Saturday, July 17

Tampa Bay Takes Season Finale 3-0

The last time out at home, a goal in the first minute cost the Tampa Bay Hellenic the match against Atlanta. In their 2010 regular season finale Saturday evening at the Ed Radice Sports Complex the Hellenic used a first-minute goal to propel them to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Hampton Roads Piranhas.

The plot unraveled immediately for the Piranhas as an own goal left them trailing after just 37 seconds of play. Tampa Bay striker Shameka Gordon was in a dangerous position in the box, but slipped on the play, giving the Piranhas the ball. The clearance, however, was rushed and the ball smacked off a teammate and surprised back-up goalkeeper Whitney Beverly as it rolled into the back of the net.

The rest of the half saw both teams probing one another with the Hellenic getting the better of the chances. Tampa Bay’s Jasmine Johnson sent a first-time effort rolling wide off a low cross from the right.

Meanwhile, the Hellenic defense kept the Piranhas offense limited to long-range efforts as Rachel Gerdin tried twice from distance in the first 18 minutes.

In the 19th minute Tahnai Annis was left alone on the right flank for Tampa Bay. She challenged a defender and created some space to the inside before letting loose a swerving shot over the keeper from outside the area that flew just by the far upper corner.

Kara Cooper and Kirby Stenard sent two more Piranha shots off target before Annis once again threatened on another run from the right as she drove to goal before sending a shot from the edge of the box that Beverly made an excellent diving save on in the 28th minute.

The half closed with hearts skipping in stoppage time as Gordon and Johnson played a nice give-and-go on the right wing that led to an opportunity on the far side for Jo Dragotta, who put her effort wide.

Five minutes into the second half Dragotta thought she made up for the miss by heading a cross into the goal only to see the offside flag in the air. Three minutes later another Hellenic chance went for naught when a ball over the top beat the defender and left Johnson all alone with the keeper, but her quick, hard shot was stuffed by goalkeeper Victoria Johnson, who came on at the break.

The long-awaited Hellenic goal, however, finally came in the 68th minute as Tampa Bay’s Johnson slipped a shot in from the edge of the box on her final touch of the game as her substitution was pending on the sideline.

Four minutes later defender Angelique Waller found herself up in the left corner where she beat her defender twice to create space for a cross that soared to the head of Ari Dorr 13 yards out to make it 3-0.

It looked like Hampton Roads would spoil the shutout with their first goal against the Hellenic this year as a controversial penalty call sent the Piranhas to the spot when Cooper was taken down in the box in the 75th minute. Tampa Bay won, 2-0, in Virginia Beach a week ago in their first meeting of the year.

Kathleen Winsper, with no run-up to the ball, sent the shot off the top corner of the right post, however. Despite the penalty miss, the ricochet provided two more chances as the first attempt from the left side by Allison Belsterling was stopped by the keeper, who recovered well, and the rebound effort by Julia Doolittle being blocked by a defender.

The game wrapped up the 2010 season for both clubs as they finished out of contention for the division’s two playoff berths. Tampa Bay improved to 5-4-1 for the year while the Piranhas, the league’s oldest franchise, finished the year 2-6-2. Tampa finished one point behind second-place Charlotte, who fell, 2-1, to division champion Atlanta Saturday evening in the battle for the top seed.

Thursday, July 15

US Under-20’s Underwhelming

The first day of group play for the United States in the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup kicked off Wednesday with a big thud as the US women fell flat against, ironically, Ghana in a 1-1 draw. The result leaves them surprisingly trailing in the tournament thus far as South Korea dominated Switzerland in a performance that set them as the new favorites to win the group.

Seven minutes into their first-ever U-20 FIFA World Championship appearance the Black Princesses took a unexpected lead against the Americans on a stunning 30-yard strike from Elizabeth Cudjoe that found the inside of the far post.

The rest of the half was a fairly balanced affair as Ghana managed to balance maintaining their lead with probing the US for a second goal. The Americans meanwhile began to find some rhythm in their passing, but it would take the oppressive summer conditions in Germany to lend a hand as the 12th player. The fitness of the players for Ghana began to slide significantly in the second half, allowing the US to find more uncontested space for its possession game.

Although the US was in control of the second half, it was a counter led by the speedy Maya Hayes who burned her way quickly up the field before squaring the ball past the stranded keeper to naturalized Canadian Sydney Leroux for a controversial equalizer as replays showed that she may have been a hair offside on the play.

Give Ghana credit though, they still continued to play with decent possession after the 70th minute strike despite fitness concerns, not only maintaining the result, but keeping the US back defensively as they created several scoring opportunities. Although Hayes’s speed and Leroux’s finish were critical in snaring the draw, the play of goalkeeper Bianca Henninger was the most valuable performance for the Americans as she made several key diving saves to keep Ghana’s tally to just one.

The US will need Henninger to maintain that level of play moving forward as South Korea, their third opponent in the group phase was brilliant in the other match of the day, drubbing the Swiss, semifinalists in the UEFA U-19 Championship a year ago, by a 4-0 scoreline that was not reflective of the dominant performance they delivered.

Ji So-Yun, after hitting the post from long-range early, struck for three goals on the day as the South Koreans easily moved through and around the Swiss during the match with speed and precise skill. The Koreans finished the contest looking as though they could play another 90 minutes.

The lone bright spot for Switzerland was the play of WPS teenager Romona Bachmann from the Atlanta Beat, who was clearly the fastest and one of the most skilled players on the squad. Unfortunately, she found herself often on her own as the team had difficulty providing support out of the defensive stance that South Korea had forced them into.

The good news for the US is that they get Switzerland next. Likely dejected from the severe defeat and worn out from chasing the South Koreans, the US should be able to post a victory to move into second as the Koreans will likely roll to another win against Ghana, who were left exhausted. Day three in the group will be important for the Americans with the draw in their opener. The group’s top two teams will then meet Group C’s duo. That group opened play today also with England playing to a 1-1 draw against Nigeria and the Mexicans battling to a 3-3 draw against Japan, falling behind early before taking a 3-1 lead before the break. CONCACAF’s other representative, Costa Rica, unfortunately drew host Germany for their opener and were unable to overcome a two-goal deficit in the first 16 minutes as they fell, 4-2, yesterday.

Tuesday, July 13

Flash Now First in Power Rankings

It has been an eventful past two weeks in the W-League. While the teams in the Top 10 are, for the most part, still the same, the order saw a few changes as some clubs experienced defeat for the first time.

Hudson Valley proved to be the recipient of the misfortune suffered by three of the top five as they moved from sixth to third on the list. Ottawa managed to stay level at fourth with their loss, 1-0 on the road, coming to Toronto, who rounded out the last edition of the rankings. Washington's first defeat, 2-0 at the hands of one-win New York, meant a drop to fifth.

Chicago slipped to sixth because of a draw and a loss, but the defeat was to unbeaten Buffalo in a 3-2 affair. With the victory over Chicago after a previous scoreless draw, the Flash moved to the top of the rankings, supplanting Vancouver, who only saw their place taken because of a draw against seventh-ranked Colorado Rush.

The Western Conference (division) is proving to be arguably the most competitive top-to-bottom. Vancouver is the clear leader as the Whitecaps have avoided the high percentage of draws that have occured in the division. A special nod should be given to expansion Santa Clarita, who are the best last-place team. The Blue Heat (2-6-1) have only allowed 15 goals in nine games and sit four points back of second with one game remaining as everyone in the division other than Vancouver has two wins on the year.

At the bottom of the list are the Atlantic duo of Charlotte and Atlanta. The Silverbacks have a two-point edge in the table, but the Lady Eagles won the last meeting Saturday 1-0 in Atlanta to make their SNA ranking debut ahead of their rivals. The two wrap their regular season campaigns in Charlotte in a battle for the division title. Charlotte’s entry in the list came at the expense of Seattle, which lost to Colorado Rush and edged Santa Clarita 2-1.

The SNA W-League Power Rankings

1 – Buffalo Flash (8-0-2): Two shutout wins over third-place Kalamazoo, but more importantly a 3-2 victory against Chicago.

2 – Vancouver Whitecaps (6-0-3): A 2-2 draw against Colorado Rush followed by win over Santa Clarita.

3 – Hudson Valley QLB (9-1-0): One of two teams in the top seven to earn max points in the past two weeks, downing the Valkyries, Wildcats and Magic.

4 – Ottawa Fury (7-1-2): Win over Hamilton came after first loss, a 0-1 decision at Toronto.

5 – Washington Freedom Futures (9-1-1): Three wins against New Jersey trio, but a stunning 2-0 loss in New York to Magic.

6 – Chicago Red Eleven (8-2-2): Three wins tempered by scoreless draw against Laval and 2-3 loss to Buffalo.

7 – Colorado Rush (2-1-5): An enigma - Posted a 1-0 win at Seattle followed by a 2-2 draw in Vancouver only to return to Colorado and play a 1-1 draw at home against Force, who then handed Rush first loss on Monday, 1-0.

8 – Toronto Lady Lynx (6-2-3): Would have climbed higher if last two weeks had not ended with 0-1 loss at Quebec City. Lady Lynx had won, 1-0, versus Ottawa between wins at Rochester and Laval.

9 - Charlotte Lady Eagles (5-2-2): Lingered in contention for the list and finally broke through with 1-0 win against Atlanta after a win in Northern Virginia.

10 – Atlanta Silverbacks (6-2-1): Still lead Charlotte in table, but finale pits the two sides against one another for division's top spot.