- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Abby Wambach show rolled back into town last night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Washington Freedom.

Wambach scored both goals as she led the Freedom to a 2-0 victory over the New York Power last night in the second game of a soccer doubleheader with D.C. United before an announced 21,892 at RFK Stadium.

In the Freedom’s last home game — a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Charge on July9 — Wambach also scored two goals in an important game.

With one victory — against the Charge — in their last eight games, the Freedom (7-6-3) desperately needed a win to stay in the WUSA playoff hunt. A loss would have been devastating to the Freedom’s postseason chances.

“Abby was again tremendous up there,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. “Like Philly, we came in here, obviously different conditions, but we needed a win and we got it. That always makes a team feel good.”

By beating the Power (7-8-2) for the fifth straight time, the Freedom hurdled New York into a tie for third place with the San Diego Spirit (6-5-6). The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

The Freedom have five games remaining — three on the road — to secure a playoff berth. By sweeping the Power in three games this season by a combined 9-1, the Freedom hold all tiebreakers over the Power should New York fight back into the playoff picture.

What really helped the Freedom was scoring a quick first goal. In the sixth minute, Wambach gave the Freedom a 1-0 lead with her eighth goal of the season — one that resulted from a pretty wild sequence of events.

It started with a Mia Hamm corner kick to the back post. Captain Jen Grubb headed the ball down to the right post, where Power forward Heather Beem cleared Grubb’s header off the line. However, Beem’s clearance didn’t go more than six yards and came to Wambach, who tapped the ball into an open net to give the Freedom the lead.

“It just gives you a level of confidence going into the rest of the game,” Wambach said of scoring first and early. “That’s something we talked about in the locker room before the game, rather than coming out and defending, we’re going to try and score goals.”

The Freedom’s defending was also pretty good in their third shutout of the season, the second against the Power. The Freedom dominated possession, rendered Power striker Tiffeny Milbrett ineffective and received strong flank play from Meredith Beard and Kelly Golebiowski.

“This was probably our best organized defensive game,” Grubb said.

After missing several golden goal-scoring opportunities, like Hamm shooting wide right on a one-on-one breakaway, Wambach ended any doubts of a Freedom victory.

She put the game out of reach in the 80th minute with a superbly executed header. From 35 yards out, Hamm sent a free kick deep into the penalty area. From the top right side of the 6-yard box, Wambach dove past Power reserve defender Lauren Orlandos and headed the ball past Webber inside the right post that gave the Freedom a late insurance goal.

“Everybody did their part today,” Wambach said. “It’s not just one person. When you rely on one person for an entire game, you’re probably going to be unsuccessful. Everybody has to do their role and everybody has to come through.”


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