Sky Blue FC facing turmoil on and off the pitch
The headline story of the week in Women's Professional Soccer is the indefinite suspension of Sky Blue FC (NJ/NY) head coach Ian Sawyers by the team.
"Differences have arisen between Ian and the ownership of the organization," Sky Blue Soccer president and CEO Thomas Hofstetter said in a statement released by the team on Saturday. "We are working through this matter as professionally as possible and will have further information available sometime next week."
The suspension was announced Saturday before Sky Blue FC lost 2-1 to the Freedom, with assistant head coach Kelli Lindsey coaching the team. Details of the situation have been tough to come by, and it's unclear when or if Sawyers will return. The team says further information will be released later in the week.
Sawyers is the husband of former U.S. national team captain and ESPN analyst Julie Foudy.
Whatever the situation is with Sawyers and no matter what happens moving forward, it's been a rough season for Sky Blue FC. The team is in last place in WPS with a 1-4-2 record. Rosana's goal in Saturday's loss is just the team's fourth goal this season.
Sky Blue FC heads home to play the Boston Breakers on Sunday in New Jersey, after a five-game road swing. Their last home game drew 2,753 fans, under the league's 4,000-6,000 average attendance goal and short of their opening day crowd of 6,053.
Despite the distractions Sky Blue FC is facing, Breakers coach Tony DiCicco said it won't be an easy game for his team. If Sky Blue FC is playing under an interim head coach, he said, each player will be looking to prove herself.
"I find that when teams are in turmoil they usually turn to each other and rally around each other, so I expect that they'll be a difficult team," DiCicco said.
National team update
The U.S. women's national team thrashed Canada 4-0 in Monday's friendly in Toronto. Three WPS stars, Shannon Boxx (Los Angeles Sol), Megan Rapinoe (Chicago Red Stars) and Lindsay Tarpley (Red Stars) scored for the Americans.
"Boxxy scored a very good goal," Sol coach Abner Rogers said via telephone of Boxx's second-minute right-footed strike from the top of the 18. "She's going to do that more for us now."
Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc played the full 90 for Canada and gave up two more goals than she has given up all season in WPS -- though all the goals were quality strikes by the United States. Rogers said the box score doesn't tell the story of how LeBlanc played in the match.
"She's a perfectionist so she's going to be upset. She's going to be upset if it's one goal, let alone four goals," Rogers said. "They were very good goals and the U.S. has so many options. The U.S. can actually go to its bench and they're still fantastic."
Boston central defender Amy LePeilbet started for the U.S. instead of Kate Markgraf, who will miss this year because of pregnancy. LePeilbet has played every minute for the Breakers this season. She earned her last national team cap in 2006 but had not returned to the national scene since tearing her ACL in 2006.
"I'm not surprised," said DiCicco when informed Monday night that LePeilbet had started for the United States. "I think Amy LePeilbet's been the best central defender in the league. We haven't played New Jersey, so I haven't seen Christie Rampone. Obviously, I know Christie well, but of the teams we've seen, I think Amy's been the best center back."
LePeilbet has also earned praise from her teammate in the Breakers' defense, English national teamer Alex Scott.
"She's by far one of the best players that I've played alongside. She just reads the game so well and her effort -- she always gives 110 percent in each game -- and I think she needs to step up to the national team and be playing at that level because she's a great player," Scott said after the U.S. roster was announced.
Still in first
Eight games into the season and only one team has ever been in first place -- the Los Angeles Sol. The Sol are six points ahead of second-place Boston, so they don't figure to lose first place any time soon. They've given up only two goals all season, in their only loss, a 2-1 defeat in Boston.
Beginning with Saturday's game against Saint Louis, the Sol will play three games in eight days, all at home, and could increase their lead even further.
Sunday's 2-0 win at FC Gold Pride (Bay Area) was one of the Sol's best this season, as Los Angeles was without four regular starters because of national team call-ups to LeBlanc, Boxx, Brittany Bock and Martina Franko. Midfielder Aly Wagner also missed the game because of a strained groin.
Gold Pride goalkeeper Allison Whitworth started in place of Nicole Barnhart, who was with the U.S. national team. Whitworth was strong in goal, but Los Angeles' Camille Abily converted a PK, and Han Duan netted her first goal of the year.
"She's been knocking on the door," Rogers said of Duan. "I think it's gonna really help her confidence moving forward."
1. Los Angeles Sol (5-1-2): It doesn't seem to matter what lineup they field, the Sol continue to pitch shutouts. Kelly Smith and Kristine Lilly are the only two players to score on the Sol all season.
2. Boston Breakers (3-2-2): The Breakers were very lucky to get a bye this week, as they would've been without five players because of international duty and Christine Latham who's been suspended for two games.
3. FC Gold Pride (3-4-1): Things are starting to get tough in the bay area. FC Gold Pride has lost starting defender Kandace Wilson, possibly for the season, to a hip injury she suffered late in Sunday's loss to Los Angeles. She was pushed out of bounds hard by Marta and landed awkwardly. FC Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya told womensprosoccer.com that she had suffered a dislocated -- and possibly broken -- right hip.
4. Washington Freedom (2-2-3): Getting Erin McLeod in goal has made a big difference for this team.
5. Saint Louis Athletica (2-2-2): Saint Louis is starting to get on the right track, despite losing Daniela to a knee injury earlier this month.
6. Chicago Red Stars (2-3-2): Chicago hasn't scored a goal since the second half of the 4-0 win over Boston on April 25. That's over a month without netting a goal. It's been three straight losses. There are still a lot of games left, but Chicago needs to find the back of the net.
7. Sky Blue FC (1-4-2): Things are not looking good for Sky Blue FC now that head coach Ian Sawyers has been indefinitely suspended by the team.
Jacqueline Purdy covers women's soccer for ESPN.com. She also is an editor for ESPNRadio.com. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, followed on Twitter and friended on ESPN's fan profiles.