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blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Despite dictating play, earning 16 corner kicks and generating quality chances, Western New York couldn’t solve the Boston defense in the Flash’s 1-0 loss to the Breakers in the final match of the WPSL Elite regular season.

The No. 2 seed Flash (9-2-3) will play Wednesday at Sahlen’s Stadium against the No. 3 seed New York Fury in the league semifinals; the time has yet to be determined. Boston, the top seed, faces No. 4 seed Chicago in the other semi.

“We controlled large parts of the game, but we’ve run a blank tonight,” Western New York head coach Aaran Lines admitted. “We have to do better in front of goal—we’ve done well in front of goal all season, as you can see from goals for and goals against. Tonight was a little bit of inexperienced young players dealing with their first big stage, and not a lot of them come from winning programs.”

Elli Reed’s first half goal after a Flash defensive breakdown was all Lisa Cole’s squad needed, as a strong defensive effort from the Breakers’ back-line was enough to curtail Western New York’s forays forward.

In the 22nd minute, a short Breakers corner kick was played back to Katie Schoepfer, situated in an unusual attacking midfielder role, who then swung in a cross from the right side. The ball sailed above Flash keeper Brittany Cameron, who could only softly deflect the cross to the back post with her fingertips. Reed pounced on the loose ball in the box, knocking it off the diving Cameron and inside the left post.

“Disappointing to concede off a set-piece at home; you’re always disappointed with that,” Lines explained. “We had so many of Chicago’s corners and throw-ins to defend last week, and for the most part did a really good job. Today we gave up five corners and conceded off one. The ball should have been cleared by Pressley, but it wasn’t.”

Boston’s Cole was pleased with the narrow victory, but she felt the margin could have been greater in favor of the visiting Breakers, who clinched the top seed in the WPSL Elite playoffs and

“We didn’t have all our legs today because of some injuries here and there, so yeah, it was a good defensive effort,” said Cole, referring to the absences of Amanda DaCosta, Melissa Henderson and U.S. Olympian Heather O’Reilly. “We got the first goal—which is important in these games—but we would have hoped for a better offensive performance.”

Lines’ club was not without quality chances, however, but Boston goalie Alice Binns (10 saves) was up to the challenge. Flash midfielder Katy Frierson’s left-footed rip to the right post from 20 yards in the fourth minute was pushed aside by a sprawling Binns, while the keeper later nudged Omolyn Davis’ rebound volley off the crossbar and away in the 27th.

Stephanie Ochs, perhaps the Flash’s most threatening player in the first half, almost beat Binns in the 39th after a galloping run by Pressley set the table for her fellow U.S. U-23 National Teamer. Ochs corralled the ball on the right wing, cut sharply inside to her left foot and smashed a low shot that Binns dove for and pushed out of danger.

“We didn’t have a lot of composure in the final third, and again, we didn’t get a lot of bounces our way, and obviously a bounce against us on an easy corner kick,” Flash captain McCall Zerboni said. “We created the chances, which is comforting for us, and we’ll continue to create them on Wednesday.”

Western New York’s flurry of attacks petered out in the second half, as Boston defenders Reed, Julie King, Cat Whitehill and Taryn Hemmings stifled several opportunities with last-ditch tackles or tidy clearances. Breakers captain Leslie Osborne flourished in her defensive midfield role, stampeding into tackles against Zerboni, Angela Salem and refusing to be beaten cleanly.

“We thought whoever won the midfield would win the strength—early on we started in a 4-3-3, and we knew that would be a lot of work since we didn’t have a lot of our attacking midfielders available,” Cole said of her tactics. “We had [Katie Schoepfer] start in [the midfield], then adjusted back into a 4-4-2, created a diamond in there, so we had one more number.”

“If [WNY] got out wide, we would deal with that, but we didn’t want them to go through our middle,” Cole continued. “We didn’t want the ball to get to Adriana, and even as much as it did get to her, at least she was getting it back in midfield rather than on top of the goal.”

Although the loss prevented the Flash from securing the top seed in the WPSL Elite playoffs, the club’s quest for a third straight title remains alive. The New York Fury, the lone team in the league the Flash hasn’t topped this year, stands in the way of the championship game.

“After today, we can look at it as a blessing in disguise,” Zerboni said. “We don’t want to taste the salt in our mouth again, and we’re even hungrier to win the playoffs. If everything was going our way, maybe we wouldn’t have thought to change anything, but now that we’ve run into a bump in the road here, we’re going to come even stronger on Wednesday.”

“[The loss] keeps us on our toes, it keeps us hungry,” Lines echoed. “What was the streak, 11 games unbeaten? This here is going to make us angry.”

Flash: Cameron; Sahlen, Pressley (Huster 73’), Marshall, Reynolds; Salem (Van Egmond 75’), Frierson, Zerboni; Davis (Robinson 63’), Ochs (Heyboer 90’), Adriana

Breakers: Binns; D’Agostino, King, Reed, Whitehill; Luscinski (Butt 66’), Osborne, Hemmings; Schoepfer, Jones (Donnelly 90’), Simon

TAGGED: aaran lines, boston breakers, lisa cole, mccall zerboni, western new york flash, wny flash, wpsl elite, wpsl elite playoffs

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