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Davis earns her spot as Flash shocks Red Stars

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Close to losing her spot in the lineup, Western New York Flash striker Omolyn Davis repaid head coach Aaran Lines’ trust. Held without a point in her first four appearances, the Jamaican international exploded for a goal and an assist in Western New York’s surprise 3-0 win over the previously undefeated Chicago Red Stars.

“We had a conversation this week,” Lines said in regard to Davis. “Every player comes here and wants to be on the field. When we play a 4-3-3 with two wide strikers, we need to be productive. She answered tonight—I thought she was fantastic, the way she looked to combine at times or utilize her ability to take on players, and you saw it on the first goal. A great response from a player.”

Even before she cracked the score-sheet, Davis looked dangerous. Her low cross from the end-line set-up a fine scoring opportunity for Adriana, who sent her shot into the end bleachers 24 minutes in.

Davis continued to give Red Stars defender Michelle Wenino fits with her speed and cuts on the right hand side, and finally the threat led to a Flash goal six minutes later. On the touchline 40 yards out, Davis turned Wenino off the dribble and dashed into space. Picking her head up as she reached the 18-yard box, Davis threaded a cross to a wide-open Katy Frierson, who deflected the ball inside the gaping back post.

“That’s one quality of my game,” Davis said following the match, “and I just live in those moments of taking players on and doing it effectively and producing good crosses for my team to finish.” Davis’ marker, Wenino, switched sides to get away from the pacy Flash forward after the first goal.

The goal galvanized a Flash team that started out tentatively, showing perhaps a little too much respect for first-place Chicago.

“I think once we settled in, we started believing in ourselves,” Lines said, “and obviously the first goal—you could see us settle in and it gave us so much confidence. It was full steam ahead from there, wasn’t it?”

Possession favored the Flash to the tune of at least 60/40, quite an achievement considering the physicality of the match. Seventeen fouls (10 on WNY, seven on Chicago) were evidence of the shirt-tugging and hard tackling in what was actually a loosely-officiated contest, but the Flash won a telling amount of tackles. Red Stars forward Lauren Fowlkes failed to get in a rhythm or generate chances because she didn’t see enough of the ball, and despite center midfielder Lori Chalupny’s impressive work rate, there was little to no build up from the Chicago side. 

Western New York didn’t break through for a second goal until the 70th minute, however, as Adriana—who nearly chipped Forbes seconds earlier—barreled toward the near post on a McCall Zerboni corner kick and smacked her close-range header inside Jamie Forbes’ near post.

The Flash exhaled but didn’t slow the caboose, as the reigning WPS champions scored a pretty goal five minutes later. Frierson rolled a back-heel into the overlapping run of left back Alex Sahlen, whose out-swinging cross met Davis’ foot in front of goal. The shot clanged off the crossbar and bounced down—there was no immediate reaction from the center official, and the teams kept playing until the linesman pointed vigorously to the goal-line, signalling the third Flash goal.

“At the time, I didn’t know it was in,” Davis admitted. “I heard the celebration and I was like, ‘Good, it’s in!’ but at the moment, I was still trying to head in [the rebound].”

WNY keeper Alli Lipsher registered her second clean sheet in the last three matches, but she wasn’t truly tested Wednesday aside from snagging a few Chicago crosses. A well-structured back four of Sahlen, Nikki Marshall, Kat Reynolds and Tori Huster didn’t relent despite the absences of Kim Brandao (injury) and Toni Pressley (with U.S. U-23s).

“We feel confident no matter who’s in there, I think we work well,” noted Reynolds. “We’ve done better as a whole team to prevent goals, not just the back four. Our number one goal for this week was to keep a clean sheet.”

Scoring six goals in the last two matches, after notching only two in three games prior, has a more confident, organized Flash team resembling on offensive juggernaut.

“I’m the type of coach that would rather win a game 4-2 than 1-0,” Lines explained. “We’ve played some very nice soccer that gets bums in seats—we’re in a growing sport here and we feel it’s our responsibility as coaches to provide something entertaining. Hopefully we get more people coming out and supporting us.”

The match ended in bizarre fashion, as the Red Stars refused to challenge Lipsher as she possessed the ball with her feet inside the 18-yard box. Chicago head coach Rory Dames stood expressionless on the sideline with his arms crossed, unwilling to demand that his players pressure the ball.

“I’ve never been apart of anything like that in soccer before and I never want to be a part of it again,” Lines said. “It was just awful. A little bit disrespectful, I thought.”

With two straight wins under their belts, the Flash sit at 10 points overall, still good for fourth in the WPSL Elite standings. Western New York plays a dreaded back-to-back this weekend, traveling to Maryland to face ASA Chesapeake (Saturday, 2 p.m.) and then bouncing for a 7:30 p.m. Sunday match in Philadelphia against the Fever. 

Goals: WNY—Frierson 30’, Adriana 70’, Davis 75’
Chicago—none.

Western New York: Lipsher; Sahlen, Marshall, Reynolds, Huster; Salem, Zerboni (Thompson 88’), Van Egmond; Frierson (Robinson 75’), Adriana (Heyboer 80’), Davis (Henry 80’).

Chicago: Forbes; Buczkowski, Scofield, Santacaterina (Heller 72’), Wenino (Lipp 46’); Alkek (Goralski 72’), Chalupny, Sitch, Mautz; Fowlkes (Mutz 57’), Weissenhofer.

TAGGED: aaran lines, chicago red stars, mccall zerboni, omolyn davis, western new york flash, wny flash, women's soccer buffalo, wpsl elite

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