The Washington Freedom rode two first-half goals in Rochester, New York Sunday to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks to capture the 2007 W-League Championship in their first season in the league.
Washington set the tone immediately with a goal less than a minute into the match when Rebecca Moros split the Atlanta defense on the right side of the box and sent a 16-yard shot over the reach of goalkeeper Courtney Cripps into the far side of the goal.
Semifinal standout Sarah Huffman set up the second goal to double the lead in the 40th minute when she sent a perfect through ball past the back line of the Silverbacks to an on-rushing Christie Welsh. The U.S. international, who spent part of the season in the U.S. women's national team camp, put the shot past Cripps for what proved to be the game-winner.
"It was a great ball," said Welsh, who was honored as the W-League Championship Most Valuable Player. "Sarah Huffman has been playing great for us all year and she played a perfect ball through and I just had to find the corner."
Atlanta put some life into the match in the 67th minute when Sarah Steinman took the ball on the right flank from a pair of Washington defenders and sent a cross into the box. Flying into the penalty area from the left side, Krista Davey got to the end of the cross and cut the lead in half from eight yards out.
"They picked it up big time and we did a great job of connecting with each other and keeping our rhythm even though they were down our throats for a bit," said Welsh. "We came out and played a great game today and I'm proud of the way our team performed."
Second-half sub Tiffany McCarty put away a mishandled save in the 88th minute to put the match away for the Freedom. Jill Porto created the goal when she danced her way into the box from the left flank and beat two Silverbacks defenders before letting loose a low line drive. Cripps saw the shot slip through her hands and between her legs as she dropped to the turf, allowing the 16-year old McCarty to crash in on goal and outstretch an Atlanta defender to tap in the insurance strike.
The Freedom, winners of the 2003 WUSA Founder's Cup III championship, took home their second USL championship following last year's USL Super-20 Women's Championship. Starters Kele Golebiowski, Lori Lindsey and Casey Zimney were all members of the 2003 championship team. Super-20 champions Katherine Watson and Chante Sandiford were with the team in Rochester. Watson saw 16 minutes off the bench in the semifinals while Sandiford, the Super-20 Championship MVP last year, did not see action serving as the back-up goalkeeper.