Western New York Flash defeat Washington Spirit in NWSL Championship
The Flash celebrate their victory (NWSL Twitter, @NWSL)

Western New York Flash defeat Washington Spirit in NWSL Championship

The Flash came out victorious in a tight match that was sent into PKs by a late equalizer.

alexandra-grant
Alexandra Grant
Washington SpiritBanini (Matheson, min. 79), Church, Dunn, Dydasco (Kleiner, min. 17), Huster, Krieger, Nairn, Ordega (Stengel, min. 112), Oyster, Wys, Zadorsky
Western New York FlashD'Angelo, Dahlkemper, Doniak (Smith, min 79), Eddy, Erceg, Hinkle, Kennedy, McDonald, Mewis, Wiliams, Zerboni (Hamilton, min. 105)
SCORE1-0, min. 9, Dunn; 1-1, min. 14, Mewis; 2-1, min 92 Dunn, 2-2 min 124 Williams

Although they were missing their head coach and were trailing twice during the match, the Western New York Flash found a way to power through and defeat the Washington Spirit after 120 minutes and PKs. A late equalizer from Lynn Williams allowed the team to win in penalties after Sabrina D'Angelo made three saves. It was a toughly fought match that resulted in injuries to Francisca Ordega and Caprise Dydasco, but in the end, a brace from Crystal Dunn was not enough to secure them a win. 

Two early goals end first half 1-1

The first half saw nearly equal possession from both teams, but Washington opened the scoring with a goal from Dunn in the ninth minute. The Flash quickly answered, though, with a goal in the fourteenth minute. The game remained tight with both teams playing forward and getting shots off. Dydasco was injured in the seventeenth minute and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher; she later returned to the field with crutches. Both teams got more shots throughout the half, but neither team could find the back of the net and the half ended tied 1-1.

No second half goals to end regulation in a tie

The second half began just as aggressively. Both teams were pressing, but Washington managed to hold a lot of possession. Dunn and captain Ali Krieger combined on the right side for a lot of chances, but they were unable to produce.

Samantha Mewis was a force for the Flash, flying past defenders and taking advantage of every inch of space she was given. The long throw-ins from Jessica McDonald that worked so well against the Portland Thorns were not as successful against Washington, but they were still enough to cause chaos in the box.

Washington's played with three center backs, and that allowed them to control both those throws and also the pace of the Flash's forwards. The Spirit's unusual formation took the Flash a while to figure out, but by the middle of the second half, they were able to get shots. Although both teams spent a lot of time on the attack, it just was not enough to end the game in regulation, and the match went into extra time.

Sabrina D'Angelo was named match MVP (Western New York Flash Twitter, @WNYFlash)
Sabrina D'Angelo was named match MVP (Western New York Flash Twitter, @WNYFlash)

Early Spirit goal met with late Flash equalizer

Overtime began with just as much excitement as regulation when Dunn scored only two minutes in. Her goal brought momentum to the Spirit, and that carried them through overtime. They were able to get some more shots off, but the game remained at 2-1. It seemed that the Spirit had claimed the title when in the 124th minute, the last minute of stoppage time, 2016 NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams finished a cross and gave her team one last chance at winning the title.

Flash find victory in penalty kicks

The first round of PKs went in the Flash's favor when Krieger's shot was saved, but the score was tied up when the Flash missed their third kick. Washington missed their fourth kick and the Flash missed their fifth, so it was up to Washington's Diana Matheson to keep them in the shootout.

Sabrina D'Angelo came up big for her team and made the save, ending the shootout and naming the Western New York Flash the 2016 NWSL Champions.  Despite their rough, lackluster season last year, the underdogs were able to dig out a win this year, ending the historic fourth NWSL season in historic fashion.

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