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Philadelphia Independence 2 – 1 Sky Blue FC

Photo: Michael Long

A stoppage time goal from Lianne Sanderson kept the Independence in the race for a first place finish in WPS on Sunday night at Widener University. Tasha Kai gave Philly the lead on 17 minutes with a wonderful strike from distance only to see her opener cancelled out seven minutes later by an Eniola Aluko goal. Sky Blue was forced to play almost the entire second half down to 10 players after Carrie Dew was sent off for her second bookable offense.

Philadelphia is now tied on top of the table with the Western New York Flash on 33 points, with the Flash having a game in hand. That game will be played on Wednesday when WNY travels to Florida to take on magicJack. The Independence will have to hope for a magicJack win, and then go to Florida and win on Sunday themselves. The Independence hold the tiebreak if the teams tie for the top spot. Sky Blue meanwhile will have a winner take all final match in Boston next Sunday, with the winner securing the last playoff spot.

A formation change and an exchange of goals

Paul Riley put out a 4-2-3-1 formation for the first time this season, with Joanna Lohman joining Jen Buczkowski in the defensive midfield. Tasha Kai was the lone striker, supported by Christina DiMartino, Vera Boquete, and Danesha Adams. Lohman looked comfortable in the holding role, linking up play from the back as well as breaking up the Sky Blue attack.

Philadelphia started the brighter of the two teams. On just 3 minutes, Boquete was fouled just outside the Sky Blue box for Dew’s first yellow card. The ever dangerous Spaniard dusted herself off and went close with the free kick, forcing Jenni Brannan into a good save.

Tasha Kai’s 9th goal of the season was one of her best. A bouncing ball over the top looked to elude the speedy striker when it bounced over her head, but she pulled up her run, took a touch to settle the ball and unleashed a fierce 25-yard drive over Brannan and into the top corner.

Aluko answered back with a well worked team goal on 24 minutes. She exchanged passes with Tobin Heath through the center of the field and found herself in on goal from the edge of the area. She made no mistake firing a low drive to the left of Nicole Barnhart.

Red card changes the game and Sanderson finds the late winner

Dew was sent off on 49 minutes after again tangling with Boquete. The defender could have no argument after coming up high and late on the tackle. Philadelphia looked to pounce on the numerical advantage when Amy Rodriguez and Laura del Rio were introduced. Rodriguez looked a different player from her disappointing effort last week and she was almost rewarded with a great goal on 67 minutes. She found space to put a shot in from 12 yards from the left of Brannan’s goal. Her right footed curler beat the keeper but rang the inside of the far post, bouncing straight back to Brannan.

Brannan looked to have done enough to preserve the tie with fantastic saves on Rodriguez again on 77 minutes and del Rio in the 85th. But Philadelphia would not be denied. A bouncing ball in the box found its way to Lohman who’s close range shot was again kept out by Brannin. Brannin made the save but she couldn’t handle the rebound, which bounced straight to Sanderson who knocked into the empty net. There was a hint of offsides but with players falling all over the box, it would have been a difficult call to make.

Riley noted that if the Flash can beat magicJack on Wednesday, he believed they would also win their regular season finale at home against last place Atlanta on Sunday. He said he would take the opportunity to rest some of his regulars in the Independence’s finale, mentioning specifically that Buczkowski, DiMartino, Adams, and center back Nikki Krzysik, have all played a lot of minutes this season. Rookies Lauren Barnes and Lauren Fowlkes could see their first action of the season if Riley elects to rest some regulars.

Riley also seemed confident in his formation and line up choices on the evening, saying that it would be possible to see them duplicated in the playoffs. An interesting note from Riley after the game involving Rodriguez and Kai: “I think they’ve probably proven they can’t play together and it’s been disappointing really. I don’t know if we’ll be able to play the two of them together which is what we were hoping to do at the beginning of the season.” It’s a shame that two such quality players can’t seem to make things work between them, but to have either of them coming off the bench in the second half of any match is a valuable asset to have.

Player Ratings

GK Nicole Barnhart – 8

Not a whole lot to do for the goalkeeper but kept her box tidy. Probably didn’t have a chance on the Aluko goal.

D Leigh Ann Robinson – 8

The outside back is playing her best football of the season at just the right time. Seems confident going forward and is supplying decent service from the outside, as well as playing solid defense.

D Nikki Krzysik – 7

The skipper organized her defense well for the most part and her distribution was solid from the back. Probably could have done better to slow down Aluko on the goal.

D Kia McNeill – 7

Not a lot of action for the center back but was dominant in the air as usual. Also could have done better to defend the Sky Blue goal.

D Estelle Johnson – 8

A similar performance to Robinson’s. Stout defensively as well as involved offensively coming down the outside.

M Jen Buczkowski – 7

Lohman’s presence and ability to distribute freed up Buczkowski to do the dirty work in winning the ball back. She pressured players with the ball, forcing bad passes and broke up the Sky Blue attack all night.

M Joanna Lohman – 7

Usually more involved in the offense, the midfielder found success on the evening stifling the Sky Blue midfield in the defensive midfielder role. Calm on the ball and reliable with her passes, she settled down the midfield and got the ball to the creative players.

M Veronica Boquete – 8

Again the maestro in the center of the park. Had moments of sheer brilliance on the ball with her footwork, but even better than that, they often led to dangerous opportunities. Did it all with clever passes, fancy footwork, and quality service from the flanks.

M Danesha Adams – 7

Her third different position in as many games playing this time out on the right wing. Linked well with Boquete and specifically with Kai but failed to have many opportunities of her own (she couldn’t finish her best chance early in the second half). Supplies the best dead ball service on the team, which can’t be undervalued.

M Christina DiMartino – 6

Popped up in good areas but wasn’t involved in creating many chances. Her mazy dribbling early in the season seemed purposeful and led to decent service. Lately her mazy dribbling just doesn’t seem to be finding an end product. Someone should take away her Justin Mapp DVDs.

F Tasha Kai – 7

Fantastic finish for her goal, one of her best all season. Did well as a lone striker, both playing with her back to goal and running on to balls over the top.


Amy Rodriguez – 8

Looked to be a completely different player than last week. Seemingly a good week of training with Riley in her ear allowed her to find her game. Was looking to get behind the Sky Blue back line from the time she come on. Unlucky not to score with a great shot that rang the post.

Laura del Rio – 7

Again came on and found immediate chemistry with fellow Spaniard Boquete. Did well both attacking from the left wing as well as pushing higher on the pitch as the game wore on. Should have scored when in on goal in the 85th minute.

Lianne Sanderson – 9

The high rating can be directly attributed to scoring a 90th minute game winning goal, a goal that keeps Philly in the race for the top spot and a bye all the way into the WPS Championship. Yup, that’s clutch.


  1. A.Rod looked awesome, but Vero reigns supreme. YOU CANNOT STOP HER! YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HER! Huge goal for Sanderson who adds an appreciable spark every time she gets on the pitch.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Ditto on Vero. She is simply unbelievable – has all of the moves and drive of Marta without all the bullshit flopping and histrionics. Sanderson probably was offside but, as a Philly soccer fan, it’s nice to see us a non-call go our way for a change. There is no denying: a totally clutch sub appearance. Onward to Sunday!

  2. I just wanted to question how Sanderson was given a 9 rating. She came in late as a sub and skied an premium shot chance about 20 yards over and wide of the post. She gave the ball away almost every touch. Yes, she did get the game winner, but it did fall into her lap.

    I also want to point out comparing Marta to Vero, not even close. Marta has the killer instinct to put the ball into the net, Vero continues to hit the goal keeper straight in the mitts with point blank shots. Her maor attribute is her ball control and body shield fighting for 50/50 balls. Veros dribble through traffic rather than shoot attitude kills the pace of the team and handcuffs the strikers runs.

    Team supporter, but a realist.


    • Mike Servedio says:

      Fair enough fruitcup…

      Did Sanderson play her way to a 9 last night? Probably not. But like I said above, “The high rating can be directly attributed to scoring a 90th minute game winning goal, a goal that keeps Philly in the race for the top spot and a bye all the way into the WPS Championship.” Ridiculously important late goals will bump your rating every time.

      As far as Vero vs Marta? I think there are similarities to their style, though I’d stop short of comparing them myself. Though it’s not a ridiculous notion, and Paul Riley himself has mentioned them in the same sentence. They are probably the two craftiest dribblers in the league as far as I’ve seen. Though I think they also play different positions. Vero is a more traditional #10 who looks to distribute a little more than take things on herself.

      Vero doesn’t have the killer instinct to put the ball in the net? She has 3 game winning goals in the last 5 games and 5 goals in 10 games this season. Marta only has 7 goals in 12 games.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Geez, fruitcup, so I enjoy the fact that the Independence has a highly gifted technical player on the squad, one who changes the team’s depth and makes it more threatening by her mere presence, and has the ability to turn defenders at the drop of the hat? Where’s your praise? Try some sugar in that cup after an exciting come-from-behind victory – it makes the fruit taste sweeter. (And Marta’s still a diving drama merchant. May I add that her teeth are too bright and she plays for someone else?)

  3. pasoccerdad says:

    Actually Vero reminds me alot of Marinette Pichon, not that she is the top striker but in the way she is always dangerous and her personality

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