By John Philip Wyllie
Notre Dame’s all-time leading goal scorer, Monica Gerardo, is no stranger to netting crucial goals when the chips are down, but she may have outdone herself last weekend in Philadelphia.
Gerardo, who stars for Mexico’s women’s soccer team when she not playing for the WUSA’s Washington Freedom, scored the lone goal in last Saturday’s WUSA semifinal against the Philadelphia Charge. The 80th minute goal lifted Gerardo and her Washington Freedom teammates into WUSA Championship Founders Cup. There they will battle the regular season champion Carolina Courage for the league title in a match that will be aired live from Atlanta at 1:00 p.m. (PST) on Saturday on PAX TV.
Gerardo, a midfielder who hails from Corona, California, just across the county line, was an occasional starter and frequent contributor to the vastly improved Freedom this season. Last Saturday, she came into the game in the 59th minute and immediately made her presence felt.
“I’ve had a little bit more placed on my shoulders this year, so I need to go out there and be an offensive threat and a playmaker,” Gerardo said. With her timely goal, she did exactly that.
Gerardo was quick to credit teammate Jacqui Little for her hustle in setting up the goal which came after a corner kick.
“Jacqui did a great job on getting that ball after the corner kick and in working hard to make something of it.” After battling for the ball in the corner, Little found a wide-open Gerardo charging in on the box. Gerardo took Little’s pass and slotted the ball into the left corner past Philadelphia goalkeeper Melissa Moore. As Philadelphia’s stunned fans sat in silence Gerardo received a congratulatory bear hug from teammate Mia Hamm and a host of high fives from her other teammates.
As exciting as the moment was for Gerardo, she knows that a bigger celebration is in store for Saturday if Washington can find a way to shut down the high scoring Carolina Courage.
While the Courage enjoyed a league best 12-5-4 record, the Freedom finished the season as the league’s hottest team going unbeaten in its final 11 games. It has all the makings of a game that will provide an exciting climax to the second year of WUSA women’s professional soccer.