June 20, 2009

Match Report-Freedom 1, Athletica 0

The Washington Freedom defeated Saint Louis Athletica 1-0 in a grueling game, played in intense heat in St. Louis. Rebecca Moros blocked a clearing effort by Kia McNeill, the ball came to her feet and she lifted a shot that went over Hope Solo, hit the crossbar and fell straight down and across the goal line in the 83rd minute. The shot appeared to have a lot of spin on it. The goal went against the run of play in the 2nd half, which was mostly dominated by Saint Louis.

The first half started with Athletica putting pressure on in the opening minutes of the game. Saint Louis got off 4 shots in the opening 8 minutes, but all were saved by Erin McLeod or wide of the net, with none being particularly dangerous.

In the 9th minute, the Freedom turned the tables. Hope Solo first punched out a dangerous cross, then made a leaping save to her right to deflect the ball to the corner and then grabbed another dangerous cross, all in the space of about 15 seconds. It was probably the best chance that Washington would have until the game winner. Washington did have an edge in play for the remainder of the first half. Allie Long was very active in the first half and had several attempts on goal with one going just over the crossbar.

Late in the half, Athletica started to gain the momentum back. Christie Welsh hit a hard low shot that McLeod made a diving save on in the 37th minute. A minute later, Athletica wasted a chance on a free kick that was poorly struck by Lori Chalupny.

The heat was so brutal that two players didn't make it through the first half. Elise Weber came off at the 26 minute mark, replaced by Melissa Tancredi, seeing her first action in quite awhile because of an injury. The big surprise was Abby Wambach coming off in the 40th minute in favor of Jill Gilbeau.

The 2nd half started much the same as the first, with Athletica putting heavy pressure on the Freedom goal. Two corner kicks both produced headers that came very close to being goals. The first was by Christie Welsh whose shot either hit the crossbar or was deflected out by McLeod's hand (it was hard to tell from my angle). The second was by Tancredi whose header hit the bar only to deflect wide. Welsh was replaced by Kerri Hanks at the 55 minute mark. Shortly thereafter, DeDycker subbed in for Long for the Freedom.

Both teams traded harmless chances midway through the 2nd half. But in the 69th minute, Athletica almost got on the board with a free kick. The kick taken by Woznuk was headed out, but Lori Chalupny volleyed it and it was deflected just wide of the goal to the right. Another free kick by Woznuk a few minutes later appeared dangerous, but Athletica was unable to get a good shot off. Sara Larsson subbed in for Amanda Cinalli in the 80th minute.

It was at that point that fate fell the Freedom's way and Moros scored her goal. Athletica wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet though. A minute later, Chalupny whistled one just over the bar. A couple minutes after that, Athletica had a nice build up as Chalupny passed to Tancredi on the right side who crossed to an onrushing Eniola Aluko. McLeod came sliding out and just got the ball with her foot, dashing Aluko's chance for the equalizer. Just before stoppage, Athletica again had the ball in the Freedom's penalty area. McLeod came out to try to cut off the ball, but Hanks managed to get control to the side of the penalty area, with McLeod a good 12 yards or so out of the goal. However, it took Hanks too long to cross the ball and Cat Whitehill recovered to clear the ball out of danger. Athletica had one more chance in stoppage, but Chalupny's blistering shot went just wide to the right.

The woman of the match for the Freedom had to be McLeod who saved the day for them on more than one occasion. As mentioned earlier, Allie Long was quite active and had a good game, as was Lisa DeVanna who seemed to have endless energy on a brutally hot day. Also credit the Freedom's defense for bottling up Aluko for most of the first half.

For Athletica, Lori Chalupny was a force on the offensive end but just couldn't get any of her numerous shots into the net. Hope Solo played a solid game and I'm not sure you could fault her on what was a fairly unlucky goal. Melissa Tancredi came in early and did a pretty nice job at right back and really the defense played pretty well as a unit, except for the goal.

The official shot totals were 12-11 for Athletica, but my notes showed quite a few more. The win vaulted the Freedom into 2nd place, with Athletica falling to 3rd place, pending the outcome of tomorrow's games.