- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

With a win or a tie today, the Washington Freedom can match the Women’s United Soccer Association record for the longest undefeated streak to open a season.

If the undefeated Freedom (4-0-1) enter the WUSA’s record books alongside the Atlanta Beat’s 3-0-3 start in 2001, they will have to do it without three of their best players. Forwards Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix are on national team duty and unavailable for the Freedom’s game against the winless Carolina Courage (0-4-0) in the opener of a doubleheader with D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

The Freedom’s depth will be tested. Backup goalkeeper Erin Regan will make her first career start in place of Mullinix. Casey Zimny, a second-year defender, will make her first start of the season as one of the Freedom’s defensive midfielders.

“We’re excited for those players because it’s an opportunity for them to step in and show that they can play,” coach Jim Gabarra said. “Zimny and Regan are the two that really haven’t been getting a lot of time that are going to have to be put in a situation where they’ve got to contribute major minutes.”

The 5-foot-10 Regan was signed as a development player March31. Regan’s progression up the Freedom’s depth chart resulted in 36-year-old Chinese goalkeeper Goa Hong being waived May2.

Regan, who starred at Wake Forest, might have her hands full — literally — negating Courage forwards Birgit Prinz and Danielle Fotopoulos. The pair combined for 23 goals last season en route to winning Founders Cup II.

Regan, 22, is taller than the 5-8 Mullinix, and her height might become an asset, especially for 50-50 balls in the box, tangling with 5-9 Prinz and 5-10 Fotopoulos. In the preseason, Regan started in goal for the Freedom and blanked the Philadelphia Charge 1-0 March27.

“It’s really exciting to finally get the chance to get in there,” Regan said. “I’m prepared and I know our defense is prepared, so I don’t think it will be any different than any other game.”

On the other end of the field, it will be. With Wambach and Hamm — the Freedom’s top two leading scorers who a total of eight goals — with the national team for today’s Women’s World Cup tuneup against England at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., the goal-scoring load will fall on Jacqui Little and exciting Australian winger Kelly Golebiowski, who will be the Freedom’s starting forwards.

Little, who has two goals and two assists, is off to the best start in her career. Golebiowski opened everyone’s eyes three weeks ago in a 1-1 draw against the Atlanta Beat when she scored perhaps the goal of the WUSA season so far on an impressive left-footed volley from 15 yards out on the left wing that shot inside the far right post.

Without the 5-10 Wambach, the Freedom lose their tall target forward, but with Little and Golebiowski, the Freedom hope to keep the ball on the ground and let their speed take care of the rest.

“It will be a different game — we won’t be so much looking for a target. I think it will be more of sneaking in, running along the line and getting put through with Kelly’s and my speed more than looking for Abby to flick it on and then somebody running through,” Little said.

Said Golebiowski: “Our job is to go out there score goals and play well. Obviously, it’s going to be different because we don’t have Abby up there as a target to hold balls up and win balls in the air and work off that.”

The Freedom’s only blemish on an otherwise terrific start is the draw with the Beat, which also was related to national team commitments. Hamm played only 29 minutes, and Wambach wasn’t her usual effervescent self because she was distraught over being dropped from the U.S. team’s roster the day before.

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