But this matchup, a road game at Philadelphia (2-2-2), takes on an added motive after the Beat (1-6-1) suffered a 2-1 loss to Independence earlier this season at KSU Soccer Stadium. That May 15 game saw Philadelphia score two goals in come-from-behind fashion, as it played a man down following a red card in the 13th minute.
“I had individual meetings with the players (Wednesday) and quite a few of them brought it up,” Beat coach James Galanis said of the previous meeting with Philadelphia. “We had them and let them get away last time. I think it is motivating. We’re going to go out there and try to get the win for sure.”
Once again, the teams will face off without their respective U.S. national team players, who will be playing Sunday against Mexico in the final tuneup before the Women’s World Cup begins in Germany.
“I definitely think this match is critical because, if we don’t turn it around, then I don’t know,” Beat defender Katherine Reynolds said. “It will be tough to get back into it. I think Philly is a team that we can turn everything around with.
“James practiced some things (Thursday) that would help us take advantage of the way they play and it’s critical.”
With tonight’s game marking the halfway point of WPS’ 18-game season, it’s not hard to see why both Galanis and Reynolds find this match to be so important for the Beat’s future. Reynolds is also making her return to Philadelphia for the first time since last season, when she saw limited playing time with the Independence.
As the Beat try to turn their season around, they will have to show that they can withstand Philadelphia’s speed and attacking finish.
“They’ve got some speed up top,” Galanis said, “But I think we’ve got speed in the back line. Reynolds and Analisa (Marquez) are two of the fastest fullbacks in the league. That’s why they’re playing.
“I don’t think (speed) will be a factor. I think we shut them down in that department in the last game we played. They couldn’t get around Analisa. We just have to watch their ball movement. They move the ball through the middle a lot. That’s the bigger concern, rather than their players being faster than our players.”
Last month, the Beat scored their lone goal against Philadelphia when Lori Chalupny slotted home a goal past Independence goalkeeper Val Henderson, who will once again be starting this week. This time around, Atlanta may not have Chalupny, who will be a game-time decision as she battles a thigh injury.
Tonight’s game at Widener University in Chester, Pa., will be played on an artificial surface, the Beat’s first game away from grass since May 1, when they lost 3-0 to Western New York.
“It’s not an ideal situation going from grass to turf to grass,” Beat midfielder Kelly Parker said. “It’s hard on the body, but you know, we’re so lucky to have this grass (training) field here that we do. It’s almost like turf because it’s so flat and so gorgeous, but there’s not much to adjust to other than the bounce.
“If it’s wet, it’s slicker, but the short grass does that, too. I think it benefits us and our speed of play, so I’m looking forward to playing on it.”
Galanis said one of the things the team did to prepare for playing on the artificial surface was adjusting the setting of their training field.
“We instructed the turf manager to cut the grass really short, so the ball would move faster,” he said. “The good is that, every morning when we get here, the grass gets watered down, so it creates a slippery and fast surface. We try to prepare as best we can, and it’s a difficult challenge going from grass to turf. The girls have to get there and adopt as much as possible.”