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Independence draw in home opener

With the score at 0-0 and in the closing seconds of stoppage time, Independence forward Amy Rodriguez received the ball from Lianne Sanderson and found herself one-on-one with Atlanta Beat keeper Allison Whitworth.

Whitworth quickly came of her line, saying after the game, “I wanted Amy to make the first move.”

Rodriguez said, “I saw the far post was opened, but she covered quickly and came out and took the angle away . . . I put a little juke on her, but she covered well and the only opening was through her legs.”

Rodriguez took her shot but Whitworth made a sliding save and the game ended as it began, 0-0. Said Rodriguez, “Believe me, you dream about moments like that. It’s a goal I should have scored.”

Independence head coach Paul Riley said, “It’s probably fitting that it ended in a tie . . . We both had about three, four chances.”

One of those chance came when Independence midfielder Holmfridur Magnusdottir took a shot from 35 yards out in the 83rd minute that glanced over the crossbar.

Independence keeper Katrina LeBlanc made two big saves to keep the score level. In the 61st minute she produced a diving save to prevent Angie Kerr’s effort from 25 yards out. Three minutes later Atlanta’s Johanna Rasmussen was sent through on a pass from Mami Yamaguchi to face LeBlanc one-on-one. LeBlanc said after the game, “She was coming through, and I read the angle well and made the save.”

Rodriguez said of the Independence offense, “I don’t think we attacked as much as we would like . . . I think, as we play more together, we will get better.”

Lori Lindsey, a teammate of Rodriguez on the US national squad agreed. “We were teasing each other we didn’t know everyone’s name. But we played hard tonight and everyone came together. Everyone did really learn a lot about each other tonight. We learned as we went along, and we’re going to learn more about each other. I think we’re going to be OK.”

Heather Mitts, the Independence defender who is also on the US national team, did not play due to injury. The Independence roster features nine players who represent six national teams.

Coach Riley, who called the match “a good starting point,” acknowledged how little the whole team had played together in the preseason with so many Independence starters having national team commitments. “We can move forward from here. We were missing a number of players with national commitments, some injuries and other things, and still played well. We had what I thought was a terrible, terrible start the first 20, 25 minutes of the game, when I think we looked a little uneasy. But we came back and recovered. Overall, I’m definitely, definitely pleased with how we did.”

6,028 fans watched the debut at John A Farrell Stadium in West Chester, which will surely impress WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci. Commenting on the 1,100 fans who had watched the Independence play UNC in a preseason match, Antonucci had said, “To have that many fans is a tremendous indicator of the interest in the Philadelphia Independence.”

Antonucci hopes for a season average of 5,000 tickets per game for the league, up from last year’s average of 4,600.

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