September 26, 2010

Gold Pride Wins WPS Championship 4-0

FC Gold Pride left no doubts as to who the better team was on Sunday, easily defeating the Philadelphia Independence 4-0. The championship game proved almost anticlimactic given the suspense and intensity of the first two playoff matches. A very weary looking Independence team proved no match for the regular season champions from the Bay Area.

Gold Pride got on the board first in the 16th minute. In what appeared to be pinball more than soccer, Independence goalkeeper Val Henderson made two point blank saves on Marta, followed by another save on Tiffeny Milbrett, only to have the following rebound go to Camille Abily who touched to Sinclair who tapped it in from inside the six.

One of the few chances of the first half for Philadelphia came in the 25th minute. Nikki Krzysik placed a free kick to 18 which was headed forward by Caroline Seger. Lianne Sanderson went up for the header, but Nicole Barnhart was able to outjump her for the save. Frida Magnusdottir was later able to get off a shot from distance which was easily saved by Barnhart, but the chances were few and far between for the Independence.

Gold Pride made it 2-0 in the 29th minute. Marta pushed the ball ahead to Kandace Wilson who was able to outfight Allison Falk to win the ball. She was able to finish from the right side of the box past Henderson to double the lead.

Gold Pride dominated possession as well as the scoreboard in the first half. Philadelphia offered very little defensive pressure to Gold Pride's back line, seemingly content to let Gold Pride gain the midfield uncontested, perhaps in an effort to conserve energy. Indeed, the Independence looked to be a very tired group on both the second and third goals surrendered, the result of playing 240 minutes of soccer in the past seven days and with only two days of rest between Thursday's late semifinal and Sunday morning's final.

Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Philadelphia attempted to press forward more in the 2nd half, but to no avail. Gold Pride had two chances in the first five minutes of the second half. A Shannon Boxx shot was saved by Henderson and a Camille Abily effort went just wide right.

Finally in the 53rd minute, Marta made her way up the left side to the endline and crossed to Sinclair, who finished into an open net to make it 3-0. For Sinclair, it was her second goal of the game and her sixth of the season against Philadelphia. From that point forward it was just a matter of playing out the match.

Val Henderson, in spite of the four goals surrendered, played a strong match. In addition to her saves in the 1st half, she took a ball right off the foot of Marta that looked to be a sure goal. She later took a shot off her face from close in. Later she made a diving save on Tiffeny Milbrett's hard shot.

Philadelphia threatened a few times in the latter stages of the match. Danesha Adams once again provided a 2nd half spark for the Independence. She had Philly's best scoring opportunity getting a 1-on-1 chance against Barnhart from eight yards only to slice it wide right.

With the game well in hand and in stoppage, Marta added to the margin by finishing on a Kandace Wilson cross to make the final tally 4-0.

FC Gold Pride put the finishing touches on its worst to first story in resounding fashion. They have not lost a match since June. Christine Sinclair was named Player of the Game by the Fox broadcast team for her two goals, but Marta was named the game's MVP. Nicole Barnhart got the shutout in goal. Albertin Montoya had his team ready to play and they spread Philadelphia very effectively throughout the early stages of the match.

Perhaps it was a little much to ask Philadelphia to play 120 minutes late on Thursday night, fly cross country and then play what was basically a Sunday morning match for the championship. Still, it was a great effort for the Independence to make it that far and a fine season for an expansion team under coach Paul Riley.