Washington Freedom, Canadian National Team Tie 3-3
A WPS bye weekend and a Canadian National Team camp in town gave the Washington Freedom an opportunity to play against one of the Top 10 teams in the world Sunday in Fairfax, Va.
The big story all week concerned which team Erin McLeod, a Canadian and Freedom goalkeeper, would play for.
McLeod chose club over country after Canada's head coach, Carolina Morace, sat her down and explained that the players competing in Norway on June 3 should play in the friendly against the Freedom.
The camp, after all, is in preparation for the match against the Norwegians.
McLeod will not be traveling to Norway due to WPS commitments, meaning Stephanie Labbe and Philadelphia Independence's Karina LeBlanc will be representing Canada in goal.
Although McLeod was placed in an interesting situation on Sunday, she made the best of it.
"To be honest, this is the best result I could have asked for because neither team won or lost. So I guess I can be happy about that. I'm not happy about getting three goals scored against me though," said McLeod.
The Freedom dominated in the early part of the game, scoring two goals in just 14 minutes.
Christie Welsh got the Freedom on the board first when Beverly Goebel's shot deflected off the crossbar, landing in front of Welsh's feet. She struck and gave the Freedom an early lead.
Lene Mykjaland notched another one for the ladies in blue a few minutes later as she raced past Canada's defenders and took a shot to make the score 2-0.
Not to be outdone, Canada came on the scoring sheet with a goal from Christina Julien off a Kelly Parker assist.
The Freedom answered back off a Sonia Bompastor corner kick that Welsh headed into the net, making the score 3-1 in the first half.
"It was really weird. Obviously, I'm competitive so regardless of what team I'm playing for, I want to win," said McLeod. "But, I was cheering, we were up 3-1 and I thought, 'Umm...' because I don't want it to be bad for Canada either. So I was kinda scratching my head."
As the second half started and substitutions were made to give other players the opportunities to play, Canada came back strong with goals only a few minutes apart.
FC Gold Pride's Christine Sinclair and Jodi Robinson rallied for the Canadian team to make the final score 3-3.
"I think we had a little bit of a let down there at the beginning of the second half. We put three or four defenders in as subs since that's kinda where we're deep right now," said Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra.
"We needed to give them minutes and I think they were out here warming up, and maybe had a little lapse in concentration, and Canada did a good job of exploiting that lapse."
Even with the game ending in a tie after an early lead, and allowing three goals after two games of shutouts, Gabarra still took the positive from the friendly.
"It's really an opportunity for players who maybe aren't starting or aren't playing a lot of minutes to step out and get plugged into roles. If we have to ask them to step in, they're gonna gain a lot from this experience," said Gabarra.
Rookie defender Nikki Marshall, who has started in Freedom's matches, had the chance to play against Sinclair, one of the leading goal scorers in the league.
The Freedom will face top-ranked FC Gold Pride for the first time this season on June 5 in the Bay Area.
A rookie who stood out for Gabarra was Goebel, who had her first start and was comfortable and confident during the game. The developmental player credited her teammates in her standout performance.
"It was so fun. Every single time I have a chance to get out there it's always fun," said Goebel.
"It's all about the team. When they're encouraging and they have faith in you and they have confidence in you, it makes a huge difference and you are able to play without any pressure because you know the team's gonna be there for you and you know they're gonna support you."
As the WPS comes back from a bye week, the Freedom will host the Philadelphia Independence on Sunday, May 30 at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.
PHOTO CREDIT: Charlotte Mace
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