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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Abby Wambach leads magicJack to semifinals

By Craig Dolch

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- According to Boston Breakers coach Tony DiCicco, when Abby Wambach is on her game, stopping her is like trying to defend Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately for the Breakers, DiCicco's assessment proved to be prophetic. Wambach scored two goals to lead magicJack to a 3-1 victory over the Breakers in the first round of the WPS playoffs Wednesday night, advancing the team to the semifinals.

"We needed to keep her off the scoreboard and we failed to do that," DiCicco said. "She obviously had a big presence in the game. She's playing very well right now, and she's a smart player. She can draw yellow cards. But the big thing is she finishes."

MagicJack (10-7-2) dominated play for the first 20 minutes, with Wambach's first goal hitting the back of the net in the sixth minute. But the Breakers took advantage of its opponent's mistakes. When magicJack failed to clear the ball, Boston midfielder Keelin Winters beat goalkeeper Jill Loyden in the 31st minute to tie the game at the half.

"We played well for the first 20 minutes, then let up for the last 25 minutes of the first half," said Wambach, who is also magicJack's coach. "But we have veterans on this team. We don't freak out. The second half was awesome."

The game's key moment came when magicJack midfielder Sarah Huffman, who assisted on Wambach's first goal, was pulled down in the box by Amy LePeilbet. Wambach easily beat goalie Alyssa Naeher on the penalty kick in the 57th minute.

"That was a big call," DiCicco said of the penalty kick. "To get a PK at that point of the game obviously was a big turning point."

Wambach agreed: "That was an emotional crusher for the Breakers."

Four minutes later, Megan Rapinoe headed a cross from Christen Press -- who was named the WPS US Soccer Federation Rookie of the Year earlier that day -- to give magicJack a comfortable 3-1 lead.

It also didn't help the Breakers (5-10-4) when midfielder Meghan Klingenberg was tackled hard in the 15th minute, suffering an injured left shoulder that took her off the field.

"That hurt because she's one of our better players," DiCicco said. "I thought that was the worst tackle of the half and they didn't even call a foul. It was a game where we couldn't seem to get a call. But magicJack played better. They're very good on the counter attack."

While Wambach draws most of the attention because of her stellar play in the Women's World Cup, magicJack had plenty of other scoring threats on the field Wednesday night. Rapinoe had several scoring chances before she finally converted.

"We adjusted at the half and then took it to them," Huffman said.

"When we get everyone attacking, we can be scary," Press said.

But the most terrifying sight for a goalie has to be Wambach taking possession in the box. The Breakers knew who to stop, but still couldn't do it.

Wambach deflected praise after the game.

"I'll say this until my career is over: I'm only as good as the players around me," Wambach said. "If Sarah doesn't get around her defender and cross the ball, maybe I don't get that goal. I like to think I'm pretty opportunistic. I'm a true finisher. I like to get involved. I like to be physical."

MagicJack has just two days to prepare for the semifinal match against the Independence, but Wambach sounded confident.

"I think we match up well with Philadelphia," she said. "We have so many attacking personalities, we are tough to defend."