The Western New York Flash (in white) defeated the New York Fury to earn a trip to the WPSL Elite Championship match. Photo Credit: Mark Novak
Women's Soccer News: Western New York Flash to Take on Chicago Red Stars for WPSL Elite Championship
Flash Pull off Dramatic Comeback against New York Fury; Red Stars Shock Boston Breakers
The stage is now set for the first Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League Championship game. After eleven weeks of league play and two dramatic semi-final matches, the Western New York Flash will face the Chicago Red Stars to determine the first WPSL Elite champion. The final will take place on Saturday, July 28, at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., with kickoff at 1:00 p.m.
In the opening semifinal match on Wednesday, July 25, the third place New York Fury got off to an early lead against the second place Flash when Allie Long scored in the eighth minute off a long crossing pass by Kim Yokers. Fury continued to control play through the majority of the half, and goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who led the league with seven clean sheets, easily handled any Flash attempts at an equalizer.
The second half began much the same as the first ended, with New York in control of play for the most part. Then two key substitutions by Western New York in the 74th minute helped to shift momentum in the match. Head coach Aaran Lines brought in Canadian international Jodi-Ann Robinson and rookie Laura Heyboer, and the two immediately took charge of the Flash offensive.
From the moment she stepped on the pitch, Robinson began to cause problems for the Fury defense. Then in the 78th minute she played a left-footed cross to midfielder Katy Frierson making a run across the goal. Frierson was able to slot the ball past the previously unbeatable Betos for the equalizer. Just like that the winds had changed and begun to blow in the Flash’s favor.
Just two minutes later Frierson was again in the mix, as she played a driven ball from the left side into the box to Heyboer. The rookie beat her defender and redirected the ball beyond the reach of Betos. A shocked Fury team had to wonder what had just happened. New York tried valiantly to find their own equalizer, with Gina DiMartino having the best chance two minutes before the game ended, but it was not to be.
“[Heyboer] is a sneaky player,” Frierson said of her teammate’s winning goal. “She made a great hard run.” Meanwhile, Heyboer insisted that the pace that Frierson put on the ball made her job that much easier. “It was easier for me to redirect,” Heyboer said.
As the final whistle blew, New York head coach Paul Riley once again had to come to terms with a loss against a Lines-led side. In 2011 Riley’s Philadelphia Independence went to penalty kicks before losing to Flash in the last WPS Championship game.
“It was a really good game with two very good teams,” Riley said after the match. “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.”
Later Lines talked about the importance of his substitutes in making not just the game but the entire season a success. “Winning a championship is a team performance,” he pointed out. “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.”
Asked what her coach said when she entered the game, Heyboer responded, “He said, ‘Make an impact.’ I try to make my 15 minutes the worst that that defender has ever seen.”
WNY Flash will now play for their third straight championship in three different leagues. In 2010 the team took the W-League title and followed that up with the WPS championship in 2011. To do that, they will have to get past the Chicago Red Stars, who stunned the regular season winners Boston Breakers in the second match.
In the nightcap the Red Stars came out strong, putting immediate and constant pressure on the Breakers. In spite of that, they were only able to net a single goal before the half. In the 13th minute midfielder and team captain Lori Chalupny sent a long corner kick to the back post where defender Lauren Fowlkes waited to nudge the ball in past goalkeeper Alice Binns.
In the second half Chicago continued to dominate play, picking up a second goal just one minute in. Ella Masar sent a short pass in to Chalupny, who had some trouble controlling the ball but still managed to collect herself long enough to blast a shot into the left side of the net for a 2-0 Red Stars lead.
In the 66th minute Chicago added an insurance goal as Julianne Sitch sent a high cross from the right that Boston was able to intercept, but the ball bounced back to Sitch. She then sent a low pass to Masar, who easily finished off the play for her first goal of the season.
The Breakers never quit, and finally were able to pull back one goal in the 80th minute when the Red Stars were unable to clear a corner kick. The ball bounced off to the right of the goal where Boston’s Amanda DaCosta was waiting. She lobbed a soft shot that drifted over the head of Chicago goalkeeper Jamie Forbes and into the goal for the Breakers’ only point on the night.
“Tonight’s win was a great team win,” said Red Stars’ defender Jackie Santacaterina afterwards. “We had a game plan, were able to follow through with it and we found success.”
“We had a good performance tonight,” remarked midfielder Jen Buczkowski. “We were able to play through them and also get behind their back line with pace. I think Saturday will be a great game. The Flash is the only team that beat us twice in the regular season so playing them is something we are looking forward to.”
“I think [the game] was a great demonstration of the talent we have in the league,” said Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler following the match. “Obviously we’re excited. The ladies have worked extremely hard. The coach and team came together at the right time, which is what we were hoping for.”
Saturday’s championship final also has extra meaning for Chicago, who won the USASA Women’s Amateur National Cup this past Sunday. It was the Red Stars’ first entry into the competition in their four-year history, and the team now has the chance for a rare double. This will also be their second attempt at a league championship. In 2011 the Red Stars reached the WPSL finals, only to lose to the Orange County Waves.