By Dan Lauletta
Watching the Western New York Flash carve up the Boston Breakers last weekend, one could not help but channel memories of FC Gold Pride. Not only were five of the 11 starters refugees from the defunct 2010 champions, but the black uniforms and dazzling soccer made it look that much more like last summer.
“Obviously we’ve joked that there’s a lot of us from the Pride,” said Christine Sinclair, who scored the first ever WPS goal for the Flash. “But even the Pride last year we weren’t able to win our first game. So hopefully this team will be even better.”
Being better than FC Gold Pride might be reaching a bit high, but if one match told us anything, it’s that the Flash are for real. They showed no signs at all of being a brand new team and looked extremely dangerous even without Marta, who missed the game after being held back by passport issues.
“I expected them to be good, but I still thought we would win the game,“ Breakers coach Tony DiCicco said. “I thought their defense did a good job because when we were in dangerous parts of the field we didn’t seem to get shots off.”
Other highlights included Sinclair and rookie Alex Morgan looking at times like they have been playing together for a decade and Ali Riley owning the left flank. And then with 25 minutes to go, English midfielder Gemma Davison came off the bench and her fresh legs put the Breakers off balance for most of her time on the pitch.
“Gemma has only been with us for three days so she is not even fit,” Flash Head Coach Aaran Lines said after Sunday’s game. “If Gemma had had a preseason, she’s capable of ripping any outside back in this league apart and you’ve seen that tonight.”
It was a sterling debut for the Flash, who will grace the Fox Soccer Sunday window again this weekend in Atlanta where the Beat face a tough test on the heels of a 1-0 victory over Sky Blue FC. By all accounts Sky Blue were the dominant team, but a Meghan Lenczyk shot slipped by Karen Bardsley and rolled into the goal for the only scoring on the night.
That is if the ball actually crossed the line. Several Sky Blue players including Carrie Dew, who nearly cleared it, believed the ball did not entirely cross the line. Head coach Jim Gabarra also mentioned two plays—one that should have and once that could have—resulted in Sky Blue penalties. Neither were called and neither were shown in the highlight package released by WPS.
Here’s how Week 3 is shaking out.
Saturday: Boston Breakers (1-1-0, 3 points) at magicJack (–)
magicJack debuts, take two. And if we thought they were up against it last week playing a team with a match under their belt, now they have to play the Breakers, who have already played twice. And even though they Breakers lost their home opener, they played quite well against a very good Flash side.
KEYS TO THE MATCH: National Team players spent the week in Florida so at least it will be a short commute to the match for them. Their availability and ability to play 90 minutes could wind up being the deciding factor here. National Team training is intense, but at least it was only training and no matches.
Sunday: Western New York Flash (1-0-0, 3 points) at Atlanta Beat (1-1-0, 3 points) (Fox Soccer Channel, 6pm EDT)
The first of two straight meetings between these clubs has Beat head coach James Galanis ready to test the Beat against one of the best in WPS.
“I think WNY is the best team in the league,” he said. “They have quality players all over the field and a deep bench. I’m happy that we will get to play against them two weeks in a row because it will challenge us and make us better in the long run. The upcoming games will help our young players grow immensely.”
KEYS TO THE MATCH: The Flash were not only impressive playing through the midfield in Boston, they also unleashed a few lightning quick counters. The Beat will have to be extremely smart and patient with the ball in order to stop their back line from being put under siege. The addition of Marta to the Flash lineup can only help.
Three points of interest
1) Christine Sinclair said she never considered foregoing the WPS season to join Canada’s residency ahead of the World Cup. “I think playing in a league like this is very important. It’s very important to grow this league. After this year there is no World Cup so it’s important to keep this thing going.”
2) Keelin Winters and Meghan Lenczyk are the first two players out of the 2011 draft to score goals. First overall pick Alex Morgan notched an assist on Sinclair’s goal and Sinead Farrelly had an assist in Week 1.
3) Last weekend’s rainout was the first postponement of a match in WPS history. As yet there has been no word regarding a new date for the match.
Dan Lauletta is a freelance writer based in the northeast. He has covered professional women’s soccer since the dawn of WUSA in 2001 and has attended all five pro league finals. He has also covered MLS, the U.S. Women’s National Team and several other sports in the area. Dan can be reached at email@example.com.