HAYWARD, Calif. - All the wear and tear of the last week - the heated playoff battles, the two overtimes, the cross-country flight, the quick turnaround - caught up with the Independence on Sunday. It might not have mattered if it hadn't.
The Independence had neither the willpower nor the quality to stand up to FC Gold Pride in Women's Professional Soccer's championship game, and the 4-0 score merely hinted at the San Francisco Bay area team's dominance.
Brazilian superstar Marta netted a goal and assisted on two more, and Christine Sinclair - the finest player Canada has produced - scored twice as regular-season champion Gold Pride made its case as the greatest women's club side ever assembled.
"They were quicker, sharper, better on the ball," Independence coach Paul Riley said. "We couldn't contain their forwards, couldn't get a grip on the midfield, and, to be honest, on this day the best team won."
It was Gold Pride's fourth win in as many meetings this year.
Blame WPS's postseason format, in which the Independence, as the No. 3 seed, had to win games last weekend against Washington and Thursday night at Boston - both going 120 minutes - to reach the title game at Cal State East Bay's Pioneer Stadium, a few miles south of Oakland.
The Independence looked weary from the start and spent most of the match watching Gold Pride weave pretty passing patterns en route to another scoring chance.
"The playoff system got the better of us," Independence captain Lori Lindsey said. "Usually, I think we bring a lot of pizzazz and excitement to the game, and we just couldn't bring it today."
Said Riley: "I don't think we had a lot of juice left, a lot of fuel in the tank."
Sinclair put Gold Pride ahead just 16 minutes in, knocking home a rebound after Independence goalkeeper Val Henderson made two point-blank stops on Marta - the first with her legs, the second with her belly.
Defender Nikki Krzysik saved Tiffeny Milbrett's putback off the goal line, and Henderson knocked aside Camille Abily's shot on the fourth attempt.
The game was over, for all intents, just 12 minutes later. Allison Falk did well to cut off Gold Pride right back Kandace Wilson from Marta's pass on the right side of Philadelphia's box - then failed to deal with the ball.
Wilson twisted around Falk, knocked it off her leg and, as she fell, sharply fired into the net from an abrupt angle.
"Falk and I expected different things of each other there," Henderson said. "I'm hoping [Falk] is going to body [Wilson] up and play me back, and it just didn't work out that way."
Not that it made all that much difference. Gold Pride outshot the Independence, 16-4, held possession for at least three-quarters of the match, and put shots off the left post and crossbar.
The Independence's only reasonable chance came from second-half substitute Danesha Adams, who fired high when one-on-one with Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart in the 78th minute.
Marta, the four-time reigning FIFA world player of the year, was responsible for the final two goals, beating two defenders to set up Sinclair just eight minutes into the second half and scoring the finale in stoppage time.