BARCELONA – In the final day of the Women's Professional Soccer regular season, a lot was still to be determined for the postseason.
First place still hadn't been decided between the Western New York Flash and Philadelphia Independence; Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC were battling for the final playoff spot; and magicJack was looking to build its momentum although it was already locked in at third place.
Prior to the kickoff at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., the WPS First Round match was set, as Boston eked into the playoffs with its 2-0 win over Sky Blue FC in Massachusetts. And not even 14 minutes into the FOX Soccer WPS Game of the Week, everything was set for the postseason.
Unofficially, of course, as the magicJack-Independence contest was just in the 68th minute, but a Lisa De Vanna brace made it 2-0 and the Independence needed a win to have a chance at first. Amy Rodriguez got out of her slump with a goal in the 79th, but the Independence fell 2-1 in the end.
Philadelphia's loss meant the Flash, the 2011 expansion club, will host the WPS Championship on Aug. 24.
It also meant Philadelphia will host the WPS Super Semifinal on Saturday, Aug. 17, against the winner of Wednesday's WPS First Round playoff contest, which magicJack will host the Breakers.
With first place in the bag for the Flash, they didn't need any result to affect their standing. However, their game didn't show, as they pressed the Beat goal time after time en route to a 2-0 win - albeit filled with a number of missed opportunities.
All the pressure started in the fifth minute, when FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Marta chased down a loose ball in the box, sending a ball to the back post for Becky Edwards. Her header, however, went over the bar. In the 17th and 18th minutes, the Flash peppered Allison Whitworth's goal with a number of shots but the Beat keeper frustrated the league's most potent offense with big-time saves - denying World Cup talents Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan. WNY nearly look the lead in the 34th minute, but a Sinclair shot heading for the far post was tapped up and off the cross bar to keep the match scoreless.
WNY finally broke through in the 37th minute, figuring out Whitworth. Sinclair fed Morgan in the box, but her shot was denied by a lunging Whitworth save; the WPS Rookie of the Year candidate Morgan tracked down the rebound and fed Caroline Seger who slotted the ball into the side netting.
Morgan couldn't buy a goal in this contest, but not for lack of trying. In the 49th minute, Sinclair - again - fed Morgan with a driven cross into the box. After the ball slid past the Beat defense, Morgan cut the ball to her left foot, needing to only beat Whitworth from eight yards out.
Her shot, however, was stymied by a diving stop (Seger's rebound went in, but she was in an offside position, nullifying the tally).
Morgan got behind the Beat back line in the 63rd and got robbed by Whiworth; in the 64th, a free header by her completely missed the target. Her struggles continued into the 70th minute. Sinclair, continuing to look for the former Cal Bear standout, hooked up with the U.S. international but her attempt at goal sailed high.
Still looking to set up her teammates, WPS' leading goal scorer and assist maker Sinclair decided to go for another mate: Marta. Unlike Morgan, the Brazilian international knew exactly how to find the back of the net, sliding a shot past Whitworth for the insurmountable 2-0 lead.
Marta's goal tied her with Sinclair for the Golden Boot race with 10 goals. In the 80th minute, a miscue by Whitworth left Marta in the box alone; with the high-bouncing ball, her only chance at scoring was heading it home. She did that, but Heather Mitts tracked back and cleared it to safety.
Sinclair had a chance to redeem sole possession of the goal lead in the 85th, but her breakaway opportunity was missed wide.
Heading into the postseason, magicJack (9-7-2, 28 pts) is the team playing the best soccer. Western New York (13-2-3, 42 pts) has been winning, but if Sunday's any indication of how things will be in the WPS Championship, the Flash will need to have better execution finishing off quality chances. Philadelphia (11-4-3, 36 pts), meanwhile, will need a more consistent offensive attack, for a full 90 minutes, which they haven't been able to do in a number of weeks; and Boston (5-9-4, 19 pts), they are a wild card.
Having a losing record, anything they accomplish in the postseason is gravy.