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WPS Championship to be decided today as FC Gold Pride hosts Philadelphia Independence

All that stands between FC Gold Pride and hoisting Women’s Professional Soccer’s championship trophy is a team the Pride had little trouble with in 2010, the Philadelphia Independence.

In three matches this season, Gold Pride has won each time, and rather convincingly. In their first meeting on June 13, the Pride went to Pennsylvania and downed the expansion club, 3-1. Marta led the way with two goals. Then in two meetings at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward — site of the WPS Championship on Sunday — the Pride won 2-0 on July 17, as well as 4-1 in the regular season finale on Sept. 11.

Now the Pride are concluding a two-week hiatus from WPS competition to take on the battle-tested Independence. Despite the long layoff, it’s a consensus that the Pride are ready to go.

“(Coach Albertin Montoya) didn’t let us take the foot off the gas pedal at all,” said Pride striker Christine Sinclair. “We’ve worked hard and we’re ready for this final.”

“It’s hard to have a bye, but at the same time, it allowed us to get a little more rest,” said Pride defender and captain Rachel Buehler. “We trained really hard last week and tapered off this week so we should be feeling fresh. I’m just excited to play.”

“Our training sessions are very competitive. We play hard and that prepares us for games,” said WPS Goalkeeper of the Year, the Pride’s Nicole Barnhart.

“We’ve had an excellent two weeks of practice,” said Montoya. “The team couldn’t be more prepared.”

From a Gold Pride perspective, they have all the talent in the world. With the likes of Marta, the four-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, Shannon Boxx, a feisty United States national that will give up her body for the betterment of the team, a highly-accomplished Tiffeny Milbrett, as well as stars like Camille Abily, Candace Chapman and rookies Kelley O’Hara and Ali Riley, this team has high-intense practice all year long. If any team is ready after a layoff, it’s this club.

On the other side of the field, the Independence are coming off two overtime playoff wins — 1-0 vs. Washington Freedom at home on Sunday (Amy Rodriguez scored in the 120th minute to secure the win); and 2-1 at the Boston Breakers on Thursday (Danesha Adams broke a 1-1 tie in the 103rd minute).

After playing two excruciating matches where the stress level was at all-time highs, the players who logged all those minutes are sure to have them catch up to their bodies. Independence coach Paul Riley certainly isn’t happy about the way the playoffs are formatted.

“There should be a week between every game,” said Riley. “To expect the players to do this is ridiculous.”

But they must play, per the approval of WPS owners, who OK’d the format. And the 11:30 a.m. local time kickoff, one that was agreed upon by FOX and WPS last October, Riley says “Even Sunday night would have helped.”

But that’s not all that WPS Coach of the Year Riley will have a concern over. He has to worry about a team he hasn’t figured out -- and a coach who has bested him four times, including the 5-2 all-star victory in late June.

“They have more depth than any other team in the league,” Riley said of his opposition. “For all their attacking prowess, they are very good in the back too and don’t give much away.

“They’re the best team in the league, no question,” Riley concluded.

You can view the WPS Championship on FSN nationally at 11:30 a.m., or on tape delay locally on Comcast Bay Area at 6:30 p.m.

Interviews

FC Gold Pride

Head coach Albertin Montoya
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Montoya.mp3]
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Nicole Barnhart
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Barnhart.mp3|titles=Nicole Barnhart]
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Rachel Buehler
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Buehler.mp3|titles=Rachel Buehler]
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Tiffeny Milbrett
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Milbrett.mp3|titles=Tiffeny Milbrett]
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Christine Sinclair
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Sinclair.mp3|titles= Christine Sinclair]
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Philadelphia Independence

Head coach Paul Riley
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925PaulRiley.mp3|titles= Paul Riley]
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Tina DiMartino
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925DiMartino.mp3|titles= Tina DiMartino]
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Allison Falk
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Falk.mp3|titles= Allison Falk]
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Val Henderson
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Henderson.mp3|titles= Val Henderson]
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Lori Lindsey
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Lindsey.mp3|titles= Lori Lindsey]
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Amy Rodriguez
[audio:http://www.centerlinesoccer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100925Rodriguez.mp3|titles= Amy Rodriguez]
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