Marta's Goal Lifts Sol to 1-0 Win Over Freedom

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009; 10:42 PM

Over the course of 90 vigorous minutes last night, the Washington Freedom created an abundance of scoring possibilities against the best club in Women's Professional Soccer and impeded the sport's premier player. But when the match at Maryland SoccerPlex entered the first minute of added time, Brazilian superstar Marta and the Los Angeles Sol ruined the Freedom's exceptional effort and further endangered Washington's playoff hopes.

Hindered all evening, Marta created a sliver of opportunity at the top of the penalty area and, with one perfect strike with her left foot, drove a powerful shot into the right side of the net to give the Sol a 1-0 victory and extend its unbeaten streak to 11.

"It was one of the few chances for me," she said through an interpreter, "but it came at the right point."

Marta's league-high ninth goal devastated the Freedom, which had an apparent score disallowed 10 minutes earlier and outplayed the Sol (11-1-4) for long stretches. Washington (4-6-4) has lost three straight and been shut out in three of the past five matches.

"We couldn't find a way to get a goal," Freedom forward Abby Wambach said. "At some point we need to stop talking about what we need to do and just do it. We're getting to a place where we are starting to get closer, but the goals aren't there."

Marta's goal came at the beginning of nine additional minutes, which was warranted after Sol defender Christie Shaner fractured her right tibia in a collision with Wambach early in the second half. Shaner had challenged Wambach's run into the penalty area and, after being treated on the field, was taken away by ambulance.

The injury marred an otherwise entertaining encounter in front of a near-capacity crowd of 5,143, which included dozens of Marta fans dressed in Brazilian yellow who, at the conclusion of the match, chanted, "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole -- Mar-ta! Mar-ta!"

Said Freedom Coach Jim Gabarra: "I thought the first half was easily the best half of soccer I've seen in the league this year. We played with confidence and had the better of the chances. We needed that one break, one bounce or one call, and it didn't come."

Wambach's early 20-yarder was thwarted by Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, and Cat Whitehill boomed a 35-yarder off the right post. Homare Sawa headed Sonia Bompastor's corner kick narrowly over the crossbar, and Wambach directed a header toward the left corner that was cleared off the goal line by Katie Larkin.

With Marta attracting attention, the Sol was a persistent threat. The best chance came in the 19th minute when Washington's Becky Sauerbrunn used a bicycle kick to prevent McCall Zerboni's bid.

Shaner's injury took the air out of the match until the final 10 minutes. Whitehill appeared to put the Freedom ahead with an angled finish from the left, but she was ruled offside.

Three minutes later, off a Sol corner kick, one shot was denied on the goal line and another hit the right post. In the 88th, Freedom reserve Allie Long's running volley, set up nicely by Lori Lindsey, missed the top corner.

The nine minutes of added time was unusual but appropriate -- and Marta made the most of it.

"Up until that point, we probably did the best job anyone has done against her all year," Gabarra said. "Even when she was isolated one versus one, players did a great job and didn't let her get behind us."

But on the winning sequence, he added: "It was a little too easy for them to get the ball to her. If we put better pressure on the ball, maybe she's a little further from the goal, maybe you have more time to get more players around her, but that's why she is a special player."

Freedom Note: Former defender Steffi Jones and the late David Vanole, the goalies coach when the club played in the WUSA, were inducted into the Hall of Freedom at halftime. Jones is the president of the 2011 Women's World Cup organizing committee in Germany.

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