SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It was never a matter of if, it was always a matter of when.
After failing to connect on her first 16 shots over the previous three Women’s Professional Soccer games, Abby Wambach finally did what everyone expected her to do on Sunday – score a goal.
But Wambach didn’t stop there. After heading in the game’s first goal on a free kick from Cat Whitehill, Wambach put the period on the match by heading in another Whitehill free kick in stoppage time to give the Freedom its first WPS win, 4-3 over FC Gold Pride in Santa Clara, Calif.
“Everyone can say there’s a monkey on my back, I do want to score goals for my team but most importantly I want to win games,” said Wambach. “There are still some things to work on – defensively we had a few break downs. We put some goals in the back of the net today and that’s a big reason why we came out on top today.”
Heading into the half tied up at 1-1, Washington (1-2-1) seemed to put the game away early in the second half as Wambach assisted Lori Lindsey to put the Freedom up 2-1, after which Lindsey assisted Allie Long to increase the lead to 3-1.
FC Gold Pride (1-2-1) answered with goals from Tiffany Weimer and Christine Sinclair to knot things up at 3-3 in the 83rd minute before Wambach’s second goal put the end to the comeback bid.
“Well, I’d rather win in un-dramatic fashion but we are glad that we got the result,” said Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra. “We’ve been playing well the first couple weeks of the season but we haven’t got any bounces and we’ve given up some tough goals and not put our chances away so it was nice to do so today. Even though it was the last minute, I thought both teams played well attacking-wise but we are very happy to get the first win.”
Wambach came into the match with the most shots and shots on goal of anyone in WPS, but had failed to score a goal. Her troubles seemed to mirror the entire Washington offense as the Freedom had scored two goals while allowing six on the way to a 0-2-1 record and a spot at the bottom of the WPS standings. The win now vaults the Freedom into a tie for fourth with FC Gold Pride.
“That’s what we knew we were getting, it was nice for her to get a goal no matter how it was today and get her first goal of the season,” Gabarra said. “I think you see when she got one that she’s a lot more relaxed. Cat played a great ball to her and that is not something that is new to either of them. It is certainly very difficult to defend but I thought it was great. I’m more pleased with her (Wambach’s) assist because that’s the space we need her to get into.”
One of the most encouraging signs for the Freedom aside from the offense has to be the ability of the team to win despite missing Sonia Bompastor, one of the team’s most consistent players through the first three games. Bompastor was called up to play with the French national team this week, causing her to miss the contest.
Her absence created one of several lineup changes for the Freedom, which had Kati Jo Spisak make her debut in goal and saw Kristin DeDycker, Jill Gilbeau and Rebecca Moros all make their first WPS starts.
Washington will look to follow up this performance next Sunday when the Freedom host Saint Louis Athletica at 6 p.m. at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Sunday’s game will be the second of three straight Fox Soccer Channel appearances for the Freedom. Sunday’s game will also carry extra meaning as the team will honor WUSA standouts Mia Hamm and Siri Mullinix by inducting the two into the Hall of Freedom at halftime.
Freedom 4, FC Gold Pride 3
April 26 // Santa Clara, Calif.
Scoring: 1. WSH, Abby Wambach, 1 (Cat Whitehill, 1) 18. 2. FCGP, Tiffeny Milbrett, 2 (Tiffany Weimer, 1) 30. 3. WSH, Lori Lindsey, 2 (Wambach, 1) 51. 4. WSH, Allie Long, 1 (Lindsey, 1) 70. 5. FCGP, Weimer, 1 (Kandace Wilson, 2) 75. 6. FCGP, Christine Sinclair, 1 (Rachel Buehler, 1) 83. 7. WSH, Wambach 2 (Whitehill, 2) 90.
Scoring by Period:
WSH 1 3 – 4
FCGP 1 2 – 3
Shots: WSH 9, FCGP 13; Shots on Goal: WSH 5, FCGP 7; Saves: Kati Jo Spisak (WSH) 4, Nicole Barnhart (FCGP) 1; Corners: WSH 1, FCGP 1; Fouls: WSH 3, FCGP 5.
Lineups: WSH: Spisak; Gilbeau, Whitehill, Sauerbrunn, Singer; DeDycker (De Vanna, 62), Lindsey, Sawa, Long, Wambach, Moros (Janss, 76). FCGP: Barnhart; Wilson, Graczyk, Buehler, Robinson (Massengale, 78); Weimer, Yokers (Sinclair, 60), DiMartino, Osborne, Milbrett, Arakawa.
Referee: Sandra Sarafini
Referee’s Assistants: Mike Kampmeinert; Maurizio Laudani
4th Official: Vicente Cortes
Courtesy of: Washington Freedom