Los Angeles Soccer: Ali Riley
Amy Rodriguez had failed on a breakaway and done little when other chances came her way, but with time running out on her Philadelphia Independence, she came through in a big way.
The former USC star from Lake Forest knocked home a rebound in the 88th minute to pull Philly even with the Western New York Flash in the Women's Professional Soccer final Saturday in Rochester, N.Y. It only delayed the disappointment.
The Flash, featuring a half-dozen Southern California products, prevailed on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw, handing A-Rod and the Independence their second straight title-game defeat.
Rodriguez's second playoff goal, a swift shot from a sharp angle that beat WNY goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, was the apex of a dramatic, often thrilling final that featured a red card, a would-be winner off the crossbar, a diving save to force penalties and another diving stop to win the shootout.
The red card went to second-half substitute Beverly Goebel, from Moreno Valley, who left the Flash with 10 players after picking up two yellow cards in overtime. San Clemente's McCall Zerboni converted the third penalty for Western New York, which celebrated when Harris stopped Laura Del Rio after the first nine shooters converted.
Christine Sinclair, who scored the Flash's goal in the 64th minute, and Marta claimed back-to-back titles. The star forwards, along with defenders Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades) and Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles), were key figures last year for FC Gold Pride, which disbanded after winning WPS's second championship.
Western New York's starting lineup included Riley, rookie forward Alex Morgan, from Diamond Bar, and WPS Defender of the Year Whitney Engen, from Rolling Hills Estates. Zerboni came on midway through overtime; Wilson was on the 18-man roster but did not play.
Engen, who became a free agent when the Chicago Red Stars pulled out of the 2011 season earlier this week, was one of WPS's top rookies last summer. The former University of North Carolina standout will join defender Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades/Harvard-Westlake School), who was WPS Rookie of the Year, and third-year midfielder McCall Zerboni (San Clemente/San Clemente HS and UCLA) in Buffalo and Rochester.
Riley played last season for WPS champion FC Gold Pride, which folded last month. Zerboni played for the defunct L.A. Sol in 2009 and for the Atlanta Beat last season.
WPS will operate as an East Coast league in 2011, with franchises in Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta and Western New York.
Ali Riley, the Rookie of the Year in Women's Professional Soccer, has a new club.
Riley (Pacific Palisades/Harvard-Westlake School), a left back out of Stanford University who plays for New Zealand's national team, agreed to contract terms Thursday with the expansion Western New York Flash, which will play in Buffalo and Rochester.
Riley became a free agent when WPS champion FC Gold Pride folded last month.
Gold Pride's other starting outside back, Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles/Walnut HS and Cal State Fullerton), and star forward Christine Sinclair, a Canadian national-teamer, also agreed to terms with the Flash.
There's always a “Group of Death” in any FIFA competition, or so it seems, and that group at next summer's Women's World Cup in Germany belongs to the U.S.
And to Germany. And to Brazil.
There are three “death” groups in this year's field, product of the rapid growth of women's soccer outside the traditional strongholds of the U.S., Germany, Scandinavia and the Far East.
The Americans, seeded Sunday atop Group C, welcomed North Korea, Colombia and Sweden into their quartet during Monday's WWC draw in Frankfurt. That's three legitimate contenders (for at least semifinal berths) for just two spots in the eight-team knockout bracket. And we'll see about Colombia.
And it gets worse: A quarterfinal awaits with Brazil or Australia or Norway (and we'll see about Equatorial Guinea), and the likeliest semifinal foe are the Germans, prohibitive favorites to win their third successive WWC.
Western New York's expansion team in Women's Professional Soccer is getting started with a local player. Moreno Valley's Beverly Goebel (Moreno Valley HS) was one of the two players the Buffalo/Rochester-based club selected Friday in the league's expansion draft.
Goebel, a midfielder who played collegiately at Sacramento State and Miami, saw action in 16 games (starting nine) with one goal during her rookie season this year with the Washington Freedom.
The Flash, which won the United Soccer Leagues' W-League title but must remake its roster in stepping up to the WPS, took Atlanta Beat defender Kaley Fountain with the first pick. After selecting Goebel, they passed -- there were only 19 players available -- and will fill their roster through the college draft and in a deep pool of free agents.
Shannon Boxx is looking for a new home. FC Gold Pride, which the imposing midfielder from the South Bay helped to Women's Professional Soccer's title in September, disbanded Tuesday after failing to find the investment required to continue.
The Bay Area-based team follows the L.A. Sol and Saint Louis Athletica into oblivion. The Sol folded last January and Saint Louis' demise arrived seven weeks into the 2010 season. Boxx was on both clubs' rosters when they disbanded.
An effort by a group of investors to purchase part or all of Gold Pride and move the club to Orange County fell through. The group is one of two in Southern California seeking a WPS franchise for 2011.
Gold Pride, which played in Santa Clara in 2009 and in Hayward last year, put together the most impressive collection of talent the women's game has seen and posted a 16-3-5 record, finishing 17 points ahead of second-place Boston. The club routed Philadelphia, 4-0, in the title game.
The roster starred Brazilian superstar Marta -- the two-time WPS MVP -- Canadian striker Christine Sinclair and Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), plus WPS Rookie of the Year Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades/Harvard-Westlake School). Other local players were forward Kiki Bosio (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and Capistrano Valley HS), defender Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles/Walnut HS and Cal State Fullerton) and midfielder Rosie Tantillo (USC).
All of the U.S. players, several of the Canadians and a couple of the Mexicans are keeping an eye on what's going on with Women's Professional Soccer. Champion FC Gold Pride and the Washington Freedom, a Women's United Soccer Association survivor that is the only team to reach the WPS playoffs in both seasons, are desperately seeking investment to stay alive.
A report over the weekend that both teams would fold Monday was premature, but the possibility they'll become the third and fourth teams in the second pro U.S. league to disband isn't remote by any means. Gold Pride GM Ilisa Kessler on Monday told the San Jose Mercury News that “it's do-or-die week for us.” Freedom president Mark Washo was quoted in The Washington Post: “We're approaching the 90th [minute], hoping for extra time.”