- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

This time Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra won’t mention Birgit Prinz’s name to his players before their road game against the Carolina Courage. He doesn’t want the big German striker messing with the minds of his defenders again.

“In talking about how to address Prinz, I think it got into the heads of the defenders and goalkeeper,” Gabarra said of the Courage’s 5-2 victory May17. “Sometimes the more you address it, the more it gets in their heads, and negative thoughts pour through their heads.”

Tonight the second-place Freedom (5-2-1) will get another opportunity against the struggling Courage (2-5-1) at SAS Stadium in Cary, N.C., plus a chance to rebound from Sunday’s 3-1 home loss to the Boston Breakers that saw defender Skylar Little and forward Abby Wambach ejected for violent play.

Little and Wambach, who will sit out tonight because of the red cards, became the first set of teammates ejected from a game in the WUSA’s three-year history.

Before Sunday’s match, Gabarra spoke to his team about containing explosive Boston forwards Maren Meinert and Dagny Mellgren. Meinert scored two goals to become the WUSA’s top goal scorer with eight, and Mellgren was dangerous all game.

“Every year it’s a real disaster for us against [Boston],” Gabarra said. “It comes down to a good defensive effort against them. We didn’t have the energy level or commitment to win. [The Freedom] were very aware of Meinert and Mellgren.”

Now Washington faces another dangerous duo in Prinz and forward Danielle Fotopoulos, the WUSA’s player of the month for May. In the teams’ last meeting, Fotopoulos scored two goals and added three assists.

With Little and Wambach sidelined, Gabarra will juggle his starting lineup. Australian midfielder Kelly Golebiowski probably will step in for Wambach at forward, where she will team up with Jacqui Little.

Gabarra has tougher decisions to make in the back. He might insert newly arrived defender Sandra Minnert in the center to mark Prinz and push Carrie Moore wide into Skylar Little’s spot on the right.

“Then you’re talking about two changes rather than one,” Gabarra said.

Other possibilities include using Minnert or second-year defender/midfielder Casey Zimny on the right. Gabarra said it will be a game-time decision.

A win or tie over the Courage would put the Freedom in at least a tie for first place with the Breakers.

This is the final meeting between Washington and Carolina this season unless they meet in the playoffs. The Freedom defeated the Courage 2-1 on the road in the season opener, and the Courage handed the Freedom its worst defeat ever in the second meeting.

The Freedom are 4-0 all-time in North Carolina and are riding a WUSA record seven-game road unbeaten streak.

“We usually bounce back after a rough result,” Gabarra said. “When we defend well as a team, those are the games we have success. Playing as the road team, we’re not looking to possess the ball. We’re not going to try and pressure them but let them come to us.”

Note — Golebiowski and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix were named as reserves yesterday for the WUSA All-Star Game on June19 at SAS Stadium. Atlanta’s Tom Stone, the World All-Stars coach, selected Golebiowski as one of his reserve midfielders, and Gabarra, the American All-Stars coach chose Mullinix to back up starter Briana Scurry. The latest additions mean the Freedom will have six players in the midseason showcase.

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