Wambach in League With Freedom Again

Abby Wambach, shown during the 2007 World Cup, missed the Olympics with a broken leg.
Abby Wambach, shown during the 2007 World Cup, missed the Olympics with a broken leg. (By Guang Niu -- Getty Images)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Abby Wambach's preference was to remain on the West Coast when Women's Professional Soccer, the second attempt at a U.S. national league, kicked off next spring. But the more she thought about it, Wambach said yesterday after being allocated to the Washington Freedom, the more "it made sense to go where I started and go where people know me."

Six years after helping the Freedom win the final Women's United Soccer Association title, the muscular striker will return to Washington next year as the marquee player for a team that retained its ownership, coach and nickname. The team plans to play seven home games at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County and have three doubleheaders with D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

Cat Whitehill, a U.S. national team defender who has played in two World Cups, and Ali Krieger (Forest Park), a Dumfries native and Penn State graduate who played for the Freedom's club team after the demise of the WUSA, were also sent to Washington.

Other prominent players allocated in the seven-team league were Hope Solo and Lori Chalupny (St. Louis), Carli Lloyd and Kate Markgraf (Chicago), Natasha Kai and Heather O'Reilly (New Jersey), Kristine Lilly and Heather Mitts (Boston), Shannon Boxx (Los Angeles) and Leslie Osborne (San Francisco/San Jose). The rights to top foreign players will be determined in a draft next week; teams will then attempt to reach contract agreements with players such as Brazilian superstar Marta.

Both Wambach, 28, and Whitehill, 26, are recovering from significant injuries that forced them to miss the U.S. team's Olympic gold medal campaign. Wambach, whose 99 goals are fifth on the U.S. career list, broke her leg in the final tuneup before the Summer Games. Whitehill tore knee ligaments in June. Both are expected to fully recover in time for the start of training camp March 1. The regular season begins in early April.

"We have a lot of work to do to get back to where we need to be," said Wambach, who has lived in the Los Angeles area since the WUSA folded. "I know [the injury] is not going to affect my aggressive style and nature at all."

Freedom Coach Jim Gabarra said Wambach "was at the top of a lot of teams' list. Obviously, we are ecstatic to get her back here."

Krieger, 24, a converted defender who was an alternate on the Olympic squad, is under contract with European champion Frankfurt and might not be available until June, Gabarra said.

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