MANCHESTER – Cue cheesy breaking-news jingle. This just in; Alex Morgan isn't the only rookie in Women's Professional Soccer. Yeah, Morgan has gotten all the hoopla from fans and media, but Christen Press of magicJack is outperforming her.
Not only is Press making a run for rookie of the year accolades, but the Stanford University alumnus is pushing for the WPS Golden Boot after a three-goal performance in magicJack's (6-6-2, 19 pts) 4-0 win over the Boston Breakers (4-7-4, 16 pts).
Player-coach Abby Wambach got the scoring under way in the 16th minute when World Cup teammate Megan Rapinoe set her up to beat Alyssa Naeher. After that, it was all Press.
Stanford Cardinal's all-time leading scorer (71) upped her WPS total to eight with tallies in the 36th, 76th and 83rd minutes. Wambach, Marian Dalmy and Nikki Washington each set Press up for goals, bringing her one shy of the league lead in goals.
As is the case with most magicJack contests, they outshot their opponent. On Saturday's win in front of 3,064 at FAU Soccer Field, magicJack took 16 rips, hitting the frame 10 times.
Meanwhile, Jillian Loyden was hardly tested, as the Breakers only took one shot, which Loyden managed to save. MagicJack's victory pulled them even with Sky Blue FC (5-6-4, 19 pts) in the WPS table, tied for third, and holding down the final two playoff spots, three points ahead of the Breakers.
MagicJack can thank the Western New York Flash (9-2-3, 30 pts) for allowing them to pull even with Sky Blue FC. WNY jumped back into a first-place tie with Philadelphia Independence (at the time) thanks to goals by four different players in a 4-1 win in front of 5,065 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway.
N.J. SkyBlue took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd when Adriana put one past Ashlyn Harris. However, the Flash put forth a relentless attack at the Sky Blue goal, peppering Jenni Branam's net for 21 shots (10 on frame). Goals by McCall Zerboni (29th), Marta (35th), Christine Sinclair (38th) and Morgan (90-plus) gave the expansion club an easy win.
Sinclair continued her strong 2011 campaign. The MVP candidate put in her league leading ninth goal (one ahead of Press and Tasha Kai of Philly).
Meanwhile the first overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft Morgan put in her fourth of the year, four short of Press for the rookie lead in goals.
Despite the fact that they were officially eliminated from playoff contention before the start of their match, the Atlanta Beat (1-10-4, 7 pts) came to play in the FOX Soccer WPS Game of the Week against the first-place Independence (10-3-3, 33 pts) in front of 4,162 at Widener University in Chester, Penn., especially a phenomenal performance by Beat keeper Allison Whitworth. However, the better team (record-wise) got the win in the end, 1-0.
In a first half in which next to nothing happened - scoreless when the halftime whistle blew - it was the Beat, the team with nothing to play for, who had the more dangerous chances.
First in the 25th, it was Lori Chalupny, with a great cut back move to free herself in the box past Kia McNeil, had a golden chance but got robbed by U.S. international keeper Nicole Barnhart.
In the 40th, Chalupny again had it in the box and centered a pass looking for Kelly Parker, but Barnhart beat Parker to the ball just outside the six-yard box.
But last year's coach of the year Paul Riley must have said something to fire up his troops because Philly came out flying. Veronica Boquete got into the box two times early on, but crosses were defended well by the Beat.
Tina DiMartino had Philly's best chance of the day in the 48th minute, getting behind the defense and only needing to beat Whitworth; her shot, however, went wide of the far post.
Boquete added to the threats on the Beat goal. Danesha Adams whipped a cross that Whitworth came out on; Boquete jumped in front, took the ball and hit a shot from inside the six that the post kept out in the 53rd.
All the persistence finally paid off for Boquete and the Independence in the 62nd minute. As she did on Wednesday, scoring the winning goal against Boston (a 1-0 win), Boquete did the same vs. Atlanta on Sunday. Whitworth robbed Boquete's first chance, but the Spanish international got the rebound and buried it for the 1-0 advantage. (Outside of the goal, Whitworth had Boquete's number, stymieing her on three separate occasions, not to mention robbing Kai and Lianne Sanderson a couple times.)
Philly's win keeps them just ahead of Western New York (three point edge with two less matches to play) with just a few games left for each club. Meanwhile, Boston is on the outside looking in, just three points behind both Sky Blue and magicJack.