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The Opening Whistle: Women's World Cup fast approaching

Dan Lauletta

The World Cup opens in nine days and there is a distinct feeling of winding down in WPS where four games remain before a league-imposed hiatus to allow the group stage to play out.  Of course almost all WPS players represented in Germany are expected to play beyond the group stage.  And in reality, the break from WPS play will be only 11 days, with just one full weekend off.

The time off is not exactly equitable either.  The Flash are already finished until July 9 and the Breakers can say the same following Sunday’s match in Atlanta.  The other four teams must play next week before their short break begins.

As for the World Cup itself, the action kicks off a week from Sunday with a tantalizing match between two-time champion and host Germany facing off against Canada (Nigeria and France will actually play first).  The former is looking to replicate the 1999 World Cup in the US both on and off the field.  Canada, set to host in four years time, is considered a dark horse challenger for the title.  But you don’t need me to tell you about the World Cup.  The Complete Guide to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup will do you just fine.

As for WPS, let’s take a look at how an abbreviated Week 11 is shaking out:

Saturday:  magicJack at Philadelphia Independence

The Independence’s win at Western New York last Sunday was a key for competitive balance heading to the summer and they will be looking to keep the pressure on magicJack, who they trail by two points for second place while conceding a game in hand.  More importantly this is the first of consecutive Saturdays these teams will play in Philadelphia, thanks to a major storm that wiped out the opening match of the season in April.

KEYS TO THE GAME:  magicJack’s defending has not been up to par since the US departures and they figure to be under the gun from an aggressive Independence side short on World Cup absentees.

Sunday:  Boston Breakers (3-5-2, 11 points) at Atlanta Beat (1-7-2, 5 points)

If the Beat lose this game they will go to the World Cup break no closer than seven points out of a playoff spot with seven matches to go.  As an example of their inferiority to the competition, the Breakers have scored one less goal than they have conceded while the Beat is a horrid -16.  Sky Blue is even and the rest of the league is in the positive.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Breakers have actually played better since losing their back line to the World Cup.  Now they’ll have to deal without Kelly Smith and Alex Scott as well.  Can they keep improving or will the Beat sneak in a positive result to stay in touch with the pack?

Three points of interest

1)     magicJack did not make a trade this week, but the last two weeks the players they dealt during the week scored on them at the weekend.  Meghan Klingenberg in fact, was named Player of the Week.  Kasey White also scored against magicJack.

2)     The Breakers have signed goalkeeper Kati Jo Spisak, but she is not on the roster for Sunday’s match.

3)     Even if Brazil reach the last four—which will assure a match on the final weekend—Marta could feasibly miss only one league match if she returns in time for the Flash’s July 17 encounter at Sky Blue.

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