Christine Sinclair did not need convincing to join the Western New York Flash. On Saturday, one of the first players to commit to the 2011 WPS expansion team scored the most critical goal of the season for the Flash.
Western New York defeated the Philadelphia Independence 5-4 on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 deadlock following extra time in Saturday’s WPS Championship. Sinclair struck for the Flash’s only goal from the run of play in the 64th minute when she sent Candace Chapman’s chipped through ball into the back of the net.
“She’s given us everything,” Flash Head Coach Aaran Lines said. “She made a decision to come to our club within three days where others took three weeks. I have so much respect for that player.”
Sinclair also finished Western New York’s second penalty kick in the shootout. After both teams made their first four kicks from the spot, Yael Averbuch finished the fifth one for the Flash to put the pressure on Independence forward Laura del Rio.
Del Rio hit her kick to the left of Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, but Harris got her left hand on the ball to push it wide and begin the celebrations for the first year club.
For Philadelphia, it was heartbreak again. It was the second-straight season in which the Independence lost in the final.
“It’s a very tough feeling for our team right now,” Independence forward Amy Rodriguez said. “We worked so hard to make it here.
“We had countless chances. I personally had countless chances. It makes you want to kick yourself because you can’t get those moments back. I wish there was a different outcome today.”
Rodriguez’s goal in the 87th minute brought the game to extra time. After Philadelphia defender Kia McNeill ventured forward and received the ball, she slotted Danesha Adams into space in the 18-yard box.
Adams hit a right footed shot off the post that hit Harris’ head and popped back out to Rodriguez inside the six yard box. Rodriguez buried it between Harris’ legs at the near post for the late equalizer.
Philadelphia had all the momentum heading into overtime. Rodriguez fired a volley just wide of Harris’ left post in the 102nd minute to give the Flash a scare. Flash midfielder Beverly Goebel, who entered the match as a substitute in the 77th minute, received her second yellow card in the 108th minute for a tackle on Veronica Boquete, reducing Western New York to 10 players.
But the Independence could not capitalize on the advantage. Western New York had the best chance of extra time in the 120th minute when Caroline Seger’s header looked destined for the lower corner. But Independence goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart reached behind her body to make a diving save and bring the game to penalty kicks.
Barnhart got her hand on the first two penalty kicks by Marta and Sinclair but could not save either of them. It summed up the evening for Philadelphia: Close, but not close enough.
“I thought we created the better chances – the more clear-cut chances,” he said. “But we didn’t put them away and if you don’t put your chances away you finish second. We didn’t put our chances away and we finished second.”
Lifting the trophy was a dream ending for the Flash, particularly for Sinclair, who was named the championship MVP.
“It’s perfect. The World Cup didn’t go as I had hoped for Canada,” Sinclair said. “It was important for me to come back and play more soccer and to end it with a trophy like this is the perfect way to head into a little bit of a break.”