On a rainy night in West Chester, Pa., the Philadelphia Independence hosted mid-atlantic neighbor Washington Freedom Sunday, April 25.
This marked the second time the two teams have ever met. The first was back in March when the Freedom hosted a preseason scrimmage with the expansion team—the game ended in a scoreless tie. National team players from different countries were out except for both teams' Canadian goalkeepers.
This time, it was a different story. Independence defeated Freedom, 3-1, and the teams' rosters were practically complete except for the Canadians being in China.
"Obviously we were missing eight players [in the preseason game]. We played a little bit differently tonight. We played four in the midfield. The last time we played 4-3-3 and I think they expected us to play 4-3-3. But we've been working with the diamond all week and we came up with the 4-4-2. I thought it went pretty well," said Independence head coach Paul Riley.
The first half of the game showed a more even match with both sides creating a couple of chances. The best opportunity for Independence came in the 21st minute when Freedom goalkeeper Brianna Scurry failed to clear the ball, which found its way to Independence forward Lianne Sanderson's feet in front of an open net. Being at the right place at the right time, Freedom's Sonia Bompastor blocked Sanderson's shot.
Bompastor clears the ball in the 1:11 mark (if you can't view the video, click here ).
Six minutes later Freedom captain Cat Whitehill took a shot from 25 yards out, only to be saved by Independence goalkeeper Val Henderson. The first half ended just like the preseason game—scoreless.
As the rain fell harder in the the second half, goals started pouring in as well. Freedom kicked things off in the 51st minute as Lisa De Vanna scored her second goal of the season off an Abby Wambach assist.
The celebration of the ladies in red, however, would not last long.
Independence forward Amy Rodriguez notched her first goal of the season—and with her new team—just three minutes later. The move proved to ignite a fire in this expansion team with defender Allison Falk and Sanderson scoring two more goals respectively.
"When you get a goal scored on you, you can react two ways. They reacted better and it just goes to show what kind of team they are. I was surprised in Philadelphia's response going down a goal, they didn't quit, they came together and took advantage of our mistakes. It was impressive," observed Freedom forward Abby Wambach.
It was a much needed result by the young team, who has not won a regular season game until now.
"We've had two draws the last two games and we were looking for three points. In this league, if you fall behind, it's hard to get back up. So for us, we really wanted those three points and we came out and got them," said Rodriguez.
The Independence moves up to second place, tied with the Boston Breakers and St. Louis Athletica. The Freedom, on the other hand, is in third.