Although the Independence have made the playoffs in their inaugural year, they could hardly have done so in a less encouraging fashion.
Coming off of three losses in a row, the Independence traveled to the West Coast to face Marta and FC Gold Pride, a team that over their first two meetings they had managed only one goal while conceding five. The struggling Independence would secure second place and a bye in the playoffs if they could finally turn things around against Gold Pride and the resurgent Boston Breakers either lost or tied with Sky Blue FC.
The match up between Boston Breakers and 2009 WPS champs Sky Blue FC ended 0–0.
The match between the Independence and FC Gold Pride ended 4–1. In favor of the hosts.
Philadelphia had a few chances early in the match. In the 20th minute, Allison Falk nearly put a away a Lori Lindsey corner kick. Two minutes later, Tina DiMartino left-footed a curling shot that required a big save from Gold Pride keeper Nicole Barnhart. And in the 34th minute, Joanna Lohman sent a pass to her US national squad teammate Amy Rodriguez whose slicing shot required another big save from Barnhart.
But two goals in two minutes just before the end of the half from the teamwork of Kelly O’Hara and Golden Boot Winner Marta began what would eventually be a commanding victory for Gold Pride.
In the 40th minute a pass from Marta to an open O’Hara on the left ended with O’Hara’s cross beating Independence keeper Val Henderson for the first goal of the match. One minute later, O’Hara returned the favor with a pass that Marta finished for her 19th goal of the season.
But the duo were not finished yet.
In the 50th minute, O’Hara headed Marta’s free kick from just outside the box for the third goal of the match.
“I basically pointed and we just linked eyes and she put it right where I wanted it,” said O’Hara, who would leave the match due to injury only minutes later. “I was able to put my head on it.”
Just one minute later, the Independence finally got on the board when second half substitute Lianne Sanderson buried Lohman’s chipped pass.
But the home team put an end to any hopes of a dramatic comeback in the 65th minute when Christine Sinclair scored off of a pass from Marta.
“We figured if we could hang in there for 70 minutes and make it a 20 minute game,” Independence coach Paul Riley said. “Once we gave up that (Sinclair) goal…We were beaten by the better team tonight.”
After the match, FC Gold Pride were presented with WPS Regular Season Championship Trophy. Gold Pride finished the season with a 16–3–5 record.
The Independence (10–10–4) must now host Washington Freedom (8–9–7) in the first playoff match, who clinched a playoff berth with a 1-0 win over Atlanta Beat. The four regular season meetings between the two sides have resulted in two home wins for each team. On August 4, Philadelphia lost their last meeting with Washington 2–0 with two goals from USWNT star Abby Wambach. Tickets for Sunday’s 2:30pm playoff match at John A Farrell Stadium in West Chester can be found at www.independencetix.com.
The winner of the first round playoff match will travel to Boston to face the Breakers (10–8–6)—who will enter the playoffs with a 13-game unbeaten streak—on Thursday, September 23 at 8pm in the WPS Super Semifinal. Philadelphia’s recent run of poor form began with a home 2–1 loss to Boston on August 29. Philadelphia has two losses and two draws in the regular season against the Breakers
The winner of the Super Semifinal then will face FC Gold Pride for the WPS Championship on Sunday, September 26 at 2:30pm.
“(FC Gold Pride) is going to be tough to beat when they got two weeks rest while we all battle it out,” said Riley. “I think it’s going to be very difficult for anybody to beat this team here, especially on this field…They’re almost impossible to play against…they’re the best team in the league.”