Becky Sauerbrunn's Goal Gives Washington Freedom Its First Point

Washington midfielder Homare Sawa, left, battles Chicago's Carli Lloyd for the ball during the Freedom's home opener at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
Washington midfielder Homare Sawa, left, battles Chicago's Carli Lloyd for the ball during the Freedom's home opener at the Maryland SoccerPlex. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Showing the kinks of a team still learning to play together, in just the second game of the season in the first year of a new league, the Washington Freedom struggled to capitalize on an abundance of goal-scoring opportunities in its home opener at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds last night.

In front of 5,028, a record crowd for the venue, defender Becky Sauerbrunn's second-half goal -- the Freedom's first in Women's Professional Soccer league history -- gave Washington a 1-1 tie with the Chicago Red Stars, earning the franchise its first point.

But the result came with some regret as Washington (0-1-1) dominated play for much of the game and had a man advantage for the final 25-plus minutes.

"We had been knocking at the door all first half, we had a bunch of great chances, so it was really just a matter of time," Sauerbrunn said. "It just kind of happened. It was extremely frustrating because I really feel that we deserved to win that game, I think we had a lot of quality chances, I think we had a lot more chances than the other team did. It was unfortunate that we didn't finish them, but I really do think we deserved to get three points out of that."

Sauerbrunn's goal came in the 54th minute off a driven, bending free kick from midfielder Sonia Bompastor that Sauerbrunn flicked from her near post run to the far upper corner, leaving no chance for Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson.

The goal came early in a half in which the Freedom players continually found themselves on the doorstep but were unable to tuck away any of their several quality chances.

After Chicago captain Frida Östberg picked up her second yellow card in the 63rd minute for throwing her body and elbow into the path of midfielder Lisa De Vanna, Washington pushed relentlessly at the Red Stars' defense.

Abby Wambach's diving header on the end of a Bompastor cross in the 82nd minute was the best prospect of the final 25 minutes, but a reflex save from Jönsson turned it away, and Chicago (1-0-1) survived the final minutes.

"The responsibility is not one person," Wambach said. "But I really feel like I should have put one of those goals away at the end today."

The Red Stars took the lead in the 29th minute when Freedom midfielder Lori Lindsey lost the ball in the middle of the field, sparking a Red Stars counterattack.

The ball was slowed down and played back to defender Marian Dalmy, who played a quick pass up the field that slipped by its intended target and into the path of a charging Lindsay Tarpley.

Tarpley collected the ball on the right side of the box and curled a shot inside the left post for her second goal of the season, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead.

The goal came against the run of play, however, as Washington had put together some nice possession -- especially through the left sideline where Bompastor's energy created havoc for the Chicago defense.

Bompastor's work on the outside continued in the second half, along with the creative play of midfielder Allie Long in the middle of the field, often led the Freedom attacks.

But despite 14 shots on goal to Chicago's three, Washington found the net only on Sauerbrunn's header.

"I think it's sharpness in front of the goal, it's repetition in finishing, which will come," Freedom Coach Jim Gabarra said. "It's certainly better than last week and it's certainly better than the week before in L.A. But I don't think you're going to get that many quality chances in every game this season. If we do, I'll be happy because I think our finishing certainly will improve."

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