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July 13, 2010 > Pride hang on to beat Washington

Pride hang on to beat Washington

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By William Mancebo

Making her first Women's Professional Soccer start in place of regular FC Gold Pride keeper Nicole Barnhart, Brittany Cameron helped the Gold Pride to a 3-2 win at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward, Calif., on Sunday night.

Marta scored twice, and Solveig Gulbrandsen netted the third to give the Pride a 3-0 lead in the 70th minute. DC raced back to cut the Pride lead to one, but it wasn't enough as the Pride (9-3-1, 28 points) topped the Freedom (4-4-5, 17 points) to extend its first-place lead.

Both teams were playing with handicapped rosters. Washington was without Abby Wambach, Allie Long and Sarah Huffman; Gold Pride was without Rachel Buehler, Kelley O'Hara, Shannon Boxx and Barnhart all off serving U.S. national team duties. Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya's players were able to step up.

"I was very pleased with Brittany," said Montoya of his fill-in keeper. "She played well enough to deserve a shutout. But her leadership in the back, communicating, coming out for crosses, getting the ball before problems arose ... she was very good.

"We keep everyone excited about the opportunity of coming in," Montoya added. "(Gulbrandsen) made the most of it (this game). Throughout the season I've changed the lineups several times ... the reason I've done that is so players can come in, step up and make a difference."

Cameron, a local product from Danville, Calif., made three saves in winning her debut match, keeping the Pride on the fast-track to hosting the WPS Championship on Sept. 26.

"It was amazing, having the support of my team and coaches," Cameron said. "Unbelievable; everything I could have asked for."

Gold Pride got its first goal in the 13th minute on a penalty. Christine Sinclair played a perfectly-placed through ball into space for Marta who ran onto it just outside the box. Marta cut back and sent a square ball to Kim Yokers who played a one-touch back-heel pass to an overlapping Sinclair. Freedom defender Beverly Goebel took down Sinclair in the box, and the Pride were rewarded a penalty.

Marta took the kick for the Pride who, as a team, was 0-2 in penalty tries this year. However, Marta calmly placed it in the net with her left foot, past Freedom keeper Erin McLeod, for the 1-0 lead.

"We don't have an official penalty kicker," said Marta. "When she fell down, she looked at Marta and asked if I would like to take it and I said, 'Yeah.' I felt good at that moment in the game so I said, 'I'll take it,' "

Gold Pride is beginning to form its own dynamic duo -- Sinclair and Marta. The two hooked up in the 65th minute to give the lone West Coast WPS team the 2-nil lead.

Marta, who had been robbed by McLeod twice -- once in each half -- made sure her third chance with McLeod would be a charm.

Sinclair took a ball at the left edge of the box and lofted a ball into her fellow striker by the penalty stripe. Marta corralled it with her left, cut right around McLeod, and slid it into the open net with her left for a 2-0 Pride lead.

"Right now I feel good on the field, and I'm helping the team (win games)," said Marta of her recent roll of goals. In the Pride's last three games, Marta has tallied six goals in Gold Pride's last four games (eight if you include her two-goal All-Star Game outing).

Montoya believes it's the contrast of the two strikers that makes them so deadly when paired together up top.

"They just complement each other very well," Montoya said. "Sinc has the size, strength and the power to hold the ball and check for the ball; and Marta has that speed and the awareness of knowing how to play off (Sinclair) and getting in behind (defenses). It's several months of playing together and understanding each other and us playing a two-front system these last couple games."

But with all the attention on Marta and Sinclair, and the stars of the Pride, it was Gulbrandsen, a player with whom the Pride mutually agreed to terminate a contract (effective July 18), that scored the game-winning goal for the Pride.

Marta played a short ball to Camille Abily on a Pride corner. Abily then lofted a cross to Gulbrandsen. Fighting off her defender, the Norwegian international headed it into the goal for a 3-0 lead, which the Pride would need to hold on to the victory.

"It was awesome to finally get to score a goal and be a part of the team in helping us get a win," said Gulbrandsen. "I took a chance in taking a wide run, then I saw the ball was coming and thought, 'Oh, I'm open' so I was just looking for the ball to make the header."

Washington tried to make a game of it, trimming the Pride's lead with goals in the 80th and 90th minutes. First it was Lene Mykjaland who ran onto a Brittany Bock cross, slamming it home cutting the lead to 3-1. Then Nikki Marshall outran the Pride defense to a 50-50 ball before beating Cameron to narrow the deficit to 3-2.

But it was too little, too late for the Freedom Gold Pride held onto the ball to close out the remaining minutes of stoppage time and went home with the 3-2 victory.

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