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September 28, 2010 > Gold Pride claim WPS Championship

Gold Pride claim WPS Championship

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.

Photo by William Mancebo

Two weeks after capping its second season in Women's Professional Soccer as regular season champions, FC Gold Pride put a bow on its remarkable season with a dominating 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS Championship in front of a near sellout crowd of 5,228 at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward on Sunday, Sept. 26.

"It's a perfect ending to the season," said Pride striker Christine Sinclair. "Our fans have been tremendous throughout the season. It was amazing to see so many of them out here cheering us on, especially the ones who stuck with us after last year; this one is for them."

Gold Pride last played on Sept. 11 at home, trouncing Philadelphia 4-1 in the regular season finale. Since then, the Pride have been combining rest and training in preparation while the Independence had to go through two opponents just to get to the championship.

Playing in its third game in a week, the Independence simply ran out of gas. Philly beat Washington Freedom (1-0 on Sept. 19) and Boston Breakers (2-1 on Sept. 23), both in overtime, running 120 minutes in each contest before making the cross-country flight to take on the Pride.

"The playoff system got the better of us," Independence captain Lori Lindsey said. "Usually we bring a lot of pizzazz and excitement to the game and we just couldn't bring it today."

Despite the three-games-in-seven-days stretch that Philadelphia endured, Gold Pride probably had a lot to do with the Independence lack of "pizzazz and excitement." In three regular season matches, the Pride was 3-0 against the Independence, outscoring them 9-2.

Sinclair got the scoring started in the 17th minute after a flurry of shots was thwarted away from goal.

Shannon Boxx sent in a cross to Marta who took two shots that were both batted away by Philadelphia keeper Val Henderson. The second shot's rebound went to Camille Abily whose shot was kicked off the line by defender Nikki Krzysik. Tiffeny Milbrett got the ball off the Krzysik save and shot it for the far post, but Henderson kicked that away. The kick save fluttered to Sinclair who batted it in the open goal for the early lead.

"It's huge," said Sinclair about getting that first goal. "It relaxed our team and we were able to take control from there."

And if they didn't already begin their dominance before the goal, they certainly proceeded to do so from that point forward. For the match, Gold Pride took 16 shots, putting 13 on net while the Independence hardly threatened Nicole Barnhart in the Pride net, taking four shots, only two hitting the target - none from inside the box.

"We've been waiting to put a performance like this together [all season long]," said Gold Pride coach Albertin Montoya. "We were able to neutralize what they had, and take advantage of our strengths and that's what it came down to."

Sinclair scored twice - also tapping in a pass from Marta into an open net in the 53rd minute - and Marta, with her goal and two assists, was voted by the media as Most Valuable Player of the match. Kandace Wilson had the other goal for the Pride, a 29th minute score assisted by Marta, that seemed to be a microcosm of the match.

Wilson made a run from her right back position, passed it to Marta around midfield while continuing her run. Marta fed Wilson into space at the top of the box. Independence defender Allison Falk had position on Wilson, but the Pride defender out-muscled Philly's back and took a shot past Henderson for the 2-nil lead at the time.

"I came around her and I don't think she expected me to," said Wilson, whose goal was her first WPS tally in two years. "I just stuck my left foot out and tried to put as much pressure on her as I could."

Wilson assisted on Marta's goal in stoppage time of the second half, "Marta got me one, so I owed her one."

It has been well documented about the Pride's worst-to-first run in 2010. But Wilson maybe went through the most of all the 2009 Pride players, coming back from a season-ending injury suffered in mid-season last year.

"My first goal was to stay healthy," said Wilson. "To finish out a whole season and be WPS champions, it's been a complete turnaround; it feels so good."

Getting Wilson back for the whole season, adding star players like Marta, Boxx and Abily, were all factors in succeeding. But 2010 was more than players. As Wilson points out, it's the team camaraderie that brought the success.

"I learned a lot from last year, on and off the field," Wilson added. "It's all about heart and wanting it. The team has great chemistry and we have developed it since day one of the preseason."

Chemistry developed FC Gold Pride into 2010 WPS champions.

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