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WPS: Wambach lifts Washington past FC Gold Pride

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- In a breathless seven-goal match, the Washington Freedom netted a goal in stoppage time to beat FC Gold Pride and snag their first win of the season. FC Gold Pride had fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw even in the 85th minute, but could not stop Abby Wambach from heading the match winner. Wambach scored her first and second goals as a Washington Freedom player.

Going into the game, FC Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya made three changes to his last starting lineup, giving starts to forward Tiffeny Milbrett, midfielder Kristen Graczyk, and midfielder Kimberly Yokers. Formiga is still on Brazil national team duty, while Brandi Chastain is out with an injury.

Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra made four changes, giving starts to goalkeeper KJ Spisak, defender Jill Gilbeau, midfielder Kristen DeDycker, and forward Rebecca Moros. Notably, Brianna Scurry, who had let in six goals in the first three games, was dropped to the bench. Sonia Bompastor is still away for French national team duty.

First Half

Both teams started brightly, with end-to-end action and chances created by both teams. The Washington Freedom were the first to break the deadlock, going 1-nil in the 18th minute. They won a freekick just inside the FC Gold Pride half, and Cat Whitehill stepped up to send a long ball into the penalty box. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart came out to claim it, but forward Abby Wambach out-jumped her and headed the ball into the back of the net.

FC Gold Pride mounted several attacks looking for the equalizer, and finally found it on the half-hour mark. Midfielder Tiffany Weimer won the ball in the middle of Washington's half, and one-touched it up over the Freedom backline. Veteran forward Tiffeny Milbrett used her speed to beat two defenders and race onto the ball, deftly chipping it over goalkeeper KJ Spisak's head. It was Milbrett's second goal of the season.

Second Half

The Freedom came on strong in the second half, and six minutes in scored to go up 2-1. Midfielder Homare Sawa passed a perfectly weighted ball up the left flank for Wambach, who then whipped it across the face of the Gold Pride goal. Teammate Lori Lindsay sped into the box to head the ball just inside the far right post. Gold Pride defenders left her completely unmarked in the center of their box.

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Washington solidified their lead in the 70th minute with a good strike from midfielder Allie Long. Gold Pride looked to be completely outnumbered in their own box, and a mistake by Weimer gifted possession to the Freedom. Lindsay chipped the ball into the box, and Long turned to send a good right-footed shot just inside the left post. Again, Gold Pride gave the offense too much space to move the ball.

Three minutes later, FC Gold Pride had a claim for a penalty after it appeared Washington defender Cat Whitehill pulled Weimer down in the box. Referee Sandra Serafini instead waved play on.

FC Gold Pride continued to attack, and pulled a goal back in the 75th minute to make it 2-3. Fullback Kandace Wilson made a speedy run down the right flank, and sent a cross low cross into the box. Weimer scooped the ball up and over Spisak into the back of the net. Weimer and Wilson both looked dangerous on attack all afternoon, so it was no surprise when they combined to score.

The Gold Pride netted yet another one to tie things up in the 83rd minute. Wilson was involved again, as she back-heeled a smart pass to defender Rachael Buehler, who had made a run up the right side. Buehler crossed the ball in, and substitute Christine Sinclair got around her defender and buried the ball in the net. Spisak didn't have a chance.

Neither side seemed content with a draw, and as the final minutes of the match dwindled, the attacks came fast and furious. FC Gold Pride looked to come closest to going ahead, yet it was the Freedom who snatched a goal in stoppage time.

Wambach scored by getting on the end of a Cat Whitehill freekick, much like her first goal of the match. Gold Pride defender Buehler did her best, but was no match for the tall forward. Wambach outmuscled the defender and headed into the corner of the net to put her team up 4-3 moments before the final whistle.

The Washington Freedom got their first win of the season, bringing their record to 1-2-1. They now will look to build on the win and carry that momentum forward. Coach Gabarra's main worry will be solving his team's goal conceding problem, since changing goalkeepers did not solve the problem. Their next match is at home against St. Louis Athletica on May 3rd.

FC Gold Pride should be proud that they fought back from a two-goal deficit, but will need to strengthen their defense to improve their position on the league table. Their record (1-2-1) leaves a lot of room for improvement, and they will be looking for a win in their next match. They take on Sky Blue FC at home on May 3rd.