The Beat (1-1-1) have split their first three games, most recently picking up a 2-all draw with the Western New York Flash last week in Kennesaw. Even with the deadlocked score, some considered it an upset in light of the talent the Flash possessed, including international superstar Marta.
Today, the Beat will rematch with Western New York (1-0-1), looking to spoil the expansion team’s home opener in Rochester, N.Y.
Beat coach James Galanis can see both sides of playing the same team in consecutive weeks.
“It has its positives and negatives,” he said. “The negatives are that it happens to be against the best team on paper two games in a row. The positive thing is that we can only get better.
“Our confidence can grow if we manage to get another good result while we are out there. I think there is more on the positive side than the negative side. It is what it is. We worked hard this week, and we’ll go out there and see what happens.”
Last week, the Beat earned the tie, rallying back after allowing a goal in the first 2 minutes of the game. After folded in its first game against Boston, Atlanta has shown more resiliency and confidence in its win over Sky Blue FC and draw with Western New York.
Both of Atlanta’s goals last week came on shots from outside of the penalty box by veterans Carli Lloyd and Lori Chalupny.
“Lori can strike it from distance, and I can strike it from distance,” Lloyd said. “She is comfortable hitting that shot, and I am as well. That’s one of the stronger parts of my game. I probably scored from distance with the (U.S.) national team as well. It’s all about the technique, and I spend tons of time getting the right technique down and getting everything straight and in line.”
The Beat’s offensive confidence will have to continue today, as their match with the Flash will be played on artificial turf — Atlanta’s first game on anything but grass.
“The main adjustment is passes,” Galanis said. “Your passes have to be to the feet. They can’t be leading passes. You can’t pass the ball into space for teammates to run onto it.
“You get it to teammates’ feet and let them control it, and their pass has to be that as well. If its 1 yard to the left or right, you’re going to find that the ball is really quick and will probably go out or to the opponents.”
For a team that focuses much of its strategy on possession, dealing with the change in surface will be crucial. But Galanis believes is may actually suit his players more than a natural surface would.
“We’re a team that relies on moving the ball around and using simple passes,” he said, “so it doesn’t really change anything. I think it actually suits our style of game.”
Along with confidence in the team’s passing and striking abilities, it’s clear the Beat have confidence in its goalkeeping as well.
Allison Lipsher, the two-time reigning WPS player of the week, has saved 24 shots over the last two game and has been critical to the Beat’s success, especially as the pressure grew in the games’ waning minutes.
Although pieces of the Beat’s game seem to be coming into focus, Galanis believe there is still plenty of work to be done.
“It’s just another good challenge for our girls that we will use as a tool to make us better,” he said. “I’m proud of where we are so far. We are growing off the field and our confidence is growing. We’re three games in, and we are happy for where we are at, but we have a long way to go. The vision in my head is still very far away, but we are definitely making progress.”