After a 1-0 win over Orlando Pride (4-4-0, 12pts) during Week Eight of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the Western New York Flash (5-3-0, 15pts) look to remain at the top of the standings against Portland Thorns FC (3-0-5, 14pts) on Friday, June 17 in Rochester, N.Y. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET at Rochester Rhinos Stadium with a live stream available at YouTube.com/NWSL. Tickets for the match are available at wnyflash.com/tickets.
Last week the Flash came out flying and put the pressure on the Pride from the start. Rookie Makenzy Doniak netted her first professional goal in just the fourth minute when Jessica McDonald slipped a pass through the Orlando backline. Doniak finished from a tough angle by knocking the ball off the far post and into the net. The Pride couldn’t recover from the early deficit, and the Flash took all three points with a 1-0 decision.
“We definitely had a really tough game against Orlando – they were really coming at us hard,” said midfielder Samantha Mewis. “We’re happy to get three points out of it, and I’m proud of our resilience in that game. We did great to keep them scoreless, and now we keep pushing and moving forward.”
The win put the Flash in a tie Chicago Red Stars (4-1-3, 15pts) for the top spot in the NWSL standings and helped rookie goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom receive Player of the Week honors as she continues to keep her professional record clean.
Western New York will now face undefeated Portland Thorns FC. Flash head coach Paul Riley coached the Thorns during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and will face his former team for the first time on Friday – a matchup Riley is looking forward to.
“They’re a good side, and it’ll be battle for us,” Riley mentioned after training this week. “They have a lot of top-level midfielders, and I think denying them space and making sure they don’t play through the midfield will be key for us.”
Though Portland boasts some big names, such as Canadian international Christine Sinclair and United States internationals Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg, who is a former Flash player, Riley and his team are keeping the focus on themselves.
“If we just focus on ourselves and work on focusing on our game, I think it’s going to be a great match between both teams,” said U.S. Women’s National Team and Flash defender Jaelene Hinkle.
Samantha Mewis shared similar sentiments, stating, “Portland is a great team and we’re excited to get to play against them this week. We’re just focusing on ourselves. They’re really technical players, but we’re going to focus on our pressure – which we always do – and try to just win the ball back in as dangerous of areas as we can.”
Pressure has been key for the Flash, and Riley believes that will be the key to a successful performance for the Flash, but development is the main goal.
“Our pressure has been very good. Our ability to hit teams on the counterattack has been very good. Our ability to get shots off and creating chances has been good. Obviously there is a long way to go for us. We realize where we are and where we need to go. The process is important for us. The performance is almost more important than the result.”
Portland is coming off a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Red Stars last week. Thorns’ Sinclair opened scoring in the 25th minute of the match by deflecting Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s attempt at a clearance into the net. Red Stars forward Christen Press leveled the score in the 62nd minute with a long-range shot.
The match marked the fourth in a row that the Thorns have held opponents to four shots or less, but the Flash are known to create chances, leading the league in shots with 108 – about 20 more than any other team so far. Friday’s matchup will also feature the first time McCall Zerboni returns to the pitch with the Flash where she spent four years from 2011 to 2014.
The Flash continue their long home stand as the Boston Breakers come to visit again. The last time the Breakers were in town, the Flash managed to score four goals and earn a clean sheet. Tickets for the game are available at wnyflash.com/tickets.