NWSL: pitch problems overshadow weekend soccer

NWSL pitch problems overshadow weekend. Music concert prevents Western New York Flash from using home stadium in match against Seattle Reign.

The National Women’s Soccer League’s Western New York Flash downed the Seattle Reign in a wild affair finishing 3-2. However, it was the team’s pitch that took all the headlines following the match.

Western New York Flash, who came into the weekend second in the NWSL, were playing at “home” though not at the team’s Rhinos Stadium venue. The match was moved to the Frontier Field baseball stadium due to a conflict in scheduling at Rhinos Stadium.

western new york flash
Frontier Field’s touchline was only a few yards away from the edge of the penalty area.

Unable to play on the infield surface, the outline of the pitch was in the outfield only, forcing the soccer field to be a mere 58-yards wide.

“The result and outcome are secondary to what impact this will have on our sport,” said Laura Harvey, Seattle Reign’s manager. “Tonight became a farce that can never happen again.”

Despite the poor publicity around the world, Western New York came out on top. Down a goal early thanks to Seattle’s Naho Kawasumi, the Flash fought back with a brace from caption Abby Erceg.

Western New York put the game out of reach in the 83rd minute when Lynn Williams ran on to Erceg’s long ball, before rounding Seattle goalkeeper Andi Tostanoski and neatly finishing to make the scoreline 3-1. Seattle did pull a goal back in the 90th minute thanks to a Rumi Utusugi volley in the 18-yard box, but it was too little, too late.

The Portland Thorns unbeaten season finally came to an end after losing 2-1 to FC Kansas City. Portland had the NWSL’s best defense coming into the weekend, allowing a mere seven goals all season. However, Kansas City would strike in the 23rd minute as Portland’s defense was uncharacteristically disorganized. Tiffany McCarty had terrorized Portland’s left side early on and her cross found the head of Shea Groom, who headed Kansas City into the lead.

Just after halftime, McCarty and Groom hooked up again in similar fashion. McCarty outpaced her marker to the end line where she crossed the ball into the penalty area. Groom again found just enough space to nod home her second of the match.

Portland pulled a goal back in the 76th minute thanks to some diabolical goalkeeping from Kansas City’s Nicole Barnhart, who failed to gather in a free-kick. The ball squirted through her legs and was tapped into the back of the net by the Thorns’ Kat Williamson. Barnhart nearly made a meal out of things again in the 90th minute as Portland’s long ball down field found Sam Lofton, who nearly beat the on rushing Barnhart with a header. However, that was as close as Portland would get, as its unbeaten record came to an end.

Chicago Red Stars poor run of form continued as the team from the Windy City lost 2-0 to Washington Spirit. Washington opened the goal scoring in the 20th minute when Estefania Banini and Francisca Ordega played a classy one-two passing combination culminating in Banini beating Chicago goalkeeper Michele Dalton. Banini now has two goals in nine matches.

Washington put things to bed in the 74th minute when Christine Nairn’s corner found Katie Stengel unmarked to nod home her third goal of the season.

Orlando Pride’s Kristen Edmonds scored in the sixth minute of stoppage-time to give the side a 2-1 win against the Boston Breakers. Orlando came from a goal down to pick up the win after Boston defender Mollie Pathman put the Breakers into a shock lead. It looked like Boston could earn its second win of 2016, but the Breakers’ luck ran out.

Edmonds earned the Pride a free-kick in the 90th minute when Boston’s Brooke Elby fouled her just outside the box. Edmonds’ ensuing free-kick found the back of the net, enabling the Pride to get back into the match. Six minutes later, Edmonds found the winner for Orlando chipping her shot over Breakers’ on rushing goalkeeper Jami Kranich.

Houston Dash dropped its sixth consecutive fixture as the Texans lost 1-0 to Sky Blue FC. Houston has not scored a single goal since May 7th, and the team’s scoring woes continued against Sky Blue, who is trying to keep playoff hopes alive.

In the second half, midfielder Taylor Lytle found herself with acres of space as she settled Sarah Killion’s pass. Lytle’s shot from about 25-yards beat Houston goalkeeper Bianca Henninger at the near post for the only goal of the game. The win moves Sky Blue FC to sixth place, two points outside of playoff qualification.

As with all NWSL games, fans can watch all the matches in full on YouTube.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @DrewMFarmer. Check out his latest book, Soccer Travels, in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.


Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.