- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

The Washington Freedom's defense was full of leaks, so Siri Mullinix pulled off one of the best performances by a WUSA goalkeeper, tying her own league record with 12 saves.

That the good news. The bad news is that a defensive breakdown by the Freedom early in the second half allowed the Boston Breakers to salvage a 1-1 tie last night before 5,847 at RFK Stadium.

The tie didn't seriously hamper the Freedom's (7-5-5) postseason chances, but a win and three points almost would have guaranteed a playoff spot with just four games left and two of them against bottom dwellers New York and San Diego.

With the victory, the Freedom are currently in third place with 26 points one ahead of the Atlanta Beat in the playoff race.

"I don't think [the tie] hurts us, but I think we have an easier road than San Jose," Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. "Tonight was our chance to put [the Breakers] away. We didn't put them away, but we didn't let them off the hook either."

Breakers rookie reserve forward Alexa Borisjuk scored the equalizer in the 56th minute when Freedom right back Skylar Little allowed Borisjuk, a third-round draft pick out of Connecticut, to come into the box and score her first career goal from about 12 yards to the right post.

"I think we were giving her too much respect," Little said. "She would get the ball, and no one would be on her heels pawing at her. We let her bring it down, turn and pick where she wanted to put it, and she picked our defense apart."

Borisjuk received a long ball from Breakers midfielder Kristine Lilly on the left flank and, with two touches, just walked in on Little. Mullinix had been brilliant all night and this was one she probably should have saved as well.

"It was one of those you wish you had, it kind of brushed my glove, but it went in," Mullinix said.

The attack-oriented Breakers outshot the Freedom 23-12, and 13 of those shots were on goal.

"For some reason, I'm always in a zone against Boston I love playing them," Mullinix said.

Freedom rookie Abby Wambach showed just how valuable her size really is, especially on set pieces. Listed at 5-foot-10, Wambach scored her team-leading eighth goal of the season off a corner kick in the 25th minute to give the Freedom a 1-0 halftime lead.

The Freedom won the corner kick when forward Bai Jie tried to chip Breakers goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc from 35 yards out. LeBlanc was able to run back and push Bai's bid over the goal and out of harm's way.

Freedom midfielder Pu Wei took the corner kick. Pu's kick wasn't the best, but it found Wambach eight yards from goal and well outside the 6-yard box. While in traffic, Wambach outjumped 5-2 defender Heather Aldama to the ball.

Mullinix was outstanding in the first half. Mullinix, who is still in the U.S. national team player pool, was credited with seven saves, including three of the sensational variety.

In the seventh minute, Mullinix made two excellent saves showing quick reflexes on two threatening shots inside the 6-yard box from Breakers defender Bettina Wiegmann and midfielder Angela Hucles.

Mullinix again denied Hucles in the 15th minute when she made a leaping save and pushed Hucles' 12-yard shot over the crossbar. A clever heel pass from Maren Meinert sprung Hucles inside the box, but Mullinix held her line.

In the 45th minute, Lilly, the Breakers' superstar midfielder, dribbled diagonally and unimpeded into the box from the right flank. Once Lilly reached the penalty spot, the U.S. national team's all-time leader in appearances (236) unloaded a left-foot blast on goal and Mullinix pushed it over the bar.


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