- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

The Washington Freedom's once-ailing offense is quickly taking a turn for the better. The playmaking of Mia Hamm had a lot to do with that last night against the San Diego Spirit, and another dose of San Diego's porous defense wasn't bad medicine either.
Hamm notched a goal and assist in 37 minutes, spearheading a three-goal onslaught in the second half that lifted Washington to a 4-0 romp at RFK Stadium.
It was the most goals in the Freedom's two-year history, topping the three also against San Diego (2-5-2) on May 5. Last night's victory extended the Freedom's unbeaten streak to four games the best stretch in team history and handed the Spirit their third straight loss and second since the firing of former coach Carlos Juarez on June 5.
After converting a penalty kick for Washington's third goal, Hamm was subbed out in the 81st minute by Bai Jie, who had missed the Freedom's last four games. Eight minutes later, Bai assisted on a breakaway goal by rookie forward Abby Wambach, her second of the night.
The Freedom (4-4-3) entered last night's contest with a league-worst 11 goals in their 10 games.
"Mia adds a dimension to our game. She's something to be reckoned with," said Wambach, who ranks second in the league in scoring with 16 points. "She's so deceptive with everything she does, it makes my job 10 times easier."
Just when the Freedom seemed to be making a return to full health, they might have suffered yet another debilitating blow. As the teams walked off the field to close the first half, midfielder Lindsay Stoecker lay on the field with a possible left ACL tear. She will be evaluated tomorrow but could miss the rest of the season.
Stoecker's absence coincided with a renewed Spirit attack, which had just one shot on net before the break.
San Diego nearly scored an equalizing goal in the 55th minute on Julie Foudy's shot off a corner kick by forward Mercy Akide. But Freedom goalkeeper Siri Mullinix pinned the ball against the crossbar, and defender Carrie Moore cleared it off the line. It was the first of three corners inside one minute for San Diego, which forced Mullinix to make six saves in the second half.
The Freedom weathered the storm, paving the way for Hamm's playmaking. After earning her goal and just missing a scoring chance in the 51st minute, Hamm redirected a Wambach pass into the box to set up midfielder Anne Makinen's first career goal.
Earlier in the game, Washington scored the only goal it needed when Wambach headed in Pu Wei's corner kick in the 26th minute. The 5-foot-10 Wambach outleaped three defenders on the play, sending the redirect past San Diego goalkeeper and George Mason product Jaime Pagliarulo, who held her line on the play.
"Abby's been working extremely hard all season," Hamm said. "I think it was well deserved that she scored that last goal at the end. She helped me out there when I was getting tired."
At the halfway mark of the season, the Freedom sit in fifth place, one point ahead of their position at this time a year ago. The Freedom will seek to avoid the kind of slide that marked the second half of last year, when they finished 2-7-1 and dropped into a tie for last place.

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