As a tuckered out Philadelphia Independence team trudged to the locker room at halftime you got the sense that the team’s fate had already been decided. Regardless of how stirring manager Paul Riley’s team talk was, how were they possibly going to compete with this FC Gold Pride side? After 45 minutes they had been strategically out-matched, thoroughly out-played and positively worn out. The Independence returned from half time with no new ideas and no illusions (or delusions?) that they were capable of beating the foreboding Bay Area side.
With today’s rousing 4-0 defeat of the Independence in the 2010 WPS Championship, FC Gold Pride have proven that they are peerless. Some commentators have asked whether this is the best women’s club soccer team in history. It’s a pretty unanswerable question but after today’s performance it isn’t an unreasonable one. From top to bottom, this FC Gold Pride side is faultless. Even if the Philadelphia Independence could have offered up a fully fit squad, it’s difficult to imagine the end result would have been much different. Paul Riley’s side would have perhaps been less bloodied but would still be well-beaten.
FC Gold Pride dominated the match from the outset and never looked back. The team was absolutely spell-binding in the first half with its multi-pronged attack and constant possession. The Independence outnumbered FC Gold Pride’s midfield with five players to three but it made no difference. Philadelphia was unable to unsettle Gold Pride’s crisp passing game, just as its defense was also powerless to stopping their opponent’s long balls.
FC Gold Pride’s varied attack was constantly threatening. The precision and pragmatism of FC Gold Pride’s aerial game (particularly from captain Rachel Buehler) was particularly astounding. You would think a team outfitted with players with the dynamism of Marta, Christine Sinclair, Camille Abily, Tiffeny Milbrett and Shannon Boxx wouldn’t need to rely on crosses or hopeful long balls. But they did and it worked to devastating effect.
The first goal came as a result of one of those crosses. In the 17’, Shannon Boxx served a ball into the box. Val Henderson made two huge saves on Marta before the ball found the foot of Tiffeny Milbrett who served it to an open Christine Sinclair for the goal.
Then in the 29’ Kandace Wilson hoodwinked Independence center-back Allison Falk with a quick and deceptive run. The speedy left-back found an open look and blasted a shot to make it 2-0.
The Independence’s vivacity was continuing to fade as the team was made to chase FC Gold Pride all over the park. As the match wore on, the exhausted side continued to lose its sharpness. If it wasn’t for some heroic stops by Henderson, the score line could have reached bombastic proportions before half time. But the Independence goalkeeper did well to prevent any more humiliation, or at least delay it.
The second half picked up right where the first half had left off as FC Gold Pride continued to operate at a fevered pitch. In the 53’, Marta blew by three Independence defenders and laid off the simplest of crosses to an unmarked Sinclair for FC Gold Pride’s third goal.
Sensing victory, Gold Pride scaled back the intensity for the rest of the match. Philadelphia could do little to shift the scales, however, as a tired and overrun midfield provided zero link-up play for striker Amy Rodriguez. The frustrated forward remained anonymous for the rest of the match, due to little fault of her own.
In the 60’, Lianne Sanderson had what would be the Independence’s best opportunity when she managed to get behind the imperious FC Gold Pride defense. But right-back Ali Riley proved to be as handy in defense as she was in the attack as she cleared the cross off the line.