Heartbreak for the Fury

Washington Freedom keeper Kati Spisak leaps for the ball in front of the Ottawa Fury's Kelly Parker...

Washington Freedom keeper Kati Spisak leaps for the ball in front of the Ottawa Fury's Kelly Parker (15) during the second half of their W-League Eastern Conference final at Keith Harris Stadium last night. The Freedom hung on for a 1-0 victory to end the Fury's season. (Blair Gable/SUN)

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

This time, the heartbreak came a week earlier.

Right on the Keith Harris Stadium pitch they'd ruled for an entire W-League season.

But when the final whistle blew on a sweltering night, it was the Washington Freedom taking home a 1-0 victory in the Eastern Conference final over an Ottawa Fury side that could only shake its collective head in disbelief.

"It just wasn't our day," veteran Fury midfielder Kelly Parker mused after she and her teammates were denied a fifth straight strip to the W-League's North American championship. "Sometimes that happens in soccer."

Instead, it'll be the Freedom, Atlanta Silverbacks, Seattle Sounders and host Rhinos who'll decide the league crown next weekend in Rochester, N.Y. This after the top two seeds overall in the playoffs did battle in a match that arguably happened a week too soon.

"Our conference is really tough," said Parker, a Saskatoon native who's been a part of all four Fury teams that reached the Final Four. "Three of the four teams here (this weekend) could have been going into the Final Four.

"That's just the nature of (the Eastern Conference), but you want to beat the best teams to go (to the finals)."

And Parker puts the Freedom, who've applied to join a proposed new women's professional league, in the class of the Vancouver Whitecaps and New Jersey Wildcats teams that vanquished the Fury in the past two W-League finals.

"This team's going to be a pro team in the next couple of years. They're level is that of a pro team," she said.

"(The loss) is heartbreaking for us, but at the same time, we have nothing to hang our heads about."

The Freedom carried the play for much of the first half and notched the game's only goal in the 24th minute. It was their star, Christie Welsh, who did the trick, notching her 10th goal in nine matches with the Freedom.

Welsh, who's got 18 goals with the U.S. national side on her resume, was sent in alone by Aussie Kele-Maree Golebiowski and deposited a sharp low shot behind Fury keeper Vanessa Philips-Bosshart.

Parker, who was nursing a groin injury she aggravated in Saturday's 4-0 semi-final win over the Jersey Sky Blue, could only watch helplessly from the bench in the first half, waiting for her turn to come.

"Very frustrating," she said afterward. "I had to watch my team go down 1-0 early. But I never lost faith that we could come back from it ... We've scored five goals in a half before.

"We scored four goals against a great team (Saturday), so we're capable of doing that."

Fury coach Frank Lofranco inserted Parker into the lineup to start the second half, and it gave the team a shot of needed energy.

"She's a bit of a difference maker ... she brings a certain intensity to the game with her speed," said Lofranco. "She did enough to create some opportunities for us, but we just didn't finish them off."

The best opportunity came in the 55th minute, when Marie-Eve Nault labelled a shot for the bottom left corner. It eluded a diving Kati Spisak but bouncing harmlessly off the post.

Just two minutes before time, Leah Robinson's cross found the head of Jodie Taylor, but the redirect floated high over the net. It was that kind of day.

"Both teams played well enough to win the game," said Lofranco. "They got one more (goal) than we did and that's the game.

"Soccer's that way. It gives you one game, and you've got to win it to continue. But it didn't go (right) for us today."


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