- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003

There is a rumor, started on a New York Power fan-based Web site, that claims tonight’s game against the Washington Freedom will be Mia Hamm’s “last appearance” on Long Island.

The Power fan who runs the Web site has made similar false reports in the past, including one that said the team was relocating to Portland, Ore.

Maybe this time it is more wishful thinking and less rumor mongering. After all, the Power have never beaten the Freedom at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y., dropping all three contests by a combined 10-4. Hamm (three goals and one assist) and Bai Jie (three goals and two assists), who remains in her native China to fulfill her military commitment, were too much for the Power in those games.

“Bai Jie has been the killer for them up there and we won’t have her,” Freedom coach Jim Gabarra said. “I think a couple of those games Mia was coming back from injuries, or didn’t play in one of them. We’ve had good success there, so it’s something we want to feed off.”

The first-place Freedom (4-1-1) look to bounce back from the worst loss in franchise history — 5-2 to the previously winless Carolina Courage — last Saturday at RFK Stadium.

The Freedom were without their three best players — Hamm, forward Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Siri Mullinix — in that embarrassing loss because they were playing for the national team. Rookie goalkeeper Erin Regan made her first professional start and was peppered with shots.

Last week was the first time in club history the Freedom allowed five goals in a game. Regan didn’t get much help, but she allowed two goals that could be considered soft.

Mullinix, who is unbeaten in her last 11 games (9-0-2), will certainly strengthen the Freedom. Mullinix is 5-1 all-time against New York and sports an impressive 0.80 goals-against-average so far this season.

“We can take that one [Courage game], flush it down the toilet, and move on,” Mullinix said. “It’s part of professional athletics, you have to be able to do that. I’m used to it, especially being a goalkeeper, because even if you win a game and get scored on, you have to put it in the back of your mind and deal with it later. This game is something everyone can learn something from.”

A loss to the Power (3-4) coupled with a win by either Boston or Atlanta tomorrow would drop the Freedom out of first place for the first time this season. However, the Freedom have an early-season win against the Power from which to draw. Washington earned a 3-1 victory behind two goals from Jacqui Little on April12 at RFK.

“It makes a big difference not having Siri, Mia and Abby because they are leaders on the field,” Freedom midfielder Steffi Jones said. “Those three players talk a lot and are accepted within the team. We just have to grow more and get a few more players confident as well as being leaders on the field. Maybe it was good losing that way. It shows that you have to do more than just winning games.”

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