Washington Freedom Extends Unbeaten Streak to Five Games

FC Gold Pride defender Carrie Dew, left, collides with Freedom forward Abby Wambach, resulting in a second yellow card and an ejection for Dew.
FC Gold Pride defender Carrie Dew, left, collides with Freedom forward Abby Wambach, resulting in a second yellow card and an ejection for Dew. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
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By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 1, 2009

Even as they struggled at the start of the season, sputtering to a 0-2-1 start, there was a sense that the Washington Freedom was not too far from putting it all together.

Washington struggled to finish in its first three games, but often left the field feeling as though it had been the better team. However, since picking up the franchise's first win on April 26 against FC Gold Pride, the Freedom has gained confidence and remained unbeaten.

And yesterday afternoon in front of 4,474 at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Washington showcased its recent effectiveness and growing comfort level in a strong first half, then sustained through a sloppy second half to extend its unbeaten streak to five games with a 3-1 victory over FC Gold Pride.

"The gratifying part is that you still get the result," Freedom Coach Jim Gabarra said. "I think there were games early in the year where we were playing well and we think, 'How can we not win that game?' So it's certainly nicer to be able to say you got the result and you didn't play as well as you'd like, as opposed to the other way around."

All three goals came in a strong first half for Washington (3-2-3), which was creative and aggressive moving forward, especially through the combinations inside involving Sonia Bompastor, Homare Sawa and Lisa De Vanna.

The Freedom also got strong contributions from defender Cat Whitehill, who scored on a blistering free kick and set up another goal with a cross early in the first half.

Washington opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Whitehill's cross was deflected into the net by backtracking Gold Pride defender Carrie Dew.

The lead was doubled six minutes later when a loose ball bounced up to Bompastor, who hit it out of the air and over the defense to a charging De Vanna. The Australian touched it by FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, then caught up to the ball and pushed it into the net as a defender slid into her from behind.

The Freedom scored again on a free kick in the 32nd minute. Three players gathered around the ball and Bompastor touched it to Lori Lindsey who stopped the ball for Whitehill, and the defender hit a strong right-footed shot that deflected off the shoulder of an opposing player and into the net.

"Today I played a little pool out there and I wanted to ricochet it off people and score each time," Whitehill joked. "That was my goal today. The bank shots, a little shoulder here, an own goal there."

Washington was less impressive in the second half, playing more conservatively against an aggressive FC Gold Pride team that pushed forward in numbers looking to get back into the game.

FC Gold Pride (3-5-1) cut the lead to two on a 57th minute header from Christine Sinclair from a Tiffeny Milbrett cross and continued to threaten for much of the final half hour.

Despite Dew receiving a second yellow card in the 82nd minute, putting FC Gold Pride down a player, they nearly scored again when a long ball came across the front of the Freedom goal and was met on the far post by Sinclair.

But her effort went off the post and the Washington defense allowed just one goal for the third consecutive game.

"In the previous games, we were always playing catch-up so we really didn't notice any lags because we were having to push so hard," Whitehill said. "But now that we're catching ourselves in the lead, we're seeing ourselves lag and I think that means that we're just mentally weak . . . We addressed it this week -- how we mentally want to get stronger and it's a learning curve right now and each game we're going to have to move forward. But I'm just glad to get the three points."

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