September 23, 2010

Adams OT Goal Nets Win for Independence

It didn't quite take 120 minutes for the winning goal as in Sunday's match, but Danesha Adams overtime goal gave Philadelphia a 2-1 Super Semifinal victory over the Boston Breakers, sending the Independence to the west coast for a final's date with FC Gold Pride. The goal, which came in the 103rd minute, was somewhat controversial and left the Breakers complaining about the lack of a call on the play.

With the end of the 1st overtime approaching, Tina DiMartino dribbled from the right wing toward the box and crossed the ball to the far post. Danesha Adams gained some separation from Amy LePeilbet and rose for a header just at the left post and maybe two yards off the line. The ball went off Adams downward, inside the post, and just over the line. There was some question as to whether the ball had touched Adam's hand or not, but veteran referee Kari Seitz did not wave off the goal. Several replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball hit Adams hand or whether it went off her head. For their part, the Breakers signalled almost immediately for a hand ball, but to no avail.

The first half of the game was played at a fast pace, leaving one wondering whether either team would have the energy for an overtime. The Independence got the first good chance of the match as Frida Magnusdottir took a free kick from 30 yards out. Magnusdottir struck a bullet which was bending away from Breaker goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and toward the left corner of the net. Naeher completely layed out to catch the ball cleanly with a great save.

Boston then seemed to control possession for awhile, gaining two chances, with a Fabiana shot over the bar and a Kristine Lilly volley that Val Henderson was barely able to get her hand on to deflect wide.

The Breakers were the first to strike. Lianne Sanderson lost possession to Jordan Angeli at midfield in what appeared to be heavy contact. Kristine Lilly then sent a long ball up to Lauren Cheney. Cheney caught Henderson well off her line and chipped it perfectly from 22 yards, with the ball grazing the bottom of the crossbar and going into the net.

Boston's lead lasted all of seven minutes as the Independence quickly drew even. Amy Rodriguez hustled to gain possession inside Boston's half and passed the ball to Tina DiMartino. DiMartino sent it back to Rodriguez who found an open Caroline Seger charging in from the right side. Seger's low shot to the far post beat Naeher to tie the score. It appeared that Naeher had to hesitate, wary of DiMartino who was making a run at the near post.

After the break, Rodriguez had two chances at an open net, putting both wide. In the first, she caught Naeher out of the box, but her diving shot rolled just wide of the goal. On the second, she touched the ball past Naeher, but was unable to get her shot on frame from a bad angle.

Jen Buczkowski picked up her fourth yellow card of the year against Boston for taking down Kelly Smith in the 68th minute. Both teams seem to tire toward the end of the 2nd half.

The Breakers were to come close twice in the closing minutes of the 2nd half. First, Cheney was able to get off a shot from the side of the box, which Henderson parried safely away. In the 89th minute, LePeilbet sent a long ball forward to Kelly Smith. Smith made a brilliant first touch to bring the ball to her left foot, but her blast from 20 yards went just over the crossbar and the score remained 1-1 after regulation time.

The Independence seem to gain a second wind with the start of the overtime. They nearly scored in the 102nd minute, with DiMartino crossing the ball to Adams whose shot from eight yards went over the crossbar. But it was only a minute later that the two paired up for what would be the game winning goal. Adams had been a second half substitution by Paul Riley.

The Breakers did not go quietly. Midway through the 2nd overtime, a scramble in front of the net was temporarily cleared by Philadelphia, but Kasey Moore was able to win possession for Boston. She saw Henderson a bit off her line and launched a shot from 30 yards that hit the crossbar. The ball rebounded to Alex Scott, who was all alone in the box, about 12 yards out with only Henderson between her and the goal. A bouncing ball and tired legs did Scott in as she nearly fanned on her shot and the Independence were able to recover in time to clear the ball out of trouble. It would be the last good opportunity that the Breakers would have.

Philadelphia was able to kill the remaining time to put away the 2-1 victory. Several players on both teams had excellent games. Although she missed some opportunities to score, Amy Rodriguez worked tirelessly throughout the match and her hustle led to the first goal. Tina DiMartino seemed to be everywhere, among several great efforts from the Independence midfielders. Alyssa Naeher's great save early on was the best of the match. Veteran Kristine Lilly had a strong match as well.

The shots ended up nearly even with the Independence having the slight edge at 18-17. The Breakers had a heavy advantage in corners at 8-2 and a slight one in shots on goal at 8-6.

Philadelphia will now travel to Pioneer Stadium in Hayward, California to face FC Gold Pride. The 2010 WPS Championship presented by Citi will be played at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific on Sunday, September 26. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.