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August 6, 2010 > Gold Pride return home looking to clinch playoff spot

Gold Pride return home looking to clinch playoff spot

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By William Mancebo

It was a tough year in 2009 for FC Gold Pride in the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer season. But after finishing in last place, the Hayward-based club spent its off season revamping the roster, and has had nothing but success in 2010.

Now in just its 18th match of the season (of a 24-game regular season), the Gold Pride can clinch a playoff berth with a point against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday night at Pioneer Stadium.

Gold Pride (12-3-2, 38 points) enters the match with an 11-point lead over the Philadelphia Independence for first place. In eight home matches, the Pride has gone 6-1-1 (four games at Castro Valley High Athletic Stadium before moving to Pioneer Stadium).

Meanwhile, the Red Stars (5-8-5, 20 points) is holding onto the fourth and final WPS playoff spot heading into the weekend. But plenty can change depending on results throughout the league - Red Stars can get as high as third place, and drop as low as a last-place tie.

In two previous meetings, the home team has come away with a shutout win. On May 8, at Castro Valley High, the Pride downed Chicago, 2-0; and three weeks later on May 29, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., the Stars put a halt to the Pride's five-game win streak with a 1-0 triumph.

Chicago, in addition to preventing the Pride from clinching a playoff spot on their terms, can also end another streak the league leaders have going. Gold Pride hasn't lost a match since June 27, reeling off five wins and a tie since its 2-0 loss to Sky Blue FC at home.

Scoring could be at a premium, with both the Red Stars and Gold Pride atop the charts for fewest goals allowed. Gold Pride leads the league with just 14 goals allowed in its 17 matches; Chicago is tied for second, only allowing 19 goals in its 18 games (seven of which came on a recent three-game losing skid). Keeper Nicole Barnhart of the Pride and Jillian Loyden of the Red Stars are one and two, respectively, in terms of goals against average - Barnhart with a .80; Loyden with a 1.12 average.

However, should a team break out into a goal-scoring frenzy, it would be more likely to come from the lone West Coast WPS club. Led by Marta's WPS-best 13 goals, as well as Christine Sinclair's third-best eight goals, the Pride as a team leads WPS with 30. Chicago, on the other hand, is second-to-last with 14 goals scored.

In addition to the game, Gold Pride, as part of PUMA's Project Pink initiative, will be wearing pink to help raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer. There will be Project Pink merchandise available for purchase with all proceeds going back to breast cancer awareness.

Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.

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