- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

The Washington Freedom's players want everyone to know that even though they allowed four goals the most in the club's two-year history and were beaten by the largest margin in team history, last week's season-opening 4-1 loss to the New York Power wasn't as bad as it looked.
They insist New York's three second-half goals resulted because the Freedom weren't playing their game. Players said instead of playing their normal possession game, they got caught up trying to play long balls over the top.
Today against the San Jose CyberRays (1-0) at RFK Stadium, the Freedom's defenders get a chance to show their fans that they are indeed a better defensive team than the one that was pummeled last week.
"I don't think [the defense] was as bad as people are making it out to be," left back Emmy Barr said. "I thought we played very well in the first 30 minutes, and in the second half we just didn't get enough pressure on the ball throughout the whole team."
Burying the Freedom defenders under an avalanche of criticism probably isn't fair. First, today's starting right back Skylar Little was forced to miss the opener because of a red card in last season's finale.
Rookie central defender Casey Zimny, who required emergency surgery when an ovarian cyst ruptured, also missed the game. The Freedom selected Zimny, out of Connecticut, in the second round (10th overall) in the Women's United Soccer Association draft.
To compensate for Zimny's absence, holding midfielder Lindsay Stoecker was forced to play centrally while Ann Cook was summoned off the bench and thrown into Stoecker's midfield role.
Also, the Freedom started their third-string goalkeeper, Dawn Greathouse, after injuries to starter Siri Mullinix and backup Erin Fahey. At 5-foot-6, Greathouse is two inches shorter than both other women.
"We had our four-back unit, plus Stoecker in the midfield becoming the fifth, and then all of a sudden Casey Zimny can't play and now we're looking at a whole different four," said captain and central defender Jen Grubb. "Really, Emmy and I were the only two who had played together all of preseason. You get used to a unit and have that all thrown out of balance the day before you're supposed to open, I thought we did pretty well with it."
Fortunately for the Freedom, the CyberRays don't present nearly the defensive challenge the Power did. San Jose doesn't have a forward like New York's Tiffeny Milbrett, who shredded the Freedom defense with lightning-like speed and scored two goals.
The CyberRays prefer a possession game. Everything runs through playmaking Brazilian midfielder Sissi. What's different about the defending WUSA champions, is that coach Ian Sawyers has moved Brandi Chastain into a forward spot. Last season Chastain played as a defender.
So far the Chastain move has worked. She scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute of the CyberRays' 2-1 victory over the Boston Breakers and assisted on the game-tying goal in the 74th minute.
"It certainly makes them more dangerous having another player like that up there who is very good at running off the ball and gives them another attacking weapon," Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said of the Chastain move.
This will be a homecoming of sorts for San Jose players Pretinha and Michelle French. On Nov.13, the Freedom traded ineffective forward Pretinha to the CyberRays for forward Jacqui Little and a future draft pick. A month later, the Freedom dealt defender French to the CyberRays for Cook.

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