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Washington Freedom Defeat Atlanta Beat 1-0 To Advance To WPS Playoffs

September 11, 2010 - Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) - magicJack News Release

BOYDS, MD -- In their final home game of the 2010 WPS regular season, 3,545 fans watched Washington Freedom defeat the Atlanta Beat 1-0 on a late goal by Abby Wambach. With the win, Washington Freedom finish 4th in the WPS standings, and clinched the final spot in WPS playoffs with kickoff next Sunday.

The first half was hotly contested, with numerous fouls committed by both teams, and Freedom possessing the ball most of the first half. Both teams were missing some key international stars due to European qualifiers. Sonia Bompastor and Lene Mykjaland were missing for Washington Freedom, while Eniola Aluko, Joanna Rasmussen, and Ramona Bachmann were away for Atlanta Beat. Nikki Marshall started up top for Washington Freedom, with Anita Asante slotting back into the center of defense next to Cat Whitehill.

"It's testament to our depth and the players we have coming off the bench, even tonight, Brittany Klein, Christie Welsh, and even Jill Gilbeau in the last 5 minutes," said Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra. "They added some energy to the game and we really needed that."

In the 16th minute, Freedom got their first chance, an Abby Wambach header from corner kick service that was sent wide. Another header two minutes later off service from Rebecca Moros bounced straight to Beat goalkeeper Hope Solo. The 32nd minute brought Atlanta Beat's best chance, as a through ball from Aya Miyama found Kaley Fountain, but her shot was stopped by Ashlyn Harris.

There was some controversy in the 37th minute, a theme that would continue throughout the game, as Tina Ellertson seemed to clip Nikki Marshall inside the box. No foul was called. The first half ended with the score tied at 0-0.

At the start of the second half, Tina Ellertson got tangled up with Nikki Marshall at the top of the box as she raced to the net, but again no foul was called. Ellertson would leave the game with an injury shortly after, and was replaced by Rebecca Nolin. Atlanta Beat appeared to score on an Aya Miyama free kick, but the goal was called back.

The game changed in the 76th minute when Atlanta Beat's Lauren Sesselman was shown her second yellow card of the match and was then ejected. The next few minutes saw a flurry of shots by Freedom, but none that they were able to capitalize on. In the 79th minute, a Freedom goal was called back because of an offside call against Long.

"On those two goals that were taken away, Abby got pulled down in the box and the ball just skipped in. Then on the other side, I think we were called for offsides," said Washington Freedom goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. "It was a passionate game. We needed to step up. We tend to wait until the last minute to see what happens and tonight was no different I guess."

Christie Welsh had a shot go wide in the 84th minute, but in the 88th minute Freedom finally scored. Becky Sauerbrunn lobbed a ball over the heads of Beat defenders as Wambach ran onto it, and chipped a shot over the head of the charging Hope Solo to put the game away.

"The ball got switched from the right to the left and Becky got the ball," said Wambach. "She looked up and put it right over their center back and it took a bounce. I saw Hope come out and then stay but she was a little bit too off her line so I just kind of popped it over her head, which isn't really my style of goal, but I'll take it.

The 1-0 win puts Freedom in fourth place, and gives them a place in the WPS playoffs which kick off next Sunday.

"Any time you can go into the playoffs with a win into going to give you a lot of confidence," said Freedom defender Cat Whitehill. "Look at Sky Blue and what they did last year. We are encouraged by this win. It's big."

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