OK. A week does not make a season. Refer back to last week’s column and you’ll see how I tore apart the Atlanta Beat for its woeful opening day performance — a 4-1 defeat at home to the Boston Breakers. Seven days later, the Beat managed to survive a Sky Blue FC onslaught and won 1-0 at KSU Soccer Stadium Saturday night.
Call me shameless, but I’d like to take a fraction of the credit for the Beat pulling out a victory, strictly on motivating the team. Of course, I can’t take all the credit. So, if I’m divvying out percentages of credit for Atlanta’s win, it’d break down like so: Giovanni Albanese, 10 percent; Meghan Lenczyk, 12 percent; coach James Galanis, 15 percent; Allison Lipsher, 22 percent; and sheer luck, 41 percent.
Sky Blue, as they’ve done on countless occasions against Atlanta, dominated the match. But instead of pulling out a 1-0 win, they were on the wrong side of a 1-0 result. Lenczyk scored an unassisted goal in the 51st minute — one of only four Beat shots — but it was Lipsher who stopped all 11 SBFC shots on target. In total, the inaugural season champion took 18 shots, but had no result.
“You have to remember that feeling of disappointment so you will do everything in your power to keep it from happening again,” commented SBFC Jim Gabarra after the match.
Shocking? Yes. But what’s more shocking at this juncture of the season is the wackiness that has gone on.
Of course, the Beat being completely dominated for two straight weeks and holding onto a tie for the top spot in Women’s Professional Soccer is surprising. But on the flip side of the Beat is Sky Blue, who held a 2-0 lead in its first match and proceeded to give up two, second-half goals to Philadelphia and tie, followed by the debacle in Georgia.
Boston was as dominant as a team can be in the opening week, trouncing the Beat, but reverted in week two against Western New York. Speaking of WNY – the latest WPS expansion club – they hit the ground running, winning 2-1 in Boston without Marta. (Marta is in WNY as of Monday, and brought her Brazilian teammate Maurine with her.) Christine Sinclair and Gemma Davison picked up the slack for the Flash.
Most notably in the Breakers home loss was the ineptitude of the offense, just a week after putting in four against Atlanta. Jordan Angeli scored early in that match and later suffered a season-ending injury. At the time of Angeli’s departure (Boston was leading 2-0), the Breakers had already imposed their will on the young Beat squad, and followed it with two more goals while allowing a late tally. Without Angeli, an unsuspecting offensive star as a rookie last season, the Breakers lack the finishing touch.
Kelly Smith is the Breakers best player, but when asked to be the goal scorer — she did score a stoppage time goal in the loss to WNY — the team is missing a playmaker in the middle. And for some reason Lauren Cheney cannot produce as the go-to offensive player. All the Breakers could muster is eight shots, four of which hit the target.
“We’ll get better and hopefully we’ll get some results,” remarked Breakers coach Tony DiCicco after the match. Boston will need to reinvent its offense to get better and get the results they are looking for.
And, on a side note, the Philadelphia Independence-magicJack contest scheduled for Saturday night in Chester, Penn., was postponed. It marked the first time a game was postponed in the two-plus seasons of WPS.
What more can happen as the season progresses? Stay tuned.
Things to look for this week
magicJack opens up at FAU Soccer Field this Saturday at 7 p.m.
Marta expected to make her debut as WNY heads to Georgia to battle the Beat in the WPS Game of the Week on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Western New York
Sky Blue FC
Player of the Week
Allison Lipsher, Atlanta Beat (11 saves, clean sheet)
Quote of the Week
“We’re only going to improve with more time together,” courtesy of Sinclair after the WNY Flash win. Of all the wackiness that has gone on in two weeks, the Flash winning is as normal as it gets. And Sinclair saying they’ll just be getting better can’t bode well for the rest of WPS.
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