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WNY Flash coasts to 3-1 win over Mutiny, eyes Chicago

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines said all the right things before the match against New England. He praised the Mutiny’s combination of experience and youth, complimented a few players and highlighted the opponent’s above-.500 record.

What went unspoken was the giant gap that exists in WPSL Elite; New York, Chicago, Boston and Western New York are all head-and-shoulders better than FC Indiana, New England, ASA Chesapeake and Philadelphia. The numbers don’t lie—the top four is 9-0 with a +26 goal differential against the bottom four.

Through Western New York’s 3-1 stomping of New England Saturday night, the Flash earned a boost of confidence before Wednesday’s showdown against Chicago. For WNY to catch up to first-place Boston and undefeated Chicago (two games in hand on the Breakers), WNY first needed three points against the Mutiny and met the challenge, playing pretty first half football and not conceding until the match was no longer in doubt.

“It’s a good performance. I thought we played some really tidy football at times,” Lines said following the win. “I’m happy with the combinations we’re starting to see in there—players understanding each other better—off-the-ball, they’re starting to understand as well what we’re trying to do.”

Katy Frierson, McCall Zerboni and substitute Emily Van Egmond found the back of the net for the Flash, who improved to 2-2-1 on the season.

It was evident early that Western New York was the superior squad, as the Flash possessed easily in the Mutiny’s half, as nimble short passing from Zerboni and Frierson opened up space for speedy Stephanie Ochs and Omolyn Davis on the wings. It was a moment of brilliance from Frierson, however, that put the Flash on the board.

In the 24th minute, Frierson corralled the ball 35 yards from goal and raced at two defenders. The first-year player spun in Diego Maradona fashion to split two defenders, then juked back to her right before blasting a shot over Mutiny keeper Vikki Alonzo.

“I think I tripped over the ball, I think that’s what happened,” Frierson said with a grin. “I kind of panicked because I thought I was getting in a bad situation, then I tried to get out of it. It was one of those things that I don’t know if I could do it again, but it felt good to score for the team.”

“Katy’s got wonderful technical ability—it’s been a learning period for Katy coming into a professional environment,” Lines said. “She’s had to work for a spot—she was given an early chance at Indiana, then had to be patient. There’s some promising signs from her today.”

Seven minutes later, Omolyn Davis and Adriana made finishing a rather simple task for Zerboni, who’d fallen on hard luck recently in the final third.

A rapid double step-over move on the right wing freed Davis, a Jamaican international, who drove a cross in chest-high. The Mutiny’s Alonzo coughed up a rebound in front of her net, but Mutiny defenders quickly congested the 18-yard box. Aware that she had no shooting lane, Flash forward Adriana jumped on the loose ball and laid the ball back to Zerboni, who tucked her shot just inside the right post on the ground.

“I feel like I’ve been plugging away at the net,” Zerboni said, surrounded by dozens of adoring young female fans post-game, “and to stick one away hopefully builds some momentum, and I hope I keep finding the back of the net.”

Heroics from the Mutiny defense kept the Flash from adding a third tally before the break. New England defender Kacey Richards timed her slide perfectly on a desperation tackle against Adriana, who was set to pepper a shot only 10 yards from goal. The ever-active Zerboni chased down the rebound and tried to chip Alonzo to the far post, but the keeper’s fingertips were enough to direct the ball over the crossbar.

Regardless, the Flash mustered at least 70% of the possession in the first half, and it wasn’t by playing conservatively. Western New York repeatedly challenged New England in the final third, and with a little more composure in front of goal, WNY could have taken a six-goal lead into halftime.

In a more even second half, Australian sensation Emily Van Egmond nodded home an Ochs cross for an insurance goal in the 76th minute before New England’s Katie Howarth beat WNY keeper Allison Lipsher and Toni Pressley to a ball in the box before tapping the ball against the grain inside the near post.

In front of Lipsher, a re-organized back four of Alex Sahlen, Kat Reynolds, Pressley and Tori Huster compensated for the absences of Kim Brandao (season-ending leg break) and Nikki Marshall.

“We made three changes in the back-line before tonight’s game—I know I didn’t do that at all last year—but to make three changes is obviously big,” Lines admitted. “I thought they adapted well.”

While Huster’s anticipation and tackling made every touch a challenge for Mutiny forward Rebecca Mays, the added value of center defender Toni Pressley was most noticeable. A United States U-23 international, Pressley offers more than just a physical defensive option—she can strike a ball with precision from more than 50 yards, a trait that often released the Flash from close quarters without sacrificing possession.

“Toni has wonderful attributes, wonderful potential,” Lines explained. “She’s come in tonight and done really well for a young player straight out of college. She gives us the ability to pass out of the back short and the wonderful ability to open up and hit a wide striker or a wide fullback. She added a different dimension to our game tonight which was nice to see.”

“I think that is a good switch-up from playing short balls and having the ability to hit the longer balls at times,” Pressley said. “As I grow with the team and get to know them better, maybe I’ll be able to hit them into space. The chemistry will come.”

Joined by Ochs, Pressley will fly with the U-23s to Norway at 8 a.m. Sunday for a three-match trip—the duo will miss the next three Flash matches as a result. Lori Lindsey and Meghan Klingenberg remain on duty with the full national team, leaving Western New York rather short-handed for the 7 p.m. Wednesday clash against Chicago (4-0, only one goal against).

“We’re going into Wednesday’s game with some good momentum, and hopefully we just keep the ball rolling,” Zerboni said. “Our confidence is high and we’re playing really well—all we really needed to do was start finding the back of the net, and we did that three times today.”

(Header photo courtesy of Matthew Henry from WNY Flash’s Facebook page)

TAGGED: aaran lines, emily van egmond, katy frierson, mccall zerboni, new england mutiny, western new york flash, wny flash, wpsl elite

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