In this week's edition of my Power Rankings, a new team tops the list.
1. CHICAGO RED STARS
If there was ever a breakthrough game for Emma Hayes' Red Stars, this had to be the first. It was an emphatic 4-0 victory over Boston that places Chicago at the top of the Rankings.
No Cristiane? No problem. The Red Stars were red-hot, with or without the Brazilian international on assignment.
Goals by Brittany Klein, Karen Carney, Carli Lloyd, and Megan Rapinoe along with solid defending from Caroline Jonsson paced the home side at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
Hayes was all smiles following the match, which set a new WPS single game record for most goals scored by a team.
“The whole week we have been working on our final third play and our finishing," said the red Stars manager following the match. "All week the press has asked me about our wonderful goal scorers and where have they been; they came and played tonight.
"I thought they turned it on not just with some quality moments but I’m talking about world class finishes.”
The finishing puts Chicago within striking distance of the Los Angeles Sol, with eight points from four matches. The Red Stars have the week off before hosting Sky Blue FC at Toyota Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00PM ET, and will covered by Fox Soccer Channel.
2. LOS ANGELES SOL
Los Angeles is second this week, and the generator was in the form of No. 23, goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
The Canadian international was nothing short of spectacular in a 0-0 draw with St. Louis Athletica at Hermann Stadium, with key saves in the closing stages of the match.
“It was a very difficult game and we had very good chances. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made huge saves for the team,” said Los Angeles Sol manager Abner Rogers following the match. “It was a physical game and St. Louis had that edge on us.
"Overall, it was a very exciting game for the fans.”
In spite of the draw, the Sol remain top of the table, with 10 points from four matches.
With Marta, Camile Abily and Han Duan returning from international duty, the Sol will look to get back on the winning track, starting with the first of a two-match series with the Boston Breakers on Saturday, May 2 at Harvard Stadium.
3. WASHINGTON FREEDOM
Apparently Bridgeview wasn't the only place buzzing with excitement.
The Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland (with the mailing address listed as the nearby unincorporated town of Boyds-that's a little trivia for you, so I stand corrected) seats only 5,126.
But one would imagine that in spite of Jim Gabarra's Washington Freedom playing on the road this week, the atmosphere was as electric, maybe even more so, after they finally got on the win column with a 4-3 goal festival against FC Gold Pride at Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium.
Captain Abby Wambach paced the home team with the first (18') and last (90') goals of the match. Her brace in stoppage time stole three points from the home side, sending raptures of relief through the nation's capital, and waves of despair throughout the Bay Area.
Adding to the scoring feast for the women in red were Lori Lindsey (51') and Allie Long (70').
The Freedom will look to consolidate on their lead against St. Louis Athletica next Saturday at the SoccerPlex. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00PM ET and will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel.
4. SKY BLUE FC
Ian Sawyers' Sky Blue FC was off this week to host a friendly match with W-League stalwarts FC Indiana. Two late goals-an own goal by FC Indiana keeper Sharolta Nonen and a stoppage time winner by Rosana-gave Sky Blue a 2-1 victory against the 2008 runner-ups.
With a renewed sense of confidence, Sky Blue look to translate their friendly into their first W of the season against FC Gold Pride on May 3 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
5. FC GOLD PRIDE
While it was a great day to be a keeper in St. Louis, no one wanted to patrol the nets in Santa Clara.
And certainly no one wanted to be in the shoes of Pride netminder Nicole Barnhart.
Her inability to stop four of five shots on target from the Washington Freedom attack resulted in a 4-3 heartbreaker for the Bay.
What FC Gold Pride lacked in defense, they made up for it offensively.
Down 3-1, goals by Tiffany Weimer (75') and substitute Christine Sinclair (83') secured what looked to be a successful come-from-behind rally by Albertin Montoya's team.
But they could not hold the draw in stoppage time against the visitors, losing on a late Abby Wambach goal.
FC Gold Pride have a chance to stop the bleeding against Sky Blue FC next Sunday at home. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00PM ET.
6. ST. LOUIS ATHLETICA
Jorge Barcellos's Athletica will go down as the first-ever team to hold Los Angeles scoreless this season.
In fact, they could have been the first team to have scored on-and beaten-the Sol, had it not been for Karina LeBlanc adding to their frustrations.
At Hermann Stadium, Athletica looked the better team offensively, outshooting Los Angeles 17-8.
“I didn’t hit [the penalty in the 83rd] where I needed to and LeBlanc was right where I kicked it,” said Chalupny. “That is the way the season has been going.”
Barcellos's call for improvement includes a request for another ingredient: composure.
"I think what is missing is us being calm and tranquil," Barcellos said, following the game. "I think the pressure to score is getting to them.”
The pressure could come to a head when they face the resurging Freedom at the Maryland SoccerPlex on May 2 at 6:00PM ET.
7. BOSTON BREAKERS
Hello, how the Breakers have crashed to Earth. From the top...to the bottom. Boston takes the cellar in this week's rankings.
Tony Dicicco's club was mauled in a Red Star ambush at Toyota Park.
“Chicago was better in every aspect of the game,” admitted the Breakers manager following the match. “We have to extract the lessons learned from this game and get better.”
Perhaps the main reason why the Breakers were powerless against Chicago was because the battery was missing.
That battery's name was Kelly Smith.
Fresh from representing England in an international friendly with Norway, Smith was given a rest for the match.
"If it was a closer game we could have played Kelly, but I didn't want to risk her," explained DiCicco. "It is no excuse [for being blown out by the Red Stars] though.
"There will be times later on this season when we are going to have to play without her as well."
Boston will be looking to flip the OFF switch back to ON against the Los Angeles Sol at Harvard Stadium on May 2 at 7:00PM ET. It will be the first of a back-to-back series against the league leaders.
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