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2nd-half Pali outburst eliminates Force

July 25, 2009 | 11:26 pm 1
By George Tanner

After building a 2-1 lead in the second half against the defending W-League champion, the Colorado Force fell 5-2 to the Pali Blues in the first round of the W-League playoffs Saturday night in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

The Force took a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute on a goal by Nikki Marshall, her second of the evening.

Pali tied the match in the 75th minute, when Christen Press notched her second goal of the match for Pali. The tie score held until the 87th minute, when Pali broke the deadlock on a booming shot by midfield Kelly O’Hara from outside the penalty area.

At that point, Colorado pushed forward, exposing the defense to Pali’s high-scoring offense. Midfielder Iris Mora took advantage of the situation to score unassisted goals in the 90th minute and in extra time to close the scoring.

The loss ends the Force’s season with a record of 4-3-6 and halted a three-match winning streak. It was the first playoff appearance for the Force since 1998, when Colorado won the W-League’s W2 national title. Pali (10-0-3) advances to play the W-League’s top regular-season team, the Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues (12-0-2) of Newburgh, N.Y., in next weekend’s semifinals.

Pali started the scoring in the 11th minute on the first goal by Press, a Stanford University star.

Colorado played a physical first half and created several scoring chances, but couldn’t gain the equalizer before halftime.

The Force got its first goal in the 60th minute, tying the match at 1-1 when Marshall scored on a crossing pass from fellow striker Shay Powell.

Colorado then took the lead in the 72nd minute on a second Marshall goal, this one assisted by Lisa Franke. The Colorado lead forced Pali, which has yet to lose in two years of W-League play, to be in the rare position of playing from behind. After Press pulled Pali even, the game appeared to be headed to overtime before the final torrent of goals.

The Blues had 22 shots to Colorado’s seven.

BUSY WEEK: Press’s second goal for Pali was assisted by Lauren Cheney, who had just returned to the Blues after playing for the U.S. national team on Wednesday night against Canada. Cheney also had an assist in that match, a 1-0 win for the U.S.

PROLIFIC: Marshall finished the season with six goals, tops for the Force.

UNBEATEN STREAK: The Blues have not lost in 27 matches, during which the team’s record is 24-0-3.

A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY: Colorado’s two goals matched the most scored on Pali this season. The Blues allowed two goals in two previous matches.

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