They had me going there for a minute. The grudge match today between Washington and Man Is It Going To Get Old Having To Type The Entire Word Each Time Louis Athletica? Better than we had any right to expect, considering the visiting team hadn't - you know, that thing where the little ball thing goes into that net contraption on the side there. But then it started raining*, then the action went back and forth, villains became heroes and vice versa - I thought that was all real, I really did.
Then Rogondino skipped ahead in the script, and called Washington's second goal the equalizer. A-HA! Proof! Proof, I tell you! These games are booked in advance, and have been for at least two weeks now!
Want MORE proof? Well, check out the WPS match report!
The fix is in! WPS is booking matches like Vince McMahon!
What, you thought Tiffeny Milbrett was really back? Yeah, and Hulk Hogan's a tougher fighter than Manny Pacquiao.
Still, if this was scripted? Excellent script.
My heart did sink when I saw that Jim Gabarra was once again giving the start to KJ Spisak and her 34.0453 GAA.** Yeah, we can (and WPS did) bill this as Solo v. Abby, but who among us didn't want to see Solo take on Scurry in the arena?
And then FSC, for what seemed like an eternity, absolutely refused to go negative. The 2007 contretemps*** wasn't even mentioned directly, so to the new viewer, the palpable tension hung in the air, as the saying goes, like a giant matzoh ball. Hildreth did bring up the double meaning of Solo falling back on punching if Wambach became too troublesome, Rogo laughed knowingly - and so did you, and so did I. But that lede was buried like Nikki and Paolo in "Lost," and I was distressed at the possibility that Abby and Hope might have, God forbid, gotten over it.
Well, in the words of Shakespeare's sister, ha.
Whatever Hope Solo said or did or mimed to get her defenders on board with the cause? Even if it was something like "By the way, Tina and Kia? If you would be so good as to plant the opposition's #20 like an Arbor Day tree, we'll be much more likely to win"? Good speech. I think Wambach opened hostilities, technically, with a little shove on Solo during an early save.
But once Daniela scored, in the words of Yoda, on it was.
For those of you who didn't see the game - and if you didn't, what is your problem? Seriously - after Daniela scores the game's first goal, not coincidentally the first goal in the A's history - after a scrum in the box where a great Spisak save was cleared out badly - in other words, a goal that wasn't going to win a beauty contest under any other circumstances - Daniela got the Saint Louis field players out to do a little samba celebration. On the road.
It was one of the most minor league stunts I can remember seeing. Where the hell did the A's get off choreographing a goal celebration this week? Only a brand new women's league could have seen that not followed up by a hailstorm of debris.
Anyway, thus fired up, the Freedom took control of the game - at least, up until Tina Ellertson and Kia McNeill took turns knocking over Wambach. Both of them apparently secure in the knowledge there would be no consequences. Thus defanged, Washington fell behind my more goals than Saint Louis had ever scored.
And let's be clear, the Freedom did not answer the bell, not until Ellertson was subbed out. (The WPS match report says she was subbed for cramping, making an incomprehensible sub merely disastrous.) There's going to be a lot of talk about gutsy comebacks around Germantown this week, and nowhere near enough talk about not digging the damn hole in the first place.
Yeah, Hope looked pretty bad on De Vanna's goal. But her team was still ahead, and she was in danger of getting over on Abby once again.**** So Wambach lined up Daniela, and took her out of the game, maybe out for several games.
Hildreth and Rogondino didn't see the play - they were reviewing the De Vanna goal from moments before - and only a secondary replay showed Wambach barrelling into Daniela with an ugly, ugly challenge. Abby earned an immediate yellow for that stunt, but Athletica didn't start a bench-clearing brawl in response, so one hopes and assumes it wasn't totally intentional. The Soccerplex crowd booed Daniela for diving, then recanted once she was stretchered off. Were there EVER boos in WUSA?
And then to end the story, once again in the 90th minute a Cat Whitehill kick 'n wish is botched by the opposing defense, and all was lost including honor.
And that's how you upstage Mia Hamm. Cynically, you couldn't have asked for a more perfect outcome. What was once a personal, and sort of embarrassing, dispute is now a blood feud between two clubs, one of which wasn't even conceived of when the original incident occurred. Saint Louis plays Washington in Edwardsville on June 20th, then the two teams meet in RFK(!) on the 18th. Stay tuned, sports fans, I don't think this one's over.
*This is probably a digression more suited for a later post, and for later read 12th of Never, but the game is just more fun to watch in the rain. When it comes to sunshine, there's a real limit when it just becomes too hot or enervating to have a good game. But no foul weather is too foul for soccer. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night. Maybe, just maybe, wind ruins a game, but wind + rain? Always awesome.
**Unofficial stat, but tell me I'm wrong.
***It only now just hit me - what do we call this? I mean, everyone who's been paying attention, and more than a few who haven't, just call it the Hope Solo thing, and everyone knows we're referring to Greg Ryan's benching of Solo, Solo's criticizing Scurry and Ryan, Solo's removal from the team, and Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly forcefully coming to Ryan's defense. But shouldn't it have a name? A proper name, like "The Dreyfus Affair" or "The Cuban Missile Crisis" or "Ishtar." Oh, and ideally, it shouldn't take advantage of Hope Solo's name being words in English. Punning should be beneath us. "China Syndrome," perhaps, what with the meltdown factor, but you might have your own ideas.
****If you think Hope and the US won the gold medal last year simply to spite Abby. Which, yeah, sounds a little wacky.