10/01/2016 9:15 AM
FLASH TAKE ON THORNS WITH CHAMPIONSHIP SPOT ON THE LINE
Winner Will Face Washington in Title Match
PORTLAND, OR (October 1, 2016) --- The Western New York Flash (9-6-5) are entering Sunday’s game looking to advance to their second NWSL Championship game in 4 years, their first since the National Women’s Soccer League’s inaugural season in 2013. Standing in the way of the fourth-seeded Flash are the 2016 NWSL Shield-holding Portland Thorns FC (12-3-5), who hold the #1 seed for the NWSL Playoffs. With that challenge in mind, the Flash head out to the west coast in hopes of continuing their underdog narrative and pulling off a win over what is possibly the hottest team right now in the NWSL.
In their last game on Saturday, WNY travelled to Massachusetts to take on the last-place Boston Breakers at Jordan Field. The Flash struck first in quick fasion, as Makenzy Doniak was able to feed Jessica McDonald in front of the net in the 2’ for the Flash’s first tally, relieving some of the additional situational pressure. McDonald buried the chance to give WNY the early advantage and put herself into a tie for the NWSL Golden Boot with teammate Lynn Williams and Houston’s Kealia Ohai on her tenth goal of the season. Williams would not outdone, however, as she was able to put in a rebound in the 24’ to give her the sole lead for the Golden Boot with eleven goals on the year. The Flash were not done in the first frame, as McCall Zerboni fed a beautiful cross to the head of Samantha Mewis, who put the ball past Boston goalkeeper Libby Stout for the Boston native’s fifth goal of the season. Then, McDonald was taken down inside of the box and the Flash were awarded a penalty kick in the 67’. Abby Dahlkemper stepped up to take the kick and put it just past a diving Stout to give the defender her second goal of the season and give the Flash a very comfortable 4-0 advantage. The Flash would hold that 4-0 cushion for the rest of the match, coming away with a playoff-clinching win. Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo made two saves to earn the shutout, her second of the season.
On Sunday in Portland’s last game, the Thorns rallied from an early 1-0 hole to beat Sky Blue FC 3-1 and claim the NWSL Shield. After Tasha Kai was able to put Sky Blue on the board in just the 6’, Portland took a while to get going. They finally scored the equalizer in the 41’, as Tobin Heath got the ball to Allie Long, who buried the chance to tie the game at 1-1. The Thorns then got the go-ahead tally in the 57’ as Lindsey Horan was able to beat Sky Blue goalkeeper Caroline Casey, thanks to an assist from Nadia Nadim. Long scored once again in the 84’ to give Portland an insurance goal, solidifying the 3-1 win for the Thorns. The win moved Portland ahead of the Washington Spirit by two points, as the Spirit stayed at 39 points following their 3-1 loss to the third-place Chicago Red Stars, and gave the Thorns possession of the NWSL Shield for the 2016 season.
The game against Portland will mark the third game of the 2016 season between the Thorns and the Flash, with WNY holding a 0-2-0 record against Portland this year and have been outscored by them 5 to 2. The Flash’s last match against Portland was a high-octane affair that ended in a 3-2 defeat in Portland on September 11. The first meeting resulted in a 2-0 Thorns win on June 17 at Rochester Rhinos Stadium.
The winner of the this weekend’s semifinal match in Portland will face the Washington Spirit next Sunday, October 9, in Houston, Texas. The Spirit used an overtime goal from Francisca Ordega to secure a 2-1 win over Chicago on Friday evening.
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. The Thorns are also trying to win their second-ever NWSL Championship, with their first coming in the NWSL’s inaugural season of 2013. Portland’s winning of the NWSL Shield for the 2016 regular season also marks their first in team history.
This week’s semifinal match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. PT) at Providence Park in Portland, OR. The game will be broadcasted live on Fox Sports 1 in the United States. You can also find in-game updates on Twitter under the handle @WNYFlash.