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Washington Wins Title on Wambach's 2nd Goal

August 25, 2003|Steve Galluzzo | Special to The Times

SAN DIEGO — Forward Abby Wambach scored in the sixth minute of sudden-death overtime to lift the Washington Freedom to a 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Beat in Founders Cup III, the championship game of the Women's United Soccer Assn., Sunday afternoon before 7,106 at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium.

Wambach, the WUSA co-points leader this season with teammate Mia Hamm, was voted most valuable player after scoring both Freedom goals.

She one-timed the game-winner past Atlanta goalie Briana Scurry off a pass from reserve winger Jenny Meier. Midfielder Jacqui Little passed the ball ahead to Meier and also got an assist.

"Jenny made a great play down the wing," said Wambach, whose golden goal was her team-leading 15th of the season. "To be able to lift the trophy, this is the greatest feeling I've ever had playing soccer. We were the best team today and I felt we deserved to win."

Atlanta defender Nancy Augustyniak was red-carded after fouling Wambach just outside the penalty area in the fourth minute of overtime, and Hamm hit the crossbar on the direct free kick. The Beat was forced to play one player short the rest of the game.

The Freedom struck first in the seventh minute when Wambach scored her first career playoff goal on a header in the penalty area off a cross from defender Sandra Minnert.

"From the first whistle, Abby was emotionally and physically invested in the game," said Hamm, the league's most recognized star, who starts training with the U.S. national team this week. "She deserved those two goals. You could see she wasn't going to let this team lose today."

Second-seeded Atlanta (10-5-8) nearly tied it 13 minutes later when WUSA all-time points leader Charmaine Hooper broke free to the right of the net, but goalie Siri Mullinix made a point-blank save.

Fourth-seeded Washington (11-8-4) outshot Atlanta, 11-3, in the first half. Hamm misfired on a breakaway in the 33rd minute. Two minutes later, Scurry made a leaping save on Minnert's direct free kick from 30 yards out.

"That's probably the best save I've ever made," Scurry said. "I got just enough of the ball to tap it over the bar."

Atlanta forward Leslie Gaston was tripped in the penalty area by Little. Hooper converted the ensuing penalty kick to tie the score just before halftime.

"I was going to kick it to my left, but I noticed she was leaning that way, so I decided right before the kick to go to the right side," said Hooper, who scored a golden goal to beat San Diego in the semifinals.

"Last week was an unbelievable high and losing this game was like sticking a knife in our hearts."

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