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The Opening Whistle: Atlanta draws big crowd to KSU

Dan Lauletta

Lost in the madness over the recent magicJack vs the World showdown, last Sunday was a good day at the office for the Atlanta Beat.  Buoyed by a series of promotions the Beat drew 6,125 to KSU Stadium.  It was by far the biggest WPS crowd of the season and the second biggest Beat crowd at KSU.

“We had to do something to get a little spark,” Beat owner T Fitz Johnson said.  “We had a great night except for the result.    Everyone did a great job.  The players on both teams are all very excited about playing when it’s full.”

The downside was the Beat’s failure to hold a 1-0 halftime lead despite playing with a woman advantage.  Johnson though, is realistic about the connection, or lack thereof, between winning and attendance.

“I don’t know that winning plays that much into it,” he said.  “I think as the league matures, the money will get bigger, and there will be more pressure to win.”

One of the hidden detriments of pushing for a large crowd is that in can cannibalize future crowds if too many once-a-season customers elect to attend the same match.  Johnson acknowledges this could be an issue for the Beat, but said getting people to come back to games is not nearly as difficult as getting them there in the first place.

“We put three surveys out (after the game),” he said.  “One thing we don’t struggle with is people enjoying themselves and wanting to come back.”

Next up in terms of home games for the Beat is a June 11 matchup against magicJack.  That night maybe the curiosity factor will help boost attendance yet again.

As for this week, here’s how Week 7 is shaking out:

Saturday:  Atlanta Beat (1-4-1, 4 points) at Sky Blue FC (0-3-1, 1 point)

Sky Blue return home for the first time since opening night and are desperate for three points.  The Beat have fallen on hard times of late and were dominated in the second half at home to the Independence despite being up a player throughout.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: Sky Blue needs to finish.  Plain and simple.

Sunday:  Philadelphia Independence (2-1-1, 7 points) at Boston Breakers (2-4-0, 6 points

Tony DiCicco says the Breakers are “close” to getting it together, but it hasn’t happened yet and they will need a better performance if they are to reverse the 2-0 defeat they suffered two weeks ago in Philadelphia.  Both teams could be down key players.  Kia McNeill is serving a red card suspension for Philadelphia while Ifeoma Dieke and Amy LePeilbet are both banged up and could miss the match for Boston.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: The Breakers are another club that needs to finish, and with all of their World Cup related issues they really have yet to find an answer for the absence of Jordan Angeli.  The Independence are back to playing well so the onus is on the Breakers to change things up on their end.

Sunday:  magicJack (3-0-0, 8 points) at Western New York Flash (4-0-1, 13 points)

Maybe the most anticipated game in WPS history pits the Flash against the undefeated magicJack.  Storylines abound here from magicJack’s recent point penalty assessed by the league to their star Abby Wambach driving ticket sales in her native Rochester, NY.  It will also be the first chance for anyone to see magicJack on television and it just happens to be a battle between the top two sides in WPS at the moment.  Finally, magicJack has no known head coach after the departure of Mike Lyons in favor of “keeping it in house” and having existing staff and senior players lead the way the rest of 2011.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: Lindsay Tarpley is down, probably for the season, and Christie Rampone is injured so magicJack will be shorthanded.  The Flash meanwhile are back at full strength.

Three points of interest

1)     Johnson dispelled the notion WPS panicked when they brought on magicJack owner Dan Borislow and said he hopes the club will be cooperating with league policy the rest of the way.

2)     Expansion is still much bandied about in WPS circles, but it is sure looking more and more like 2013 before any new teams come on board.  Whether the league lasts until then is another story, but for the time being, interested parties are watching and observing.

3)     Sometimes nothing is indeed better than something.  magicJack now has a website, but its incomplete state including a partial roster and a news section with nothing dated after December 3, 2010 might do more damage than having no site at all.

Roster Report:

Atlanta Beat @ Sky Blue FC (May 21, 2011)

Atlanta Beat
Injured: Heather Mitts
Not rostered: Colleen Flanagan, Katie Fraine, Angela Salem, Kylie Wright

Sky Blue FC
Injured: Lindsey Johnson
Questionable: Danielle Johnson
Probable: Kendall Fletcher
Not rostered: Kristin Arnold, Michelle Wenino, Erin Guthrie, Jennie Clark

Philadelphia Independence @ Boston Breakers (May 22, 2011)

Philadelphia Independence
Unavailable: Veronica Boquete
Injured: Lauren Fowlkes, Allison Falk
Suspended: Kia McNeill
Not rostered: Danesha Adams, Lauren Barnes, Gina DiMartino, Robyn Jones

Boston Breakers
Injured: Kelsey Davis, Jordan Angeli
Questionable: Ifeoma Dieke
Probable: Amy LePeilbet
Not rostered: Elli Reed, Claire Zimmeck, Taryn Hemmings

magicJack @ Western New York Flash (May 22, 2011)

Injured: Lindsay Tarpley, Christie Rampone
Not rostered: Brett Maron, Kacey White, Amanda DaCosta, Omolyn Davis, Lydia Vandenberg, Sophie Schmidt

Western New York Flash
Injured: Kaley Fountain
Not rostered: Ashleigh Bowers, Maurine Concalves, Alex Sahlen, Julianne Sitch


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