- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

Brutal is the only word to describe the Washington Freedom's training sessions earlier this week.
With his 4-5-3 team coming off an uninspired 3-1 home loss to the Carolina Courage, a game after which coach Jim Gabarra called his midfield "utterly hopeless," the coach turned drill instructor.
Ignoring code red weather alerts, Gabarra unmercifully ordered his team to run wind sprints after wind sprints, followed by non-stop finishing drills. It was so hot during the seemingly endless running portion of training that most Freedom players did a Brandi Chastain, ripping off their practice tops to run in sport bras and shorts.
When Gabarra finally ended his three-hour marathons Tuesday and Wednesday, his players were drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted.
"When you're in the heat, you've got to get used to it because your games are in the heat," Gabarra said. "The best way to get used to it is to get out here and work and on days when you still have enough time to rest and recover before the game."
The players said they brought this treatment upon themselves after such a lackluster performance. Message received loud and clear.
"Going through experiences like this, it brings teams together when you sweat and do all this crazy running it creates a sense of bonding and camaraderie," said rookie forward Abby Wambach, the Freedom's leading scorer with six goals and four assists.
Meanwhile, Gabarra's midfield will have a different look for today's game against the last-place New York Power (2-9-1) at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. Chinese attacking midfielder Pu Wei will be held out because of a strained Achilles' tendon.
Pu, who has started 11 of 12 games, will be replaced by Monica Gerardo. Gerardo, a mainstay on the Mexican national team, has more points two goals and one assist than Pu does in about half the playing time. Pu has just four assists.
Gabarra is holding Pu out as a precaution, especially with a game Wednesday at RFK Stadium, but if Gerardo can spark the Freedom's attack, Pu's benching could become permanent with nine games left in the regular season.
In addition to Gerardo, Gabarra plans to start veteran Ann Cook in a holding midfield role to replace Lindsay Stoecker, who was lost for the season with a knee injury two weeks ago.
Gabarra also may start Bai Jie or Tracey Milburn at forward in place of Jacqui Little in an attempt to get more production up top. As a reserve, Bai has scored a goal and added an assist in the Freedom's past two games.
The Freedom are looking at today's game as payback. In the season opener at RFK, the Power humiliated the Freedom 4-1 the club's most lopsided defeat. In that game, Power star Tiffeny Milbrett scored two goals, and Linda Ormen scored a goal and had two assists.
On Thursday, the Power fired coach Pat Farmer and named assistant Charlie Duccilli interim coach. The change came in part because of the Power's porous defense, which has allowed 34 goals. The league record is 40 goals allowed by the Carolina Courage last season.
"I think we're capable of shutting them down in the back and capable of scoring goals," said Freedom captain Jennifer Grubb. "I would think so, and I would hope so."

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