By Tim Grainey
This week, the Roundup examines the playoff races in the W-League’s five divisions. We also talk with Anna Picarelli, who has impressively backstopped Pali Blues to an undefeated record atop of the competitive Western Division. Picarelli also shuttles to Italy to help their national team in their impressive march to a European Championship berth next summer in Sweden. We also review the WPSL Elite, with most teams near the halfway point in the season. We conclude with a wrap-up the recently completed season in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga.
Anna Picarelli – Pali Blues and Italy WNT Backstop
The Pali Blues Italian international Goalkeeper Anna Picarelli has been a key addition this season, joining from Ajax America Women of the WPSL after years in the Italian League. The Southern California native and Pepperdine graduate has compiled a 0.142 GAA in seven games (all wins), with Charlotte’s Robyn Jones second at 0.813 (for goalkeepers playing 550 minutes--approximately 6 games).
Picarelli was not in the Italian side that thrashed Macedonia 9-0 in Turin on June 16 in Euro 2013 Qualifying. However, she has played in six of Italy’s eight Euro qualifiers so far. After a 2-1 Pali Blues win over the Los Angeles Strikers on May 30, Picarelli talked to Soccer 365 about the differences between playing in the W-League compared with WPSL, in Italy versus America and how she maintains her role with the national team from afar. Picarelli finds the W-League substitution rules, which follow the FIFA international rules, as a plus compared with the WPSL. She also finds more international players on the W-League rosters whereas the WPSL rosters, “tended to have more local and college players.” She finds that the international players, “pick up the level of the game a little bit more.”
When asked how both leagues compared to playing in Italy’s top league, Picarelli explained: “[I think] tactically, the Italian League is much more composed; there’s more movement off the ball side. Here in the W-League, it’s very straight forward. We play very direct. It’s starting to change a little bit because the United States is finally realizing that the rest of the world is playing a bit more creative style of soccer but that’s the biggest difference. But on the other end, the U.S. is much more athletic than the Italian League. Playing here you have to be much more fit, much more in shape in general, playing in the U.S.”
When asked if it was hard to keep her position with Italy while playing club ball in North America, she said that it wasn’t as hard as one would think, “I noticed that I am a lot more focused because I have to train on my own so much here. I’m not playing in a club season that lasts nine months like I was over there so I notice that my training regime has changed quite a bit and I think actually I’m fitter now being here because I control myself as opposed to the team, dealing with a team work out, so it’s a bit better.”
Italy has not been scored on in eight Euro games, while scoring 34 times in a group with Russia, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and Macedonia. Italy has a brace of 2-0 wins over their closest challenger Russia, second in the group with 15 points, with five wins and two losses. The group winners make the competition next year in Sweden while the best runners-up go into playoffs from the 7 groups
W-League Divisional Championship Races Review
The Laval Comets lead the Central Division of the W-League on 14 points after 6 games, with 4 wins and 2 ties. Toronto Lady Lynx are second with 13 points, followed by the Ottawa Fury with 12. Ottawa have won four straight after a surprising early season loss to Hamilton. Ottawa will qualify for the W-League final four as the host team (July 27/29) so the Central Division will have an extra playoff spot this year. However, the Fury’s quest for a ninth straight divisional crown is at risk thus far. Hamilton FC Rage (10 points from 6 games) is fourth and Quebec City Amiral (9 points from 5 games) is fifth and both seem a lock for the playoffs. This would be Hamilton’s first playoff after seven W-League seasons.
The Eastern Conference, comprised of Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast Divisions, will send the top team in each division to the Conference semifinals, along with the second placed team of the division with the best record.
In the Atlantic Division, D.C. United Women lead (18 points undefeated in 6 games) followed by the second year franchise Fredericksburg Impact (13 points) and Virginia Beach Piranhas (11 points).
In the Northeast Division, the Long Island Rough Riders (15 points) and New Jersey Wildcats (11 points) are vying for the division crown after seven games.
In the Southeast Division, the Charlotte Lady Eagles are undefeated with 7 wins and 2 ties for 23 points, with the Atlanta Silverbacks—champions in 2011—second with 19 points. These two historically strong sides are clearly dominant over the league’s three expansion teams: Tampa Flames (4 points), Central SC Cobras (3 points) and FC Jax Destroyers (1 point). The Flames defeated the Destroyers last week for their first win, while the Destroyers and Cobras are still looking for their initial victories.
In the West, Pail Blues - champions in 2008 and 2009 - are undefeated with seven wins in seven games for 21 points. Pali Blues are led by U.S. international defender Whitney Engen and Italian international goalkeeper Anna Picarelli. Seattle Sounders Women are second on 16 points with two games in hand, though they will miss Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux for some games due to Olympic Games duty. Colorado Rush (10 points), Colorado Rapids Women (8 points), and Santa Clarita Blue Heat (8 points) are starting to slip out of the playoff reckoning. Vancouver Whitecaps, the W-League Champions in 2004 and 2006 and runners-up in 2010, find themselves in seventh place with 5 points, just ahead of province mate Victoria Highlanders FC, who defeated the Caps in the season opener 3-2. Only the top two teams in the division make the playoffs to contest for one Western Conference semifinal slot in Ottawa.
Winless teams so far this season include the FC Jax Destroyers, Central SC Cobras, Northern Virginia Majestics, Dayton Dutch Lions, Rochester Ravens and London Gryphons.
Grace Hawkins of the Long Island Rough Riders, who played at Villanova, leads the W-League in points with 21. Mikaela Howell of D.C. United Women, an English import who was a freshman last season at Monroe Community College in the Bronx, is second with 19 points and Maya Hayes of the New Jersey Wildcats is third with 15 points. Hayes will be a senior at Penn State and has U.S. U-20 World Cup experience in Germany in 2010.
Hawkins, Howell and Hayes also lead in goals with Hawkins first with 9, Howell second with 7 and Hayes third on 6, the later tied with Kristin Burton of Atlanta, who formerly played at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia, and Leah Fortune of the Charlotte Lady Eagles, who played for Brazil’s National U-20 World Cup Team in Germany in 2010.
Mikaela Howell leads in assists with 5, followed by a quartet on 4, including U.S. international Yael Averbuch of New Jersey Wildcats, Nicole Hill of Atlanta Silverbacks—who has Canadian youth team experience, Liz Bogus of Pali Blues and Rachel Hoffman of the Long Island Rough Riders.
WPSL Elite Update: Chicago Red Stars Retain League Lead Despite First Loss
With most teams near the halfway point of the season (7 games), for the top four of the eight WPSL Elite teams who will make the playoffs, the three former WPS sides would currently qualify. At the top of the table are the Chicago Red Stars with 18 points and only one defeat in seven games, followed by Western New York Flash (17 points). The New York Fury (16 points) are a point ahead of Boston Breakers (15 points), The Fury is the lone former WPSL team who stepped up to the Elite league that is currently in a playoff position. Fellow WPSL alumni New England Mutiny (10 points) are still in the playoff chase. The other two WPSL teams: Chesapeake Charge (4 points) and FC Indiana (1 point), along with the new franchise Philadelphia Fever (2 points), are lagging behind. There are still a lot of games left but it has been a rough transition for the latter three sides. The Fever and Charge are very young teams, comprised primarily of college players, while FC Indiana is based on the Haitian National Team in a long term development process to make the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The Flash won all three games last week, beginning with their home win over the Red Stars on Wednesday June 13 by a 3-0 scoreline; they defeated the Chesapeake Charge on Saturday June 16 on the road 2-0 and then went to Philadelphia and held the Fury to a scoreless tie the next day, 2-0. Against the Red Stars, the Flash handed the Midwestern side their first defeat of the season with goals by Jamaican international Omolyn Davis, Spanish international Adriana and Katy Frierson. The Flash then went on the road and defeated the Chesapeake Charge 2-0 on two goals by Adrianne--one a penalty--then finished an undefeated week with a goalless draw against the Fever.
The Red Stars bounced back from their setback to the Flash by defeating the Mutiny at home 4-0. A trio of former University of Notre Dame players scored against New England: Michele Weissenhofer, Amanda Cinalli and Lauren Fowlkes, with the fourth goal coming from former U.S. international and Red Star captain Lori Chalupny.
The Fury defeated the Charge in Maryland 2-0 on Sunday June 17 to pull ahead of the Boston Breakers for third. Jasmyne Spencer and Meghan Lenczyk scored the goals.
"We had a really good weekend and we are starting to simmer,” said Fury head coach Paul Riley.
Other games saw the Mutiny split a road trip to the Midwest, defeating FC Indiana 3-2 (with two goals by Kate Howarth) and then falling to Chicago 4-0. The Breakers were idle last week but host the Mutiny and the Fury this week.
WPSL Elite League Standings
Wednesday, June 20
New England Mutiny at Boston Breakers
Friday, June 22
Chicago Red Stars at ASA Chesapeake Charge
Philadelphia Fever at Western New York Flash
Saturday, June 23
New York Fury at Boston Breakers
Sunday, June 24
Western New York Flash at New England Mutiny
Chicago Red Stars at Philadelphia Fever
Germany’s 2011-12 Season Concludes with Exciting Finish and Strong Gates
One of the truly remarkable aspects of the Frauen-Bundesliga 2011-12 season was the overall league attendance figures. In 132 games, the German First Division drew 148,008 for an average of 1,121 per game, an all-time record and a 26% increase over 2011’s total of 100,078 and 834 average for the twelve teams. The sharp rise this year is due to two main contributors; the carryover from the successful 2011 WWC and an exciting championship race between powerhouse Potsdam and surprising Wolfsburg, which wasn’t decided until the final weekend.
In the final two weeks, the Fruaen Bundesliga games had some outstanding gates. Wolfsburg attracted a league high of 8,689 for their 1-0 home win against 1. FFC Frankfurt in the penultimate week. Frankfurt, which ended the year as UEFA Champions League runners-up to Olympique Lyon, then drew 3,420 for their thrilling 5-3 win over FCR 2001 Duisburg. This wasn’t even Frankfurt’s highest attendance; that was achieved back in week nine when they attracted 5,200 for their round nine match against Potsdam. Potsdam, who captured the league title by 3 points over Wolfsburg, saw 6,460 turn out to see them blast 1. FC Lok Leipzig 6-0, behind a hat trick from Japanese international Yuki Nagasato and a brace from Equatorial Guinea’s Genoveva Anonma, to retain their title for the fourth consecutive season.
Germany has overtaken Sweden’s Damallsvenskan for the title as the highest drawing league in Europe. The Damallsvenskan finished its 2011 season with an average attendance of 924 per game. With WPS’s demise and Brazilian superstar Marta’s return to Sweden (to Tyreso in Stockholm), it will be interesting to see if the Damallsvenskan can recapture the European average attendance lead this season or next. The European Championship will be held in Sweden next summer and that could create the crowd excitement that the World Cup did for Germany, with a resultant attendance increase for the domestic league.
The top scorers in the German league were Equatorial Guinea’s Genoveva Anonma of Potsdam with 20, followed by WUSA veteran Conny Pohlers of Wolfsburg with 19 and Japan’s World Cup winning midfielder Yuki Nagasato forward of Turbine, German international Okoyino da Mbabi of SC 07 Bad Neuenahr and Wolfsburg’s Nadine Kessler all tied for third with ten goals.
U.S. international defender Ali Krieger had one goal this season for Frankfurt, whose season was crucially ended in January due to a clumsy tackle on her at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in Canada.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was important to champions Potsdam, Naeher first went over after the WPS season but returned to find that WPS was suspending operations. Potsdam quickly called her back and she had 11 shutouts, with only 9 goals allowed, in 17 games (1530 minutes for a 0.53 GAA.)
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month. Get your copy today.
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