Overflow crowd watches Spirit come back late to draw Flash

Canadian international Diana Matheson scored the Spirit's first-ever home goal

The west stands were packed. The east stands were packed. The beer garden was packed. The south hill was packed. All in all, 4,569 fans squeezed themselves into a stadium designed to hold 3,200. And for the future of women’s professional soccer, that was a more important number than anything that transpired on the field.

Happiness over the fan participation was tempered, though, by concern over Abby Wambach, who in the 80th 90th minute took a ball in the face at close range from teammate Brittany Taylor and was in uncertain condition after the match. Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines said after the match she was “not doing too well.”

Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris added, ““She got peppered in the face from point-blank distance. I could tell she was pretty dazed. I said, ‘Are you all right?’ She was mumbling. That’s not a good sign.”

Wambach will be checked out Monday morning. The Flash have their first home game next weekend, and it would of course be unfortunate if their hometown heroine were unable to play.

Wambach, as always, was repeatedly dangerous with her head but never managed to put one away

The match itself ended in a 1-1 draw, though that outcome would not have been expected based on the early run of play, which the Spirit dominated. Their best chance came in the 7th minute off a long ball from Julia Roberts to Diana Matheson, who got behind the defense but sent her shot wide left.

The Flash had the best chances from minute 19 on, though, as at that point Wambach got her head on a cross but got under it a little too much and sent it off the crossbar. Ten minutes later she had another header off a cross from the opposite direction that seemed destined to sneak inside the right post, but Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris made a leaping save to send the ball wide.

The second half was also more Flash than Spirit, but Western New York seemed almost incapable of finding the head of their FIFA Player of the Year striker, as corner kicks sailed over or past Wambach – the one she did manage to get her head on came to her fifteen yards out, too much of a distance for even her to produce a dangerous opportunity. Meanwhile, the Spirit defense kept her from doing much with her feet, with Tori Huster – a midfielder converted to defender just a month or so ago – doing yeoman work playing keep-away with Abby.

Midfielder-turned-central-defender Tori Huster (right) had the unenviable task of marking Abby Wambach for much of the evening

Going into the 85th minute, the odds of a scoreless result seemed good. But then Huster went into Wambach feet-first, giving the Flash a free kick and earning herself a yellow card. Brittany Taylor sent the ball into the box, where Wambach flicked it with her head on to Samantha Kerr at the right post, who vigorously nodded it down and toward Harris. It bounced off the goalkeeper and went into the net.

Western New York’s joy only lasted about a minute, though, as moments later second-half substitute forward Jasmyne Spencer – making her professional debut after being picked up off waivers just a couple of weeks ago – was taken down just inside the right edge of the box. Referee Kari Seitz immediately pointed to the penalty spot.

Now on a team with almost nothing but rookie strikers, who takes the PK? In this case, it was veteran midfielder Matheson, who put the ball authoritatively into the left side of the net. Flash goalkeeper Adrianna Franch guessed right and leaped in that direction, but the ball was out of her reach. That would end the scoring.

"We had a fantastic crowd - hopefully they come out every week."

After the match, the Spirit players were more interested in talking about the turnout than the result. “I was excited,” said Matheson. “I knew some of the other teams had got sold-out crowds, so I was hoping it was the same. I think it surpassed our expectations. We had a fantastic crowd. A few of them were cheering for Abby, so I didn’t approve of that. But aside from that, an amazing home crowd and they were with us until the end and hopefully they come out every week.“

Next chance to come out will be this Saturday at 7 pm as the Spirit host Sky Blue FC, coached by the only head coach the Washington Freedom ever had, Jim Gabarra. Meanwhile, the Western New York Flash have their home opener at Sahlen Stadium at 7:35 the same evening as they take on the Boston Breakers.

Photos courtesy of Tony Quinn.

Other coverage:

SportsMyriad/Beau Dure: Washington Spirit vs. Western NY Flash: Dan Borislow was wrong

The Equalizer/Jennifer Gordon: Concerns surround Wambach after Flash, Spirit draw 1-1

The Washington Post/Steven Goff: National Women’s Soccer League: Washington Spirit 1, Western New York Flash 1

SB Nation/Kareen Drot: Washington Spirit vs. Western New York Flash: Final Score 1-1, controversy erupts in the box

SoccerNation/Diane Scavuzzo: IN A FLASH: Final Score 1-1 for WNY Flash vs Washington Spirit

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Abby Wambach injured, WNY Flash tie Washington Spirit

Maryland Gazette/Jennifer Beekman: Spirit’s home opener ends in tie

Washington Spirit: Capacity crowd of 4,569 witness history in home opening 1-1 draw

Western New York Flash: Flash pick up first point; draw 1-1 at Washington

3 thoughts on “Overflow crowd watches Spirit come back late to draw Flash

  1. Landru

    It’s a shame that Wambach’s condition is uncertain. She was certainly well enough to sprint almost the length of the field to complain to Seitz about the penalty call–which looked like a stupendously bad call. When Seitz blew the whistle, I thought for sure she was going to book Spencer for diving.

    It’s wonderful that womens soccer has returned to the Soccerplex, and I’m looking forward to seeing as many of the unfortunately-named Spirit’s games as I can get to, and to getting to appreciate this group of players. We’re particularly excited about Matheson, and it’s great that Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger are playing for our side again. It was real odd to be a DC soccer fan pulling against Abby Wambach (and Tori Huster really did a phenomenal job marking her, the well-deserved booking aside), but we’ll take the game where we get it and as we find it.

  2. Johanna

    Wambach was well enough to sprint to Seitz to complain about the PK call because it was before she got beaned. That happened at 90′, not 80′.

    1. Kevin Parker Post author

      I’ve reviewed the video, and you’re right. I’ve updated my article accordingly.


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