Blue goalkeeper Jenni Branam was there and made the save.
In the 26th minute, Sky Blue had its strongest chance of the first half when Heather O'Reilly blasted an attempt just over the crossbar.
Boston's Kristine Lilly had the best shot of the second half in the 54th minute. Lilly rocketed an attempt toward the left side of goal. Branam flew through the air to make the save.
The Breakers outshot Sky Blue 16-7, including 12-3 in the first half alone.
With the 0-0 result, Alli Lipsher and the Breakers' defense earned their third straight shutout.
"I thought that we played pretty well today," Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco said. "Late in the game I think we just ran ourselves out trying to get a goal, so they had a couple of chances, but I thought we played pretty well. If we go out with that sort of endeavor, we should be fine."
Sky Blue has now gone unbeaten in four of its last five matches. Branam posted eight shutouts in the match to earn her sixth shutout of the season, second in the league.
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Abby Wambach tallied two goals, while Allie Long added the final one to lead the Washington Freedom to a 3-2 win over the Chicago Red Stars.
"We never stopped believing or pushing for three points," Washington head coach Jim Gabarra said. "It's nice to have your team get the points it finally deserves."
Midfielder Carli Lloyd forwarded the ball to Rapinoe, who blasted a perfect shot into the net for the fastest goal in Red Stars history and a 1-0 advantage in the 15th minute.
In the 35th, missed Wambach attempts were erased when she got the visitors on the board. Bompastor passed the ball to Wambach, who was running toward goal. Wambach beat Red Stars defender Ifeoe Dieke, who fell to the pitch. Wambach made it look easy, challenging Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson and sending a straight shot into the net.
It didn't take much time for the Freedom to take the lead in the second half. Lisa De Vanna sent a perfect ball to Wambach in the 56th minute. The Freedom forward finished it for a 2-1 lead.
Heather Garriock, who just entered the match in the 68th minute crossed the ball to Karen Carney on the right side of the box. Carney lifted the Red Stars by blasting a long shot into the upper left corner, tying the match at 2-2 in the 69th minute.
Jonsson grabbed a Wambach attempt in the 84th minute. Five minutes later, the Freedom took advantage of an opening and made Chicago pay for it. Midfielder Allie Long snuck through Chicago's defense and snuck the game-winner into the net.
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Athletica's Niki Cross tallied a goal in the 28th minute to give the home team a lead. But 60 minutes later, Christine Sinclair netted the game-tying goal to force the 1-1 draw.
In the 13th minute, St. Louis goalkeeper Hope Solo had her hands full. Sinclair headed a shot toward goal. Solo dove to make the stop.
But 15 minutes later, Athletica ahead. Kendall Fletcher crossed a ball to Cross in the 28th minute. Cross knocked in the attempt for a 1-0 lead.
In the 33rd minute, Formiga sent a polint-blank shot toward goal. Solo made the save.
St. Louis continued to press in the match, including quality chances by Eniola Aluko and Amanda Cinalli. Both players forced FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to make stops.
FC Gold Pride's Sinclair continued to push as the match neared an end. In the 87th minute, she forced Solo to make a save. One minute later she knocked in the game-tying goal.
"We had a lot of chances, especially in the second half. We need more composure," said Head Coach Jorge Barcellos "A counter attack on a one-on-one is not a chance you should lose on. Something that is simple has become hard for us. I don't know why."