For all the hype, it certainly lived up to its billing. Three goals may have been on the low end of what was expected in this high-flying match-up of unbeaten teams, but the Western New York Flash’s 3-0 win over magicJack on Sunday produced some of the most wide-open soccer WPS has ever seen.
The teams attempted 16 shots each – four of which hit the woodwork – to put on a show for the 8,076 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium. The crowd was the second largest in WPS history behind the inaugural match between the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom (now magicJack), which drew 14,832 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
On Sunday evening, it took just 77 seconds for Western New York to open the scoring when Becky Edwards finished a wild series for the Flash. Kandice Wilson started the play on the right flank with a through ball to Marta, who cut back on Sauerbrunn and fired a shot that Hope Solo saved. The rebound fell to Christine Sinclair, whose shot smacked off the crossbar. The rebound then fell to Edwards, who took a shot that deflected off a magicJack defender and into the back of the net to give the Flash a 1-0 lead.
Western New York followed that up with a slew of chances in the opening minutes before magicJack’s Shannon Boxx smacked a shot off of the crossbar in the 20th minute. Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris then made a huge save on Ella Masar’s volley in the 36th minute, which kept the Flash in the lead.
That lead would double for the Flash in the 42nd minute when Christine Sinclair played a lofted ball to Caroline Seger whose shot went through the legs of Meghan Schnur and past a surprised Solo.
“That was my fault,” Solo said. “I thought Schnur was going to get the tackle in. I took the opportunity to check my back post to check my angle and I came back and the shot comes. So it was just bad timing on my part.”
Seger then iced the game in the 86th minute when she finished a penalty kick to Solo’s lower right corner. Marta was taken down in the box by Tina Ellertson a minute earlier. Ellertson frustrated Marta all night, but the Brazilian was able to draw the penalty by slipping behind Ellertson.
The match, which was Abby Wambach’s first WPS game in Rochester, near her hometown, was as wide open as expected with magicJack’s 3-4-3 formation against the Sinclair, Marta and Alex Morgan up top. But that was the idea, Wambach said.
“That’s part of what our owner wants to put on the field,” Wambach said. “He obviously wants to win, first and foremost, but he wants to make it an exciting game. That is why we play three back. That’s why we play a man-marking system. Very unconventional; unlike anything most soccer minds – and I am sure my national team coach wishes we wouldn’t do it, but it’s exciting to watch, because not only are you getting some chances in the attack but the other team is going to get some chances like they did tonight. I think in the end we have to make fans enjoy this game. We’ve got to make them learn to love this game and the way to do that is getting lots of chances and scoring lots of goals.”