This is what it all comes down to. It’s win or go home. And for the Breakers, they don’t want to settle for anything less than a victory, one that would send the team to the WPSL Elite Championship.
The Boston Breakers and Chicago Red Stars will meet for the third and final time this WPSL Elite season, and this is the most important game of them all. The Breakers and Red Stars play Wednesday, July 25, at 8 p.m. ET in Rochester, N.Y. in the WPSL Elite semifinals. The winner takes on either the Western New York Flash or New York Fury in Saturday’s WPSL Elite Championship at 1 p.m. ET.
"I’m excited about playing Chicago. They’re a good team, and every time we’ve matched up with them, it’s been a good soccer game," Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole said. "They have some players who can be dangerous, so it’ll be an exciting game. And it should be an exciting game when you get to the playoffs."
Keeper Alice Binns
The first time these two teams met, the Red Stars ended Boston’s five-game winning streak to start the season, a stretch in which Boston outscored its opponents, 16-4. The Red Stars won, 1-0, in a game played June 3 at North Central College, in Naperville, Ill. Michele Weissenhofer scored the lone goal of the game. It came in the 34th minute, and Lori Chalupny earned the assist. Keeper Jamie Forbes recorded her third shutout in goal. Forbes finished the season with six clean sheets for Chicago. The Breakers were without forward Melissa Henderson in that match, and she is expected to start in Wednesday night’s semifinals.
The second time the Breakers and Red Stars met came on June 30 at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass. In front of a sellout crowd of 2,092, the Breakers got a goal from Australian international Kyah Simon in the 89th minute to seal the victory. The win put Boston and Chicago in a first-place tie atop WPSL Elite.
Throughout a good portion of the season, either the Breakers or Red Stars held the top spot in the league, conceding it only for a matter of hours on one occassion due to another team playing earlier in the day. Both teams have nearly identical team stats, with Boston outscoring its opponents on the field, 28-8, and Chicago with a 26 goals for to 10 goals allowed ratio. (Both teams were penalized once this season due to forfeits and one goal scored against was added to each team, which brings the numbers to 28GF to 9GA for Boston and 26GF to 11GA for Chicago).
Defender Cat Whitehill
Both keepers have been lauded as two of the best in the league. Breakers keeper Alice Binns has six shutouts, having only allowed seven goals in 12 games. Forbes also has six shutouts, and has only allowed 10 goals this season. Binns’ heroic performance in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Flash included several diving stops, something the first-year keeper out of Boston University has a knack for this season.
Forward Katie Schoepfer
On the attacking side of the ball, the Breakers pose a dangerous threat with the duo of Simon and Katie Schoepfer. After coming off the bench last season for Boston, Schoepfer found herself in the starting role this season and started all 14 regular season games, posting the best numbers of her pro career. She has 7 goals and 6 assists and is Boston’s second leading goal scorer, second in points, tied for first in assists with teammate Courtney Jones and ranks tied for first in assists in WPSL Elite, and tied for fourth in the league in goals scored with Chicago’s Lauren Fowlkes. Schoepfer’s 20 points also puts her fourth in WPSL Elite.
For Chicago, the team’s top three scorers this season are: Fowlkes (7 goals, 1 assist, 15 points), Chalupny (5 goals, 4 assists, 14 points), and Weissenhofer (5 goals, 2 assists, 12 points).
The Breakers have a handful of players who’ve found the back of the net this summer, including Jones, who scored twice, the same number of tallies as Australian midfielder Tameka Butt. Butt saw limited time this season due to a nagging ankle injury, but returned to the lineup this past Sunday when the Breakers beat the Flash, 1-0, to win the WPSL Elite regular season title. Henderson, defender Elli Reed, midfielders Bianca D’Agostino and Jessica Luscinski, as well as Veronica Napoli, have all scored one goal each this season. Napoli’s goal was a memorable one. It came on May 10 in a 3-0 win over ASA Chesapeake Charge. It was the first goal of the game, but more notably, the first-ever WPSL Elite goal.
Midfielder Leslie Osborne
Captain Leslie Osborne ranks second on the team in assists with three, but her most important contributions this season have come in the back end of the midfield. One of the top holding midfielders in the game, Osborne has worked tirelessly game in and game out to thwart any potential threats through the middle. She’s also one of the only players in WPSL Elite this season to play every minute of every game (1,260).
Behind Osborne stands a pair of top center backs, Olympic gold medalist Cat Whitehill and third-year Breaker Taryn Hemmings. The two have also played nearly every minute this season, with Hemmings putting in 1,240 minutes and Whitehill logging 1,190 minutes. On the outside, Reed has locked down left back and prevented several potential goal scoring chances this season. On the right side, both Jones and Julie King have seen their fair share of time on the field, both contributing more than 900 minutes this season. Jones has been used as an outside back, as well as in the midfield and up top for Boston.
Defender Julie King
Certainly not to be overlooked are the contributions in the midfield from players like Amanda DaCosta and Heather O’Reilly. DaCosta, a key starter for Boston throughout most of the season and one of the top young attacking midfielders in the nation, went down with an ankle injury against the New England Mutiny late in the season. The U.S. U-23 midfielder may miss her third straight match if she’s not dressed for Wednesday’s semifinal. O’Reilly, who is in Scotland with the U.S. Women’s National Team preparing for the Olympics, played in two games and picked up two assists during her time with the Breakers.
Defender Taryn Hemmings
The Breakers’ bench runs deep with talent. Defenders Katherine Donnelly and Emma Thomson have seven appearances apiece. Donnelly has two assists on the season. Coach Cole also has midfielder Kate Incerto and forward Furtuna Velaj to call upon. Incerto has one appearance this season, while Velaj has battled a hamstring injury and didn’t see action, but will be available Wednesday night. Backup keeper Alejandra Velasco, who was on Colombia’s World Cup team last summer, played two games this season for Boston, and went 2-0 with one shutout.
Boston’s projected starting lineup and roster for Wednesday’s semifinal game vs. Chicago:
Starters: Alice Binns, Elli Reed, Cat Whitehill, Taryn Hemmings, Julie King, Leslie Osborne, Bianca D’Agostino, Courtney Jones, Melissa Henderson, Katie Schoepfer, Kyah Simon
Available subs: Alejandra Velasco (GK), Tameka Butt (M), Jess Luscinski (M), Katherine Donnelly (D), Veronica Napoli (F), Emma Thomson (D), Furtuna Velaj (F)
Questionable: Amanda DaCosta (ankle)
2012 Boston Breakers Regular Season Stats
GOALKEEPERS GP GS MIN GA SOG SVS SO SV% GAA
|Alice Binns 12 12 1080 7 76 69 6 91||0.58|
|Alejandra Velasco2 2 180 1 8 7 1 88||0.50|