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Philadelphia Independence 2 – 0 Boston Breakers

Photo: Michael Long

After being rained out three weeks ago, the Independence finally got their home opener and made it count in a 2-0 victory over the Boston Breakers on Sunday night. In a rematch of last season’s WPS semi-final, the Independence were in the driver’s seat from the opening whistle. Tasha Kai was involved from the start, driving at the Boston back line and was unlucky not to open the scoring on 17 minutes when she was put clean through on goal down the left side. Only a good save from Boston keeper Alyssa Neaher kept the score level.

Boston found the Philadelphia back line difficult to break down, but Kelly Smith’s long range shot forced Nicole Barnhart into a good save on 32 minutes. But Kai continued to threaten, and would be rewarded on 42 minutes when she fought off the challenge of Ifeoma Dieke after a ball over the top from Leigh Ann Robinson. With only Neaher to beat, her right-footed shot hit off the inside of the post only to come back into the six yard box. Kai, following her own shot, beat Dieke to the ball again and laid out for a brave diving header, finding the empty goal.

The second half was more of the same with Philadelphia unlucky not to score on multiple occasions. The impressive Christina DiMartino was a constant threat, with the diminutive midfielder driving forward and almost always finding teammates in good spots. The Independence’s second goal was her creation. Picking up the ball just inside the Boston half, she drove down the right wing beating two players before cutting inside 25 yards from goal, where she laid the ball through for Amy Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ shot was again well saved by Neaher, but Lianne Sanderson was following the play and was able to turn the ball into the empty net from a difficult angle. It was a well deserved goal for Sanderson, who was the engine in the midfield all match.

Laura Del Rio was introduced on 60 minutes with Kai giving way, and she proved to be a spark off of the bench. She was clean through twice within ten minutes of coming on, finding plenty of room down the right side, but twice she was denied by Neaher.

As Boston started to commit more players forward to try and find a way back into the game, the Independence counterattack found more and more space to look for a third goal. But it was not to be and the score finished 2-0. Philadelphia will be content with the result and getting their first win of the season. Some of the defensive mishaps that characterized their first two games were gone and only a lack of finishing kept the game from being a blow out.

Independence:  Nicole Barnhart, Leigh Ann Robinson, Nikki Krzysik, Kia McNeill, Holmfridur Magnusdottir (Megan Rapinoe, 82′), Jen Buczkowski, Tina DiMartino, Lianne Sanderson (Lori Lindsey, 65′), Sinead Farrelly, Tasha Kai (Laura del Rio, 60′), Amy Rodriguez

Boston: Alyssa Naeher, Amy LePeilbet (Taryn Hemmings, 67′), Rachel Buehler, Ifeoma Dieke, Stephanie Cox (Niki Cross, 77′), Alex Scott, Leslie Osborne (Kiersten Dallstream, 62′), Keelin Winters, Kelley O’Hara, Lauren Cheney, Kelly Smith

The defense is starting to gel

After giving up some questionable goals against Sky Blue in the opener and away to Florida last week, the defense was stout throughout the match. McNeil and Krzysik seemed very comfortable together in the middle, winning almost every head ball and cutting out through balls before they were dangerous. Magnusdottir and Robinson were reliable defensively and found good places to join in the attack, even if Magnusdottir often failed to find the final pass. Jen Buczkowski was instrumental in breaking up Boston attacks before they even got to the Independence back line and covered well when the backs did get forward. Gone were the miscommunications and blown coverages of the first two games.

(Counter)Attacking with a purpose

Independence coach Paul Riley admitted after the match that his game plan involved Philadelphia dictating the pace of play. Knowing that Boston wanted to control possession and slow the game down, he had his team applying high pressure and looking to break on the counterattack. This proved to be a successful plan with the speed of Rodriguez, Kai and Del Rio combined with the industry of Sanderson and DiMartino too much for Boston to handle.

The WPS could use your help

I haven’t seen the final attendance number for the night, but the crowd seemed sparse on a beautiful Mother’s Day evening. But the folks that did come out were treated to a quality match and a great performance from the home side. Flowing midfield moves, hard nose tackles, and great goals were all on display. So when Marta and a whole cast of women’s soccer all stars travel to town in a few weeks to face Philadelphia’s own cast of all stars, think about buying a ticket.

Player Ratings

Nicole Barnhart – 8

Not a lot of work for Barnhart but kept her back line organized and made the saves when she was called upon, including a good stop on Smith.

Leigh Ann Robinson – 7

Nothing too flashy from the right back and  she didn’t  jump into the attack much. Provided a good ball over the top for Kai’s goal though and was reliable defensively for 90 minutes.

Nikki Krzysik – 8

The captain looked cool and comfortable cutting out the Boston attack. Her partnership with Kia McNeill looked very well organized and Boston found little room behind the back line.

Kia McNeill – 8

Solid stuff from the other center back. She was strong in the air and confident in her tackles.

Holmfridur Magnusdottir – 6

Reliable defensively in her first start of the season. But the Icelandic international was less successful in her forays forward. More likely to push up than Robinson, but too often her passes misfired or she was dispossessed trying to take players on.

Jen Buczkowski – 7

Nothing flashy from the holding center mid but was solid in breaking up Boston’s attack all night long. Kept Kelly Smith at bay when she drifted into the midfield and gave Lianne Sanderson room to operate.

Christina DiMartino – 9

A  constant threat cutting inside from the wide right position. Her driving runs opened up space and she constantly picked out teammates with good balls. Created the second goal with a great run and through ball.

Lianne Sanderson – 8

Fitting of her #10 shirt on the evening. Creative in the midfield all night, picking up the ball from the back and finding strikers in good positions. Neat finish on the goal.

Sinead Farrelly – 7

Solid if unspectacular stuff from the rookie. Seemed to fair better after switching from the right to the left after about 30 minutes. Had some good combination play with Sanderson and Amy Rodriguez.

Tasha Kai – 8

A pest from the opening whistle, throwing her body around, challenging for every ball, and even tracking back defensively to win back possession. Probably should have scored on 32 minutes but a great hardworking goal minutes later. Sebastien Le Toux would have been proud of the effort and industry.

Amy Rodriguez – 7

A bit of an off night for the USWNT striker. But was dangerous with the ball when driving at defenders. Worked hard for 90 minutes and like Kai even tracked back well to defend. Probably should have finished before Sanderson tapped in her rebound.

Subs

Laura Del Rio – 7

Great effort, mediocre finishing from Del Rio. Was clean through on goal twice but denied both times by (quality) saves from Neaher.

Lori Lindsey – 7

Came in for the hardworking Sanderson on 64 minutes and picked up right where she left off. Lindsey sprayed the ball around the field, working well with Del Rio and DiMartino to constantly threaten Boston on the counterattack.

Megan Rapinoe – n/a

Came in late to sure up the left back position.

One Comment

  1. -nickt.- says:

    stoked. gonna try to make it out for some games.

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