KENNESAW – Atlanta Beat coach James Galanis knows he has a young team but still needed to send them a halftime message Sunday against Western New York.
“I told them to pick it up or they were going to have training (today) at 8 a.m.,” he said.
The Beat came out aggressive in the second half after a timid first half and played their way to a 2-all tie against what appears to be the Women’s Professional Soccer’s most experienced team at KSU Soccer Stadium.
Atlanta (1-1-1) came out nervous and it showed early in the first half when the Flash’s Christine Sinclair scored on a Brit Brock feed in the third minute. Bock picked up the ball after a turnover from Beat midfielder Carli Lloyd.
The Beat spent the rest of the first half battling just to keep the ball out of their side of the field. Goalkeeper Allison Lipsher, who finished the game with 13 saves, made several key stops in the first half and got help from defenders Cat Whitehill and Keeley Dowling and from using a 4-1-4-1 formation that kept a large number of players in the back to defend.
“Most of the team is young and haven’t gone through the cycle of playing every team,” Galanis said. “Playing experienced teams does funny things to the mid if you are a young star. We defended well in the first half but we weren’t moving it like we should have been on offense.”
The Beat’s lone scoring chance in the first half came in the 29th minute. Cat Whitehill placed a cross into the box that found forward Meghan Lenczyk’s head despite a diving attempt by Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to punch the ball out. The ball bounced over Harris, but trailed off to the left and wide of the net.
The Beat came out a different team in the second half, despite the Flash starting WPS superstar Marta in the second half. They only managed four second half shots, though of two of them were goals.
After Beat midfielder India Trotter subbed into the match at halftime for Lauren Sesselmann, Atlanta became more offensively minded. Four minutes after halftime, Beat midfielder Lori Chalupny beat Flash defender Kandace Wilson and was taken down outside of the penalty box on the near side. Another four minutes later, Chalupny created a run down the middle with Lenczyk running toward the far post, but cut inside toward center back Candace Chapman cleared away the danger.
In the 56th minute, Chalupny would not be denied. From outside the penalty box, she cut the ball inside onto her right foot and scored an unassisted goal by firing a shot from the near side of the box that bounced off the inside of the right post and into the net.
Even though the Flash retook the lead in the 66th minute on a running header by Marta off a Sinclair feed, the Beat maintained its momentum.
It became more clear three minutes later that the Beat would not be denied at home when Lloyd atoned for her first half mistake by firing a shot outside of the penalty box that beat a diving Harris and tied the score at 2-all.
“We came in at halftime disappointed because we weren’t playing our game,” Chalupney said. “I think we were giving (Western New York) a little too much respect and my goal helped us to build our confidence and we played much better in the second half.”
Atlanta had a couple of chances to take a lead on a couple of open shots by Kristina Larsen. Harris made a finger tip save on her first attempt and Larsen’s second shot attempt was blocked by Harris.
Lipsher, who now has 24 saves in two games for the Beat, was at her best during the final 5 minutes of the contest when the Flash threatened. She made two key saves during injury time. No save was more important in the match than the one she made in the 87th minute. She was able to put a fingertip to a ball headed over her head from Caroline Seger, but redirected over the net for a corner kick. Two minutes later, a poor clearance by midfielder Colleen Flanagan allowed Sinclair to have a chance at her second goal of the match, but, once again, Lipsher deflected the ball with a fingertip and it smacked off the crossbar and out of danger.
“If you look at who they have up top, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on us,” Lipsher said. “All I can do is play, stay focused, do all the basics and keep everything in front of you.”
The Beat will play its first road game next Sunday when the team travels to Rochester for a rematch with Western New York (1-1-0).