Saturday, August 22, 2009

WPS Championship

The first ever WPS championship game is in the books, with the massive underdog Sky Blue FC taking down the mighty LA Sol, 1-0. The playoff system--which rewarded regular-season champ LA with a free pass into the finals--could not have tipped the table any further in the Sol's direction without spotting them a 2-0 advantage, but in the end the two-week layoff appears to have bitten them in the ass. Fresh legs were no match for the groove SBFC got themselves into by virtue of two road games on the road against higher-seeded teams in the previous seven days.

The goal came with the teams at even strength, and after that the miracle happened. No, not the straight red to Sol defender Allison Falk, but Jenn Hildreth's completely unprecedented moment of clarity and coherence in explaining the call. SBFC's Tash Kai was heading to goal with a head of steam and the ball at her feet and no intervening defenders, and Falk put her on the ground with at least a forearm to the upper back, if not an elbow to the back of the head, and it all combined to be a no-brainer for referee Kari Seitz. In the booth, Mark Rogondino tried to wax wistful about all the players coming out hoping they'd be the one to make the difference in the game, and here Kari Seitz goes and makes herself the difference in the game... and just as I had the remote cocked behind my head ready to sail through the screen, Hildreth reminded him that Seitz called what she saw, and that what she saw was what the replay showed, and that was no one's fault but Allison Falk's.

I may have passed out from shock at that point, but recovered to watch the rest of the game. Marta showed a few flashes, but without a full midfield behind her to feed cherry-picking through balls, she wasn't the impact player you might have expected in this match. Shannon Boxx actually created a few more chances for LA than Marta did, and surely worked harder tracking back on defense.

And, in the best news of all, the league managed not to fold yet and will be back next year, possibly with Germans. My Red Stars scarf will be waiting patiently, and, uh, don't tell anyone, but I can't help being really really intrigued by the Breakers and what next season may bring for them if Kelly Smith can stay healthy.

Oh, I almost forgot. Suck it, Marta! You lose again!

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