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Athletica outplay Los Angeles Sol but come up empty
st. louis athletica, christie welsh, stephanie cox, allison falk, lisa sari, st. louis, los angeles sol, anheuser-busch soccer park, fenton
Athletica's Christie Welsh takes a shot on goal as the Sol's Stephanie Cox, Allison Falk, and Lisa Sari try and block her during the first half as the St. Louis Athletica take on the Los Angeles Sol Wednesday evening at the Anheuser- Busch Soccer Park in Fenton. (Emily Rasinski/P-D)

FENTON — If only the rules of soccer didn't require you to ultimately put the ball in the goal, the Athletica might well be battling for first place in the WPS.

But since the Athletica can do just about everything except score, they're in fourth place. They dropped their second straight match at home, losing to league-leading Los Angeles 2-1 at the A-B Center on Wednesday night. The Athletica outshot the Sol by a whopping 25-12, outplayed the Sol, had 12 corner kicks — "It's something in a match to have 12 corner kicks," coach Jorge Barcellos said — but couldn't outscore the Sol.

"We definitely dodged a bullet," said LA coach Abner Rogers, whose team has 31 points, 13 more than second-place Boston, and is running away with the regular-season title. "I'm sure as a coach (Barcellos) is frustrated. You can't have that many opportunities and not score and expect to win the game."

Frustrated? To put it mildly. The Athletica let some stellar chances go for naught in the first half, and in the second half Barcellos thought they had even more, as the Athletica outshot the Sol 16-6. The Athletica finally scored in the 81st minute when, down 2-0, Kerri Hanks got her first goal of the season, drilling in a shot from about 15 yards. Both coaches agreed that Los Angeles had just two scoring chances and converted both of them, which was the difference in the game.

"You have the opportunities, you have to do it," Barcellos said. "We missed the goal almost from inside the goal. We've been working a lot on finishing, working hard on corner kicks, it just didn't happen. We proved today we can play with them as equals. Sometimes you don't have an explanation for some things in soccer."

"I guess the only good thing you take from this game is we were right there with the best team in the league," Athletica captain Lori Chalupny said. "That game could have gone either way. It didn't feel like a 2-1 game."

Though the Sol are the league's dominant team, this was a game the Athletica very much wanted to win. The Athletica are 2-3-1 at their various home fields and will have to get some points back on a four-match trip that starts Sunday against Sky Blue in New Jersey and includes a final meeting with Los Angeles.

After surviving the first half, the Sol made a change at the half, bringing on Han Duan, and the move paid almost instant results. In the 51st minute, she flipped a pass to herself in the box to get behind the Athletica defense and then beat goalie Hope Solo from close range.

Falling behind LA is a bad idea, since the Sol went into the game allowing just four goals in 13 games and had a league-high nine shutouts. To make it worse, in the 73rd minute, Marta, considered the best player in the world, scored from inside the box and the Athletica were down 2-0. Barcellos put three forwards in the game and finally got a goal from Hanks, the team's top pick in the college draft, who has been struggling all season. That led to a last-ditch St. Louis effort, which ended with Chalupny getting clobbered at the top of the box just ahead of the whistle.

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