By John Philip Wyllie
Atlanta Beat Rookie of the Year nominee Maribel Dominguez anticipated Sunday’s Founders Cup Championship Match at USD’s Torero Stadium as the perfect opportunity to cap what for her has been a very productive initial WUSA season. Her seven goals and four assists placed her second on the team in scoring behind Charmaine Hooper and tenth in the league standings with 18 points. Unfortunately for Dominguez and her Atlanta Beat teammates, the final game of the third women’s professional soccer season did not bring the results they were looking for. It ended the same way Atlanta’s playoff finales ended in years one and two, with an excruciating overtime loss.
Dominguez remained on the Atlanta bench throughout the first half and could do little but watch as her teammates were thoroughly dominated by the Washington Freedom. By halftime, it was clear to Beat coach, Tom Stone that some changes had to be made. Dominguez was inserted into the lineup for local product Nikki Serlenga (San Pasqual High) in an effort to generate some offense. While Dominguez did not have a major impact on the game, the halftime adjustments made by the Beat made for a more evenly played second half. Moments after arriving on the field she launched a shot that sailed over the crossbar. After drawing 1-1 in regulation, Dominguez came inches from delivering the game winner at the start of sudden death overtime. Her long-range blast elicited some oohs and aahs from the near capacity crowd, but sailed narrowly wide right.
The Freedom’s Abby Wambach delivered the knockout blow five minutes later with her second goal of the day. With the WUSA on hiatus until the opening of spring training next March, Dominguez will now focus her attention on the Mexican national team, which she captains.
“Since ’99 the (Mexican national) team has become much better. We didn’t qualify for the Women’s World Cup this time, but that is because we faced a much better opponent in Japan,” Dominguez said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are now a good team that is getting better. I love my country and I want to continue playing for Mexico.”
Dominguez also loved playing this season for the Atlanta Beat where the local Hispanic community turned out in force to welcome her. As one of the few Hispanic players in the league and the league’s only Mexican-born player, Dominguez was naturally in demand to make personal appearances at a variety of different events.
“I’ve spoken on Mexican radio stations and appeared at several Mexican restaurants and amateur soccer leagues to sign autographs,” Dominguez said. “I want the fans to know that I am just like them and that I really appreciate their loyalty.”
Dominguez and the Mexican national team will battle the United States in San Jose on Sept 7 at 10:00 a.m. in a game that will be broadcast live on ESPN.