May 24, 2003
CARY, N.C. - Aly Wagner was last season's national college player of the year, the first pick in the WUSA draft and a key figure in Santa Clara University's run to consecutive national championship appearances and the 2001 title. Yet, through her first six WUSA matches she hadn't found the back of the net in a professional match.
That ended Saturday.
The San Jose, Calif. native scored the winning goal in the 78th minute when she twirled and right-footed a low bender past defender Tiffany Roberts and diving goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill to give the San Diego Spirit a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Courage. The win gave the Spirit (3-1-3) a victory after three consecutive ties.
"We really wanted a win today," said Wagner, who was marked at several times during the match by former Bronco teammate and 2001 WUSA top draft pick Danielle Slaton. "I think anything less than winning and we would be disappointed. We have been pushing, pushing and pushing, so a win was good for us and hopefully we will get on a winning streak here."
Wagner, who took six of the team's 13 shots, only had one shot on goal but it found the back of the net. It came two minutes after Danielle Fotopolous scored the equalizer on a header off an Unni Lehn corner kick.
Zhang Ouying, who entered the game in the 68th minute, gained control of a loose ball in the midfield and sent a long serve down the right side of the pitch. Julie Fleeting, who now has a five-game point streak, tracked it down in front of Carolina's Breanna Boyd on the right side of the penalty box area and then sliced it back to a charging Wagner.
Wagner took control of the ball at the top of the box, turned her back to the goal to shield it from Roberts, then blasted the low bender into the back of the net.
"I was just able to play it by (Roberts), and fortunately it found the corner of the net," said Wagner.
San Diego got on the scoreboard in the 44th minute on a penalty kick by Julie Foudy.
For Wagner, life in the WUSA and with the Spirit,which was missing injured leading scorer Shannon McMillan, is finally getting comfortable - especially after scoring that first goal.
"It was about time for me . . . I was happy to finally put one away and get the monkey off my back," she said.