The Western New York Flash earned their first point in the inaugural National Womens Soccer League (NWSL) season with a 1-1 draw at Washington Spirit, in front of a near capacity crowd in the Maryland Soccerplex, Saturday night.
The club’s first NWSL goal was also Samantha Kerr’s first goal in The United States. It came in the 85th minute on service from Flash striker Abby Wambach.
Most of the action in the match came in the last five minutes and stoppage time. Although the Flash created several chances in the second half and might have scored but for the play of their former goalkeeper, Ashlyn Harris.
Harris played an inspired match throughout, resembling the Coast Guard Award play she turned in leading the Flash to a WPS championship in 2011. This was especially true when Harris essentially robbed Wambach, saving what appeared to be a sure goal on a hard shot from 22 yards out in the 82nd minute.
While the Flash dominated play in the first, time of possession was basically equal in the second. The difference was Washington’s difficulty in the final third, their attack generally falling apart before any good chances could be created.
Several calls or non-calls by the officials felt like déjà vu from WPS days. The most glaring miss could have been the difference between a win and a draw for Western New York. An obvious Washington hand ball in the penalty area in the 63rd minute was not called.
It was beginning to look as if the match would end nil-nil as defense dominated, but in the 85th minute Wambach sent a header across the goal where Kerr was in perfect position to score.
Two minutes later a questionable tripping call in the box set up a penalty kick for Washington. Diana Matheson beat Flash keeper Adriana Franch for the tying tally. Despite the pk goal, the rookie keeper put in another solid game for her side.
The last three minutes plus three minutes of stoppage time was marked by rather frenzied play on both sides, and increased physical contact. Wambach was seen on the ground writhing in pain on two different occasions in the waning moments after collisions with opponents.
The Flash’s last opportunity for a win came on a corner kick taken by Adriana. Instead of serving across the goal for Wambach to do her famous header magic, the Spanish international made a short kick to DiMartino who passed back to Adriana, who then lost possession.
All in all, it was a solid game for Western New York, but in the end, the club sits with one point after two matches. Their record of 0-1-1 will keep them in the bottom half of the table regardless of the other results around the league.
The Flash return for their home opener next Saturday, April 27th at 430PM in Sahlen’s Stadium, Rochester.
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