Sol top Freedom in entertaining opener

Posted on 30 March 2009 by iyeo

It was a festive atmosphere for the start of Women’s Professional Soccer.

14,832 fans made their way to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., to take a look at the inaugural match for WPS. It certainly had the feel of a major event, with WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci in attendance and women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm delivering the inaugural game ball to the field. The flags of the nations represented by WPS on the field were paraded out prior to the match.

“Today is an historic day for soccer and women’s sports in the U.S. and the world,” Antonucci said in a statement. “We have kicked off a new league that can stake its claim as the world’s premiere soccer league based on the talent our teams have assembled.”

The two teams featured in the match, the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom, brought plenty of star power, with the hosts featuring three-time FIFA world player of the year Marta Vieira da Silva (or Marta) and standout midfielder Shannon Boxx, to name a few. The Freedom countered with forward Abby Wambach, who was making her return to the pitch while recovering from a broken leg suffered prior to last year’s Olympic Games.

The play on the pitch was more than enough to delight the audience, as the Sol attacked early and often and broke the ice on WPS’ inaugural season with a 2-0 win over the Freedom.

“We are really happy with the victory. To open up the inaugural season and come out with a victory is very pleasing,” Sol head coach Abner Rogers said.

It only took six minutes for the first ever WPS goal to be recorded. Sol midfielder Aya Miyama sent a free kick into the box to midfielder Allison Falk, who then headed the ball past a charging keeper Brianna Scurry into the net at the far right post, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

“It was a great ball from Aya,” Falk said. “I just went for it – I didn’t think I was going to get it, but I did and it went in. It was a very surreal experience… very exciting.”

It took a while for the Sol to find that second goal, but it finally came with three minutes left in the match, as Marta broke for goal and quickly fed a quick pass to midfielder Camille Abily just inside the box. Abily then launched a point-blank shot over Scurry into the net at the far post.

“There were times when we played very well, but fitness was a bit of an issue for both teams, as you could see,” Rogers said. “It is only going to get better. I was definitely happy. We dodged a few bullets; even though we came out with a good victory, it was very beneficial.”

Despite being shutout, the Freedom did its best to avoid such a fate. Its first chance to score came in the 24th minute, when Abby Wambach tracked down a long ball and broke for goal, Wambach made it to the box, but her shot was denied by goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. The Freedom almost equalized in the 64th minute, when a shot by midfielder Lori Lindsey bounced off the left post. LeBlanc had to make just one more save on a lob shot by midfielder Homare Sawa in the same sequence.

“The game deserved more goals. We deserved a goal or two, but that’s the game of soccer,” Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra said. “We felt that in the second half, we possessed the ball better and had more scoring opportunities. What I take out of it is something to build on.”

All in all, it was pretty much the kind of atmosphere that WPS had hope to deliver, with the crowd large and into the match, and both teams providing some quality play on the field.

“It was great; obviously a world class stadium,” Gabarra said regarding the Home Depot Center. “I was very pleased with the product on the field. From my experience, the level of play was better than that of the WUSA inaugural game.”

Marta also did her best to find the back of the net, as she displayed the sort of skill that has made her amongst the best in the world on several possessions, such as a dribbling between her legs early in the first half and evading two Freedom defenders while just barely keeping the ball inside the endline before flicking a quick pass to Miyama, whose shot just sailed over goal.

“I was very excited to be out there today,” Marta said. “The atmosphere was phenomenal, and that always gives you a boost as a player. We got the result we wanted and are very happy with that. “

The Sol will look top build on its momentum from its season-opening win, as it travels to New Jersey for a matchup with Sky Blue FC, while the Freedom prepares for a match against the University of Virginia as part of its KICKS against Breast Cancer match on April 4. The Freedom will then host its WPS home opener against the Chicago Red Stars a week later.

Match Facts

Los Angeles Sol vs. Washington Freedom, March 29, 2009
The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
Kickoff: 3PM PT
Attendance: 14,832

Scoring Summary:

LA – Allison Falk (Aya Miyama) 6th minute
LA – Camille Abily (Marta) 87th minute

Lineups:
LA: 23-Karina LeBlanc (GK), 2- Kendall Fletcher (18-Katie Larkin, 46), 3-Allison Falk, 7-Shannon Boxx (Captain), 14-Stephanie Cox, 8-Aya Miyama, 11-Brittany Bock, 20-Camille Abily, 22-Manya Makoski, 9-Han Duan (13-Christie Welsh, 84), 10-Marta.
Subs not used: 1-Val Henderson (GK), 0-Brittney Cameron (GK), 4-Aly Wagner, 5-Greer Barnes, 6-McCall Zerboni, 12-Lisa Sari, 21-Johanna Frisk
Head Coach: Abner Rogers

WSH: 1-Briana Scurry (GK), 4-Cat Whitehill, 11-Emily Janss, 21-Alex Singer, 22-Becky Sauerbrunn, 6-Lori Lindsey (3-Jill Gilbeau, 72), 8-Sonia Bompastor, 9-Allie Long, 10-Homare Sawa, 20-Abby Wambach (Captain), 25-Claire Zimmeck (17-Lisa De Vanna, 43).
Subs not used: 61-Kati Jo Spisak (GK), 15-Kristin DeDycker, 19-Rebecca Moros.
Head Coach: Jim Gabarra

Statistical Summary:
LA / WSH
Shots: 14 / 12
Saves: 3 / 6
Corner Kicks: 3 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 9
Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
None.

Officials:
Referee: Kari Seitz
Assistant: Referee: Veronica Perez
Assistant: Referee: Marlene Duffy
Fourth Official: Jennifer Bennett

What were your thoughts on the game? Share them below!

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    […] little more than two months after the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom met in the first ever WPS match, and quite a few things had […]

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