Pride open Pioneer Stadium with shutout win
By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photo by Mike Heightchew
In the true home opener for the Gold Pride at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of Cal State University-East Bay in Hayward, the lone West Coast WPS team was able to defeat the WPS’ eastern most team, the Boston Breakers, 1-0, to remain unbeaten -- overall, including a 3-0-1 record at Castro Valley High -- at home on Saturday, June 19.
Gold Pride did get the result they were looking for, but played inconsistent, allowing Boston to control possession for long stretches. Coach Albertin Montoya was grateful the team were able to figure out a way to win.
“I was happy that we found a way to win,” said Montoya. “It’s going to take us some time to understand which players we can play (on our new, wide field).
Montoya tooled with his formations. Typically, a Montoya-coached team plays with a 4-3-3 formation. He did so, starting Shannon Boxx, Carrie Dew and Becky Edwards -- all similar style players -- in the midfield. With about 20 minutes remaining, he switched to a more traditional 4-4-2, taking out Dew and Edwards for the more speedy Tiffeny Milbrett and Kiki Bosio, who helped preserve victory for the Pride.
With the extra large field than each team is used to, there were several chances and, in Montoya’s mind, could’ve been a high-scoring affair.
“The difference was we put a chance away,” said Montoya. “This game could have easily been 4-4, 4-3. You got to give Boston a lot of credit. They had a great performance but our team showed a lot of character and found a way to win.”
Breakers coach Tony DiCicco’s team continued to play strong, but failed to score, and stretched its winless streak to eight games since its opening weekend win at Washington.
“It’s been frustrating. I feel badly for my team because they’ve worked so hard,” said DiCicco, whose team was without Kelly Smith and Alex Scott, both off with England at World Cup a qualifying match. “We just have to keep fighting.”
Boston came out and controlled much of the early play, but eventually the Gold Pride (7-2-1, 22 points) would capitalize on a Breakers (1-4-4, 7 points) mistake and score the lone goal of the game in the 37th minute.
Ali Riley took an errant Breakers pass and one-touched it to Kelley O’Hara, who quickly turned to goal. O’Hara passed it to Christine Sinclair who was posting up at the top of the Breakers box. In one touch, Sinclair played a square ball back to O’Hara who weaved through three Breakers defenders before slipping a shot past Ashley Phillips. (Phillips came into the game in the 30th minute after starting keeper Alyssa Naeher was forced to come out after a collision in the box with Pride midfielder Shannon Boxx.)
Boston’s defense was apparently lacking on the play, and O’Hara took advantage.
“I think there was a miscommunication between the backline and the goalie,” said O’Hara, who made her way through the Boston defense, in tight quarters, with relative ease. “I was just in front of the goal, it was me and the goalie, and I was able to put it away.”
Gold Pride’s backline of Candace Chapman, Rachel Buehler, Kandace Wilson and Ali Riley shut down Boston, leaving them with few real chances to beat keeper Nicole Barnhart.
“I think we have to get use to using the width because (Pioneer Stadium) is so big and we’re not used to it,” said Chapman, who was happy to beat her former club for the second time this season. “(At Castro Valley High) we could be compact, because the field was so small.”
Boston was inches away from tying the game up in the 70th minute, however. But as has been the case for most its season, they lacked the finishing touch. Barnhart misplayed a Fabiana cross that bounced to Cheney’s head, who aimed for goal, but hit the crossbar. On the rebound, Chapman, who was everywhere on the wide field at Pioneer Stadium, cleared the ball out of the box before the Pride went on a counter attack.
“I was following up on the play,” said Chapman. “As a defender you’re never going to give up on anything. I just followed in and got the clearance.”
For DiCicco, his side continues to play well, causing frustration to the WPS elites, but they aren’t finishing off chances.
“I’m really proud of my team. We’ve played a lot of good games but we’re not scoring goals,” said DiCicco. “If you don’t score goals, you’re not going to win.
“We’re just struggling (to finish), whether it’s (hitting) crossbars or just lack of finishing,” DiCicco added. “We just have to keep working until we stick it in the back of the net.”
FC Gold Pride remains the best WPS team, extending its lead over second-place Philadelphia Independence to five points with the win. O’Hara says a lot of their success -- at least at home, where they now sit at 4-0-1 on the season -- is fueled from the fans.
“The fans in the Bay Area have been tremendous," said O'Hara, “I love home games because I love being able to play in front of our fans. They are a huge reason that we do so well at home."
O’Hara and the Pride will have another chance to play in front of its fans at Pioneer Stadium on Sunday, June 27, in the WPS game of the week at 3 p.m. against the defending champion Sky Blue FC, which the Pride are 2-0 against this season, including a 3-1 win at home on April 17. If you’re unable to make the match at CSUEB, you can watch the game on Fox Soccer Channel.
Game notes: Kelly Smith and Alex Scott of the Boston Breakers both missed the game playing with their national team (England); Camille Abily (France) and Solveig Gulbrandsen (Norway) both missed the game for FC Gold Pride to play for their respective national team. Substitutions: Ashley Phillips for Alyssa Naeher (Boston, 30th); Kiki Bosio for Becky Edwards (FCGP, 62nd); Tiffeny Milbrett for Carrie Dew (FCGP, 63rd); Tiffany Weimer for Lindsay Tarpley (Boston, 78th); Analisa Marquez for Chioma Igwe (Boston, 86th). Referees: Daniel Radford, referee; Juan Guzman, senior assistant; Vicente Cortes, junior assistant; Mike Kampmeinert, fourth official.