- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

April showered on the Washington Freedom’s unbeaten streak.

After U.S. women’s national team coach April Heinrichs took their three best players for a friendly against England, the Freedom were drubbed 5-2 by the Carolina Courage yesterday in the first game of a soccer doubleheader with D.C. United at chilly RFK Stadium.

The Freedom suffered their first loss of the season, ending a 14-game regular season unbeaten streak. Courage forward Danielle Fotopoulos scored two goals and added three assists as Washington (4-1-1) allowed the most goals in franchise history.

The defeat also equaled the worst in the Freedom’s three-year history. In last year’s season opener, the Freedom were hammered 4-1 by the New York Power.

“There was no effort,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. “It was the whole team stepping out on the field and stinking it up. It was the worst game this team has played.”

Forwards Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach — the Freedom’s leading scorers, who have combined for eight goals so far this season — and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix were in Birmingham, Ala., for the national team’s 6-0 victory over England yesterday.

“I don’t think [their absence] was the problem. No one else showed up,” Freedom captain Jen Grubb said.

Dating back to June22, the Courage (1-4-0) have handed the Freedom their last three losses, including a 3-2 defeat in last August’s Founders Cup II.

Freedom rookie goalkeeper Erin Regan, who was signed March31 as a developmental player, made her first career start in goal and was bombed. The Courage took eight shots on goal, and five went in.

It took the Courage exactly four minutes to score. Carolina defender Breanna Boyd played a long ball up the left flank to forward Birgit Prinz. Prinz, who finished with a goal and an assist, took the ball deep into the left corner and crossed into the box. Fotopoulos beat Freedom defender Carrie Moore on a near post run and tapped in Prinz’s cross with her left foot.

Regan, who looked confused on the cross, might have taken Fotopoulos out of the play. Instead, she backed off and was beaten.

Fourteen minutes later, Prinz gave the Courage a 2-0 lead on assists from Fotopoulos and Norweigan national Unni Lehn. Lehn played a ball out of the middle to Prinz at the top of the 18-yard box. Prinz dribbled into the box and cranked a wicked left-footed shot from 15 yards out to the far right post.

At that point, the game seemed to be getting out of hand for the Freedom, but midfielder Lindsay Stoecker gave Washington renewed hope in the 25th minute when she scored the first goal of her WUSA career to cut the deficit to 2-1. From 35 yards out, Stoecker unloaded a bomb that struck the underside of the crossbar and fired into the back of the net.

“No one wanted the ball. It was like a hot potato,” Stoecker said. “We just wanted to give it away.”

Nonetheless. the Courage essentially ended this game by halftime as the Freedom’s quest to tie the Atlanta Beat for the longest unbeaten streak to start a season in WUSA history ended. In the 29th minute, Courage defender Nel Fettig scored her second career goal when she redirected Fotopoulos’ shot 3 yards in front of goal to make it 3-1.

Fotopoulos made it 4-1 10 minutes later on a 15-foot shot from in front of the goal that easily beat Regan to the left post.

Kelly Golebiowski, the Freedom’s exciting midfielder/forward, scored her second goal in her fourth game. Both of Golebiowski’s goals have been high-quality volleys. Yesterday’s in the 77th minute was no exception. Golebiowski chested down a ball cleared from the back and from 18 yards ripped a left-foot volley that went off Courage goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill’s hands and into the net’s left corner to make it 5-2.

“It’s never fun to lose, but it’s a good healthy check,” Grubb said. “We know we are not invincible.”

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