10/08/2016 2:04 PM
ONE WIN AWAY: FLASH LOOKING TO BE CROWNED NWSL CHAMPS
The Washington Spirit Are the Last Obstacle Between WNY and Their 4th Title in 8 Years
HOUSTON, TX (October 8, 2016) --- The Western New York Flash (10-6-5) are entering Sunday’s title match looking for their first National Women’s Soccer League Championship in league history and fourth title in the Flash’s eight-year history. After their thrilling semifinal win over the top-seeded Portland Thorns, the Flash will be competing in their fifth title game as they take on the Washington Spirit (13-5-3), who finished their season at second in the NWSL table. With one upset win already in the books these playoffs by the Flash, they will travel down to BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston to cap off their marvelous season and hope bring a championship back to their fans in the Western New York area.
In their last game on Sunday, October 2, Western New York traveled out to Oregon for a semifinal matchup with the NWSL Shield-winning Portland Thorns FC (12-4-5). In a game that eventually needed extra time to be decided, the Flash were able to gain an early lead despite the Thorns applying heavy pressure in the first few minutes of the match. United States Women’s National Team member Samantha Mewis opened the scoring in the 16’ as she buried a shot past Portland’s keeper off of a throw-in from Jessica McDonald. The Thorns would keep applying pressure nonetheless, but Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and the WNY backfield would hold them off. The visiting side had a couple of fantastic opportunities in in the waning minutes of the half, starting with Lynn Williams ringing a shot off the crossbar. The Flash would continue to apply offensive pressure for the next two minutes until Makenzy Doniak put home her fourth goal of the season off a McDonald pass to put the Flash up 2-0 in the 38’. The lead would be cut in half just one minute later, as ex-Flash star Christine Sinclair scored at short-range in the 39’ to put Portland on the scoreboard. Shortly after, Flash head coach Paul Riley was ejected, leaving assistant Scott Vallow in charge from the 40’ onwards.
The second half started off just as intense as the first half, as the Flash held constant pressure as they came out of the locker room before the Thorns shifted play the other way to create similar pressure. Both goalies stood on their heads, with D’Angelo making three saves in the second frame alone. However, D’Angelo couldn’t stop everything. The Thorns broke through to even the game at 2-2 in the 77’ thanks to an Emily Sonnett goal after some mayhem in front of the Flash net. The match would remain tied as the clock struck the 90’ mark. Overtime turned into the Lynn Williams show, as the 2016 NWSL Golden Boot recipient and 2016 NWSL MVP was able to beat 3 defenders and a diving Michelle Betos in the 98’ to regain the lead for the Flash. After a shot off the crossbar by Portland’s Lindsey Horan in the 100’, a streaking Williams added an insurance goal in the 104’ off a beautiful pass from Mewis after the midfielder intercepted the ball on a Portland throw-in. The Thorns would not go into the night quietly, as Horan was finally able to give her team a tally in the extra frame with a sliding kick, finding the corner of the net in the 106’. That would be the final highlight of the Thorns season though, as the final whistle blew not long after the fact to give the Flash the 4-3 win on the road and punch WNY’s ticket to Houston.
Welcoming the Chicago Red Stars to the DMV area last Friday, September 30, the Washington Spirit knew they had to take care of business to win in front of their home fans and advance to the Championship. The match was a tale of two halves, as the Spirit dominated possession in the first frame, while the Red Stars did the same in the second frame. The Spirit got the first score of the semifinal match, as USWNT star Ali Krieger headed a ball off a Shelina Zadorsky pass that beat the Chicago defenders in the 36’. Another USWNT member, Christen Press, was the one to even the match for Chicago in the 81’, as she got the ball from Casey Short and darted into the box, where she connected on a close-range shot that found the back of the net. The match would need overtime to decide a winner, and Francisca Ordega would be the hero of the night for the Spirit. Ordega received a pass from Christine Nairn along the in-line in the 111’, which Ordega finished off into the back of the net, ending a thriller in Boyds, MD with a 2-1 Washington win.
The Western New York Flash are 0-1-1 against the Washington Spirit in the 2016 regular season. The first match came on April 29 in Rochester, NY, where the Flash fell 3-0 after Diana Matheson led the Spirit with two goals. The next matchup came September 3 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, where the two teams played to a 1-1 draw after Katie Stengel put the Spirit up in the 64’ and Mewis scored the equalizer for the Flash in the 85’. The Flash outplayed and outshot the home side for most of the match, dominating possession and finishing with a 25-8 lead in shots.
This will be the first time in three years that the NWSL champion is a team other than FC Kansas City, who won the past two seasons. Both teams are looking for their first NWSL Championship, although the Flash have won 3 championships in other leagues in 2010 (USL W-League), 2011 (WPS), and 2012 (WPSLE). The Flash also played in the first NWSL Championship in 2013, where they hosted Portland at Sahlen’s Stadium (now Rochester Rhinos Stadium), but fell 2-0. The game also marks the Spirit’s first championship game, as they fell in the semi-finals the past two seasons after finishing in fourth place.
This week’s match kicks off at 5:00 pm ET at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, home of the Houston Dash. The game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 in the United States. You can also find in-game updates on Twitter under the handle @WNYFlash.