Women's Soccer News: WPSL Elite League Championship Final - WNY Flash Defeat NY Fury to Reach Finals
It is often said that “It’s not over until it’s over,” and never was that more true than in the WPSL Elite League semi-final match between New York Fury and Western New York Flash.
After struggling for over 75 minutes against Paul Riley’s Fury and falling behind 1-0, the WNY Flash came to life, scoring twice in less than five minutes to take a 2-1 victory.
With that, WNY head coach Aaran Lines earned his second major victory over a Riley-led team, having defeated the Philadelphia Independence for the 2011 WPS Championship.
As time ticked away in the second half and the hometown fans began to feel nervous about their team’s chances, Flash began the turnaround.
In the 78th minute substitute Katy Frierson scored the equalizer. Two minutes later Frierson fed Laura Heyboer for the go-ahead goal that sent Western New York into the finals against the winner of the Boston Breakers-Chicago Red Stars match beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET.
"What a great game," WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli told the crowd afterwards. "It's just a shame that someone had to lose."
"It was an awesome game," said dedicated Flash fan Lewis Rhinewald. "The result was great and we're looking forward to Saturday. We know our team can take it all the way."
New York Fury head coach Paul Riley was philosophical after the game, even though there was no hiding the sting of a second loss to Flash in a major game.
"It was a really good game with two very good teams," Riley said. "We played our best game of the season for 70 minutes."
"Unfortunately 70 minutes isn’t 90 minutes and in the last 20 minutes they got hold of the ball and got two goals. But it was a great game, a WPS-standard game. I think the crowd got their money’s worth today and there were a lot of good players on show today. I thought the quality of football was good from both teams, this was WPS quality." said Riley.
Flash head coach Aaran Lines gave a lot of credit to his team overall; both his starters and the substitutes who he felts rallied well and played a role in the victory.
"Winning a championship is a team performance," said Lines. "Substitutes need to make an impact when they come into the game, and there was no better example of that than today. It’s a team performance, whether you are on the sidelines for 86 minutes and you’re called upon for four minutes – it’s the only way you get it done. Today was a classic example of that, with two players coming in and changing the outcome of the game."
|Western New York Flash fan Lewis Rhinewald celebrates his team's come-from-behind win over the New York Fury in the WPSL Elite League semi-final game.
NY Fury Lead WNY Flash at Haltime in WPSL Elite Playoff Game
The New York Fury have taken a 1-0 halftime lead over the Western New York Flash in the first of two Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League Championship Series semi-final games. The winnner will face the winner of the second match, which will pit Boston Breakers against Chicago Red Stars.
Allie Long gave Fury the lead in the 10th minute, with an assist from Kim Yokers. The game has seen intense back-and-forth action, with both teams battling for position on the pitch. Flash have been on the attack, forcing Fury's Michelle Betos to make four difficult saves in the first half. So far there have been four fouls called on WNY and six on NY.
"The momentum has shifted back and forth, making for an interesting game," said WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli at halftime. "Both teams have had a lot of chances and we’re looking forward to the second half."
"The four teams [Fury, Flash, Breakers and Red Stars] are great teams," Zanelli continued. "They are all evenly matched, as you will see by the scores today."
Discussing the flow of play in the game, Zanelli said, "Some of the players are trying to do a lot on their own. They’re taking shots from way outside the box, which is not the way to develop in the final third of the field."
When asked if he expected any surprises in the semi-finals, Zanelli smiled and replied, "How can I predict a surprise?"
New York Fury (L) and Western New York Flash (R) prepare to take the field at the WPSL Elite League semi-final match
WNY Flash to Face NY Fury in WPSL Elite Playoff Game
Third Round of the New York Derby Will Help Determine Championship Final Match Up
The second place Western New York Flash and third place New York Fury will meet in the WPSL Elite semifinals on Wednesday, July 25, in a 5:00 p.m. ET game at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. This will be the third time the two teams have faced off in the New York Derby, with Fury holding a 1-0-1 advantage.
Up until the final day of the season it was possible that the two teams could have met in the final rather than the semifinal. The Flash’s 0-1 loss to the Boston Breakers dropped them to second place, while a 1-1 draw with Chicago Red Stars assured Fury of the number three position in the league. That set the stage for the two Empire State sides to face off in the semifinals. Boston and Chicago will meet in the second semifinal game at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Fury took a 1-0 victory on Flash’s home field, Sahlen’s Stadium, in the first meeting between the two teams, back on May 19. It was New York’s second win of the season and the first clean sheet for Michelle Betos, who led the league in shutouts with seven. In that game Fury withstood an 11-5 Flash advantage in shots on goal, with Betos stopping all eleven. New York’s Brittany Taylor scored the only goal in the 54th minute when she finished off a corner kick with an assist from Merritt Mathias.
The second meeting, at the Fury’s home field of Hofstra University, was another defensive battle that ended in a 0-0 draw. It was the first tie of the season for both teams, and both Betos and Flash goalkeeper Allison Lipsher came up with brilliant saves to preserve the double clean sheet.
The game on Wednesday will be important for both teams on another level. For WNY Flash a win would send them to the WPSL Elite final with the chance for an unusual three-peat. In 2010 Western New York took the W-League title, and followed that with the WPS championship in 2011. Wins on Wednesday and Saturday would give Flash three straight titles in three different leagues.
While Fury as a team are not repeating a trip to the playoffs, head coach Paul Riley and several of his players are. This is Riley’s third straight trip to the post season, after taking the WPS Philadelphia Independence to the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Several members of those Independence teams are now with their coach in New York. Last year it was Riley’s team that fell to the Flash on penalty kicks in the championship match, also at Sahlen’s Stadium. A victory over Western New York in the semifinals would be a measure of sweet revenge.
The loss to Boston on Sunday, a 1-0 home defeat that saw Flash unsuccessful on 16 corner kicks, was a major disappointment and a wake-up call to Western New York. Head coach Aaran Lines had plans to work the team on set pieces, which the team has struggled with all season, prior to the semifinal. The team’s loss to Fury earlier in the year came on just such a play.
“We haven’t done well with set pieces, both offensively and defensively,” Lines admitted, “and it’s not a matter of not working on them enough. We’ve actually had better service this year than last, but we need to go into the box with desire on offense, and we have to be accountable on defense.”
Lines also knows that Fury will come in with high-caliber players, particularly in the midfield and back line. The addition by New York of former Sky Blue forward Casey Nogueira only adds to the strength of the Fury. Flash will counter with their own strengths, including the league’s goal and point leader Adriana (13 goals, 28 points).
While disappointed in Sunday’s loss to Boston, Flash team captain McCall Zerboni is upbeat about Wednesday’s game. “We can look at [the loss] as a blessing in disguise,” she said. “We don’t want to taste the salt in our mouth again. If everything was going our way, maybe we wouldn’t have changed anything, but now that we’ve run into a bump in the road, we’re going to come even stronger Wednesday.”
Related Article: Chicago Red Stars and Boston Breakers to Face off in WPSL Elite Semifinal