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W-League Finals Preview
Last two W-League champs battle for 2009 title

USL Feature Article

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

BOYDS, MD – Over 2,600 miles separates the headquarters of the 2008 W-League Champion Pali Blues and the 2007 W-League Champion Washington Freedom. Far less distance however, lies between the ideology and winning tradition under which both championship clubs continue to excel.

The Pali Blues have never lost a match. Their two-season total of 25-0-3 is second to none. On the other side of the pitch this Friday, August 7 live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7:30PM ET, the Freedom’s three-year mark of 44-4-5 is also the best in the W-League over that period.

Last season was the only meeting between the two sides, with Pali taking a 2-0 decision on the strength of two Danesha Adams goals in the W-League semifinals. Leah Tapscott however, is the only player returning to the Blues from that side.

“Leah had a good run in the WPS preseason,” said Pali Head Coach Charlie Naimo. “She is about as close as you can come to a WPS player and she brings that experience of having played in a final before. Jenny Anderson-Hammond is another player of that caliber.”

Tapscott and Anderson-Hammond both being defenders, one would guess Pali’s defense to be the backbone of the team, but Naimo is quick to point in the other direction.

“Quite the contrary,” said Naimo. “Last week’s team was the best offensive team I ever had. We put up five goals on Colorado and four against Hudson Valley. Both were good teams, too. Last season we had Jill Oakes, Amy LePeilbet, Kandace Wilson and Kendall Fletcher in the back. All of those players are in WPS now, so it is hard to say we are better in that area than we were last season.”

Filling the offensive void created by the loss of Danesha Adams last season, the top offensive threats for Pali in 2009 have been Iris Mora and Jodie Taylor.

“Taylor and Mora complement each other very well,” said Naimo. “We missed Taylor for a while during the regular season, but she is back now and playing great. Mora is a very clever player and a passionate worker.”

For Washington, the 5’3” Jennifer Parsons has done her best to fill the goal scoring void created by the departure of Christie Welsh, netting 12 goals and adding six assists during the regular season. She has been limited by the Tampa Bay Hellenic, Charlotte Eagles and Ottawa Fury thus far in the 2009 postseason, but teammates Brittany Tegeler and Meghan Lemczyck each scored in the first two rounds of the playoffs to push the Freedom into the league semifinals.

There, the Freedom’s backline of Caitlin Collins, Madison Keller, Gabriella Toulouse and Jordan Grant combined to produce 120 minutes of scoreless soccer by limiting the Fury’s chances to seven shots on goal. Of that group, Keller was the lone player to play for the Freedom in last’s season’s 2-0 loss to Pali.

That being said, both the Blues and the Freedom’s depth of high-quality talent has to be mentioned in the rationale of why they are both playing in their second W-League Final in three years.

“It is part of a process,” said Naimo. “Something we have done with the New Jersey Wildcats and Jersey Sky Blue – creating a decent environment for the girls in which they can excel and move to the next level. The Blues organization is a big part of the development process for the (WPS) Sol. That also has something to do with it.”

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