EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Soccer, like most sports, like life, is about moments. We live for those quick rushes, sometimes we know when they’re coming, sometimes not.
As soccer fans, we rarely know when the hour is at hand, which is part of our enjoyment, but we inherently know special players have a proportionally greater chance to give us them.
Morgan Andrews still has a long way to go in her soccer education, and the last thing I want to do is put undue pressure on her as she begins to prepare for her senior year of high school (try to think back to what your priorities were the summer before yours for comparison) that will include a trip to exotic Azerbaijan as captain of the U.S. national team for the U-17 World Cup among other things.
But her goal in the 26th minute Sunday for New England against Western New York was, for lack of a better adjective, special (my thesaurus tells me extraordinary, but that doesn’t quite cut it, either).
Although we’re not entirely sure there wasn’t a long lost Zapruder relative among the 800 or so paid attendees at East Longmeadow High, sadly there doesn’t appear to be much video of said goal, so here goes, from the perspective of someone who has seen way too many youth soccer games over the last few years:
Andrews received the ball about 40 yards from goal, and immediately picked her head up to see if she could find someone closer than her to goal to distribute the ball to. But the Flash – who came into the contest as the stingiest defense in WPSL Elite statistically – were keen to her distribution and looked to cut off the passing lanes, and Andrews saw some space in front of her and took it.
About 15 yards later, she appeared to be out of time and space. Standing in her way was not only a back four, but McCall Zerboni and Lori Lindsey, two of the best defensive midfielders in WPS last season, the latter soon heading to London as one of the best 4 or 5 at her position in the country.
But Andrews didn’t stop. Her instincts saw there might be room to split Zerboni and Lindsey (shown by the photo here on The Equalizer), and a second later, amazingly, she did. Andrews was still 18 yards from goal with the ball on her (weaker) left foot, but she took a quick glance up to see where Flash keeper Brittany Cameron was and unleashed a blast that hit upper 90 in the far corner, unstoppable.
The goal evened the game at 2-2, Andrews would have an assist 20 minutes later, which was eerily (at least for WNY) similar, as she dribbled to the endline, pulled an extremely veteran-like swim move on Tori Huster, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 WPS Draft (it could have been called a foul, but wasn’t), then put the ball on the head of Kate Howarth, who scored her second of the game.
At halftime, WNY coach Aaran Lines could only shake his head, and Andrews could only do the thing she seems to do the most, smile.
“Basically, I saw two players were coming from my side,” Andrews said. “I decided to take them on, cut it right, cut it left, and then hit it side post. I was happy about it.”
No big deal.
“I was a little star struck at the beginning, to be completely honest,” Andrews added. “I decided to play my game, and it worked out.”
Being on the receiving end, Lines – who won WPS with the Flash last season – couldn’t be completely appreciative, but does know talent when he sees it.
“She looked good,” Lines said. “We made her look good on that nice left-footed finish. Credit to her, she took the space that she was given nicely, and was composed in front of goal, it was a great finish from a young kid.”
New England, with a returning coach Tony Horta, clearly set out with more of a defensive mindset in the second half, and it’s hard to blame them, no “amateur” team has beaten a “pro” team in WPSL Elite this season. The Flash did outshoot the Mutiny 8-1 after halftime and got an equalizer off a penalty kick.
Andrews did struggle a bit in the second half, as the Mutiny couldn’t hold the ball and she couldn’t find outlets quickly enough with a now angry Flash buzzing around her. Lines was slightly perplexed that New England didn’t put more players forward looking for a winner, but realistically it’s a long shot they’re going to the playoffs and the 3-3 draw against a “pro” team was huge for morale.
“You look at the top four where the money is, and who’s got what, and you look at our roster, and let’s talk about players that aren’t even here that are on our roster,” Horta said.
There are plenty of others that deserve mention for the Mutiny, starting with Howarth, who now has four goals in four games against “pro” teams. And, to repeat, the last thing you want to do is overhype a 17-year-old kid.
(Howarth was to endure a scary collision with the much bigger Toni Pressley late in the game. It was clean, but Howarth was slow to get up. Howarth suffered a broken leg in college two seasons ago in a collision with – you guessed it – Pressley with Pressley playing for Florida St. and Howarth for Miami. Luckily, it was the other leg this time, and fortunately, Howarth eventually popped up and finished the game.)
But Morgan Andrews is so much fun to watch. And there’s probably a good reason for that.
“I had so much fun, “ Andrews said. “I was playing with players I look up to, and such great women. It was a fun, fun game.”
AROUND THE LEAGUE
CHESAPEAKE 1:3 CHICAGO
The Charge actually went into halftime ahead against the stunned Red Stars, who beat Chesapeake 5-0 two weeks prior. But Michele Weissenhofer and Lori Chalupny scored in a three-minute span in the second half, and after a lightning delay, Weissenhofer added another to avoid the upset bid for the Charge, who did not have Riley Barger for this one.
WNY 2:0 PHILADELPHIA
Again, the Fever proved tough to break down, but the Flash were never really threatened in a home win, avenging the 0-0 draw that the Fever gave them a few weeks ago in New Jersey. Katy Frierson, a breakout player the last couple of weeks scored and had an assist, and Michelle Dalton continued to impress in the Fever goal. Alas, her team has only scored six times this season.
BOSTON 2:0 NEW YORK
Kyah Simon scored two more goals as she has been the difference for the Breakers in recent games, scoring five times just last week (and could have had a few more). Although the Fury sit fourth and might finish there, Paul Riley had some bright spots as New York had a lot of the play. Tobin Heath suited up for the Fury and Heather O’Reilly did likewise for the Breakers, unfortunately almost certainly the last time they’ll do so in WPSL Elite this season. Next year a full season?
PHILADELPHIA 1:4 CHICAGO
Again, the Red Stars conceded first, and this one was a little more embarrassing because it was against the aforementioned anemic offense of the Fever. But Julianne Sitch scored twice, and Chicago was able to beat Dalton three times in the second half to get three more points. Chicago is at Boston on Saturday.