- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

It's back to the drawing board for the Washington Freedom.

The Freedom have been somewhat of an enigma so far this season two weeks ago, they posted the best performance in the club's brief history with a dominating 3-0 victory at the San Diego Spirit. Last week, the team was basically a no-show in a lifeless 3-1 loss at the Philadelphia Charge.

That's how the Freedom (2-3) have gone this season win one, lose one and the inability to play consistent soccer has forced Freedom coach Jim Gabarra to shuffle his lineup again. Siri Mullinix will replace Dawn Greathouse in goal and Bai Jie will start instead of Tracey Milburn at forward today, when the Freedom meet the second-place Carolina Courage (3-0-1) in a doubleheader with D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

"I can't put a finger on it," Gabarra said of his up-and-down team. "It seems like we are alternating [performances]. I look at the entire game against New York and the first half against Philly as low points and the rest we are pretty happy with the way we've been playing. We just have to maintain our confidence and learn how to deal with that."

The good news for the Freedom comes from the rest of the Women's United Soccer Association. Most of the league is in the same predicament as the fourth-place Freedom. San Diego, Boston, New York and Atlanta each have just one win.

"It's part of the league, on any given day any team can beat any team," Freedom captain Jen Grubb said. "Obviously, it goes both ways. As a team we need to string a few wins together. We can't have this win, loss, win, loss."

History doesn't suggest that the Freedom can rack up wins. The Freedom have achieved just one two-game winning streak in team history when the club opened its inaugural season last year 2-0; they finished 6-12-3. There was also a three-game run last May when the Freedom tied two straight games, then won at New York.

Mullinix, last season's No. 1 goalkeeper, makes her first start of the season after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Mullinix said she injured her shoulder last season just after the midway point but continued to play.

"It started in early July so I played a good seven weeks hurt," Mullinix said. "I tried to take some time off hoping it was tendinitis and the day I started back it flared up again. I would have liked to have had it done at least a month earlier and that would have put me back training in the preseason."

Greathouse has been starting in Mullinix's absence. Greathouse came into this season as the Freedom's No. 3 goalkeeper, but injuries to Mullinix and backup Erin Fahey vaulted her into the starting role.

To her credit, Greathouse has played well. She recorded her first career shutout against the Spirit and came 30 seconds away from another against the Atlanta Beat on April 27. A Freedom defensive breakdown in the waning seconds allowed Beat star forward Charmaine Hooper to score the game-winner with virtually no time left on the clock.

"She stepped in when she had to," Mullinix said of Greathouse. "She didn't come into this season planning to start, but when that was the case, she got her mind set and took over the role. She didn't step back and say, 'I'm just going to be playing a game, I'm playing.' You can't have a goalkeeper get in and say, 'This is not my team, I'm just filling in.'"


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