There is something sort of, well, smug, about the Western NY Flash. Like, they're the physical embodiment of Carli Lloyd's popped collars and wearing sunglasses at night. There is always - always - some kind of hand wringing and complaining at the start. About allocations, about the schedule, about how someone went and wronged Western NY this time. The hail that blanketed Sahlen's mid-game a few week's ago? It's because someone and everyone and all of us are out to get them. And because of this, because of all of this, and also all of the things that you and me and the league and ghosts and warlocks have done and will do in the future to the Flash, Western NY is going to prove us wrong. Every. Single. Time. They will wave that Four Championships in Four Leagues in Four Years flag high and vigorously and it will make us resent them a little, but also, somehow and maybe against our better judgment, respect them. Because it's not totally wrong or inaccurate. Because these things do happen, and they happen to Western NY more than they happen to anyone else. The Flash does have the fewest allocations, tends to get the wackiest schedules. Carli Lloyd did get suspended two games - and yes, she absolutely should have because SHE PUNCHED SOMEONE - but why was this the time when all of a sudden the league remembered they had a disciplinary committee and wait, the league has a disciplinary committee?
Western NY may have started out this season too with backs against the wall. Their record hasn't been terrible thus far, but there was something kind of un-Flashy about the early going. Flat and uninspired and like they'd already lost it all anyway so what's the point? But then, it - that Flash thing - happened. First, it was the return of Abby Wambach, then the debut of rookie keeper Kelsey Wys. Wambach is a forward, but the Flash's defense got some confidence back. Wys, a goalkeeper, gave the offense a spark, and suddenly, the Flash is very much the Flash again. Full of a little smugness and swagger and spite, and yes, climbing up the table. Like the uneven allocations and weird schedules they'll never not remind us of, Western NY is inevitable.
Washington Spirit vs. Western NY Flash
Maryland SoccerPlex, Saturday 6:30 PM ET
After an up-and-down start to the season, the Spirit has now dropped two straight and fallen into sixth on the table. The Flash has gone the other way, climbing to third with a three game draw-and-two-wins run.
There's more good news for Western NY, too. After a shaky start sans Abby Wambach, the Flash got their star striker back, and with her, a bunch of the confidence/overconfidence that's trademark WNY. Rookie goalkeeper Kelsey Wys was excellent in her debut last weekend, shutting out Sky Blue FC and very, very nearly recording the first-ever assist for a keeper in NWSL on Western NY's second goal. The game against the Spirit will also mark the return of Carli Lloyd, who's missed the last three games; two due to suspension and one for a National Team call up. As tends to happen with Western NY, slow start or not, everything eventually comes together somehow.
While things are coming up roses in Rochester, everything's still just buds and one weird random dandelion in DC. The Spirit have at least managed to make things interesting against some of the league's top teams, but staying in close games and finding a way to actually win them are two very different things. Washington still lacks the kind of consistent cohesion needed to actually grab points from any of those teams though, and suddenly, Western NY is one of those teams and this probably is not going to go well.
FC Kansas City vs. Houston Dash
Verizon Wireless Field Durwood Stadium, Sunday 6:00 PM ET
Oh, Houston. The NWSL's newest club looked so shiny and full of promise, way, way back a month ago when this whole thing started. Sure, the Dash dropped their inaugural contest, but it was barely and not for a lack of trying and only because of that oh-so-close-but-ultimately-not-close-enough approach to scoring goals. "It's the first game," we said. We said, "it's new and a big crowd and there's nerves and big scary Portland, but there is potential." We said, "oh, that defense will not be so bad despite the fact that half of it's in Europe and a quarter is out for the season thanks to a torn ACL." "How about that comeback win in Boston," we said. And then Houston dropped three straight, in which they scored a grand total of zero goals to their opponent's six - including four to FC Kansas City, who you might know as Houston's opponent in this game - and all we could say was "what happened," but also, "this sounds about right."
Boston Breakers vs. Chicago Red Stars
Harvard Stadium, Sunday 6:30 PM ET
This game - this exact same game, at the same stadium and everything, not like a home-and-home, but just like, a rerun of the same episode of the same show that you were kind of on the fence about watching anyway but since they're re-airing it later that night you might as well setup the ol' DVR and maybe on a rainy Sunday in the fall you'll get to it - happened Thursday night. Chicago won, 3-1. Sorry. Spoiler alert.