NWSL: Western New York Flash and Washington Spirit to face off in final

NWSL’s Western New York Flash and Washington Spirit will face off in the league’s showpiece final on Sunday.

The National Women’s Soccer League championship final is set after the Western New York Flash and Washington Spirit overcome their semifinal opponents to book a place in Sunday’s final at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.

In the NWSL’s first semifinal of the weekend, the Spirit needed extra-time to see off the Chicago Red Stars. Washington struck first in the 36th minute of the semifinal as Shelina Zadorsky’s brilliant diagonal cross found the run of Ali Krieger. The defender out leaped her marker and her powerful header rippled the back of Chicago’s net.

From there, the Red Stars had everything to do, and it took them nearly an hour to finally breakdown a stubborn Washington defense. The Red Stars’ goal came out of nothing as the Spirits’ defense completely shut off, for once in the match.

Like Washington’s opener, Chicago’s goal was created by a diagonal cross into the box. This time it was Chicag’s Casey Short who played the cross to Christine Press as she ran between two Spirit defenders. Press hit the cross on the volley and sent it easily past Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys.

With nothing to separate the two sides, the match went into extra-time. Both teams turned up the tempo in the overtime period as a berth in the final was on the line. It took until the 111th minute for the Spirit to find the breakthrough.

Countering a Red Stars’ attack, the Spirit broke toward Chicago’s goal. After a clever one-two passing movement on the edge of the penalty area, Christine Nairn’s pass across goal found Francisca Ordega who slotted home for the game winning goal.

In an even wilder semifinal, the regular season’s best team, the Portland Thorns, lost 4-3 to the Western New York Flash.

A crowd of over 20,000 fans turned out to see the semifinal in Portland, however, the home fans had little to cheer about early in the fixture.

The Flash were shaky early on as Portland’s confidence of winning the NWSL Shield the week before showed. However, the Flash settled into the match, and broke the deadlock in the 16th minute through Samantha Mewis.

The Flash’s opener came off of a throw-in as Mewis settled Jess McDonald’s throw. She quickly turned and shot past Portland’s Michelle Betos to give Western New York a shock lead.

However the Flash weren’t done yet. On the stroke of halftime, rookie Makenzy Doniak received McDonald’s pass and struck past Betos. The goal put a hush around Providence Park as the league’s best team in the regular season were two goals down. Just a minute later, however, Portland pulled a goal back through Christine Sinclair, to make the score 2-1 going into the break.

Much of the second half saw Portland pushing for an equalizer and the Flash trying to hang on. Twelve minutes from time, the Thorns got their rewards as Emily Sonnett tapped home during a goal-mouth scramble. The Thorns were now level and in the ascendancy.

Despite finishing the brighter of the two sides, the Thorns couldn’t keep up with Western New York once extra-time began. Lynn Williams, the NWSL Golden Boot winner in 2016, broke the deadlock just eight minutes into the overtime period as she put the ball past three Portland defenders.

Williams add a second just six minutes later after Mewis found her making a run on goal. With Western New York up 4-2, the Thorns threw everything at the Flash. The Thorns were able to pull one back through Lindsey Horan, making the score 4-3, but that was as close as they got.

The Flash will meet the Washington Spirit on Sunday, October 9. The final will be played at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium for the 2016 NWSL Championship. The final will kickoff at 5:00 ET and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1.

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.