It could have been much worse for the Chesapeake Charge, on their first visit to Sahlen's Stadium, home of the champions without a league—the Western New York Flash.
After a shaky start, last year's champions of the now-defunct Women's Professional Soccer are hitting on all cylinders with a WPS-quality roster. The Chesapeake club, one of a few members of the WPSL (not to be confused with WPS) to upgrade to the new "Elite" circuit, was thoroughly and completely dominated.
Had what appeared to be the Flash's second goal in the seventh minute not been disallowed for no good reason by the referee, the Charge could have been discharged with dispatch.
As it was, the score, finally ending up at 4-0 for the Flash didn't come close to reflecting the one-sidedness of the match. Chesapeake rarely penetrated the home side of the pitch and only managed to take one shot on goal. They were out-hustled and out-finessed by Western New York on nearly every play.
The Flash drew first blood in the seventh minute, when Tori Huster sent a ball to captain McCall Zerboni, who headed it in to put the Flash in the lead.
Within seconds play was back in front of the Chesapeake goal, McCall Zerboni fed a corner kick across to. Adriana, the Spanish international, who headed it in, but the sideline referee called a very questionable foul in the box.
Adriana had another chance in the 21st minute when the forward put away a loose ball in the box unassisted, for her 10th goal of the season. The score of 2-0 would stand into the second half.
In the 55th minute after a Chesapeake foul just to the right of the 18-yard box, Zerboni crossed it right in front of the goal off a free kick. Defender Toni Pressley, a member of the USWN-U23 team, gained possession away from ASA’s keeper to score her first goal of the season. Flash 3-0.
Western New York rounded out the scoring for the night after midfielder Katy Frierson was fouled in the Charge’s box. A penalty kick was awarded and Zerboni pushed it through for the fourth and final goal of the contest.
The match was enjoyed by the Flash's largest home crowd of the season, but the gate of 2,017 was a far cry from the 4-14,000 attendance range a year ago as the Flash made their championship run in WPS with Marta, Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair and company.
Of course Rochester native Abby Wambach had something to do with the surge in attendance, visiting Rochester twice during that run with her magicJack club.
Despite the smaller crowd, the weaker opposition, and the less than star studded lineup, the Flash, under the tutelage of head coach Aaran Lines, continue to provide a major league quality product.
Marta is gone, but Spanish international Adriana has taken up the role, leading the club with 11 goals thus far this season, many of which have been quite spectacular. Equally spectacular is the footwork that often precedes the goals.
Like most of her U.S. Women's National Team counterparts, Abby Wambach is concentrating on winning another Olympic gold medal this year, but Flash team captain McCall Zerboni has been putting in workhorse performances that resemble Wambach in hustle, passion and power.
In today's match, Zerboni was the Energizer Bunny, charging up and down the field, reversing direction without losing speed, contesting every loose ball, and scoring twice.
There were other stellar performances but one that especially deserves mention was the defensive upgrade to the club with the arrival of Toni Pressley. The U.S. U-23 Women's National player has a rocket for a leg, once launching a defensive volley 70 yards down the far sideline, landing the ball just inside the sideline where a teammate could launch a great cross.
It was as if the ball was laser guided. Pressley turned several balls into cannon shots throughout the match.
But still, as we have said throughout the season, this sojourn in the so called "Elite League" of the WPSL cannot be a permanent situation. Though it is the U.S. major league for women currently by default, there is an obvious double level of play, with the bottom four teams being unable to compete with the top four (WNY, Boston, NY and, to a lesser degree, Chicago).
Flash owner Joe Sahlen reports that meetings are being held between representatives of the WPSL, the USL and some former WPS people to discuss options for the next league, but it is not known what the United States Soccer Federation has in mind. Without their endorsement, if not their collaboration, no new leagues will be formed.
Sunday's win puts the Flash at a record of 7-1-3, clinching third place, and with it a berth in the WPSL playoffs, which will be held in their entirety in the Flash's Sahlen's Stadium on July 25th and 28th,
The next game for the Flash is at FC Indiana on Thursday, July 12, at 7 p.m. ET The Flash return home for their final regular season match on July 22nd at 4 p.m. ET versus their WPS counterparts, the Boston Breakers. It will be the club's "Pink Game" to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation.
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