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WPS Weekend Wrap: A week of unlikely goal scorers

Week 13 in Women’s Professional Soccer action offered five games over the course of three days and produced some unlikely heroes.  Team outcasts produced critical game-winning goals and reserve players even had to step into coaching roles in this wacky week of action that did not feature United States Women’s National Team or Swedish Women’s National Team players over the weekend.

Midweek games picked up into full swing Wednesday as the Chicago Red Stars hosted the Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue FC hosted the Washington Freedom.  Both games played out to draws with the match in Chicago ending 1-1 and the I-95 showdown in New Jersey ending in a dull 0-0 score in some scorching heat.

Wednesday in Chicago, unlikely goal-scorers stepped up for both teams as Atlanta midfielder Johanna Rasmussen opened the scoring in the 30th minute with her first goal of the season but Chicago’s Ella Masar equalized in the 42nd minute with her third goal of the season.  Masar has been in and out of the starting line-up under both Emma Hayes and new Chicago Head Coach Omid Namazi, but her efforts over the past week send a message to Namazi: Masar is here to play.  She would go on to score the game-winning goal in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Sky Blue FC, giving her two critical goals in the past week and four on the season.

“I guess I’ve been taking more chances and creating some, and getting lucky,” Masar said.  “I don’t know.  It feels good to finally score.  It’s been a long road to this point, that’s for sure.”

Masar now has four goals in 2010 but has started just six of Chicago’s 14 matches.

Rasmussen was not done scoring either.  She scored her second goal of the season (and week) Sunday in just the seventh minute of Atlanta’s match against the Boston Breakers, but Rasmussen would not be a hero Sunday.  The Breakers erupted for three goals in five minutes – a WPS record – just after halftime to prevail with a 3-1 win.  Jordan Angeli scored just her second goal of the year and Kelly Smith netted her fourth of the season just four minutes later in what ended up being the game-winner.

But the true story of the unlikely hero came one minute later, when Breakers midfielder Liz Bogus scored Boston’s third goal of the day in the most shining example of irony and vindication WPS has seen in recent memory.  Bogus has been on a personal revolving door with the Breakers after being signed on three separate occasions (she has twice been waived by Boston this season:

“It’s definitely been a hard month for me, but I believed in myself the whole time,” Bogus said.  “I had friends and family that believed in me and I just fight.  I fight every day to get back on the field in this position.  Thankfully Tony [DiCicco] saw that hard work and gave me that second chance.  It was definitely an emotional game for me tonight.”

Leslie Osborne also assisted Angeli’s goal and Bogus’ goal, her first two assists of the season.

And finally, the highest-scoring game of the week also had an unlikely hero.  FC Gold Pride looked to be on its way to a comfortable win after Solveig Gulbrandsen scored in the 71st minute to give FC Gold Pride a 3-0 lead, but the Washington Freedom would not go down easily.  Lene Mykjaland scored in the 79th minute and Nikki Marshall added a second for Washington in second half stoppage time, but it was not enough for the Freedom.

What that almost-comeback did was turn Gulbrandsen’s goal into the game-winner in this 3-2 affair.  The team announced Wednesday that Gulbrandsen and the team mutually agreed to terminate her contract to allow Gulbrandsen to return home and focus on her post-soccer life and family.  Gulbrandsen agreed to stay with the team through the July 17 match with the Philadelphia Independence before returning to Norwegian club Stabaek IF, her previous team.

“It’s time for me to begin thinking about my life after soccer,” Gulbrandsen said.  “The decision to go back to Norway and to begin a career beyond the field while still having the privilege to play feels like the right thing to do.”

The final bit of strange happenings went down in that same game when Washington Head Coach Jim Gabarra was ejected in the 26th minute after kicking a sign board in frustration over a foul that was not called.  With no assistant coach on the road trip, back-up goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris took over coaching and substitution responsibilities.  That just is not something you see every day.

News and Notes:

  • Leslie Osborne wore the captain’s armband for Boston Sunday with Kristine Lilly away with the United States Women’s National Team and Camille Abily wore the armband Sunday for FC Gold Pride with Rachel Buehler on U.S. Women’s National Team duty.
  • With Karen Bardsley’s season-ending injury, Kendall Fletcher has been elevated from developmental player to the full roster
  • Rosie Tantillo made her first appearance of the year for FC Gold Pride when she checked into the game for Becky Edwards in the 78th minute.
  • Italian forward Patrizia Panico saw her first minutes of the season with Sky Blue FC, coming on at halftime against Washington Wednesday and and playing the full 90 minutes against Chicago Saturday.
  • After defeating the Atlanta Beat 4-0 July 3 in a 3-5-2 formation, FC Gold Pride Head Coach Albertin Montoya went back to a traditional 4-4-2 Sunday, but was without Buehler, Kelley O’Hara and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
  • Brittany Klein made her first start with Washington after being released by Chicago last month.  She played 52 minutes at right midfield.
  • The U.S. Women play Sweden Tuesday night in Omaha, Neb. and Saturday night in East Hartfod, Conn.
  • The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup begins Tuesday and runs through August 1.
  • There is only one week of regular season action left in the W-League and WPSL.

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