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Dramatic Rodriguez winner sends Philadelphia to super semifinal

One mis-hit shot relieved 120 minutes of frustration.

That was the scene in West Chester, Penn. Sunday when Philadelphia Independence striker Amy Rodriguez scored in the final minute of overtime to lift Philadelphia to a 1-0 victory over the Washington Freedom in the WPS First Round playoff match.

“We had so many chances in that game, I can’t even tell you,” Rodriguez said.  “It felt like I had a curse on me that game.”

Philadelphia advances to the WPS Super Semifinal on Thursday against the Boston Breakers at Harvard University’s Soldier’s Field Soccer Stadium.

Sunday’s sloppy game produced 30 shots between the two teams, 24 of which came from Philadelphia.  However, only nine of Philadelphia’s shots were on goal and the Freedom failed to produce a single shot on goal.  The few opportunities for the taking produced agonizing misses from the Independence in particular.  Christina DiMartino put the ball over the bar from inside the six-yard box in the 90th minute and Rodriguez missed numerous chances, the most dramatic of which hit the inside of the post in the 88th minute and was eventually cleared off the line by Freedom defender Anita Asante.

Still, Philadelphia Head Coach Paul Riley never lost confidence in Rodriguez.

“Great strikers keep at it,” Riley said.  “She did a great job and we had her penciled in for the No. 2 penalty kick too, so there was no taking A-Rod out and she justified the confidence.”

For the second-straight year, the Freedom will go home in the opening game of the WPS playoffs.  Washington was able to dictate play in the first half but failed to create any serious scoring opportunities.

Freedom goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris kept the road team in the game all day with miraculous saves, including a diving one-handed save on Rodriguez’s shot in the 80th minute.

“They gave it everything they had and they did their best and that is all you can ask for,” Freedom Head Coach Jim Gabarra said.  “Sometimes you get bounces in this game and sometimes you don’t.  Certainly it’s a cruel game at times when the goal came, but I can’t honestly say that they didn’t have a lot of chances.  We didn’t do well enough with the couple of chances we had.”

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