Sky Blue FC Seeks to Overcome Sol, Tired Legs in WPS Championship
Sky Blue FC’s Christie Rampone battles Marta of the Los Angeles Sol in an earlier meeting between the two teams.
When Sky Blue FC takes the field against the Los Angeles Sol in the WPS Championship match, the big question will be which team has the advantage going into the game – Sky Blue FC with the postseason momentum but with the tired legs, or the well-rested Sol, which has been has been sitting and waiting for the final to come for the past two weeks.
The two teams will battle for the inaugural WPS Championship Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The match will be shown live on all regional Fox Sports Networks and will be shown locally on tape delay at 6 p.m. ET on MSG Plus.
While Sky Blue FC – the number four seed – has the unenviable task of playing its third playoff game on the road in eight days, the New Jersey side is also on a roll, playing some of its best soccer of the season. After highly inspirational victories over the Washington Freedom and Saint Louis Athletica in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Sky Blue FC will be hoping that momentum and adrenaline will be key factors to help the team bring home the title.
“Obviously we have some tired legs but at the same time we have some momentum going,” said Sky Blue FC Interim Player/Coach Christie Rampone, whose team made a cross-country trek this week from New Jersey to Maryland to St. Louis to Los Angeles. “Making it to the final with no one expecting us to be here – no one but our team – is huge. By the time we get there in the locker room and the adrenaline starts to go, hopefully that will take over for the tired legs and we can play a good 90 – or 95 as some of these games have been going.”
On the other side, the Sol wrapped up the top seed in the playoffs and the right to host the championship match weeks ago. Understandably, with the regular season title secured, Los Angeles closed the season with some subpar results winning just once in its final four games. The last match for the Sol was two weekends ago – a 2-1 road victory over the Boston Breakers on a penalty kick by Shannon Boxx in stoppage time.
“We’ve been battling every game and yeah we have tired legs, but the final is what it’s all about – this is what we trained for all season,” Rampone said. “We know that the LA Sol is a great team, but at the same time, the momentum of our team and the way we’re playing, persevering through everything, we’re in the right mental state right now.”
The fact that Sky Blue FC is even in the final is an accomplishment in itself. Despite starting the regular season with a 1-4-2 mark and finishing with a losing record at 7-8-5, Sky Blue FC was still able earn the final playoff spot. The team is making the best of its second season with an improbable run to the championship match.
Much like in its first two playoff matches, Sky Blue FC will be facing a team that it couldn’t defeat in three regular season matches. Sky Blue FC was 0-2-1 against the Freedom and 0-3 against Athletica but came out on top when it mattered. Against Los Angeles, Sky Blue FC went 0-2-1 with a 2-0 loss in the season opener in New Jersey and a 1-0 loss in California. In the third match, the two teams played to a 0-0 tie in New Jersey.
Of the three goals that the Sol scored against Sky Blue FC, all three were scored by Brazilian striker Marta. The league’s leading scorer with 10 goals and a nominee for WPS Player of the Year, Marta provides the Sol with the ability to create a goal out of nowhere at any point in the match.
“We have to know where Marta is at all times and not let her break free,” said Rampone, who helped contribute to a Sky Blue FC defense that did well to shut down the Freedom and Athletica. “I think the line will go high and then drop off without maybe so much man-marking her. Our back line did a great job against Abby (Wambach) and (Lisa) De Vanna after we lost 3-1 the week before. We were on them the whole time, not leaving goalscorers open in the box.”
In addition to the lengthy time off, the Sol will also have to deal with the absence of a important player in Camille Abily, who is with the France National Team for the UEFA Women’s Euro Championship. Abily was second in WPS with eight goals in the regular season. Sky Blue FC will be missing key defender Anita Asante and reserve goalkeeper Karen Bardsley – the two are with England for the Euros – but the team has done well defensively in their absence.
“I think we’ve done a good job at just being a team and supporting each other through all the rough times and it’s really showing in the playoffs,” Rampone said. “Everyone has everybody’s back out there. Just like anything, you’re going to make mistakes and there’s going to be pressure. You’re going to have tired legs, but you know that your teammates are supporting you and they’re right behind you. It gives you that much more of an edge out there knowing that we’re all doing it together and it’s going to take a whole entire team to win a championship.”
History will be made on Saturday when the inaugural WPS Champion is crowned at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. at 4 p.m. ET. Witness this special moment by purchasing tickets for as low as $20 at www.LosAngelesSol.com or by calling 1-877-4-SOL-TIX (476-5849). As the winners of the WPS Regular Season title, the Los Angeles Sol will host Sky Blue FC in Saturday’s WPS Championship presented by MedImmune.