The Washington Freedom is 2-0 and expects to start the same lineup for the third consecutive game this evening in San Jose, yet not all has been tranquil this week for last year's league runner-up.
The Freedom's continuing struggle to get a visa for Chinese forward Bai Jie remains unresolved, and Coach Jim Gabarra has begun to inquire about a foreign replacement with WUSA Vice President Lauren Gregg, who handles player personnel matters. Meantime, the arrival of Australian national team midfielder Kelly Golebiowski and the sudden retirement of two-year veteran Monica Gerardo, who will leave the Freedom at the end of the month, have left Gabarra's attacking corps in flux.
Gerardo, who has appeared as a second-half substitute in both games, told her teammates and coaches earlier this week that she intended to accept an assistant coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh. The Panthers' new head coach, Sue-Moy Chin, was an assistant at Notre Dame when Gerardo was a player there from 1995 to '98. Chin offered the position to Gerardo the night before the Freedom's season-opening game at Carolina. Gerardo, who was a volunteer assistant at Navy in 2001, accepted a couple of days later.
"The timing [for the Freedom] was a little bad, but I think I'm ready to make this transition and move on. The opportunity was just right for me," Gerardo said.
"Physically and mentally I could be playing, but I don't want to drag myself out there for years to come if my heart isn't all there."
Gabarra said he had noticed a slight change in Gerardo's demeanor as she finalized her arrangements and waited to tell the team, but that her work habits remained good and that he supported her decision.
"I was a little surprised, and obviously it puts us in a tough spot because we lose a player, but we have to think about what's right for her," Gabarra said.
"Players get to the point in their careers where they see an opportunity to get where they want to be in a couple of years and it's too good to pass up."
Gabarra likely will use one of his reserve players to fill the vacant roster spot until German defender Sandra Minnert arrives in June.
Gerardo, 26, also plays for the Mexican women's national team, which is in the final stages of qualifying for this fall's Women's World Cup. Gerardo, a dual citizen, said she has not been in touch with Mexican officials but cannot foresee staying in top playing shape while working to revitalize Pitt's moribund program. She played in the 1999 World Cup in the United States.
A seventh-round pick in the inaugural WUSA draft, Gerardo has proven a versatile attacker who picks her spots well. She appeared 42 times for the Freedom, starting 19 times and scoring six goals. Her eight-yard shot in the 80th minute of last August's league semifinal at Philadelphia lifted the Freedom into the Founders Cup final.
"It was great to have a winning season last year and I won't forget any of the girls I've played with and the friends I've developed. There's nothing bad to say about my experience," Gerardo said.
"I really don't know how to explain my decision. In my soul I feel it's my time."