Independence / Indy match reports

Independence break through to Final

After scoring in the 120th minute on Sunday to knock Washington Freedom out of the WPS Playoffs, the Philadelphia Independence made it easier on themselves in Thursday’s 2–1 victory over the Boston Breakers.

They scored the game winning goal in the 103rd minute.

The Super Semifinal match was a thriller from start to finish, featuring a great deal of open play and many scoring chances. Keeper Val Henderson made a fantastic reaction save in the 12th minute to stop Kristine Lilly’s long distance shot.

Boston was first on the board in the 22nd minute thanks to a collective lapse in concentration. With what seemed to be entire Independence midfield and backline protesting the non-call of a foul around the center circle, Lilly sent a long pass to Lauren Cheney, who expertly controlled the lofted ball and calmly chipped an uncharacteristically indecisive Henderson.

The lead didn’t last for long.

Seven minutes later, Amy Rodriguez sent a pass wide to Caroline Seger on the right. Seger moved the ball to just outside the 6-yard box and sent a low shot past a slow to react Alyssa Naeher into the far corner.

Only moments later, the Independence nearly made it 2–1 when Naeher and Boston central defender Amy LePelbeit collided while trying to cope with a long ball from the Independence midfield. Rodriguez collected the ball and sent a soft shot on goal that was cleared off the line by defender Ifeoma Dieke.

Momentum shifted back and forth into the second half. With her tremendous speed and touch, Rodriguez had two solid chances within the first ten minutes of the half but couldn’t find the net.

With regulation time winding down, Cheney had two chances of her own in the 86th minute to put Boston ahead. First she headed a free kick over the bar. Seconds later, she sent powerful shot that forced an athletic finger-tip save from Henderson.

The tension only increased when Kelly Smith found herself one on one with Henderson, only to shot over the bar.

Despite having played 120 minutes only four days before, the Independence looked strong at the start of extra time. They took the lead when substitute Danesha Adams bravely headed Tina DiMartino’s superbly lofted cross just inches away from the far post.
“I thought I would hit my head on the post, but it was a great pass from Tina,” Adams said.

The goal was not without controversy as several Boston players thought Adams had handled the ball.
Said Boston defender Alex Scott, “Hand ball all the way. It went over her head. I was right behind her, and I couldn’t believe the ref didn’t see it. Even her teammates weren’t celebrating because it was so obvious.”

Adams said otherwise. “It did not hit my hand. It hit the side of my head. My hand was up because I was protecting myself from hitting the post.”

Boston had several chances to equalize, particularly in the 113th minute, substitute Kasey Moore banged a shot off of the crossbar that rebounded to an open Alex Scott in front of goal. Scott badly mishit the ball and a sliding Henderson was able to make the save.

“In hindsight, I should have pounced on it, but I was able to get a foot on it,” Henderson said.

Controversial goal aside, Boston head coach Tony DiCicco was magnanimous in defeat. Sort of.

“For the most part, I felt we were the better team, but give Philadelphia credit. They did what they had to do.”

Whether the Independence will be able to do what they have to do against FC Gold Pride remains to be seen. With a regular season record of 0–3–0 against the Gold Pride in which they have conceded nine goals while scoring only two, the Independence have a difficult task ahead of them. Having only two days rest before Sunday’s championship game won’t make things easier.

Said Independence coach Paul Riley, “The next one’s going to be tough.”

You can watch the championship  match live on TCN (Comcast channel 8)  and FSN from 2:30pm on Sunday. FSC is showing a replay of the game on Sunday at 6pm.

Photo courtesy of WPS.

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