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The Opening Whistle: One week left in a wild regular season

Dan Lauletta

Whatever happens, the 2011-2012 off-season is going to be a wild one.  With WPS essentially greasing the skids to be rid of Dan Borislow after the season, the league will need to secure new investors to expand ahead of what would be a fourth season.  And maybe more poignantly, legal activity between WPS and Borislow could conspire to sink the league.

With many others covering this angle better and more accurately than myself, we will keep the focus here on what is certain to be an exciting final two weeks and playoffs in WPS 2011.

Here’s how this weekend is shaking out:

Saturday:  Western New York Flash (10-2-3, 33 points) at Atlanta Beat (1-11-4, 7 points)

The Flash know they’ll get a full week off after the regular season so they are free to push it to the limit in an effort to finish first overall.  Some might look at this as three easy points, but the match against a clearly inferior opponent, on the road, in the middle of a long stretch of soccer, is always one to be feared.  The Beat meanwhile have not scored in 587 minutes, dating back to June 11.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: The Beat will have Carli Lloyd back from suspension, but if the Flash play close to what they are capable of the Beat will remain stuck on one win for the season.

Saturday:  magicJack (7-6-2, 22 points) at Boston Breakers (4-8-4, 16 points)

Breakers coach Tony DiCicco admitted as much in comments posted on The Equalizer when he said, “We’ve just had a tough year.”  That said they are still alive and if they win this one they can seal a playoff berth by winning the season finale against Sky Blue in a week’s time.  A win by four goals or more also keeps slim hope alive to be home for a playoff game.  But if they draw or lose and Sky Blue fares better, the season is over.  magicJack are in the playoffs with a draw.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: DiCicco lamented his inability to get Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney on the pitch at the same time much in 2011.  Both are questionable for this one so it is not likely they will play much together.  More importantly the Breakers underperforming back line must play its best matches of the season to get them into the post-season.

Sunday:  Sky Blue FC (5-7-4, 19 points) at Philadelphia (10-3-3, 33 points)

The Independence likely need to win this and the finale to have a chance to win the league, and even at that will have to hope the Flash get tripped up somewhere along the way.  Sky Blue meanwhile gets in the playoffs by beating the Breakers next weekend so they may not be armed with the urgency that usually accompanies the penultimate match of the season.

KEYS TO THE MATCH: Anita Asante sat out Wednesday and remains questionable.  Sky Blue’s back line is exponentially better with the English international on it.  If she does not play, look for the Independence to use the speed of Tasha Kai and Amy Rodriguez to exploit an distinct advantage in back.

Three points of interest

1)     Karina LeBlanc’s new contract with magicJack leads us to believe Hope Solo is down for the season.  Unfortunately magicJack does not make comments about player news.

2)     It looks like Ali Krieger will be staying in Germany, denying WPS the best US eligible outside back for at least one more season.

3)     Flash and Canada forward Christine Sinclair said she was surprised to hear of Carolina Morace’s resignation as Canada coach.

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