- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

Sometimes the knock on women's soccer is that the style of play is not as tough and physical as the men's game.
Those in attendance at RFK Stadium for yesterday's game between the Washington Freedom and Carolina Courage might tend to disagree.
Washington's rookie forward Abby Wambach decked Carolina defender Erin Baxter with a right cross that Lennox Lewis would have been proud of when they got tangled up late in the game. A dazed Baxter needed help leaving the field.
Wambach's punch was a reflection of a hard-fought game that resulted in no clear-cut winner.
After 40 fouls and two yellow cards, the Freedom and the Courage settled on a 1-1 draw in the first game of a soccer doubleheader with D.C. United.
Wambach, who received her share of punishment all game, scored the Freedom's lone goal and Hege Riise, the Courage's talented Norwegian central midfielder, scored Carolina's equalizer.
With the tie, the surprising Courage (3-0-2) remain undefeated, but it took two beautiful late saves by goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill to preserve the valuable road point.
In the 82nd minute and with the game tied 1-1, Luckenbill pushed a Wambach header up into the crossbar that was luckily cleared off the goal line. In the 92nd minute, Luckenbill made a diving save of a Pu Wei header and salvaged the tie.
"It was a physical game and the referee [Peter Kokolski] should have handed out more yellow cards," Riise said. "Our goalie saved us at the end of the game."
After creating good scoring chances throughout the first 30 minutes, Wambach put the Freedom on the board in the 31st minute. The Freedom took a 1-0 lead when Luckenbill made her only mistake of the game when she dropped a deep cross by Freedom forward Jacqui Little and Wambach converted the mistake.
On the play, Little beat Courage defender Danielle Slaton, the top overall pick in the WUSA Draft, in a footrace down the right flank. When Little reached the edge of the box, she sent in a hard, low cross that Luckenbill initially caught before she dropped the ball inside the 6-yard box. The ball then rolled straight out to Wambach who tapped in her third goal of the season and gave the Freedom a 1-0 halftime lead. Little was credited with an assist.
Coming into the game, Luckenbill was billed as one of the reasons why the surprising Courage were undefeated. Luckenbill boasted the WUSA's best goals-against-average (0.75) and save percentage (91.9).
"It was a hard-fought battle and we let a soft goal in, but we got a point out of it," Wambach said.
It's not hard to figure out where the Freedom would be this season without Wambach. Wambach, whom the Freedom selected with the second-overall pick in the WUSA draft, has scored a goal or added an assist in every game she has appeared in this season five of the Freedom's (2-3-1) six matches.
Wambach, a rookie out of Flordia, had an opportunity in the 48th minute when she had a three-on-one counter, but failed to get off a shot. With Bai Jie on the left and Little on the right, Wambach held the ball too long and allowed Courage midfielder Tiffany Roberts to catch her from behind.
"I took too many touches, I should have been more aggressive," Wambach said.
The Courage tied the game in the 51st minute when forward Kim Yankowski drove a 20-yard free kick into the box. Star forward Danielle Fotopoulos then headed the ball down to Unni Lehn, who chested the ball down and mis-hit it, only to have Riise finish it off with a five-yard change-of-direction tap.


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