By CHRISTA MANN
The fast approaching Week 10 in Women's Professional Soccer has match ups between the St. Louis Athletica and L.A Sol, Jersey's Sky Blue FC and the Boston Breakers, and the Bay Area and Washington Freedom.
The Chicago Red Stars will take a much needed bye this week to recover from a three-game skid. The Red Stars somehow lost their offensive spark a few weeks ago and have really struggled to both maintain possession and score. If Chicago can find a way to get back on track, perhaps the Red Stars will also find a bit of luck when they return to the WPS.
The L.A. Sol is still rated the league's best and some leadership struggles have kept New Jersey's Sky Blue FC from moving out of last place.
With rematches, controversy, and even a suspension, Week 10 of the WPS begins in southern California and returns national and international superstars to some wavering rosters.
In game one of the weekend, the St. Louis Athletica will make its first trip to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California to take on the L.A. Sol. When these two teams met back in April, St. Louis held the advantage with a near double digit lead in overall shots while the Sol's Marta was away with the Brazilian National Team. This time around, things should be quite different for both teams involved.
L.A. will field both Marta and a confident Aya Miyama in addition to returning its starting goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc, and strongest midfielder, Shannon Boxx. LeBlanc has proven steady throughout the season and should still earn the start over Val Henderson despite the backup's great effort last week.
St. Louis will return Kia McNeil to the back line following her one-game suspension for "persistent egregious conduct against an opposing player" back when the Athletica took on the Freedom. The Athletica will also start Eniola Aluko at forward in hopes that she will continue to both create and finish final third opportunities. In goal, the Athletica will likely return U.S. Womens National Team keeper Hope Solo to the nets even though Jillian Loyden played a phenomenal game against Chicago to earn both the shutout and WPS Player of the Week.
St. Louis hasn't lost in four matches and L.A. hasn't fallen in its last three. The Athletica/Sol rematch should be a good one to start the weekend because it may potentially go either way.
When the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride takes on the Washington Freedom in the second contest of the weekend, fans will finally see the rematch of the league's most exciting game to date.
In the first meeting of these teams, the Freedom's Abby Wambach finished a stoppage time game winner to earn the come from behind, 4-3 result in the Pride's home stadium. The Bay Area did no take too kindly to that loss and will use this game as a perfect opportunity to regenerate some momentum.
Washington, on the other hand, is coming off a 2-1 victory over Sky Blue and is looking for its fifth straight week without a loss. Wambach returns to the lineup after missing two weeks in the WPS (one to suspension and the other to national team duty).
The Freedom has more confidence approaching this one, but FCGP is ready to make a statement.
The final contest of the weekend might as well be called the "Battle of the Controversies" when New Jersey's Sky Blue FC takes on the Boston Breakers.
For starters, the New Jersey club announced that it had officially fired Head Coach/General Manager Ian Sawyers on Thursday afternoon. The issues away from the pitch for SBFC have affected the team's on-field performance. SBFC currently sits in last place on the table and is three points behind the next closest team. The New Jersey club needs a moral victory from this one but it looks as though Boston may be the one to come earn the boost in morale.
The Breakers earned two 4-0 wins against the semi-pro Boston Aztec and Connecticut Reds during their bye week as the club lost some key players to national team call-ups and dealt with controversy behind the scenes.
Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco had some choice remarks about the officiating against Washington, so the league responded with a $750 fine. Then to make matters worse, Boston forward Christine Latham faces a two game suspension and a $250 fine for throwing an elbow against Washington on May 17.
Latham filed an appeal for the suspension, but WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci upheld her ruling against the Boston front runner.
In the aftermath of all that has occurred, the Breakers should be just fine. The club's right back, Alex Scott, will continue to come out of the back to create chances. Plus, all dangerous components, minus Latham, will be in full effect.
Both teams really need this win. For Boston, it presents a chance to possibly tie for the top spot on the leader board, but for New Jersey it's a chance to finally earn that second win. Odds are in favor of the Boston Breakers, but anything can happen.
What are you looking forward to in Week 10 of WPS? Share your thoughts below.