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WPS Weekend Wrap: Does this look familiar?

If it were not for the last month of World Cup action making 2010 feel like a summer of soccer mania, it would be easy for a Women’s Professional soccer fan to feel as though he is still stuck in some type of 2009 time warp.

FC Gold Pride (10-3-1, 31 pts.) continues to assert its dominance over the rest of the league while nothing is clear in the middle of the table (if that is even a proper term to describe four teams separated by two points in a seven team league).  The Philadelphia Independence (6-5-3, 21 pt.) sits in second place but is 10 points behind FC Gold Pride after Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Pride at Cal State East Bay.

In a way, it feels like 2009 all over again.

FC Gold Pride, led by Marta, Shannon Boxx, Camille Abily and company are beginning to run away with the league and prove that even the second-best team in the league cannot keep pace.  Philadelphia has twice been defeated by FC Gold Pride this season and after a 2-1 loss June 19 in West Chester, Penn., Philadelphia defender Heather Mitts admitted, “this is the best team in the league, hands down.”  The statement continues to be irrefutable, but the question still remains as to whether or not another team can find a way to change that.

Last year, the Los Angeles Sol, led by (you guessed it) Marta, Boxx, Abily and company ran away with the regular season earlier and never looked back, proving that even second-best Saint Louis Athletica could not keep pace.  Here are how things look right now after Week 14 action:

Standings
Home Away
Team GP W L T PTS GF GA +/- W L T W L T
FC Gold Pride 14 10 3 1 31 24 12 12 6 1 1 4 2 0
Independence 14 6 5 3 21 21 19 2 4 2 1 2 3 2
Sky Blue FC 14 5 6 3 18 12 16 -4 1 3 2 4 3 1
Freedom 14 4 5 5 17 20 19 1 3 1 3 1 4 2
Red Stars 14 4 5 5 17 11 11 0 2 2 3 2 3 2
Breakers 13 4 5 4 16 14 15 -1 2 4 1 2 1 3
Beat 13 2 7 4 10 8 19 -11 1 3 1 1 4 3

In 2009, Week 14 came earlier (June 30) and with two wins that week the Los Angeles Sol became the first WPS team to clinch a playoff spot.  The Sol’s lead was much larger and the team considerably more dominating than FC Gold Pride is right now, but the 2010 version of the Pride still offers striking resemblance.  Here is how the standings looked after 14 weeks in 2009:

League Standings

Team                                       GP       W L T             GF       GA      Points

Los Angeles Sol 15        10-1-4              23        5          34

Boston Breakers 12          5-4-3              14        13        18

Saint Louis Athletica 12          5-5-2              11        12        17

Washington Freedom 12          4-4-4              17        19        16

Sky Blue FC 12          3-6-3              8          11        12

FC Gold Pride 12          3-6-3              11        17        12

Chicago Red Stars 13          2-6-5              8          15        11

The middle of the table was tight last year as well and really, at this point, every team still had a shot at the playoffs.  With the Atlanta Beat’s 1-0 win Sunday over Sky Blue FC, even Atlanta could find its way back in the playoff mix.

Speaking of familiar occurrence, Sky Blue FC fired Pauliina Miettinen Monday and gave Rick Stainton, formerly the goalkeeper coach, will take over head coaching responsibilities.  It was almost exactly a year ago (June 19, 2009) that Kelly Lindsey had her interim status removed from her title and officially became the Sky Blue FC head coach, only to quit eleven days later.  She had replaced Ian Sawyers, who was dismissed May 23, 2009.  Christie Rampone took over as player/coach after Lindsey left and Miettinen stepped in during the off-season.

Now, Stainton takes over a team that has gone 536 minutes at home without a goal from open play.  That dates back to Tasha Kai’s 6th minute goal in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars on opening day.  The only other goal scored by the home team at Yurcak Field came in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Independence June 19 when Rosana finished a penalty kick.

Despite the mayhem, Sky Blue FC (5-6-3, 18 pts.) is still in third place and has that 2009 championship to its name.  Unfortunately, that has become overshadowed by another coaching change in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Boston Breakers are on a three game winning streak and quickly find itself back in the playoff hunt.  Maybe the Breakers will go on a Sky Blue FC-esk run of their own.  Somebody forgot to tell them they are peaking too early, though.  The playoffs are in September this year.

Not to be lost in this conversation is where Saint Louis Athletica might have fit into this equation.  Athletica is one of only three teams to defeat FC Gold Pride in 2010, but Saint Louis no longer exists after ceasing operations in May.

News and Notes:

  • The U.S. Women’s National Team convincingly defeated Sweden 3-0 Saturday in East Hartford, Conn. after the same two teams drew 1-1 in Omaha, Neb. Tuesday.  U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage and company showed some of their cards after the match, providing insight into how 2010 Women’s World Cup Qualifying might look. 
  • The U.S. U-20 women defeated Switzerland 5-0 Saturday after drawing Ghana 1-1 Wednesday.
  • Washington Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra said midfielder Allie Long sprained her knee in U.S. Women’s National Team camp and is “75 pecent likely” for Saturday’s home match against FC Gold Pride.
  • Washington’s Nikki Marshall scored her second goal in two games while playing the full 90 minutes up top in the Freedom’s 2-1 loss Sunday to Boston.  Marshall on the switch from defense:”You know, I was drafted as a center back and an outside back and I have just kind of gotten lucky and gotten a great opportunity to play up top and if it falls that way for the rest of the season, then great.  And if it doesn’t, then I am fine with playing defense.”
  • Marshall on the team’s moral:  “I think this is for sure a learning experience.  We have to turn it around right now or we are going downhill.”
  • Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco on Boston’s current run: “It’s a good run but we’ve dug ourselves a pretty big hole.  We’re just starting to see a little bit of light at the end of this thing, so we need to keep playing well and we’ll have a chance to test ourselves against Gold Pride on Wednesday.  This is a big week for us.”
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