The NWSL Championship is fast approaching as WNY Flash prepare to take on the Portland Thorns Saturday in Rochester, NY to see who will reign as the ultimate No. 1 team of the first ever NWSL season.
Long before the season even started all the hype surrounded the Thorns as the team to beat, with star players Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair and Tobin Heath rounding out the roster. And throughout the season, they kept themselves comfortably situated amongst the top four in league standings, waiting for their time to strike.
“It’s going to be a great match, Portland has a lot of great players,” said Flash midfielder Carli Lloyd. “…it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be another 90-minute fight. We are just going to have to gut through it- that’s it, all or nothing.”
Meanwhile, WNY Flash had a slow start to the season, but built themselves up with a nine game win streak earlier in the season, rising quickly towards the end of the inaugural season and upsetting FC Kansas City to claim the regular season crown. Forward Abby Wambach and Lloyd have been a dangerous combo while young goalkeeper Adriana Franch looks like a seasoned veteran in the net, overflowing with confidence during the Flash semifinal against Sky Blue FC where she registered a complete shut out despite numerous attacks from crafty playmakers Lisa De Vanna and Monica Ocampo.
The biggest point of interest will be the showdown between favorites Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, who are used to depending on each other to score goals on the U.S. WNT. Now, they will face off- granted Morgan even gets to play. She sustained an injury Aug. 7, and though she was present during the semis, she did not play, and it hasn’t been confirmed whether or not she will play in the Championship either. They sure are laying on the suspense thick, aren’t they?
Lloyd was the star of the semis with a brace that garnered the 2-0 win over Sky Blue. She looked anything but dull on the field that night, and was a constant threat throughout the game, creating numerous other chances and badgering the opposition with fearlessness and unrelenting energy.
Younger players are coming out of the woodwork as well as the final looms. Thorns Midfielder Allie Long supplied the winning goal in overtime during a closely contested semi to break the 2-2 stalemate with FC Kansas City. Flash forward Samantha Kerr is one to watch and has shined this season with six goals and five assists, along with Thorns forward Tiffany Weimar, who scored the equalizer in the semis.
So how can we sum up this Championship? Fans, grip the edge of your seats tightly, because it’s going to be one hell of a game. The Thorns are known for being able to come from behind to clinch a win- they’ve proven time and again that they’ve got the stamina and mental toughness to carry them from start to finish. And, WNY Flash has an incredible competitive streak and knows what it’s like to work up from the bottom to the top. They also have home field advantage, and at the semifinals looked like they knew exactly what to do to get the job done.
“Nobody remembers the second place team,” said Wambach regarding the upcoming final. “I remember how that feels from the World Cup in 2011, Carli and and I both know that feeling very well, and we are going to bring, hopefully, a championship performance.”
GotSoccer will be tweeting live from Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester Saturday night- you can follow @GotSoccer. There will also be a full match report following the game.