As one of four teams yet to win a match this season, the spotlight has been harsh for the Western New York Flash. The silver lining is that the club is still ranked sixth in the tournament. The Flash still has a fighting chance to make it into the playoffs with 19 games left to play. Sky Blue, meanwhile, is the only club to have won each of their matches, and they will be looking extend that run with a victory at Sahlen Stadium this week.
Both teams met in the first week of the season, a match which saw Sky Blue walk away with a 1-0 victory due to an own goal by McCall Zerboni. The main obstacles that prevented the Flash from logging a win was their poor communication and sloppy defending. The back line couldn’t compete against agile players such as Heather O’Reilly, Lianne Sanderson and Sydney Leroux. On Saturday’s game the defence consisted of Brittany Taylor, Estelle Johnson, Katherine Reynolds and Alex Sahlen. They performed below average, leaving Heather O’Reilly unmarked for both Boster Breakers goals.
The Flash's forward line is considerably stronger than its defence, featuring both Samantha Kerr and Abby Wambach. Adriana has had several subpar performances but McCall Zerboni and Angela Salem are players the midfield can rely on. The problem is that they're relied upon too heavily. The defence sits back until it's too late to shut a player down, and AD Franch can't stop everthing because Franch is not a sorceress.
The SBFC lineup hosts a multitude of speedy athletes such as Kelley O’Hara, Katy Freels, Kendall Johnson and Lisa De Vanna but they also have opportunistic players such as Sophie Schmidt and Caitlin Foord who are good at getting up top and creating crosses into the box. Schmidt in particular has impeccable timing and will sneak up at the right moment to score goals. She has done this on several occasions against the Washington Spirit and the Boston Breakers. More importantly, the SBFC back-line is a brick wall commanded by Christie Rampone.
Neither team has announced their starting XI for Wednesday’s match but Abby Wambach has been cleared to play this Wednesday, and she will wreak havoc in the back for Sky Blue if she is partnered with Kerr, and has Zerboni for support.
Sky Blue demonstrated their eagerness to bury the opposition early on last week against the Washingston Spirit when they gained a 1-0 lead in the first two minutes of play. Instead of sitting back and defending that lead, they then hastened the pace and included their top three strikers in offensive plays that would see them in the 18 yard box on a frequent basis. Against the Spirit, Sky Blue had some rocky moments with an early yellow card awarded to Kelley O’Hara for tackling the legs of Kika Toulouse. However, O’Hara will likely desist from physical play and stick to her creative footwork this time around.
Brittany Cameron is a rock for Sky Blue with her steady hands and quick feet, but she must beware of coming too far off her line -- Wambach and Kerr are sure to take advantage of the space if she does. If Coco Goodson can reignite whatever energy she was playing off of from the Washington match, then Sky Blue will be set to take the lead. Goodson was phenomenal in the air and on defending, alongside Foord, Rampone and Johnson, the Flash midfielders will need to find a way to push the SBFC defenders wide and send Wambach and Kerr into the box for a cross.
Western New York Flash Injuries
Out: Carli Lloyd (shoulder).
Sky Blue Injuries
Out: Jill Loyden (wrist)
Match Date/Time: Wednesday, May 1st 7:05 PM
Venue: Sahlen Stadium, Rochester, NY