The Washington Spirit were thirty seconds away from capping off an excellent season with an NWSL Championship after Crystal Dunn’s early goal in extra time. Up 2-1 on the back of Dunn’s brace and keeping the Flash under control for the rest of the thirty minute extra period, the Spirit looked ready to celebrate.
The Western New York Flash had other ideas, however. With less than half a minute remaining in the match, Lynn Williams beat Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys to a ball sent into the box by Jessica McDonald, and redirected it into an empty net to send the match to penalties where the Flash prevailed to win their first NWSL Championship.
During the course of the week, Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra expressed concern over the size and athleticism of the Flash. To counter that, the Spirit surprised by coming out in a system they had never played previously this season, a 3-5-2.
The Spirit countered the threat of Flash’s two forwards, Williams and McDonald, with three centerbacks. Three in the middle of the pitch clamped down on Samantha Mewis and Abby Erceg, while two wingbacks controlled the Flash wide players.
It was a risk for the Spirit to try something new in the Championship, but it paid off in the first half as Western New York saw little of the ball and struggled to mount attacks.
Nevertheless, the Spirit were only able to go into the break up 1-1. Dunn opened the scoring in the 9th minute off a long ball from Megan Oyster. Flash keeper Sabrina D’Angelo made a questionable decision to come out for the ball, but Dunn got there first, rounded her and shot from an angle into the back of the net.
Mewis leveled the match five minutes later, making a nice move to create space and beating Wys to her left from the top of the box.
The Flash made a halftime adjustment to to a 4-3-3 to better match up with the Spirit and began to see more of the match. A hot sun, however, had an impact and the pace of the game slowed over the course of the half. With neither team really threatening, extra time beckoned.
The extra period got off with a bang, as Dunn beat D’Angelo near post in the 92nd minute to put the Spirit up. A diving save by Flash keeper in the 96th minute kept the match from going to 3-1.
The Flash pushed hard for an equalizer, but the Spirit looked on cruise control and headed for the title. With thirty seconds remaining in stoppage time, however, Jaelene Hinkle found McDonald with a short throw-in. The forward had time and space and lobbed a ball into the box that Wys unadvisedly came off her line for. Williams beat her to the ball to send the match to penalties.
Reeling from giving up the lead in last second fashion, the Spirit struggled with their penalties. Ali Krieger set the tone in the first round of penalties, seeing her attempt stopped by D’Angelo.
Mewis and McDonald missed for the Flash, but D’Angelo stopped attempts from Tori Huster, and ultimately Diana Matheson to win the Flash their first NWSL Championship and fourth overall championship in the last eight years.
Keeper Notes had two sets of photographers on-hand to capture the event. This set was produced by Michael Chee.
“October 9, 2016
by Michael Chee”
From NWSL Championship – Washington Spirit vs. Western New York Flash. Posted by Keeper Notes on 10/10/2016 (108 items)
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