- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2001

FREEDOM 2, COURAGE 0

The lightning struck early yesterday at RFK Stadium. Bai Jie and the Washington Freedom were not too far behind.

After a severe thunderstorm momentarily cut power to the stadium and caused almost an hour's delay to the start of the Freedom's match with the Carolina Courage, Washington midfielder Bai turned on the juice for a crowd of 30,271. She had a goal and an assist in the first half of Washington's 2-0 victory.

"Bai Jie certainly lifted her game from the last couple of games," said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra after Bai's performance ended a five-game scoring drought. "Anytime she got the ball, she was dangerous."

Goalkeeper Erin Fahey recorded the shutout in her first start for Washington, which played without three starters midfielder Mia Hamm, defender Michelle French and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix who were on loan to the U.S. team for a pair of matches against Canada.

Carolina (2-8-2) also played without three starters: goalie Bente Nordby and midfielder Hege Riise were on duty for the Norwegian national team, and Canadian forward Silvana Burtini was in Toronto to face the United States.

"We were missing an awful lot," Gabarra said. "But [the players] all spread that responsibility among themselves and everybody lifted their game and played a great game."

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Freedom (5-5-2), who first struck in the 33rd minute.

With the ball deep on the right wing, Bai faked her defender away from the endline, then took off toward the goal to open up space. She served a beautiful cross toward forward Monica Gerardo, who was positioned near the far post.

Gerardo's header looked like it would fly inside the left post, but the ball suddenly deflected off the chest of onrushing Carolina defender Carla Overbeck and into the right side netting.

"I don't think anyone plans to deflect it off the defender," Gerardo said.

Overbeck's mistake was not the last committed by the Courage in the first half. Five minutes later, Carolina goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill received a red card when she came well out of the penalty area, slid and knocked away a through pass intended for Washington forward Pretinha with her hand.

Substitute goalie Allison Snooks replaced Luckenbill, but the Courage were forced to play with just 10 players and immediately faced a direct kick from 25 yards out.

Washington midfielder Jen Grubb sent a hard shot over the wall toward the upper left corner. The leaping Snooks tipped the ball and caused it to deflect off the crossbar. However, Bai came in from the left side, outran two Courage defenders to the rebound and slotted the ball past Snooks and into the net.

"I saw a puddle of water, and I thought it would stop the ball," Bai said through an interpreter. "I pushed it forward a little bit, and it bounced off my shin."

Washington kept up its offensive pressure in the second half, but could not add another goal despite a point-blank chance by forward Tracy Milburn. Snooks denied the Freedom several times with solid saves.

Courage coach Marcia McDermott was pleased with her team's shutout performance in the second half.

"At the professional level, there's not a lot of room for moral victories," she said. "It's difficult to walk into a room full of women who play every day to win and tell them that you're impressed with the way they battled with numbers down."

Note The WUSA fined Gabarra $500 for making too many substitutions in Washington's 3-2 loss to San Diego on June 21. None of the referees in the match was fined… . Freedom defender Amanda Cromwell, who played all 90 minutes, collapsed in the team office after the game. She was treated for dehydration.

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