- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

A six-week winless skid ended for the Washington Freedom in the swamp known as RFK Stadium.

Freedom forward Abby Wambach scored two goals to lead the Freedom to a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Charge before 5,780 last night.

Rolling thunderstorms and subsequent rain showers yesterday left puddles on RFK’s usually acceptable turf that wasn’t draining.

It was Wambach who was draining goals. She should have scored at least four, but the soaked field prevented the ball from rolling into an empty net on several shots. Wambach owns the Charge — in two games this season, she has scored five goals.

“I honestly could have had seven goals, that was the type of day it was,” Wambach said. “During the warmups, we were checking out the sides of the field and were like, ‘Don’t play the ball here, don’t play the ball there.’”

It was a crucial game for the Freedom, and Wambach and her teammates responded. The win pushes the Freedom (6-4-3) into a third-place tie with the San Diego Spirit (5-3-6). The Freedom’s last win came on May 24 when they beat the New York Power 4-0.

“It’s a good feeling to win at home on a game we had to win,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. “We didn’t do it in the fashion that maybe you would like, you’d like to have the game over against a team that is decimated with injuries and at the bottom of the table, you would like to have it over at halftime and maybe rest a couple of players like Mia [Hamm] or [Lindsay] Stoecker.”

Midfielder Stoecker and reserve midfielder Lori Lindsey each scored a goal last night.

The first half was a goal-scoring fiesta — five were scored, including a three-goal flurry in a span of four minutes. Stoecker started the onslaught.

Stoecker, who missed 12 games including the playoffs last season with a torn ACL, continued her scoring binge in the fifth minute with her fourth goal of the season. She had not scored at all entering the season.

The play developed when Jen Grubb sent a free kick into the middle of the box that midfielder Steffi Jones headed down to Stoecker on the left. Stoecker dribbled into the 6-yard box, but was stripped of the ball from behind by Charge defender Mary McVeigh. As McVeigh tried to clear the ball, it stopped in a puddle about five yards from where she kicked it. Stoecker spun on McVeigh’s dead ball and launched a 12-yard shot with her left foot that found the right side netting.

Philadelphia responded three minutes later on forward Melanie Hoffman’s fourth goal of the season. Hoffman exposed the Freedom’s defense on the goal after receiving a ball just inside the midfield stripe. She ran 20 yards with the ball through the middle of the field, and as the Freedom defenders were backpedaling, Hoffman stopped and unloaded a 25-yard bomb that caught the inside of the right post to tie the game.

Things exploded again — from the 27th to the 31st minute — as the teams combined for three goals. Wambach’s first goal of the game allowed the Freedom to take a 2-1 lead.

Grubb played a long ball up the right flank to midfielder Jacqui Little. Little rolled a cross into the box to Hamm, who instinctively touched the ball back to Jones just outside the penalty area. With her left foot, Jones drove the ball to the left post. Charge goalkeeper Melissa Moore dove to her right and caught the ball, which looked like a spectacular save. But as Moore hit the ground, the ball squirted from under her and held up at the goal line. Wambach jumped over Moore and tapped the ball in for her sixth goal of the season.

Two minutes later, Wambach gave the Freedom a commanding 3-1 lead when she redirected a Kelly Golebiowski cross from the left flank and headed in her team-tying seventh goal of the season.

“It’s a tough matchup because they don’t have the size really to match her up and then she’s got the pace to maybe get past them as well, so we’ll take it,” Gabarra said.

Charge midfielder Stacey Tullock took advantage of a bad clearance by Wambach, who was hustling back on defense, and ripped a 19-yard shot past Freedom goalkeeper Siri Mullinix to the upper right corner that cut the Freedom’s lead to 3-2, which stood at halftime.

Lindsey, who came on for Little in the 59th minute, put the game away in the 73rd minute with her second goal of the year.

The play started nicely when Hamm played the ball square to defender Sandra Minnert, who then rolled the ball into space on the right. Lindsey took two dribbles and hit a right-footed shot from 30 yards out that seemed to take forever to reach the goal. Lindsey’s drive rolled inside the left post to give the Freedom a 4-2 lead.

Note — Freedom defender Emmy Barr is out for the season after surgery yesterday to repair a torn left medial meniscus. There was hope that Barr would be out only a few weeks, but her tear was more severe than what the initial MRI showed. Barr, who sustained the injury last Thursday in the Freedom’s 1-1 tie at Boston, is out two to three months.

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