The Western New York Flash continued its hot start Friday night with a 3-1 win over Sky Blue FC at Sahlen’s Stadium. It was a routinely smooth performance from the Flash, although Sky Blue FC did enjoy a better second half and temporarily clawed its way back into the game.
That of course was due to Adriana’s 66th minute goal, which came just one minute after she entered the match. More on her in the coming days. Eniola Aluko also provided a spark off the bench and seemed particularly inspired after losing her starting role on the evening. She replaced Casey Nogueira, who had a pretty quiet game other than a 13th minute cross to Kalmari, whose shot was saved by Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
In fairness the entire midfield was invisible for Sky Blue FC on the evening. Although she was involved in Adriana’s goal, Therese Sjögran looked hesitant and out of sync with her teammates. Tobin Heath dropped deeper throughout the match to try to find the ball but both her and O’Reilly struggled to click despite a full week of training with the team. Head Coach Jim Gabarra was unhappy with the midfield’s first half production, although he did note improvements in the second half.
Defensively, Sky Blue FC did pretty well to deal with the speed of Marta, Alex Morgan, Kelly Parker – well actually, “Flash” is a pretty fitting term for the entire team’s speed. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley got caught off her line multiple times trying to account for the Flash’s speed, including in the 4th minute when Morgan tapped the ball around a charging Bardsley for the game’s first goal.
For the Flash, it is tough to not be repetitive, but Marta, Morgan and Sinclair are great together up top (Sinclair was obtaining her green card in Canada and missed Friday’s match). Most interesting about this is that Marta is winning a lot of balls in the air, which she certainly is not known for at just 5-foot-4-inches. Morgan also seems to be developing a swagger as she continues to add her name to the score sheet.
In the back, Candace Chapman and Whitney Engen do well basically being left player-for-player against opposing forwards. Kandace Wilson and Ali Riley have the green light to push forward and both can frequently be found in front of the front line. Overall, it was another good performance from Western New York, but two big challenges await in the coming weeks.
Next week, the Flash are expected to be missing nine or 10 players due to international duty, which tells us a couple of things. First, it has to then be assumed that Whitney Engen and Yael Averbuch have made the U.S. roster (and no I don’t have any inside information, but I know the players found out on Friday morning ahead of Monday’s announcement). Presumably, missing from the Flash would be Engen, Averbuch and Morgan (U.S.); Chapman, Parker and Sinclair (Canada); Seger (Sweden); Riley (New Zealand); Marta and Maurine (Brazil). That leaves 15 healthy players for the Flash and a slew of missing starters, so we’ll see how that goes next Friday agains Boston. The Breakers will likely be missing seven starters as well, so it could make for a breakout game for somebody.
The second challenge then comes on Sunday, May 22 when magicJack visits Rochester. That game will be on national television and should pit the league’s top two teams against each other. It is Abby Wambach’s homecoming game, which according to Jeff DiVeronica already has a presale of 3,000 tickets (far better than the 1,934 fans the team is averaging after two home games).