Wambach rediscovers her scoring touch
Week 5 in Women's Professional Soccer was another week of firsts as the Chicago Red Stars became the first team to score four goals in a game by overwhelming the Boston Breakers on a chilly Saturday evening at Toyota Park in Chicago. The Washington Freedom matched that record one day later as they notched their first win of the season in a thrilling 4-3 triumph over FC Gold Pride. Four goals were scored in the final 20 minutes of play, including Abby Wambach's game-winning header for the Freedom late into stoppage time.
League-leading Los Angeles was held scoreless for the first time this season in a 0-0 tie with bottom-dwelling Saint Louis Athletica. A pair of penalty kicks were saved at both ends to preserve the scoreless draw and demonstrate the parity across all seven teams in WPS.
Los Angeles 0 at St. Louis 0
Missed opportunities were the story of the day Saturday afternoon at Hermann Stadium, as Saint Louis Athletica (0-2-1) played the Los Angeles Sol (3-0-1) to a 0-0 draw in front of 4,228 fans. The Sol were playing without internationals Marta, Han Duan and Camile Abily, who were overseas on national team duty.
The first missed chance went to the Sol and Aly Wagner. The Sol earned a penalty after a run by Katie Larkin, who was fouled in the area by Tina Ellertson. However, Wagner's 73rd minute penalty was stopped by Hope Solo who dove to her right to cover and hold on to the shot just inside the post.
"I don't think she struck it very well," said Solo. "Nevertheless I was going to my right."
Ten minutes later it was Athletica's turn at a penalty try. A flurry of chances inside the area resulted in a handball on Sol defender Allison Falk. Athletica captain Lori Chalupny stepped up and drilled her penalty straight at Karina LeBlanc.
"I didn't hit it where I needed to and LeBlanc was right where I kicked it," said Chalupny. "That is the way the season has been going."
"We have been working mostly on finishing in practice," said coach Jorge Barcellos. "I think what is missing is us being calm and tranquil. I think the pressure to score is getting to them."
In the 89th minute Angie Woznuk nearly gave Saint Louis a dramatic winner with a shot toward the upper left-hand corner, but LeBlanc made a spectacular save.
"It was a very difficult game and we had very good chances. Goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made huge saves for the team," said Los Angeles Sol coach Abner Rogers. "It was a physical game and St. Louis had that edge on us. Overall, it was a very exciting game for the fans."
Athletica plays Saturday at Washington, Los Angeles travels to Boston for an exciting matchup between international stars Marta and Kelly Smith.
Boston 0 at Chicago 4
A downpour just before halftime accented a flood of goals on the field as the Chicago Red Stars (2-0-2) beat Boston (2-2-0) 4-0 on Saturday night before 4,118 at Toyota Park. Karen Carney and Brittany Klein each scored a goal and logged a pair of assists in the win. Boston rested star forward Kelly Smith, who played Thursday in England's 3-0 victory over Norway.
The Red Stars attacked early and often in the match, even playing without Brazilian striker Cristiane, who was serving international duty. Chicago outshot Boston 20-8 -- including a 10-3 margin in shots on goal.
Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson posted her third clean sheet of the season by stopping all three shots on goal she faced in the match.
The win moved Chicago into second place in the WPS standings with eight points, two behind leader Los Angeles.
The Red Stars have an off week and return to action on Sunday, May 10 against Sky Blue. Boston hosts Los Angeles on Sunday, May 3.
Washington Freedom 4 at FC Gold Pride 3
It was never a matter of if, it was always a matter of when. After failing to connect on her first 16 shots over the previous three WPS games, Abby Wambach finally did what everyone expected her to do on Sunday -- score a goal.
But Wambach didn't stop there. After heading in the game's first goal on a free kick from Cat Whitehill, Wambach put the exclamation point on the match by heading in another Whitehill free kick in stoppage time to give the Freedom its first WPS win 4-3 over FC Gold Pride in Santa Clara, Calif.
"Everyone can say there's a monkey on my back, I do want to score goals for my team but most importantly I want to win games," said Wambach. "There are still some things to work on -- defensively we had a few breakdowns.
"We put some goals in the back of the net today and that's a big reason why we came out on top today."
Heading into the half tied up at 1-1, Washington (1-2-1) appeared to put the game away early in the second half as Wambach assisted Lori Lindsey to put the Freedom up 2-1, after which Lindsey assisted Allie Long to increase the lead to 3-1.
FC Gold Pride (1-2-1) answered with goals from Tiffany Weimer and Christine Sinclair in a 12-minute stretch to knot things up at 3-3 in the 83rd minute before Wambach's second goal put the end to the comeback bid.
"Well, I'd rather win in un-dramatic fashion but we are glad that we got the result," said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra. "We've been playing well the first couple weeks of the season but we haven't got any bounces and we've given up some tough goals and not put our chances away so it was nice to do so today.
"Even though it was the last minute, I thought both teams played well attacking-wise but we are very happy to get the first win."
Wambach came into the match with the most shots and shots on goal of anyone in WPS, but had failed to score a goal.
The Freedom next host Saint Louis Athletica at 6 p.m. at the Maryland SoccerPlex, as the team will honor WUSA standouts Mia Hamm and Siri Mullinix by inducting the two into the Hall of Freedom at halftime. FC Gold Pride host Sky Blue FC in a Sunday evening game at Buck Shaw Stadium.