Needing only four points to clinch a playoff spot and six points to earn homefield advantage, the Philadelphia Charge appeared poised to qualify for the postseason for a second straight year this past week. However, things didn't go quite as planned and the Charge earned only one point, going 0-1-1 and relinquishing two leads late.
On Wednesday, the Charge lost a heartbreaker to Tiffeny Milbrett and the New York Power, 3-2. Philadelphia jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second half thanks to goals by Mandy Clemens and Liu Ailing. However, Milbrett led the power surge by New York, scoring two of the team's three goals that covered the final seven minutes as the Power ended the Charge's 10-game unbeaten streak and ceased their own nine-game skid.
The three missed points would prove somewhat costly to Philadelphia, which entered Saturday's tilt at Boston needing a win and some help to qualify for the playoffs and even earn homefield advantage. With a win and a combination of a loss or a tie by Washington or San Jose, the Charge were in. Also, if the Charge won and Atlanta lost to Carolina, Philly would clinch homefield advantage for the Saturday, August 17 semifinal round.
However, the Charge again relinquished a late lead and settled for a 1-1 tie against the Breakers. Liu scored the Charge's own goal in the game's 84th minute, but Allie Kemp came off the bench and tallied her first goal if the season in the 90th minute, as the Breakers foiled Philly's chances.
As it turned out, the Charge wouldn't have clinched a playoff berth even with a win that night anyway, as Washington, San Jose and Atlanta won their respective games. Although, had the Charge held on to win Wednesday's game, the one point in Boston would have been enough to clinch a postseason berth.
This coming week again sees the Charge scheduled to play a pair of games, as they continue their seven-game, 22-day stretch to end the season. Philadelphia is 1-1-1 during that span and has four games left before the playoffs.
This Wednesday Philadelphia will be in San Jose taking on the defending Founders Cup champion CyberRays. The meeting will be the first and only between the teams at Spartan Stadium this season. Last year, the Charge lost both games in San Jose by a combined 6-2 score. All-time Philadelphia is 1-2-1 against the CyberRays, having played to a scoreless draw earlier this season at Villanova Stadium. San Jose and Philly will wrap up the regular-season series next Wednesday, August 7 when the CyberRays travel to Villanova Stadium.
Philadelphia will be without some key contributors for the San Jose tilt. Defender Heather Mitts and forward Marinette Pichon are both injured, while midfielder Zhao Lihong and defender Erica Iverson were left in Philadelphia by head coach Mark Krikorian. Mitts, who played against Boston, aggravated her hip pointer injury that was suffered when she was with the U.S. National Team and Pichon continues to nurse a left big toe ailment. Zhao and Iverson are apparently getting some time off as Krikorian is attempting to rest some of his players as the club readies itself for a possible postseason berth.
On Saturday, the Charge will return from a two-game road trip to face the San Diego Spirit for the final time this year. The Spirit have given the Charge fits all season, going 1-0-1 against the club. San Diego beat Philadelphia 1-0 on May 19 and then played to a 1-1 draw on June 23. Both games were in San Diego.
The status of Mitts and Pichon for the game against the Spirit is uncertain, while it is expected that Iverson and Zhao will be back in action for the Charge.
NEWS & NOTES
Since the Charge are playing the fifth-place San Jose CyberRays on Wednesday, the club only needs to tie to advance to the postseason. Philadelphia also needs five more points to secure homefield advantage for the semifinal round on Saturday, August 17. However, the Charge could kill two birds with one stone on Wednesday. With a Charge win over San Jose and a loss by either Washington or Atlanta, the Charge would not only clinch a playoff spot but also secure homefield advantage as a result of a six-point swing.
All-Star Game Announced
The WUSA and Portland Family Entertainment (PFE) announced Monday that Portland, Oregon will host the 2002 WUSA All-Star Game on Saturday, September 21 at 4:00 p.m. (ET). The WUSA's inaugural All-Star Game, which will be presented by Hyundai, will be played at PGE Park and will be broadcast live nationally on PAX TV to more than 90 million households in the United States and several other countries worldwide. The league will announce in the near future how the players will be selected and who will be the coaches.
Charge to take on Breakers at National Soccer Hall of Fame The National Soccer Hall of Fame announced Monday that the 2002 WUSA Hall of Fame Game will pit the Charge against the Boston Breakers. The game will take place on Monday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m. and be part of the 2002 Induction Weekend at the National Soccer Hall of Fame, which is located in Oneonta, NY. The inductees that weekend will be Adolph Bachmeier of the US National Team and the Chicago Mustangs and Kickers, Vladislav 'Bogie' Bogicevic of the New York Cosmos and the Yugoslavian National Team, and Shannon Higgins-Cirovski, who was a midfielder for the 1991 World Champion US Women's National Team.
Ailing Coming Around
After starting the season slow, Charge midfielder Liu Ailing appears to be hitting her stride. The former Chinese National Team standout has recorded a goal in each of the last two games. She has come off the bench in both contests, something she is doing with regularity lately. Liu started 10 of the first 11 games of the season for the Charge, missing only one due to injury. However, after a lack of production, the 35-year-old began coming off the bench as a second-half sub. After getting adjusted to the role, Liu has begun to come around. Her four points in the last two games give her 28 for her career and moves her one point ahead of Marinette Pichon for the all-time team lead. With fellow countrywoman Zhao Lihong getting the night off on Wednesday, Liu might get the call for the Charge in the midfield.