Western New York debuts with win
From a surprising result in Atlanta to a curious game cancellation in Philadelphia, here are five things we learned in Week 2 of WPS action:
Anyone can look good when surrounded by the star-studded cast that Western New York boasts, but what Morgan proved on Sunday is that she can also create opportunities on her own. On several occasions the 21-year-old outran an international quality Breakers defense and managed to create chances as the lone attacker against two or three defenders.
Morgan should have had the story book beginning to her professional career in the 56th minute when she ran onto a through ball and tapped it around an onrushing Alyssa Naeher, who was 30 yards off her line. Morgan tried to chip defender Rachel Buehler, but the chip went high and wide.
"I think that I did pretty well," Morgan said. "I could have made some more runs and taken some people on, but I think I had some good passes, had some good balls behind the back line and gave [Sinclair] a pretty good assist."
Western New York also did well defensively to shut down Kelly Smith and company. That began in the midfield with Brittany Bock, who controlled the center of the park alongside Becky Edwards. Left back Ali Riley shut down former FC Gold Pride teammate Kelly O'Hara on the outside and Kandace Wilson had the green light to go forward from her right back position. With seven former FC Gold Pride players joining the Flash this year, the winning ways look like they will continue in Western New York
About all that was learned about magicJack was the starting lineup issued before the game. That included U.S. international Jillian Loyden in goal, Christie Rampone in the back and Abby Wambach starting up front alongside Ella Masar and rookie Christen Press. Even the formation that magicJack will utilize remains a mystery, although the personnel chosen implied a 3-4-3, in line with what team owner
Although Sky Blue FC enjoyed the better part of play, Atlanta was able to contain the dangerous midfield combination of Casey Nogueira, Heather O'Reilly and Allie Long. Veteran defender Cat Whitehill organized the back line and goalkeeper Allison Lipsher made several key saves to preserve the shutout. Atlanta coach James Galanis said the team is progressing despite having its detractors.
"If anybody expected these young girls to come out and do everything right in their first WPS game, then they don't know anything about the game and haven't played the game themselves," Galanis said.
The win is huge for Atlanta psychologically more than anything. For this young team to get a win under its belt in just its second game of the season is a critical confidence builder, but things will only get tougher. On Sunday, Western New York comes to town with Marta and Sinclair, who combined for six goals and three assists last year (then with FC Gold Pride) on Atlanta's home turf in embarrassing 4-0 and 6-1 losses for the Beat.
"It's just tough when we should be scoring three or four goals a game. It's something that's got to be addressed and something that certainly we are going to work on."
Finishing has been a problem for the Sky Blue FC franchise since WPS began in 2009 and although Gabarra envisions evenly balanced goal-scoring production from Nogueira, Aluko and Laura Kalmari, somebody will have to step up and be the go-to goal scorer. Aluko is the most likely candidate as a pure striker, although the introduction of Spanish striker Adriana could add another element to the attack. Adriana will join the team within the next week and could be ready for the May 1 trip to Boston.