- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New league, same club for Abby Wambach.

The American star will return to the District, as she was allocated to the Washington Freedom of the new Women’s Professional Soccer league Tuesday.

“It feels like I’m coming full-circle with the chance to play in another professional league and to do it with the Freedom,” Wambach said.

Twenty-one players, including members of the U.S. women’s gold-medal team from the Beijing Olympics, were dispersed to the league’s seven franchises after players suggested their preferences.

“I attribute my national-team success to my time with the Freedom,” Wambach said. “I have a love for the city and the Freedom.”

Also coming to the Freedom is veteran defender Cat Whitehill, who has played 129 games for the American team, and defender Ali Krieger of Dumfries, Va., who played for the Freedom in the W-League in 2006 and 2007.

Wambach spent two seasons with the Freedom playing alongside Mia Hamm. She scored 23 goals over those two seasons and helped the team win the 2003 title before the Women’s United Soccer Association folded.

“I hope to come back and make an impact and be a leader and lead the team to the top of the table like we finished off in 2003,” Wambach said.

The 5-foot-11 Wambach is arguably one of the greatest women’s players in the world. The 28-year-old has notched 99 goals in 125 games for the U.S. team. She scored a team-high 13 goals in 2008 but missed the Beijing Olympics after breaking her leg in the last warm-up game.

The former University of Florida player expects to return to training in three and a half months, six months after having surgery to fix two bones in her leg.

Wambach, who is from Rochester, N.Y., said she is thinking of living in Georgetown or in north Arlington.

The new league’s franchises will be located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, St. Louis and Washington and will expand to Atlanta and Philadelphia in 2010. Play will begin in April 2009.

Wambach believes WPS can survive, because unlike the old WUSA, it is not a single-entity league.

“You have seven different owners for seven different teams,” Wambach said. “You don’t have one kitty and it makes every team responsible and they will live and die by it.”

Meantime, Carli Lloyd who scored two goals at the Olympics including the game-winner in the 1-0 win over Brazil, was allocated to Chicago. Angela Hucles, who scored four goals in China, went to Boston, along with Heather Mitts and Kristine Lilly. Goalie Hope Solo went to St. Louis.

“Overall, I think we comprehensively had a good allocation,” said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra, who previously coached the Freedom in 2001. “We’re obviously happy. We didn’t expect to get the allocation that we got.”