On Sunday, September 19th, the Philadelphia Independence hosted the Washington Freedom at Farrell Stadium in West Chester, PA in a first round WPS Playoffs’ match. The two teams played scoreless soccer for the first 90 minutes, and for 29 of the 30 minutes of the resulting overtime, before Amy Rodriguez was able to send one into the goal to give the Independence a thrilling 1-0 victory. The late goal came just before the teams would have had to go to penalty kicks to see who will advance to play the Boston Breakers in the next round of the playoffs.
The first round playoff match placed two teams that were only separated by three points in the standings, with the Independence earning 34 points while the Freedom ended up with 31. In addition, the match showcased the talents of two of the top American forwards on the team with the Independence’s Rodriguez and the Freedom’s Abby Wambach. Wambach finished second with 13 goals behind FC Gold Pride’s Marta in the race for the 2010 Golden Boot Award, while Rodriguez finished third with 12 goals.
The Freedom controlled possession for a majority of the first half but was never able to get any strong scoring opportunities, as the Independence’s back four, lead by Jen Buczkowski, did a good job in denying Wambach open space. The Independence had a number of scoring opportunities but were unable to get anything past Freedom’s goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Harris’ strong presence in goal, which included four first half saves, kept the Freedom from falling behind early.
The Independence looked strong in the second half, as they were able to maintain possession, but once again were stifled by the goalkeeping of Harris, as well as some missed opportunities. Rodriguez seemed to have many chances to put in the winning goal in the second half, including a great chance in the 88th minute, but was denied by the post. In addition the Independence had a number of shots sail over the goal, giving the Freedom an opportunity to steal a victory in the overtime.
Both teams seemed to begin to tire once the extra thirty minutes began. However, the Freedom looked stronger than they did in the second half and had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first fifteen minutes. In a match that seemed destined to be decided by a penalty kick shootout, Amy Rodriguez was able to shake free from the Freedom defense to collect a ball in front of the goal that was sent in by Tina DiMartino. With only Harris to beat, Rodriguez was sure to not let another opportunity slip by and sailed a shot into the upper part of the goal. The goal sent Rodriguez, her teammates, and the Independence fans into a frenzy which continued a minute later when the time ran out on the Freedom’s season.
The Independence will have a short rest as they have to travel to Boston this Thursday, September 23 to play the Breakers in the WPS Super Semifinal. The Independence have failed to beat the Breakers this season, as they have two losses and two draws in four matches. If looking to travel to see the WPS Super Semifinal match between the Independence and the Breakers, tickets can be found here.