© Dan Hickling

© Dan Hickling

For the second match in a row, the Western New York Flash have defeated the unbeaten. Tonight’s victim, FC Kansas City, was not only unbeaten until now, but also hadn’t been scored upon in field play. The lone goal against had come on a penalty kick.

After a slow start, Western New York, now fully staffed with the local debut of their second USWNT  allocation Carly Lloyd, who had been sidelined with a shoulder injury, has begun to fire on all cylinders, most of the time.

Unlike their first few matches, the Flash looked coordinated and determined on both sides of the pitch at Shalen’s Stadium tonight. Defensively, WNY players were consistently winning 50/50 balls, relentlessly hustling up and down the field, getting a piece of every shot on goal before it reached keeper Adriana Franch. Offensively, their play was much more creative than it had been early in the season, and was effective in breaking through the league’s toughest defense by passing the ball around in rotating constellations.

Everyone on the  club was well tuned-in, knowing where to put the ball, knowing where teammates would be by the time the ball arrived. Follow up was also key in the scoring of both goals.

In the 34th minute, defender Brittany Taylor sent a long ball up on transition to Veronica Perez, who made a short tap to Wambach. Wambach made a reaching kick with her left foot, powering the ball past Kansas City keeper Nicole Barnhart, hard against the back netting.   Just five minutes later, Wambach tallied again, with what would be the game winner, out-hustling the Kansas City defense to a loose ball about ten yards in front of the goal.

The only other scoring in the match came in the 56th minute when Lauren Cheney took a headed cross from Leigh Ann Robinson, giving Franch no opportunity to react.

The Flash doubled down on defense while keeping up the offensive pressure, and seemed almost to will themselves to victory the rest of the way.

With the added three points from this match, the Flash is in a tie for fourth place, hence in playoff range, after starting the season winless in the first three matches. Tonight’s is the second consecutive win, after also handing Sky Blue FC their first defeat of the season on Wednesday May 1, also at home.

This being the third home match of the season, by eyeball observation attendance appeared to be the best to date. However, the official count of 2,700 is far lower than the announced home opener crowd of over 4,000. That said, we’re guessing they actually counted this crowd and “estimated” the home opener?

One curiosity: There is no NWSL branding visible anywhere in Sahlen’s Stadium.

One Rumor: The word in the press booth is that the addition of Carly Lloyd to the mix might do more for Flash opponents than for the Flash, given an alleged personality conflict between Wambach and Lloyd. According to the source, Wambach was asked about her feelings toward Lloyd and did not deny there are issues.

Trends: Now that we’ve had three years to observe Flash teams coached by Aaran Lines at the top level, a trend seems to be emerging. All three seasons, regardless of who was on the roster (including Marta and Christine Sinclair in the WPS year) the club has started slow and weak. All three years, Lines’ teams have had difficulty putting away their opponents, being vulnerable to late rallies, sometimes even in stoppage time. But in the previous two years, as well in the season before that in the W-League, Lines teams come through when it matters.

Twitter Flack: A bit of a Twitter skirmish developed between a Buffalo reporter who was live tweeting the match, and his colleague from a sister medium known in the Twittersphere as @BNHarrington. Harrington tweeted, “To the person live tweeting pro women’s soccer in Rochester that wants attention in Buffalo, stop.”  Would it be just as fitting for someone this fall to say “to that football team in Buffalo that wants to get attention in Rochester…”?  Bottom line, the WNY Flash play home games in Rochester because, let’s face it, there is not an appropriate venue in Buffalo, and Rochester has always supported soccer, unlike Buffalo. On the other hand, the Flash is based in Metro Buffalo, trains there, and the players, such as FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Abby Wambach live there, so like it or not, Mike, it appears that Buffalo has a claim on the WNY Flash– and vice versa.

John Wingspread Howell is a novelist, freelance writer, columnist and blogger. He has covered the top division of professional women’s soccer in the United States since the inception of WPS in 2009. He writes about Buffalo sports, underdog sports, and women’s sports for various online publications including Queen City Sports.

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