The Western New York Flash saw its 2014 season come to a close on Saturday night in a 3-3 draw at the Chicago Red Stars. With the tie, the Flash ends the season with a final record of 8-12-4 (28 points).
After facing a 1-0 deficit early, the Flash climbed to a 3-1 lead and led until the 93+ minute when Julie Johnston scored on a penalty kick to end the game level. The draw ensured the Flash finished the second half of the season with a 4-6-2 record, identical to the record the club posted over its first 12 games.
“I was happy with the team’s approach tonight, but I think this game summed up what we were this season,” Flash general manager and head coach Aaran Lines said. “We were up, scored three goals away from home, but [Chicago] came back late. I think it symbolizes how we were this season.”
“Overall though, I thought we finished this season with positives. Our young goalkeeper made her debut did a good job and we had some very good football in that game.”
Johnston’s goal came on the third penalty kick Chicago was awarded in the match, with Christen Press converting on the first before being denied by Flash goalkeeper DiDi Haracic on her second penalty effort. Haracic, who was signed by the Flash in July, made her first professional start in the Flash’s season finale and finished with eight saves on the night.
After 17 minutes of play, the Red Stars were awarded their first penalty kick of the evening after a hand ball in the box. Carli Lloyd and Jackie Santacanteria contested each other for a header, with Santacanteria’s attempt hitting Lloyd’s arm. Press took the ensuring kick, and slotted the ball to the right of Haracic.
Adriana Martin brought the game level at 1-1, scoring her second goal in as many games and also connecting after a cross from Abby Wambach. In the 29th minute, Wambach sent a cross in from the left that was directed to Sonia Bermudez. Chicago defender Rachael Quon blocked the ball away, but it fell to Adriana in the middle and she was able to easily knock in her third goal of the season.
The Flash took the lead in injury time of the first half, after a stylish header from Lloyd. Adriana sent a free kick into the penalty box that Wambach headed toward the goal, finding Lloyd. With her back to Red Stars’ goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, Lloyd flicked the ball into the upper left corner of the net to put Western New York ahead 2-1.
Samantha Kerr increased her team lead to nine goals, notching the Flash’s third goal in the 49th minute. The speedy forward took off down the right side and sent a pass in toward Wambach. While falling down, Wambach tapped the ball back to Kerr who powered a shot into the far side of the net.
Press cut the Western New York lead to 3-2, completing her brace with half of an hour to play. After being sent in with a chip over the Flash backline, Press took a powerful shot from 20-yards out. Haracic came up with the initial save, but the block fell back to Press who knocked it into the open net.
The Red Stars earned its second penalty kick in the 78th minute after a second hand ball in the box. Press stepped in looking to complete the hat trick, but Haracic read the shot, diving to her right to punch the ball away.
However, the home team did find the equalizer late, on Johnston’s first penalty kick goal of the year.
The Red Stars finished with 21 shots on the night, seven more than Western New York, with 11 coming in the second half. In that half, Haracic came up with two back-to-back saves in the 63rd minute to preserve the Flash’s 3-2 lead. First, the Loyola product denied Melissa Tancredi on the doorstep with a kick save that caused the ball to carom off of the crossbar. The rebound went back to the head of Tancredi, but Haracic was able to recover and punch the shot out of play.
“I thought she was brilliant. She was nervous leading into the game, rightfully so with her professional debut, but I had full confidence that she would go out there and perform well,” Lines said of Haracic. “And she did [perform well], coming up with a penalty save. It’s nice to put a young player on the team in and see her do well in her debut.”
The Flash defense saw the offside trap work on both sides of the half, causing two Red Stars’ goals to be waived off. Ten minutes in, Press sent a ball from the left side across the mouth of the goal that made its way through the defense toward Tancredi and ultimately into the back of the net. However, after discussion between the officials, the goal was deemed to come after an offside infringement.
The Flash defense trapped Chicago again later in the match, taking away what would have been the home team’s second goal. Another goal from Tancredi was recalled, who chipped over Haracic on a breakaway.
With a full 90 minutes in Saturday’s match, center back Brittany Taylor ended the season as the only Flash player to start and play every minute of the 2014 season, finishing with 2160 minutes on the year.