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SOL 2, WASHINGTON 0

Los Angeles Sol ushers in Women's Professional Soccer league with a win

L.A.'s Allison Falk scores first goal in debut of entertaining if slower-paced brand of game. The first game draws a crowd of 14,832 at the Home Depot Center.

March 30, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Allison Falk scored the first goal in Women's Professional Soccer history Sunday, and it took the Los Angeles Sol and former Stanford defender all of six minutes to accomplish the feat.

In front of an inaugural-game crowd of 14,832 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Falk rose to meet teammate Aya Miyama's free kick, clanged into Washington Freedom goalkeeper Briana Scurry and the ball ended up in the net.

It wasn't the prettiest of goals, and Scurry had a few words to say about it afterward, but it was historic. The ball and the starting lineup cards will be sent for display at the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y.

The Sol, meanwhile, has a 2-0 victory in the record books, French midfielder Camile Abily having scored the second goal three minutes from the end when she took a pass from Brazil's Marta and chipped the ball over the advancing Scurry.

The teams produced an entertaining brand of soccer, although the pace was slower than expected. Marta, the league's highest-paid player, had been expected to shine, but it was the Sol duo of Miyama, from Japan, and Chinese forward Han Duan who really stood out.

The opening goal caused a bit of controversy, but not too much.

"I got slammed. I got bumped," Scurry said. "I actually had the ball in my hands, then she hit me and that's when the ball went in. I got the wind knocked out of me a little bit."

Referee Kari Seitz saw no foul, however; the goal stood.

"We knew she [Falk] was their target on set plays," said Washington Coach Jim Gabarra. "Whether it was a fair challenge, I don't know. But maybe they protect the goalkeeper too much in those situations, so I can't really complain."

As for Falk, she was basking in the spotlight. It was her first professional game and her first professional goal. A perfect day.

"The whole game was just surreal. It was an amazing experience," Falk said. "The goal [came off] an amazing ball from Aya. I just went up for it, wasn't sure I was going to get it, I think it kind of hit the side of me and went in."

Sol Coach Abner Rogers was delighted by the result and the performance of Falk, who turns 22 on Tuesday but was not intimidated despite being surrounded by veteran international players from a half-dozen countries.

"Incredible," Rogers said. "It's fantastic for a young player to come in here and have the confidence to play, let alone score a goal. That's just the icing on the cake. She did a great job. She marked one of the best forwards in the world in Abby [Wambach] and played her very well."

Wambach, the U.S. national team star who was playing in her first competitive match since breaking her leg against Brazil last July, had a relatively quiet game but when she did look dangerous, Falk and the other Sol defenders kept her at bay.

"I think she's great," Wambach said of Falk. "She's strong. She reads the game very well. She obviously scored that goal -- or Bri scored the goal for her. But she's a great defender and I'm sure we're going to run into a lot of them throughout this league."

The closest the Freedom came to scoring was in the 64th minute when Lori Lindsay fired a shot that slammed into the left post and rebounded clear.

Other than that close call, Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc had little difficulty in recording the first shutout in league history.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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