- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

ATLANTA The nation's capital must wait for its first women's professional sports championship.
The Washington Freedom knocked on the door but uncharacteristically let too much in during the biggest game of the season. Three rare defensive miscues two by the Freedom's most reliable players ultimately cost the team the second Women's United Soccer Association championship.
Defender Jen Grubb and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix committed critical gaffes that allowed the Carolina Courage to snap the Freedom's 10-game unbeaten streak and win Founders Cup II 3-2, before 15,321 at Morris Brown College's Herndon Stadium.
"Jen Grubb has carried us so much this season. And by no means is this team looking at that decision to encapsulate her entire season," star forward Mia Hamm said of the team's captain. "There are games she has singlehandedly saved and won for us. I don't want her to beat herself up about it."
Courage forwards Danielle Fotopoulos and Birgit Prinz each scored a goal and added an assist. Prinz, a 5-foot-9 striker, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Prinz scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 58th minute.
On it, Prinz came from behind Grubb who was outside the 18-yard box and took the ball off Grubb's right foot. Prinz, who was named the German player of the year last season, dribbled in on Mullinix and, from the penalty spot, finished into the net's left corner.
Grubb, a second-team all-WUSA defender, said she did not realize Prinz was lurking behind her.
"Obviously not. If I was [aware], I wouldn't have settled that ball, but it was a bad decision especially at the spot I was on the field, being 20 to 23 yards out, not a good time to settle the ball and play it out," Grubb said. "It happens. It wasn't a good decision. That's the way it goes."
Mullinix, who had made tougher saves throughout the first half, didn't wrap up Prinz's savable shot from the top of the 18-yard box in the 53rd minute, allowing the Courage to take a 2-1 lead.
Courage reserve midfielder Venus James started the goal with a pass on the ground to Prinz from the right flank. Prinz took James' pass at the top of the box and tried a long shot. It bounced into Mullinix's chest, and the Freedom's top goalkeeper failed to control the ball. Fotopoulos, who finished this season tied for fourth in WUSA in goals scored with 11, tapped in the rebound.
"I know when Birgit shoots, something is going to happen," Fotopoulos said. "So I just followed up her shot and happened to be at the right place at the right time and put it past Siri."
The Courage finished its second season 14-5-4, the best season record in the WUSA's brief history. Despite leading 3-1 in the 58th minute, the Courage had to withstand a furious second-half onslaught by Hamm.
Hamm, who as usual entered in the second half, cut the deficit to 3-2 in the 64th minute with perhaps her finest goal of the season. Freedom forward Abby Wambach headed a ball from the bottom of the center circle into space on the left flank. Hamm dribbled around defender Staci Burt and scored a beautiful, bending goal a yard inside the box.
"We obviously had a few scary moments with Mia Hamm," said Courage coach Marcia McDermott, who is the only female head coach in the WUSA.
The Freedom (12-6-5) squandered numerous scoring chances. Forward Bai Jie wasted a prime opportunity to tie the game in the 72nd minute after Wambach crossed to Bai unmarked at the top of the 6-yard box. Instead of one-timing Wambach's ball, Bai settled the pass and allowed defenders to collapse on her.
The Courage should have known they would win this game because they scored first. Carolina went undefeated (11-0-2) this season after doing so. In the 20th minute, midfielder Hege Riise struck after beating midfielder Anne Makinen on a run through the box.
Burt played a nice ball to the top of the box to Fotopoulos, who headed the ball down in space on the right flank for Riise to run onto. Makinen stayed with Fotopoulos instead of running with Riise. Alone on the right flank, Riise brought the ball to the edge of the 6-yard box and beat Mullinx to her short side just inside the right post.
The Freedom's first goal was a fluke. Grubb took a free kick from 40 yards out trying to find Wambach, the WUSA's Rookie of the Year, inside the 6-yard box. Grubb's free kick glanced off Fotopoulos' right leg and deflected into the net's right corner for an own goal.

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