If anyone thought that former Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) sides Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash would simply waltz through the inaugural Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League season, that fear was put to rest on Saturday night. Showing tenacity and determination in a match that pitted two Empire State teams, New York Fury defeated Western New York Flash 1-0 at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., in an important early matchup.
The win is the second straight for the Fury, who open the season at 2-0-0 and are currently tied with the Boston Breakers for first place. Western New York, the 2011 WPS Champions, fall to 1-1-0. Fury kicked off their season by defeating New England Mutiny 5-1, also on the road, while Flash beat FC Indiana 4-1 in their home opener.
Brittany Taylor scored the only goal of the match, finishing off a corner kick in the 54th minute. Merritt Mathias, who scored three goals in the Fury's opener against New England last week, set up Saturday’s score. The goal was the first of the season for Taylor.
The Flash, one of three teams in the WPSL Elite League with roots in the WPS, fielded a lineup that included three players from the 2011 championship team. Alex Sahlen, McCall Zerboni and Kim Brandao have returned, joined by Lori Lindsay from the WPS Philadelphia Independence, and Spanish international Adriana, who scored a hat trick in the opening game.
Fury have their own strong lineup, with several players signing on from the Independence as well, including Estelle Johnson, Kia McNeill, LeighAnn Robinson, Nikki Krzysik and sisters Tina and Gina DiMartino. The team is led by head coach Paul Riley, who managed Independence for two years in WPS.
While the match-up between last year’s WPS champions and a team with several members and the coach of the team they beat would make this seem like a chance for revenge, Riley said it was not the case.
"We are not concerned with payback," said Riley prior to the match. "We are all involved with a new team and we are working the kinks out so we can represent the Fury name in an entertaining and winning manner. We have enjoyed a tough week of training and the players are starting to find a good rhythm, so hopefully we can improve on our 45-minute performance last week. We came into this league to play a very competitive brand of soccer and WNY provides the ultimate test for our fledgling club."
Both teams came into the match off high-scoring games, and Western New York was determined to continue their scoring streak. The Flash held an 11-5 advantage in shots on goal on the night but ran into a tenacious Fury defense, including goalkeeper Michelle Betos who made 11 saves to post the shutout.
"It was not a vintage performance by a country mile, but we stuck to our tasks and grabbed an important three points," said Riley after the game.
"They are definitely further along in their fitness regimen,” Riley continued, “and we have a lot to do to catch up. Getting three points on the road with a sub-par team performance is always good. Our two best players tonight were (defender Leigh Ann) Robinson and Betos, who rescued us on many occasions. Hopefully our home opener against Boston on Wednesday will produce a better, high-tempo performance from our Furyites."
The Fury open at home against the Boston Breakers at Hofstra University on Wednesday, May 23, at 7:00 p.m. Boston took their opening match, the first of the WPSL Elite League season, by a 3-0 score over ASA Chesapeake Charge on May 10. That was followed by a 1-0 win over D.C. United Women in a cross-league exhibition match and a 4-1 league victory over FC Indiana on May 19.
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Good result for the league I think even though I am saddened at the qualiy fall of the flash.