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June 25, 2010 > Gold Pride host Sky Blue in unofficial halfway mark

Gold Pride host Sky Blue in unofficial halfway mark

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By William Mancebo

In the Sunday, June 27, WPS game of the week, FC Gold Pride looks to keep its home record unscathed and beat defending champion Sky Blue FC for the third time this season.

If the Pride do win, they will double its win total from 2009 in just its 11th game of the season.

"Last season, I still thought we played some great soccer, we just had a difficult time scoring," said Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya. "This year we've kind of put everything together."

And when you compare the two seasons for the Pride, this year's edition is finding ways to win, whereas last year's team -- after a good start to the season -- was finding ways to lose. That came to fruition in the Pride's game last week, when they were able to find a way to beat the Boston Breakers, despite being outplayed a lot of the match.

"When things are going your way, you somehow get the breaks," said Montoya. "I've been coaching for a long time and that's how it is. But we've really helped ourselves get there."

On the flipside, the 2009 WPS champion Sky Blue FC more-or-less backed its way into the playoffs, earning the final playoff spot before winning three straight on the road to win the title. In 2010, it's more of the same for Sky Blue FC, despite the number of threats they possess.

Sky Blue FC (4-4-2, 14 points) sits comfortably in fourth place, five points ahead of fifth-place Chicago Red Stars but eight points behind the first-place FC Gold Pride (7-2-1, 22 points). And if Sky Blue FC wants to have any shot at winning the WPS regular season, they will need to start by winning on Sunday. Montoya knows despite the decided edge in the standings, the Pride will not have an easy win.

"They're a very talented group," Montoya said of Sky Blue FC, the New York-New Jersey market WPS team. "New York has been in positions like us where they've found ways to get points, in the past. They have been outplayed in several matches but found a way to get a win or get a tie."

Sky Blue FC has been able to stay afloat because of its depth. While players, the likes of keeper Karen Bardsley, midfielder Christie Rampone and striker Tasha Kai, have been out, others have stepped up. And Montoya raves of his opponent's talent.

"They've got quite a few dangerous players," Montoya said. "Tasha Kai with her speed presents problems up top; they are very organized in the back. We need to limit their chances of getting behind our defense and playing through balls and improving on our game from last week."

Despite all the talent, Sky Blue FC got pummeled by the Philadelphia Independence a week ago, 4-1, at home. So first and foremost for Montoya is that his club sharpens up its play from its lackluster Pioneer Stadium home opening 1-0 win.

"These last couple days have been back to the basics," said Montoya, who is contemplating on changing up his team in the midfield due to the size of the field. Gold Pride has routinely used a 4-3-3 formation, and could alter it to a 4-4-2 or even a 3-5-2 to compensate for that, or simply change up the personnel. "(We've worked on) better first touch, better passing -- something we didn't do all that well last game. We didn't keep possession or play the way we're used to.

"It just comes down to cleaning up our technical game and finding the right system on this nice new field," Montoya concluded.

Kickoff for the WPS game of the week on Sunday, June 27, is at 3 p.m. and, if you can't attend the game at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of Cal State East Bay in Hayward, you can watch it nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.

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