It went down to the wire but the NWSL playoff picture finally emerged over the last weekend of the 2016 season with the Western New York Flash defeating the Boston Breakers 4-0 on the road Saturday evening to claim the league’s final playoff position while the Portland Thorns annexed the NWSL Shield the following night with a 3-1 away win over Sky Blue FC.
Boston Breakers 0-4 Western New York Flash
The NWSL schedule makers smiled kindly upon the playoff hopes of the Western New York Flash, who found themselves paired with the Boston Breakers for its final match, needing only a draw to advance to the postseason.
Playing on the road was hardly an impediment for WNY against the league-worst Breakers and the Flash wasted little time in taking care of business at Jordan Field with Jessica McDonald shaking the twines less than two minutes from the opening kick.
With a playoff berth in sight, the Flash kept the pressure on a Boston side playing out the string and were rewarded with a second goal as Lynn Williams scored to clinch the Golden Boot with her 11th goal of the season. Williams finished in a tie with Houston’s Kealia Ohai but was awarded the “Boot” for finishing with one assist more than the Dash striker, five to four.
The Flash troubled the scorekeeper twice more before the night was out and will face the NWSL Shield winning Portland Thorns at Providence Park on Sunday, October 2.
Sky Blue FC 1-3 Portland Thorns
The Thorns bounced back from missing out on the 2015 second season by posting the league’s best regular season mark to claim the NWSL Shield. Portland secured the Shield when it came from behind on Sunday after spotting Sky Blue a one goal lead after just six minutes.
But with the league’s best record and home field advantage through the semifinals at stake the Thorns rallied on goals from U.S. WNT players Allie Long (2) and Lindsey Horan (1). Portland had already locked up its first ever home playoff game and with a star-studded lineup full of internationals the Thorn will be expected to go far in the NWSL second season and will be favored to be on hand Sunday, October 9, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston as Portland look to add a second NWSL Championship to its 2013 title.
In an interesting side note, the Thorns open the playoffs Sunday home at Providence Park versus the Western New York Flash, coached by Paul Riley, fired by Portland after he failed to lead the Thorns to the 2015 postseason.
Chicago Red Stars 3-1 vs Washington Spirit
In what turned out to be a preview of Friday night’s semifinal matchup, albeit, at a different venue, the Chicago Red Stars topped the Washington Spirit Saturday in Chicago by a 3-1 scoreline. The Spirit’s loss ended its chance of topping the league table and sends Washington to the postseason on a two-game slide.
The Red Stars were quick out of the gate on Saturday, despite being without star goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and forward Stephanie McCaffrey. It took just six minutes for Chicago to get the fans off of their feet, with captain Christen Press firing her team into the lead. Cara Walls added a second for the Stars and backup netminder Michele Dalton did her part in keeping a very determined Crystal Dunn off of the board and allowing Chicago to escape to the dressing room with a 2-0 halfway lead.
Sofia Huerta provided the assist on the Walls goal and she quickly added to the Stars lead with a goal just seconds after the restart. The irrepressible Dunn responded for Washington just a minute later but there was no comeback on the cards for the Spirit on this night.
The remaining games had no playoff implications and here are the results. Home teams first. Orlando Pride 1-2 FC Kansas City.
The two-time defending NWSL Champion FCKC will not threepeat and expansion side Orlando Pride also miss out on the postseason fun in year one.
Houston Dash 2 vs Seattle Reign 3
Seattle finished the season on a positive note Sunday night after seeing its playoff hopes dashed when Western New York did as expected and defeated Boston a day earlier. For the Dash, any hopes of playing the NWSL Championship match at its home stadium had faded weeks ago and so it is wait til next year time for Houston and all six clubs that fell short of the NWSL playoffs.
|National Women’s Soccer League 2016|