Soccer returned to Frontier Field for the first time since 2005, but concerns over the pitch dominated the night as the WNY Flash topped Seattle 3-2.
League regulations state that the minimum width of a field be 70 yards, but the field on Saturday was 58 yards. The NWSL gave a special exemption to the Flash to hold the game on a field that narrow.
Word of the field’s condition spread like wildfire on social media, including tweets from US National team stars and former Flash players Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan.
Megan Rapinoe tweeted: “I joked earlier but this field is unacceptable. @NSWL [sic] @JeffPlush are you watching this? Why would you allow this?”
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush issued a statement just before midnight reading:
“Earlier this evening, the Western New York Flash hosted a home match at a different venue due to Rhinos Stadium not being available. The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision. As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans. In the future, we will ensure that every NWSL match meets our standards.”
The poor field size meant throw ins were especially valuable. Both of the Rhinos first half goals came off throws from Jessica McDonald. Abby Erceg was on the receiving end of both throws, scoring once from her head, the other from her right foot.
Lynn Williams bagged the Flash’s third goal with a strike in the 83rd minute.
The Flash take on Seattle in Washington next Saturday. The next Flash home game is Saturday, July 23rd against Kansas City.