LA 2, Washington 0: Sol shine in WPS Inaugural Game
By Jo-Ryan Salazar
Bedlam on Baltic Avenue
March 29, 2009
A week after the Los Angeles Galaxy opened their 14th season as a founding member of Major League Soccer, the Los Angeles Sol began their first season as a founding member of Women’s Professional Soccer with the WPS Inaugural Game against the Washington Freedom at the Home Depot Center.
From all over Southern California, families brought their children; their grandparents; some who have never watched a football match in their life; some who have seen matches involving the G’s, Chivas USA, the national teams and others; all who wanted a change of pace.
Black, blue, gold and white balloons and streamers decked the concourses of the stadium. The Goodyear Blimp peered like a jovial sentinel over the low clouds floating across the South Bay skyline as if to say, “Kilroy was here!”
The pregame festivities included Sepp Blatter of FIFA and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant sent their well wishes, flags of all nations in the league represented around the midfield circle, and Tonya Antonucci.
“Today is an historic day for soccer and women’s sports in the U.S. and the world,” Antonucci said. “We have kicked off a new league that can stake its claim as the worl’d premier soccer league for women based on the talent our teams have assembled.
“We have laid a foundation that can – and will – support a successful, entertaining and sustainable league.”
Mia Hamm, one of the USA’s most celebrated women footballers, presented the first-ever match ball with one of her twin daughters.
“Today I am here not as a player, but as a fan and a mom," said Hamm at the pre-game reception. “I couldn’t be more excited to watch the world-class action that will take place on the field…It’s a great day for women’s soccer and to see it back as part of the professional sports landscape in America.”
The Sol’s marquee player, Marta, showed flashes of her brilliance with Umea IK, but it was the supporting crew that dominated the match, along with key saves by Sol GK Karina LeBlanc.
It didn’t take long for Los Angeles to score off a set piece. Allison Falk went down in history as the first goal scorer in the league, with a header that was poorly handled by Freedom keeper Brianna Scurry off Aya Miyama in the sixth minute.
Scurry was hounded for the bulk of the match. She had to make twice as many saves as LeBlanc (6 to 3).
The Sol would not score again until Camille Abily, who plays for France’s Olympique Lyonnais, delivered a looping shot that Scurry would have no chance to stop in the 87th minute.
It was the product of a successful counter-attack that would ensure the Sol as the first team to win a game in WPS.
Sol manager Abner Rogers was all smile.
“We are really happy with the victory,” Rogers said. “To open up the inaugural season and come out with a victory is very pleasing. There were times when we played very well, but fitness was a bit of an issue for both teams, as you could see.
“It is only going to get better. I was definitely happy. We dodged a few bullets; even though we came out with a good victory, it was very beneficial.”
Freedom manager Jim Gabarra took it all in stride.
“We are missing some synchronization upfront, and that is due to the fact that we are missing a lead forward [M/F Parissa Eyokoron],” Gabarra said. “She has been carrying an injury and hasn’t been able to train with Abby.
“From my experience, the level of play was better than that of the WUSA inaugural game. The game deserved more goals. We deserved a goal or two, but that’s the game of soccer. We felt that in the second half, we possessed the ball better and had more scoring opportunities. What I take out of it is something to build on.
“We won our inaugural game for the WUSA, and we ended up tied for last at the end of that season. It’s just one game… it didn’t work out. We came here for three points, but it didn’t work out. They were composed, the keeper made saves. A bounce here, a bounce there, it would have been a different game.”
“It was a great ball from Aya,” said falk on her goal. ”I just went for it - I didn’t think I was going to get it, but I did and it went in.
“It was a very surreal experience… very exciting.”
Marta herself was satisfied with the 14,832 who came to Sunday afternoon’s match at Victoria Street.
“I was very excited to be out there today,” she said. “The atmosphere was phenomenal, and that always gives you a boost as a player.
“We got the result we wanted and are very happy with that. “
The Sol will hit the road on April 5 to face Sky Blue FC at 4:00PM EST.
The Freedom will return home to the Maryland SoccerPlex to take on the University of Virginia in a friendly on April 4 at 7:00PM before they resume WPS play against the Chicago Red Stars on April 11 at 6:00PM.