FC Gold Pride and Washington Freedom met up on Saturday night with first place on the line. One team came to play, but both teams came out of the game with a point after a 1-1 draw in front of 3,442 fans at Castro Valley High School Athletic Stadium.
FC Gold Pride, and Marta in particular, had their way with the Freedom, controlling the possession and chances at goal. But it was Allie Long and the Freedom scoring the first goal of the match, an unstoppable shot in the upper-90, beating Pride keeper Nicole Barnhart in the 38th minute.
“I took my first touch to cut in front of (Christine) Sinclair,” said Long after receiving a one-two pass from Sonia Bompastor. “I felt (Sinclair) on my back and saw (Rachel) Buehler coming so I had to shoot it right away … I was hoping to bend it upper-90.”
Long’s goal was one of two shots that the Freedom put on net. Washington took 10 shots at goal, with most, including Long’s shot, coming from outside the 18-yard box. Meanwhile, Gold Pride took 18 shots at goal, putting seven on net, and earned 14 corner kicks.
“I wish I didn’t have to say it was a relief,” said Long about her feeling when the final whistle blew. “Their attacking is unbelievable. Our defense did a great job but there’s only so much you can do when you’re defending for so long, so I guess when the whistle blew I was relieved.”
Most of the Gold Pride’s onslaught came in the second half. Entering the second half down 1-0, the Pride came out of the locker room with a purpose, tilting the field toward Washington’s goal. Erin McLeod came up with a number of saves, but couldn’t stop them all.
Pride coach Albertin Montoya made a couple switches at halftime, switching Kelley O’Hara to the left forward and Marta to the right forward, while pushing recently-acquired Shannon Boxx to the offensive midfield position.
“Our team talk at halftime was ‘Relax, we’ve been playing well,’ ” said Montoya. “We played our game and were more dangerous in that second half.”
O’Hara got things going in the 49th minute, creating her own shot off the dribble before blasting a shot that beat McLeod but banged off the crossbar. After O’Hara got things started, Marta took over the game, creating one chance after another until she tied the game in the 75th minute.
Camille Abily -- making her first appearance since fracturing her ankle in practive over a month ago -- delivered the ball to Sinclair’s feet. Sinclair turned and send a long ball into space that Marta chased down, tapped past Cat Whitehill and dribbled into the box. After deking four Freedom defenders in the box to get the ball on her left, she drilled a shot near post past McLeod for the equalizer.
“I’ve been saying this all along,” said Montoya. “Marta took three months off so she wasn’t fit when she first came into the league in her first games. It’s just a matter of time of getting game in and playing with her teammates. I thought she was outstanding today.”
Gold Pride (5-2-1, 16 points) remains in sole possession of first place in the WPS; Washington (4-2-2, 14 points) and dropped to a second-place tie with the Philadelphia Independence (4-2-2, 14 points) after their 2-1 win over Sky Blue FC on Sunday.
Even with both sides playing with varying successes on the evening, both coaches were happy with the result.
“I’m happy with the result because we stayed in first,” said Montoya. “Yes we’re frustrated we didn’t get the win because of all the chances we had, but as a coach I feel good because we played well.”
“I think we’re pretty fortunate,” said Freedom coach Jim Gabarra. “We can’t defend that much against that quality of a team. We battled and were able to hold on (for the tie).”
Next up for FC Gold Pride is another battle with first place on the line, this time on the road, at the Independence on Sunday night at 6 ET. And for the Freedom, they return home to host the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
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