The Western New York Flash defeated the Boston Breakers 3-2 on Friday night in front of 1,372 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium. McCall Zerboni stepped up in the absence of eight international players to deliver two goals – the first of her WPS career – and an assist for the Flash. Brittany Bock added the other goal for Western New York, but Liz Bogus and Kasey Moore kept it close for Boston.
Western New York opened the scoring early, just as it has done in the past three games. In the 10th minute, Zerboni collected the ball on the right flank and served a ball over the top to Bock, who was dangerous all night as a target forward. Zerboni’s ball took a bounce and Naeher hesitated, allowing Bock to out-jump Naeher’s on-coming punch and head the ball into the back of the net to give the Flash the 1-0 lead.
As good as the Flash looked going forward, two scary instances in the back would follow Bock’s goal. Katie Schoepfer looked to settle a ball played over the top and Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris came out of her box to clear the ball with her foot. However, Harris’ right-footed clearance hit off of Schoepfer’s back and deflected just wide of Harris’ goal. Harris then came out of her box again 10 minutes later and a mis-communication with Kandace Wilson followed. Harris cleared the ball off of Wilson’s back and it again trickled dangerously over the end line.
Regardless of defensive errors, the Flash made Boston pay a second time in the 25th minute. Left back Kim Brandao served a flighted ball from midfield that landed perfectly in the path of Zerboni, who ran in between Ifeoma Dieke and Nikki Washington. Zerboni settled the ball with the outside of her left foot, looked up and chipped Naeher from 30 yards out to make it 2-0.
“I got a great ball from Kim Brandao and I took a first touch, took a look up and I saw the keeper was off her line and I thought I would go for it,” Zerboni said.
However, the momentum quickly shifted following the goal and Boston began to pressure the Flash. Boston cut Western New York’s lead in half in the 39th minute when Washington’s corner kick found the head of Bogus, who powered it into the net past Harris. The Breakers almost equalized on another corner kick five minutes later when Washington played Moore at the top of the box, but Moore’s shot went screaming by the far post and the Flash took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
Boston dominated much of the second half but failed to produce many dangerous opportunities. Zerboni would make the Breakers pay in the 69th minute. Gemma Davison beat second half substitute Elli Reed around the corner and sent a floating cross to the back post, which Zerboni headed into the net to make it 3-1.
Zerboni was however at fault in the 80th minute when she tripped Katie Schoepfer in the 80th minute to conceded a penalty kick. Schoepfer turned on Gina Lewandowski and looked to be in on goal when Zerboni attempted to tackle her from behind. Moore stepped up and buried the ball just to the left of Harris, who barely even moved. That made it 3-2 and Moore almost equalized with a stoppage time header that went just wide. Boston deserved a point, but the Flash picked up the full three points in uncharacteristic fashion.
“Second half I thought we showed a blue collar performance, which we hadn’t shown a pure blue collar performance like that all season,” Flash Head Coach Aaran Lines said. “We just had to grind it out. It was nice to know that the girls can maybe not – they know they can play better than what they did the second half but know that you can go in there and grind one out and come through with a victory. That’s magic for confidence.”
The night was filled with some questionable goalkeeping from both Harris and Naeher, but Naeher’s errors proved more costly on the evening.
“It was pretty even,” Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco said. “I think we started badly. A lot of players who are seeing the field for the first time or seeing considerable minutes, but the first goal hurt. The goalkeeper made a mistake and she’s been pretty solid for us, but she is behind Ashlyn (Harris) in the national team and you can see why. You can’t have a mistake like that.”
DiCicco also said that Boston was unlucky not to get a point out of the game. He was happy with Boston’s midfield, although DiCicco was quick to note that some players did not work hard enough.
“I had players that were working their butts off and I have players that I am questioning if they know how to work that hard,” he said. “They have been playing this college game where if they get tired they come out after 22 minutes. Then they can go back in later on. This isn’t how you play in the professional ranks. And here is the thing: They are fit enough. I know they are fit enough, so it’s basically just a mental decision and I don’t think we had enough of it in the first half.”
The win sets up an unbeaten showdown between the Flash (4-0-1, 13 pts.) and magicJack (3-0-0, 8 pts. *one deducted due to league rule violations) next Sunday, May 22 at Sahlen’s Stadium. That game will be live on Fox Soccer at 7 p.m.
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