The second week of the 2012 Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League season concluded on Sunday, May 20, with all eight teams having seen action. Boston Breakers and New York Fury improved their records to 2-0, while New England Mutiny and Chicago Red Stars picked up their first wins of the season.
The week also saw the official end to Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), which announced on Friday that the league had officially ceased operations. WPS had originally suspended the 2012 season shortly after the 2012 WPS Draft in order to deal with a variety of issues. The end of the WPS leaves the WPSL Elite as the highest level women’s soccer in the United States.
Friday, May 18
The week’s competition began on Friday night with Boston hosting FC Indiana in the Breakers’ home opener at Dilboy Stadium. The sold-out and standing-room-only crowd saw Australian internationals Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt combine for three goals and one assist as they took a 4-1 victory over a team that includes several members of the Haiti Women’s National Team. Media from as far away as Haiti, as well as Haiti FA President Yves Jean-Bart, joined over 2300 fans for the match.
Boston opened the scoring when Katie Schoepfer pounced on a rebound from a Cat Whitehill shot and fired it in for the goal. Two minutes later FC Indiana’s Sophia Batard fed Nadia Libertin who chipped the ball over Breakers’ goalkeeper Alice Binns to tie the game. Simon got the first of her two goals just minutes later on a give-and-go with Schoepfer, then followed it up with a header off a pass from Jessica Lucinski for her second of the night. In the second half Simon teamed up with Butt for the last of Boston’s goals.
Saturday, May 19
Two matches on Saturday pitted New England Mutiny against ASA Chesapeake Charge and, in an Empire State battle, Western New York Flash against New York Fury. Mutiny and Charge were coming off though losses the week before, while Fury and Flash were both looking for win number two on the season.
New England earned their first victory of the season, dropping Charge in a 4-2 game that saw the visitors cut the lead to a single goal twice. Mutiny got goals from Jenny Maurer and Tiya Gallegos to open a 2-0 lead, but Charge fought back with a goal from Shannon Collins. New England regained their two-goal margin when Riley Houle sank a penalty kick shortly before halftime for a 3-1 lead.
Chesapeake came out firing in the second half, with Sophia Reid chipping a shot over the head of goalkeeper Alexa Gaul to again cut the lead to one. Both defenses then held firm until nearly the end when Becca Mays netted an insurance goal in stoppage time for Mutiny.
In the New York Derby, two-time WPS Coach of the Year Paul Riley led New York Fury into Rochester to take on Western New York Flash in a match that had its share of déjà vu. In 2011 Riley brought Philadelphia Independence to contend for the WPS Championship, losing to Flash in penalty kicks. Four members of that championship team were in place for the WNY Flash, while seven former Independence players were on the field for NY Fury.
Flash opened up the game strong, forcing Fury goalkeeper Brittany Cameron to make a diving save in the first five minutes and then maintaining possession for most of the first half. However, Cameron and the Fury back line – all WPS veterans – kept the home team off the scoreboard. In the second half Fury finally broke the stalemate when Merritt Mathias, who scored a hat trick the first week of the season, fed Brittany Taylor for the lone goal of the match.
Sunday, May 20
On Sunday the last two WPSL Elite Teams to begin their seasons hit the pitch as the Chicago Red Stars hosted FC Indiana and New England celebrated their win over Charge by traveling south to take on Philadelphia Fever. For Chicago it was a chance to renew a Midwest rivalry with Indiana, a team they saw during the 2011 WPSL season. For Fever it would be their first major test against top-level competition.
The Red Stars opened strong, controlling play for much of the first half, but mistakes allowed Indiana two strong counterattacks early on that nearly led to a goal. Most of the time, though, the visitors seemed content to keep a full eleven behind the ball and wait for the counter opportunity. Finally, just before the end of the half, Lori Chalupny fed a through ball to Julianne Sitch who one-timed a shot into the net for a 1-0 halftime lead for Chicago.
In the second half both teams upped the intensity of play, but Chicago was still able to keep much of the action in Indiana’s end of the field. Then with time almost out in the match the Red Stars’ Lauren Fowlkes was pulled down in the box by the Indiana defense, who were whistled for the play. On the ensuing penalty kick, Fowlkes beat the Indiana keeper for the final 2-0 score.
After an emotional match on Saturday, Mutiny took on a fresh Philadelphia Fever Sunday at Washington Twp. High School. New England’s Kate Howarth challenged the Fever’s Michelle Dalton early, but the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year came up with a big save. Minutes later Philadelphia’s Dylan Jordan broke in unassisted on the right flank to score Fever’s first goal of WPSL Elite League competition. The hosts continued to carry play through much of the half.
As the first period wound down, Mutiny began to catch fire, with Vicki DiMartino and Houle both being denied by Dalton. Then shortly before halftime Houle fed a pass in to Gallegos who slotted a shot past Dalton for the 1-1 tie. Fever came close to adding a second, but the half ended with the two sides even.
New England came out in the second half determined to take the lead, which they did when a DiMartino shot was deflected to Gallegos, who capitalized on the opportunity. Then as it was looking like Mutiny would get their second three points, Myriam Bouchard headed in a corner kick to put the match even again at 2-2. Minutes later the whistled sounded and the WPSL Elite Leagues first draw was on the books.
Week 3 action will open on Wednesday, May 23, when New York Fury celebrate their home opener with a game against Boston Breakers. It will be the first meeting between the two undefeated teams, although with a number of former WPS foes on the field it may have a somewhat familiar feel to it. The Breakers currently sit just above New York on goals scored, but the teams are matched in other categories.
Friday, May 25, will see a Chicago-Indiana rematch, this time at FC Indiana’s home field in South Bend, Ind. Shek Borkowski’s team will be looking for their first win of the season as well as a measure of revenge against the Red Stars.
On Saturday, May 26, Boston will return home to host their 2011 WPS foes Western New York Flash. Aaran Lines and the Flash will be looking for redemption after their loss to Paul Riley’s New York squad, while Boston will be coming of what should be a tough match with Fury.
The weekend concludes with ASA Chesapeake Charge visiting Philadelphia Fever on Sunday, May 27. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season, with Charge hungry after an 0-2 start and Fever coming off a come-from-behind draw with New England Mutiny. Mutiny have the week off to regroup and will resume play on Saturday, June 2.