Missing stars impact Freedom-Sky Blue FC opener

[WPS PLAYOFFS] Women's Professional Soccer kicks off its unique playoff format with a first-round match on Saturday (TV: Fox Sports Net, live, 4 pm ET). The Washington Freedom is favored against visiting Sky Blue FC in a repeat of their regular-season finale. The Freedom has beaten Sky Blue twice and tied it once this season but will be without French star Sonia Bompastor, who has joined the Bleues to prepare for the UEFA Women's Championship.

Player-coach Christine Rampone and the rest of the Sky Blue FC defense will have to do a better job than it did last Saturday when Abby Wambach and Lisa De Vanna teamed up for all three goals in the Freedom's 3-1 win that clinched third place.

A bigger loss than Bompastor for Washington could be central defender Anita Asante for Sky Blue FC. Asante has left to join England in training for Finland '09.

A high-scoring game is expected on Saturday. The Freedom and Sky Blue FC combined for 15 goals in their three meeting, including the 4-4 tie a month ago.

The winner will face Saint Louis Athletica Wednesday, and the Super Semifinal winner will go on to meet regular-season champion Los Angeles Aug. 22 at the Home Depot Center.

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