Two Goals in Short Span Carry Freedom to Victory

Cat Whitehill, center, leaps into the arms of Becky Sauerbrunn after scoring the Freedom's first goal, while Sky Blue FC's Collette McCallum walks away.
Cat Whitehill, center, leaps into the arms of Becky Sauerbrunn after scoring the Freedom's first goal, while Sky Blue FC's Collette McCallum walks away. (By Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Washington Freedom defender Cat Whitehill had waved her hands over her head, emphatically calling for the ball on an earlier corner kick on which she had gone unmarked, but the serve had floated well over her head.

So as she made a run on another corner in the 35th minute and again found herself alone, this time Whitehill thought she might try to draw less attention to herself.

The strategy worked, as Whitehill was left unmarked on the near post in front of three Sky Blue FC defenders and flicked on an inswinging corner kick from midfielder Sonia Bompastor, breaking open a scoreless tie and starting an eight-minute span in which the Freedom opened a lead it did not surrender in a 2-1 win on Saturday at RFK Stadium.

"I think they saw at the last second that I was open," Whitehill said. "I think that's why they were coming after me but I had already beaten them into space."

The win improved Washington's current unbeaten streak to four games, and also gave the Freedom its first home win of the season.

Playing the front end of a doubleheader with D.C. United for the first time in six years, and without star forward Abby Wambach, who was called up for a friendly by the U.S. Women's National Team, the Freedom (2-2-3) spent the majority of the first 34 minutes of the game in the middle of the field, struggling to put much of anything together moving forward.

The only chances for either side in the first half hour came early in the game, and both were for Sky Blue (1-4-2) -- an eighth-minute strike from midfielder-forward Kacey White that was denied by Washington goalkeeper Erin McLeod and a 21st minute offering that missed over the top.

But with the game seemingly headed for a scoreless tie at the half, the Freedom suddenly broke through.

Eight minutes after Whitehill's goal, forward Lisa De Vanna held off a strong challenge from a Sky Blue defender, kept her feet and slotted home a left-footed shot to the far post to double Washington's lead.

"Part of our goals for the game was to possess so we were keeping the possession," Whitehill said. "But every time we got into our attacking third that's when it kind of stalled and that's when Sky Blue was able to hit it out. And then all of a sudden we were like, 'Hey we can beat them on the outside, we can beat them over the top and we can beat them through the middle.'"

De Vanna's goal made up for a clear opportunity she had missed just three minutes before, when she found herself alone with the goalkeeper at angle not more than six yards out, but somehow put the ball into the side netting.

But De Vanna made no mistake when she got another chance, pressuring the Sky Blue defense and holding off a strong challenge to win the ball and put her in on goal.

"All I remember was [Coach] Jim [Gabarra] going, 'Put pressure, put pressure'" De Vanna said. "So I've just taken off and just made something out of nothing."

The Freedom staved off several strong Sky Blue chances early in the second half, thanks mostly to the quality work of McLeod.

The Canadian pushed a deflection wide of the post in the 47th minute, and then dove to her left on the ensuing corner kick to save a well-hit header from Sky Blue midfielder Rosana, and Freedom defenders cleared the ball off the line seconds later.

McLeod again rose to the challenge in the 54th minute, stopping an offering from Julianne Sitch from the right side of the box inside of 10 yards.

Sky Blue, which was playing after indefinitely suspending coach/general manager Ian Sawyers hours before the game, was finally rewarded in the 66th minute when Rosana got on the end of a well played through ball behind the Freedom defense and neatly tucked it to the near post to beat an onrushing McLeod.

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