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April 14, 2010 > Athletica shut down Pride in season opener

Athletica shut down Pride in season opener

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By courtesy of St. Louis Athletica

After a month-long preseason preparing for the second season of Women's Professional Soccer, FC Gold Pride finally kicked off its season on Sunday, April 11, at St. Louis vs. the Athletica.

Having gone the entire preseason without playing another WPS opponent may have put the Pride behind the eight ball, as it lost the season opener, 2-0.

Eniola Aluko scored twice for Athletica, one in each half, both assisted by Shannon Boxx, leading St. Louis to its sixth consecutive regular season victory, dating back to July 22, 2009.

"I could not have wished for anything better to be honest," said Aluko. "I just wanted a team win, and for me to be able to contribute to the team win is even better."

A year ago, St. Louis finished second in the WPS regular season; it started off slow, however, earning its first victory on May 3, 2009, over a month into the season: a 1-0 shutout over FC Gold Pride. Aluko is glad that the team got off to an early start this season.

"It was very important that we get off to a good start this year, especially after our start last year," said Aluko. "We didn't want to go through what we did last year, so hopefully it is onwards and upwards from here."

In the off season, the Pride did all it could to enhance the goal-scoring output, adding the top two goal scorers in the WPS from 2009, Marta and Camille Abily. However, U.S. Women's National Team keeper Hope Solo was too strong, shutting out the Hayward-based team, and out dueling her U.S. teammate, and Pride keeper, Nicole Barnhart in the process.

"We came out tentative in the first half and it took awhile to find a rhythm," said Pride coach Albertin Montoya. "But we came out in the second half with more energy and created a lot of opportunities, but unfortunately couldn't put the ball in the back of the net."

Solo stopped all six shots on target by the Pride, while Barnhart was able to thwart three of the five Athletica shots on target.

St. Louis' offense controlled the ball most of the game, keeping the pressure on the Pride's defense. Aluko got Athletica the only goal it would need in the 39th minute. After Boxx forced a turnover in the Pride's defensive third, she found Aluko who buried a shot in the far right corner past Barnhart.

Athletica held the 1-0 lead into halftime. In the 61st minute, Boxx and Aluko hooked up again for an insurance goal. Aya Miyama lofted a corner which Boxx flicked on into the six-yard box; Aluko was in the right place at the right time, knocking it in for the 2-0 lead which St. Louis would take to the final whistle.

"The team was very good today, all the team," said Athletica coach Jorge Barcellos. "Eniola Aluko was unbelievable. I think she will score a lot of goals this year. The support she got from Shannon Boxx was terrific. Plus, we did not make our defense do a lot of work today."

Athletica got the win, moving to 1-0 on the year, while Gold Pride dropped to 0-1. Athletica joined the Boston Breakers and defending WPS champion Sky Blue FC atop the WPS at week one's end. Gold Pride joined the Washington Freedom (2-1 loss to Boston) and Chicago Red Stars (1-0 loss to Sky Blue FC) at the bottom of the standings; Philadelphia Independence and Atlanta Beat played to a scoreless tie, both earning a point in a battle of two expansion clubs.

Next up for FC Gold Pride is the team's home opener on Saturday, April 17, against Sky Blue FC. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Castro Valley High School Athletic Stadium. Athletica travels to Bridgeview, Ill., for its next contest, a 7 p.m. kickoff at Toyota Park against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, April 17.

"From this game, we now know what we need to improve on," said Montoya, "and we'll be ready for next weekend."

Game notes: Yellow cards: Shannon Boxx (St. Louis, 55th minute); Becky Edwards (FCGP, 72nd minute). Shots on target: St. Louis, 5; FCGP, 6. Corners: St. Louis, 6; FCGP, 4. Fouls: St. Louis, 8; FCGP, 8. Attendance: 3,356. Referees: Jen Bennett, head official; Debbie Coleman and Ann Mayberry, assistants; and Mark Boyko, fourth official.

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