The Los Angeles Sol relied on key contributions from their top players to defeat FC Gold Pride in a 1-0 game at the Home Depot Center. A Marta goal off an Aly Wagner assist on a play that was started by Shannon Boxx made all the difference in a hard-fought match.
Both teams struggled somewhat in the Los Angeles weather, as the 1 p.m. kickoff exposed the players to the heat wave currently passing through the area. It was a game which exposed players who were even slightly less than fully fit. The physical game also highlighted a developing rivalry between the two clubs, which seems only fitting, given the traditional California rivalry between sporting organizations from the North and South.
Though the teams were meeting for the first time in the Women's Professional Soccer season, they had met twice in the preseason, with the Sol prevailing in both games. Thus, the teams wasted little time getting a feel for their opponents, orchestrating attacks right from the opening whistle.
FC Gold Pride seemed comfortable on the wide field. They directed most of their offense to Eriko Arakawa. The Japanese forward was lively, getting on the end of several through balls from Christina DiMartino, but the Sol defense closed in quickly and denied clear looks at the goal.
However, in the 25th minute, Arakawa uncorked a nearly point-blank shot at Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who nevertheless managed to corral the ball.
FC Gold Pride mixed up their approach options with Tiffany Weimer, who wasn't afraid to shoot from outside.
In the 32nd minute, the forward tried to guide a shot around LeBlanc, taking pace off the ball with a carefully struck kick that almost slipped into the top corner after flying past an outstretched LeBlanc. The attempt, however, flew just wide.
Energetic and feisty midfielder Aya Miyama looked as if she'd managed to open her goalscoring account for the Sol in the 38th minute, but the goal was disallowed for an offside violation.
The teams headed into the break level, having failed to convert cleanly any of the chances created in the first half.
Coach Abner Rogers had clearly managed to motivate his Sol players during the halftime interval, as they charged into the second half with greater intensity, putting FC Gold Pride on their heels almost immediately.
What broke the game open, however, was Aly Wagner's astute read of a backpedaling Gold Pride backline in the 47th minute. She collected a pass from Shannon Boxx, then put a ball neatly over the top of the defense for an onrushing Marta, who finished past Nicole Barnhart for the game's only goal.
Rather than suffering a let down, the Sol seemed to improve their play once the goal fell. The midfield worked especially well, feeding off the passes of an inspired Wagner, and combining nicely on several one-touch combinations.
Miyama drew applause from the crowd for a tricky touch move that put the ball into the box, but although the creative play of the Sol was clicking, the final finish eluded the home team.
"We need more goals - for me," said a slightly frustrated Miyama after the game. "I made mistakes."
The Sol's effective attacking play continued into the 60th minute, but the insurance goal would not fall. Players were left lamenting wasted chances.
FC Gold Pride began to reassert themselves and fight for the equalizing goal.
Though she was already the team hero for scoring the goal, Marta dropped back into the midfield for more touches on the ball. She even played defense to try to disrupt the Gold Pride attack.
A gassed Christie Welsh, who appeared exhausted by the high temperatures on the field, was replaced by Liz Bogus in the 67th minute.
Seconds later, even the home fans of the Sol applauded when one of the U.S. national team's most potent forwards, Tiffeny Milbrett entered the game for Weimer.
Milbrett's pace immediately made an impact, and FC Gold Pride began to dominate the time of possession, creating more chances on goal. The Sol scrambled to protect their slight advantage.
"Coming in off the bench, it can be hard to find the rhythm of the game," Milbrett said. "I tried to be destructive out there, I tried to be dangerous."
Perhaps in a move designed to protect Wagner, who has been prone to injury, Rogers subbed his playmaker out in the 80th minute.
This seemed to doom the Sol to merely defending, but the team managed to do that quite well, keeping FC Gold Pride at bay for the duration.
The Sol have yet to draw a match or even concede a goal. Aside from their opening match, Marta has a goal in every game. FC Gold Pride challenged them and even finished the match with more shots on target and more corner kicks, but they weren't able to do more than slow down the Sol express.
"We have a very good group of players," said Rogers, giving credit to his group. "We've gotten off to a great start. It wasn't one of our best performances today, but we got the victory." --Andrea Canales, Goal.com
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (Goal.com) -- The Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC played to a 0-0 draw on a soggy and chilly spring evening. Both teams had their share of chances, but no one was able to find the net. The Red Stars continue their unbeaten streak (1-0-2), while Sky Blue FC (0-1-2) is still winless. Sunday's match marked the final home opener for Women's Professional Soccer. The 0-0 result became the first scoreless draw in WPS history.
The Chicago Red Stars came out firing on all cylinders. In the fifth minute midfielder Carli Lloyd headed the ball toward goal. One minute later midfielder Megan Rapinoe sent a cross into the box. In the eighth minute Chicago had its first freekick opportunity of the day. Sky Blue midfielder Jen Buczkowski took down Cristiane in midfield. Lloyd rocketed the shot off the defense and into goalkeeper Karen Bardlsey's arms.
Sky Blue FC defender Julianne Sitch blasted a shot toward goal in the 20th minute. Chicago goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson grabbed the ball for the save. Sitch received a yellow card in the 26th minute for taking down Red Stars midfielder Karen Carney outside the left side of the box. Carney bent it into the net. Bardsley punched it over for a corner kick.
Chicago's Rapinoe was all over the field in the first half. In the 29th minute, she shot the bgall wide left. Then in the 36th minute, she challenged Bardsley and won. Bardsley went down sliding, while Rapinoe maintained possession of the ball, dribbled it back into play, turned and shot.
In the 37th minute, Kacey White hammered a ball toward goal, Jonsson again grabbed it for the save.
Four minutes later, Chicago had the best chance of either team. A flurry of Red Stars shots just before the half got the crowd tot heir feet. Rapinoe attempted a bicycle kick which went off Bardsley's hand and over the bar, keeping the net clean.
The Red Stars out shot Sky Blue FC 12 to 3 in the first half, including three shots on goal to one. Bardsley made four saves, while Jonsson made two. At half-time the clubs were in a 0-0 deadlock.
Both teams entered the pitch in the second half searching for a goal. Sky Blue FC picked up the pace toward the end of the match, forcing more shots. However the overall speed of the match slowed down. Sky Blue FC made a goalkeeper change going into the second half. Jennie Branam replaced Bardsley, who was suffering from back spasms.
In the 59th minute Meghan Schnur took down Rapinoe for a yellow. The Red Stars fell flat on the freekick opportunity. In the 61st minute, Sky Blue forward Sarah Walsh crossed the ball into the box. Collette McCallum shot the ball high.
Both teams brought on extra offense hoping to find the net. Sky Blue forward Natasha Kai entered the match in the 62nd minute. Red Stars forward Ella Masar entered the match in the 63rd.
In the 67th minute Rapinoe crossed to Carney, who rocketed it over the bar. Five minutes later, Sky Blue's McCallum sent a low ball barreling toward the goal. It just missed the right post.
As time wore on, both teams threw all they had at each other. But a slippery field made way for some not-so-pretty soccer toward the end. Masar received a yellow card in the 78th minute for a rough tackle on Sitch.
Sky Blue had a good chance in the 82nd minute, when Kai sent a short ball toward goal. Jonsson grabbed it for the save.
Chicago's captain forward Lindsay Tarpley looked to be the club's hero again in stoppage time. Carney crossed to Tarpley, who blasted the ball at goal. Branam grabbed it for the final save of the match.
Chicago out shot Sky Blue FC 18 to 7, with four shots on goal. But at the end of the day, both teams struggled to finish.