With Stanford graduate Rachel Buehler scoring her first goal of the season and assisting on another, FC Gold Pride clinched the WPS regular-season championship on Sunday with an exciting 3-2 victory over the host Chicago Red Stars in Bridgeview, Ill.
FC Gold Pride (13-3-4) has now matched the WPS record nine-game unbeaten streak, set during the 2009 season by the Los Angeles Sol, while ending its 278-plus minute scoring drought.
"This is very exciting," FC Gold Pride head coach, Albertin Montoya said on clinching the title. "We went from finishing at the bottom last season to being on top, so we are ecstatic. Coming back strong in our second season and finishing in first means a lot to the entire organization. I want the team to really enjoy this moment because they earned it, but we also need to keep in the back of our minds what happened to last year's regular season championship team [Los Angeles Sol in the finals."
The Pride opened the scoring in the eighth minute, taking the early advantage in the game on a goal by the league's leading goal scorer, Marta. The opportunity began with a long ball served by team captain Buehler to outside back, Ali Riley, another Stanford grad who was streaking up the left flank. Riley brought the ball down to her feet and played a perfect cross to Marta, who placed the ball in the back of the net.
The WPS league-leading 14th goal of the season for Marta also ended the Bay Area team's three-game scoring drought which totaled 278-plus minutes without a goal.
The Pride's early lead was short lived as Ella Masar, assisted by Cristiane, score the equalizer for the Red Stars in the 17th minute of play. FC Gold Pride took back the lead in the 34th minute on a goal from Buehler.
The Red Stars tied it again, in the 61st minute, but Marta provided the winning goal 18 minutes later.
"I'm very, very happy," Marta said of clinching the title. "Winning the regular-season title is great, but winning the WPS championship is very important. We achieved a lot, but there is more work to be done to prepare for the championship."
This Saturday, the Pride will make its third and final visit to the KSU Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., to take on the Atlanta Beat. The Pride will play twice at home during the regular season as they host the Boston Breakers on Sept. 5 and Philadelphia Independence on Sept. 11.
"I think we have an excellent schedule to close out the regular season," said Montoya. "We're going into the postseason playing against a few of the best teams in the league in Boston and Philadelphia. I think we'll be more relaxed now that the pressure is off and we can play the way we really know how to. "
The WPS final will be played Sept. 26. In clinching the regular-season title, the Pride also has earned home field advantage in the playoffs and will host the winner of the WPS Super SemiFinal at Pioneer Stadium on the campus of Cal State University-East Bay.