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WUSA's Inaugural Game Is a Big Winner at the Gate

Soccer: Chastain and Hamm play marquee roles as Washington defeats Bay Area, 1-0, before 34,148.

April 15, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It was difficult to ascertain why Brandi Chastain was crying. There were too many reasons, good and bad.

The heroine of the 1999 Women's World Cup had just played the inaugural game of the first major women's professional soccer league in the U.S.--and 34,148 fans had come to watch.

But Chastain also was called for the foul that led to the game's only goal as her Bay Area CyberRays fell to the Washington Freedom, 1-0.

Defending her U.S. national teammate Mia Hamm one-on-one, Chastain went for the ball and made the tackle. Hamm went down. The referee called it a penalty. Chastain flailed her arms in disbelief.

Brazilian standout Pretinha made the penalty kick, the first and only goal in Saturday's first game of the Women's United Soccer Assn.

"Is now the time to be politically correct since I'm in the nation's capital?" Chastain said. "My emotions go both ways. The referee is the person who ultimately makes the call. And unfortunately today, the call went against me and there's nothing I can do to change that. I felt very strongly that it wasn't the call that I would have made.

"It's hard to stand up here in defeat, but it doesn't change the pride I have in my heart."

The last thing a new soccer league needs is a scoreless tie in its first game, so the goal was a big one for WUSA's officials and investors.

"I'm glad there was a winner in the game," said former U.S. national team coach Tony DiCicco, the league's chief operations officer.

The crowd was dominated by soccer moms and dads and screaming kids by the thousands, and the walk-up crowd was so large that the ticket booths were overwhelmed. Some fans didn't get in until close to halftime.

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