WUSA: Bolstered Charge eliminated; Courage, Freedom post critical wins

Philadelphia was as close to full strength on Saturday as it has been in months, but it couldn't halt the Charge becoming the first team eliminated from the WUSA playoff chase.

Venus James scored a pair of second-half goals as visiting Carolina, bolstering its case for a semifinal berth, scored a 3-1 victory, ending Philly's remote hopes for a third trip to the postseason.

Heather Mitts, returning from a broken leg, started on the Charge's backline, and Kelly Smith and Pavlina Scasna, who have seen little of the season because of injuries, made second-half appearances.

Washington also aided its playoff hopes, getting a goal and an assist from Mia Hamm to top visiting San Diego, 2-0. First-place Atlanta settled for a 1-1 tie at New York.

Saturday's highlights:

New York 1 Atlanta 1: Shannon Boxx scored her first goal of the season and the undermanned Power (7-8-4, 25 points) used a superb defensive effort to share the points with the Beat (9-3-4, 31 points) before 5,426 at Mitchel Athletic Complex.

Charmaine Hooper's eighth goal of the season, an empty-net rebound after Cindy Parlow struck a post, gave Atlanta a 51st-minute lead. Boxx headed in Margaret Tietjen's free kick 10 minutes later to make it 1-1.

New York was without starting forwards Tiffeny Milbrett, who sustained a strained left hamstring Wednesday night in San Diego, and Christie Welsh, who has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain since June 21. Forward Tammy Pearman (left knee strain) and Aussie national-teamers Cheryl Salisbury and Joanne Peters (international duty in Japan) also weren't available.

Kristy Whelchel, in her third appearance since returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, made her first start of the season for the Power. Carly Smolak saw her first action in goal since May 24, taking over at halftime when starter Saskia Webber was forced out by a stomach virus.

The Beat, unbeaten in five games, has a five-point lead on Washington -- both teams have three games to play -- and is six points ahead of third-place Boston, which will play three more games following tonight's match at San Jose.

New York is tied for fourth with San Diego, but the Spirit won the season series, the first standings tiebreaker. Both teams have two games remaining.

Carolina 3 Philadelphia 1: Marinette Pichon's scoring drought reached four games as the Charge (3-11-4, 13 points) could make little from a 22-9 shot advantage in a loss to the Courage (7-7-3, 24 points) before 8,093 at Villanova Stadium.

The loss knocked the Charge, a preseason title favorite, out of contention for the semifinals. A San Jose victory Sunday over Boston would guarantee Philly finish in last place.

The Charge has lost five in a row and hasn't won in its past eight games, since the All-Star Game.

Carolina, winners of three of its past four, is one point out of playoff zone and has four games to play.

Pichon, third in the WUSA lead with 10 goals, got off five shots but struggled to put them on frame.

Emily Burt's first Charge goal, from Lorrie Fair's cross, gave Philadelphia a 17th-minute lead, but Birgit Prinz's 10th goal of the season, a blast from the top of the box, tied the score in the 28th minute.

The Courage took control on James' fourth and fifth goals of the season, in the 62nd and 83rd minutes.

Washington 2 San Diego 0: Hamm set up Wambach near the end of the first half and netted her eighth goal of the campaign in second-half stoppage time as the Freedom (8-6-4, 28 points) pulled back into second place with a critical victory before 7,993 at RFK Stadium.

Hamm's assist was her league-leading 11th of the season. She's the WUSA's top scorer with 27 points, one more than Wambach and three more than Boston's Dagny Mellgren.

Hamm intercepted Jaime Pagliarulo's goal kick to feed Wambach's 40th-minute goal. She curled home a free kick in stoppage time after Jenni Branam, Pagliarulo's replacement, made a stop outside the Spirit box. Referee Jennifer Bennett cautioned Branam after the incident.

Pagliarulo saved a Jen Grubb penalty kick in the 58th minute after punching Wambach in the head while trying to knock the ball from danger.

The Spirit was without leading scorer Julie Fleeting, who was hit in the head against New York on Wednesday.

San Diego (6-6-7, 25 points) won only one of seven games in July. The Freedom extended its unbeaten streak to three games.

SATURDAY'S SUMMARIES

July 26 at Uniondale, N.Y.

New York 1 Atlanta 1. Goals: Boxx (Tietjen) 61; Hooper (Parlow) 51.

New York -- Webber (Smolak, 46); Pearce, Raveia, Orlandos, Tietjen; Janss (Davey, 89), Boxx (Proost, 87), Whelchel (Baumgardt, 89), Rapp; Beem, Jones.

Atlanta -- Scurry; Bivens, Nonen, N. Augustyniak, Gaston; Serlenga, Dieke (Dominguez, 46); Parlow, Sawa; Pohlers (Warren, 75), Hooper.

Yellow cards -- None.

Referee -- Erich Simmons.

A -- 5,426.

July 26 at Philadelphia

Philadelphia 1 Carolina 3. Goals: E. Burt (Fair) 17; Prinz (Overbeck, Roberts) 28, James (Roberts) 62, James (Lehn) 83.

Philadelphia -- Solo; Kruze, Mitts (McVeigh, 46), Tietjen-Prozzo, Benson; Makinen; E. Burt (Scasna, 64), Tullock, Fair (Smith, 73); Pichon, Hoffmann.

Carolina -- Luckenbill; S. Burt, Baxter, Fettig, Slaton (Borgman, 68); O'Hanley, Roberts, Overbeck (Montgomery, 76), Lehn; Prinz (McCullough, 89), James.

Referee -- Kari Seitz.

A -- 8,093.

July 26 at Washington

Washington 2 San Diego 0. Goals: Wambach (Hamm) 40, Hamm 93+.

Washington -- Mullinix; S. Little, Grubb, Minnert, Moore; Stoecker (Zimny, 71), Jones; J. Little, Hamm; Beard (Lindsey, 73), Wambach.

San Diego -- Pagliarulo (Branam, 62); Pickup, Fawcett, Krzykowski; Daniela (Nielsen, 63), Foudy; Connors, Wagner, Bush (Fair, 70); Zhang, Latham.

Yellow cards -- Washington: Minnert 38; San Diego: Branam 93+.

Referee -- Jennifer Bennett.

A -- 7,993.

WUSA STANDINGS

Pl W-L-T Pts (GF-GA)
1. Atlanta 18 9-3-6 33 (32-14)
2. Washington 18 8-6-4 28 (34-27)
3. Boston 17 7-4-6 27 (27-26)
4. San Diego 19 6-6-7 25 (24-25)
5. New York 19 7-8-4 25 (30-39)
6. Carolina 17 7-7-3 24 (29-28)
7. San Jose 16 6-8-2 20 (19-21)
8. Philadelphia 18 3-11-4 13 (24-39)

THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Saturday, July 26

New York 1 Atlanta 1
Philadelphia 1 Carolina 3
Washington 2 San Diego 0

Sunday, July 27
Boston at San Jose, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, July 23
Boston 2 Washington 2
San Diego 1 New York 1

All times Eastern

LEADING SCORERS

G-A--Pts
1. Mia Hamm (Washington) 8-11--27
2. Abby Wambach (Washington) 11-4--26
3. Dagny Mellgren (Boston) 11-2--24
4. Charmaine Hooper (Atlanta) 8-7--23
Maren Meinert (Boston) 8-7--23
Birgit Prinz (Carolina) 10-3--23
7. Julie Fleeting (San Diego) 9-4--22
Marinette Pichon (Philadelphia) 10-2--22
9. Danielle Fotopoulos (Carolina) 7-6--20
10. Maribel Dominguez (Atlanta) 7-4--18
11. Melanie Hoffmann (Philadelphia) 5-5--15
Tiffeny Milbrett (New York) 5-5--15
Pretinha (San Jose) 5-5--15
14. Conny Pohlers (Atlanta) 4-5--13
15. Christine Latham (San Diego) 5-2--12
Christie Welsh (New York) 6-0--12
17. Venus James (Carolina) 5-1--11
Cindy Parlow (Atlanta) 3-5--11
Sissi (San Jose) 3-5--11
20. Stacey Tullock (Philadelphia) 3-4--10
21. Shannon Boxx (New York) 1-7--9
Jacqui Little (Washington) 2-5--9
Lindsay Stoecker (Washington) 4-1--9
24. Abby Crumpton (Atlanta) 3-2--8
Krista Davey (New York) 3-2--8
Julie Foudy (San Jose) 3-2--8
Katia (San Jose) 3-2--8
Anita Rapp (New York) 2-4--8
Homare Sawa (Atlanta) 3-2--8
Margaret Tietjen (New York) 1-6--8
31. Emily Janss (New York) 3-1--7
Aly Wagner (San Diego) 2-3--7
33. Nel Fettig (Carolina) 2-2--6
Kelly Golebiowski (Washington) 2-2--6
Angela Hucles (Boston) 1-4--6
Unni Lehn (Carolina) 0-6--6
Joanne Peters (New York) 2-2--6
Keri Sanchez (San Jose) 1-4--6
Tisha Venturini-Hoch (San Jose) 2-2--6
Zhang Ouying (San Diego) 1-4--6
40. Katie Barnes (San Jose) 2-1--5
Justi Baumgardt (New York) 1-3--5
Erin Baxter (Carolina) 2-1--5
Kylie Bivens (Atlanta) 1-3--5
Brandi Chastain (San Jose) 1-3--5
Jen Grubb (Washington) 2-1--5
Steffi Jones (Washington) 1-3--5
Kristine Lilly (Boston) 1-3--5
Lori Lindsey (Washington) 2-1--5
Shannon MacMillan (San Diego) 1-3--5
Mary-Frances Monroe (Philadelphia) 1-3--5
Jaclyn Raveia (New York) 2-1--5
Cheryl Salisbury (New York) 2-1--5
Allie Sullivan (San Diego) 1-3--5

Goals
1. Dagny Mellgren (Boston) 11
Abby Wambach (Washington) 11
3. Marinette Pichon (Philadelphia) 10
Birgit Prinz (Carolina) 10
5. Julie Fleeting (San Diego) 9
6. Charmaine Hooper (Atlanta) 8
Maren Meinert (Boston) 8
Mia Hamm (Washington) 8
9. Maribel Dominguez (Atlanta) 7
Danielle Fotopoulos (Carolina) 7

Assists
1. Mia Hamm (Washington) 11
2. Shannon Boxx (New York) 7
Charmaine Hooper (Atlanta) 7
Maren Meinert (Boston) 7
5. Danielle Fotopoulos (Carolina) 6
Unni Lehn (Carolina) 6
Margaret Tietjen (New York) 6
8. Melanie Hoffman (Philadelphia) 5
Jacqui Little (Washington) 5
Tiffeny Milbrett (New York) 5
Cindy Parlow (Atlanta) 5
Conny Pohlers (Atlanta) 5
Pretinha (San Jose) 5
Sissi (San Jose) 5

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