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Wambach's late goals lift Freedom in WPS

The Washington Freedom continued its late-season surge Saturday night, overcoming a second-half deficit to defeat Sky Blue of New Jersey, 2-1, at Maryland SoccerPlex.

Abby Wambach scored in the 79th and 84th minutes to extend the Freedom's unbeaten streak to five and bolster its Women's Professional Soccer playoff chances. Washington (7-8-7, 28 points) took sole possession of the fourth and final postseason berth ahead of Sky Blue (7-10-4, 25) and pulled within a point of the third-place Boston Breakers (8-7-5, 29).

"This is what our season has been like -- ups and downs," Wambach said.

The Freedom's final two matches are against the league's bottom teams, at Chicago next Sunday and home against Atlanta on Sept. 11. Sky Blue has three games remaining. With U.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage among the 3,143 in attendance .....

the brisk-paced match yielded decent opportunities for both sides in the first half, the best coming in the 26th minute when Freedom goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris made a one-on-one save on Natasha Kai.

Kai, whose quickness was a menacing presence, was gifted another opportunity four minutes later. Shadowing the Freedom's backline, she pounced on Rebecca Moros's square ball along the top of the penalty area. With Harris stranded, Kai chipped it over the keeper and off the underside of the crossbar.

In the 32nd, Sky Blue goalkeeper Jenni Branam departed with a leg injury suffered a few moments earlier while making an awkward clearance.

Wambach threatened in the 74th minute with a ferocious, rising shot from 15 yards, but reserve goalie Meghann Burke sprung to her right. Five minutes later, after Burke under cut Wambach from behind in the six-yard box, the striker deposited a penalty kick just under the crossbar.

Sky Blue narrowly missed connecting with two teasing crosses before Allie Long's through ball led Wambach for a low shot that struck the right post and spun across the goal line for her 12th goal of the year. "Abby made a great run," Long said.

By Steve Goff  |  August 28, 2010; 9:11 PM ET
Categories:  Freedom , Women  | Tags: Washington Freedom  
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Comments

Thanks for the Freedom coverage. Exciting game, with the Freedom having a rough first half but played aggressively in the second half. Ashlyn Harris has been key in replacing Erin McCleod in the Freedom's revival in the last quarter of the season. Should be an exciting last two weeks. Wish the attendance had been better on a beautiful night with quality soccer that mattered.

Posted by: Jedi65 | August 28, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Jedi65: Agreed. The postgame party at the nearby Rustic Oven, where fans got to meet a number of the players, was very nice, too. For those who weren't at the game, did anyone watch the Webcast?

I haven't worked out all the permutations, but it is likely that the fourth and last playoff spot will still be up for grabs on the last weekend of the regular season, two weeks hence, when the Freedom plays Atlanta at the 'Plex. A third-place finish, which means a first-round playoff game at the 'Plex, is a longshot.

On another matter, here is Goff's DCU-Chivas preview:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/28/AR2010082802797.html

Posted by: universityandpark | August 29, 2010 12:30 AM | Report abuse

Good to see the Freedom come from behind, though I don't know if my ticker can stand these late-game heroics.

I hope Jen Branam isn't seriously injured—I've been following her since she walked into a pick-up game on the Mall with a bunch of us duffers after the WUSA folded (she was at San Diego when the league disappeared, and had just missed the Olympic squad.)

Anyway, here's hoping DiCicco continues to get results in the last two games.

Posted by: StevanF | August 29, 2010 1:32 AM | Report abuse

And by saying "DiCicco", I of course mean "Gabarra."

Lordy, i should just go to bed.

Posted by: StevanF | August 29, 2010 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Congrats, Freedom, on a well-earned victory. I thought the attendance was higher than the announced 3,100. Abby might as well have had bull's-eye on her jersey, especially the way Sky Blue went after her in the second half. Why the ref was, in a manner of speaking, on the sidelines about all the cheap shots was beyond me.

Posted by: hofbrauhausde | August 29, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Crimes against Abby are not prosecuted, as a matter of league policy. I was stunned that the referee awarded a penalty kick when she was taken down in the box. Totally antithical to the flow of game control, to that point.

Posted by: Landru | August 29, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

For persons who can remember the WUSA-era Freedom, Jen Grubb came in as a late sub for Joisey. (If you can remember her getting a senior WNT callup while still in high school, and assisting on a winning goal against Norway, the recently crowned world champions, at RFK in 1995, you get extra credit.)

Posted by: universityandpark | August 29, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

For persons who can remember the WUSA-era Freedom, Jen Grubb came in as a late sub for Joisey. (If you can remember her getting a senior WNT callup while still in high school, and assisting on a winning goal against Norway, the recently crowned world champions, at RFK in 1995, you get extra credit.)

Posted by: universityandpark | August 29, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse


What's ironic about that is she was just inducted into the Freedom Hall of Fame a month ago. I heckled her for that during warm-ups. She laughed.

Posted by: stwasm | August 29, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Whoo-hooo!!! Great job and an exciting game!!-GO FREEDOM!!! We are on our way to the playoffs!!
I wish the refs would do a better job- It seems like Wambach and Huffman were both punching bags for Joirsey.
The stuff with Jen Grubb was just a distractor and didn't amount to much of anything more than that. Too bad for Jen that she did that.

Posted by: 10bestfan | August 30, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Unless Atlanta pulls off a miracle, any combination of Freedom wins or ties and Sky Blue losses or ties adding up to six standings points will give the Freedom a playoff spot. With two games left, they can do it on their own, if need be.

Posted by: kevinwparker | August 30, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

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