- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

A gutsy second half in poor conditions delivered the Washington Freedom their first victory of the season.
On a chilly, rain-soaked afternoon at RFK Stadium, the Freedom turned in a blue-collar effort in a must-win game. Reserve forward Meredith Beard scored the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute to lead the Freedom to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the San Jose CyberRays before 4,713.
Faced with their next three games on the road, the Freedom really needed this win for their confidence, especially after getting bludgeoned 4-1 at home last week in their season opener against the New York Power.
Forward Jacqui Little scored the equalizer, and rookie forward Abby Wambach added two assists.
"I think [the win is] very important. Team morale right now is skyrocketing, and I think we really need that," Freedom defensive midfielder Lindsay Stoecker said. "This game was great for us. I think this will do great things not only for our team chemistry but team morale."
This victory snapped a seven-game winless streak dating back to last July 15, when the Freedom beat the Power 2-1 at RFK. With the win, the Freedom (1-1) suddenly find themselves tied for first place with everybody in the Women's United Soccer Association except the Atlanta Beat (0-2), whom the Freedom visit Saturday.
Beard, who has been activated off the Freedom's reserve squad for the past two games, made a strong case for being named to the permanent 18-player roster. The Freedom picked up Beard in the offseason after she was waived by the Carolina Courage.
Beard entered the game in the 76th minute for Little. Six minutes later, she became the hero. With the game tied 1-1, midfielder Bai Jie played the ball to Wambach running down the right flank, resulting in a 3-on-1 situation for the Freedom.
Wambach dribbled the ball to the edge of the 6-yard box, waited for CyberRays rookie defender Danielle Borgman to commit herself and rolled the ball into the 6-yard box to the hard-charging Beard, who tapped it in for her third career WUSA goal.
What's interesting about the interaction on the game-winning goal was that the two principles Wambach and Beard were the last two NCAA goal-scoring champions. Beard, whose maiden name is Florance, led the nation with 26 goals in 2000 at North Carolina. Wambach led the nation last season with 31 goals at Florida.
"I've been working real hard in practice trying to make a mark, so coming into a game and getting a goal is awesome," Beard said. "I really credit Abby with my goal. It's just as much her goal as it is mine."
Wambach also was instrumental in the tying goal. Freedom left back Emmy Barr crossed into the box to the 5-foot-10 Wambach, who was holding off two defenders. Wambach chested the ball down to midfielder Pu Wei eight yards out on the left wing.
Pu immediately shot, but CyberRays goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene knocked it down. Pu collected the carom near the touchline and crossed into the box, where it bounced off Wambach to Little, who tapped it in with her right foot against her former team from four yards out to tie the game 1-1.
Note
Wambach was named to the U.S. women's national team that will face Finland on Saturday at San Jose's Spartan Stadium. Wambach replaces injured Beat forward Cindy Parlow on the 18-woman roster and will be unavailable for the Freedom's game at the Beat.


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