Well, three World Cup games and a W-League match were the highlights of the day. More on the World Cup later, but here is a recap of a dramatic showdown between first and second in the Atlantic Division as Atlanta visited Tampa Bay...
Streak ends in Tampa
The Tampa Bay Hellenic found themselves in a deep hole early Saturday evening at the Ed Radice Sports Complex and were unable to find a way out as the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks held on despite a second half send-off for a 2-0 victory. The defeat was the first for Tampa at home since their debut in 2008.
The Silverbacks have long been one of the dominant teams in the W-League Atlantic Division, but there had been one thing eluding them since 2008, a victory in Tampa. The Hellenic had previously shutout the Silverbacks for a 1-0 victory in 2009 and a scoreless draw in 2008.
On Saturday, the drought came to end after 31 seconds. Immediately following the opening whistle, Nkese Udoh sent the ball from deep on the left flank to the head of Megan Tomlinson inside the six for the opening strike of the contest.
Eight minutes later, Atlanta doubled the advantage when a loose ball in the midfield was won in a 50-50 challenge by Kelli Corless, who popped the ball up over the defense. The bounce proved to be too high for the Tampa keeper, who had come out to the edge of the area, allowing Kyri-Ann Harbrueger to run by her and tap it in for the easy strike.
Tampa Bay's first chance came in the 19th minute when a long aerial switch was sent to Tahnai Annis, who collected the ball nicely only to be denied on the shot.
Harbrueger nearly had a second in the 20th minute for Atlanta when her chance deep in the area was stuffed by the keeper, sending Tampa on a quick counter to the other end. Chelsea Klotz was virtually all alone on a breakaway but her chance was put wide by the netminder.
While the Silverbacks controlled most of the possession, the Hellenic were beginning to see opportunities at a greater rate. in the 27th minute Shameka Gordon drove down the right side and got to runaway ball before it hit the end line, ripping a narrow ball across the goal that Annis, on the far side of the six, sent wide of goal.
In the 34th minute a long free kick from midfield was headed across the area to the right side, where Sarah Chapman sent a header toward the far post that forced a fantastic diving save.
Three minutes later Gordon went on an adventure with the ball, dribbling through the Atlanta defense from the middle of the field before being dispossessed by a double-team in the left corner. The ball, however, came out to Annis, who took a couple touches before launching a shot that soared past the far upper corner from 22 yards out.
The second half started just as dramatically as the first with the Silverbacks losing Kristin Garman to a red card. Four minutes into the second session a long ball put Klotz through on an apparent breakaway only to be taken down by Garman, who immediately saw a red card for denying the goal scoring opportunity.
Despite having an extra player for the remainder of the match, the Hellenic were unable to find a way past the Silverbacks, probing the defense endlessly for the final 40 minutes.
Atlanta did well to stymie the attack with only one good opportunity coming for the hosts as Gordon drove in on goal from the right in the 66th minute only to see her shot from 10 yards stuffed.
The loss ended Tampa Bay's 15-game unbeaten streak at home, a record of 11-0-4 since losing, 1-0, to Bradenton on May 11, 2008 in their franchise debut.
Tampa Bay, who remain second in the division (3-3-1, 10 points), hit the road for their next match, a July 10 contest against the Hampton Roads Piranhas, who will be Hellenic's next and final home opponent of the regular season July 17. The trip, following a few weeks off, will also feature a meeting with Northern Virginia July 11.
The division-leading Silverbacks (5-1-1, 16 points) next take the pitch Friday, June 25 at home against Northern Virginia. They finish the campaign against Charlotte, whom they face at home July 10 and on the road in the regular season finale, July 17, a week later.