Washington Freedom Beats Sky Blue FC, 3-1, to Clinch Playoff Spot

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 2009

The resurgence of the Washington Freedom has gone hand-in-hand with that of its biggest star, forward Abby Wambach, in the final weeks of the regular season.

After scoring just two goals in the first three months of the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer campaign, Wambach in July regained the form that has made her one of the game's most prolific scorers, tallying four goals and an assist en route to being named the league's player of the month.

And on Saturday night with a postseason spot at stake against Sky Blue FC, Wambach continued her success, scoring twice and adding an assist to lead the Freedom to a crucial 3-1 win in front of 4,573 at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

The victory not only secured Washington a spot in the playoffs, but also the No. 3 seed and a home game in the opening round next week.

Washington will host either Sky Blue FC or the Boston Breakers next Saturday at 4 p.m., depending on the outcome of Boston's game Sunday against the top-seeded Los Angeles Sol.

"It's huge," Wambach said. "Obviously now we're going to be watching who wins the game tomorrow [between] Boston and L.A. . . . We're glad to have the playoff game here. We feel that this environment that the Washington Freedom community puts out is an environment that is playoff [comparable] almost every game."

Wambach's return to form coincided almost exactly with the one-year mark of the broken leg she suffered on July 16, 2008 in a friendly against Brazil, and came on the heels of scoring her 100th international goal on July 19, -- an accomplishment that had lingered over the star forward since the injury last summer.

Wambach now has five goals and one assist in four games since July 26.

The production could not have come at a better time for Washington, which will be without dynamic midfielder Sonia Bompastor for the remainder of the season because of international duty. Bompastor will fly to her native France on Sunday to join the national team for the UEFA Women's Championship.

"Obviously scoring that 100th goal, ever since it's seemed as though I've weighed a little less," Wambach said. "Pretty large monkey on my back for over a year. It can be a little daunting trying to tackle that task. So once I scored that goal I just have felt like I can be myself, play like I used to play."

The target striker was again the most effective player throughout Saturday's contest, and struck on both sides of halftime -- the beneficiary of the strong work and crosses of her teammates.

The Freedom did well to switch the point of attack through the back line in the 19th minute, and defender Ali Krieger took possession on the right side and carried the ball up field with pace before seeking Rebecca Moros to her right.

Moros caught up to the ball just before it crossed the end line and swung a cross back across the net, and Wambach used her head and body to push the ball into the net and give Washington the 1-0 lead.

Then, in the 49th minute, Lisa De Vanna's run on the left sideline and subsequent cross found Wambach alone just a few yards out from the net on the far post for an easy finish that doubled Washington's lead.

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