Washington eliminates Chicago from playoff hunt

Abby Wambach scored a pair of goals as the Washington Freedom beat the Chicago Red Stars, 3-2, Sunday afternoon in front of 5,226 at Toyota Park.

The loss eliminates the Red Stars from the Women’s Professional Soccer playoff hunt.

Red Stars forward Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 15th minute, the earliest goal in Chicago franchise history. After taking a feed from Carli Lloyd, Rapinoe danced around a Freedom defender and beat goalkeeper Erin McLeod to the right corner of the net for her second goal of the season.

Wambach tied the game later in the first half before putting Washington in front in the 56th minute. It was the second multi-goal effort of the season for Wambach, who recently scored the 100th goal of her international career with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Chicago fought back, knotting the game at 2-2 on a Karen Carney blast in the 69th minute. Australian Heather Garriock, who had entered the game just seconds before, picked up the assist on a cross that found Carney wide open on the right side of the net. Carney drilled a shot back across to the left side of the goal for her second tally on the year.

But it was another second half substitute that would decide the game. In the 89th minute, Freedom midfielder Allie Long broke through a pair of Chicago defenders on the left side of the box and beat Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jönsson to her left for the goal, Long’s second of the season.

The two teams combined for 36 shots, which has become a hallmark of the rivalry. Jonsson made 11 saves in the match, two shy of her franchise mark which was set in an April 11 draw at Washington. Jonsson’s top four save totals of the season have all come against the Freedom.

With the loss, Chicago remains at 17 points with two games remaining in the regular season. Washington moves into a tie with Sky Blue FC for 23 points. Because those two teams still have a head-to-head meeting remaining, the Red Stars have been eliminated from postseason contention.

The Red Stars will host their final home game of the 2009 season on Sunday, August 2nd, when they welcome the WPS regular season champion Los Angeles Sol.