The Western New York Flash stayed unbeaten on Friday at Sahlen’s Stadium, defeating Sky Blue FC 3-1 in front of just 1,704 fans.
Western New York did not waste any time getting started. Rookie forward Alex Morgan opened up the scoring just four minutes into the game on a sequence that started with an Ashlyn Harris punt. Harris sent a booming punt across midfield and Marta sent a flick-on header right into the path of Morgan, who touched the ball around an on-rushing Karen Bardsley and tapped it in to make it 1-0.
“(Marta) played me a great ball and I was able to wait for the keeper to come out and when she came out I played it around her and was able to finish it,” Morgan said.
Nine minutes later, Sky Blue FC put together its first decent scoring opportunity of the game when Casey Nogueira turned the corner on Kandace Wilson and played a low cross back to Laura Kalmari. She one-timed her shot from 12 yards out but Harris tipped the ball wide of the post for a corner kick.
Marta was close to doubling the Flash’s lead in the 22nd minute when she worked a great give and go with Caroline Seger. With her back facing the goal, Marta laid the ball off to Seger and spun off of Sky Blue FC defender Anita Asante. Seger played a returning through ball into Marta’s path and she out-ran Asante to the ball as Bardsley charged off of her line. Bardsley was late getting to the ball and Marta went for a left-footed chip from 22 yards out, but the shot curled away from net and just missed the near post.
Marta would however be involved in Western New York’s second goal, which came in the 40th minute. She played a short corner to Kelly Parker, who laid the ball back to Marta with the option of driving a cross into the box. Instead, the Brazilian played a slow rolling square ball to the 18-yard box and Seger stepped up and slammed the ball into the upper left corner of the net.
That was a tough blow for a Sky Blue FC team that did well to sustain pressure and maintain some possession in the first half. Sky Blue FC did get offensive sparks off the bench in the second half from Eniola Aluko and new Spanish striker Adriana. Aluko replaced Nogueira at halftime – which Head Coach Jim Gabarra said he planned from the start to use her speed as fresh legs in the second half – and immediately connected with fellow forward Laura Kalmari.
Adriana proved even more effective. She entered the match in the 65th minute and one minute later she scored her first WPS goal. That came as a result of combination play between Adriana, the Spaniard, and Therese Sjögran, the Swede. Sjögran laid the ball back to Adriana at the corner of the 18-yard box and Adriana sent a curling floater over the head of Harris to cut the deficit to 2-1.
But yet again, in what is becoming a trend in this young season, the Flash proved to be too much. Western New York threatened throughout the second half and looked like it would get the breakthrough goal just two minutes prior to Adriana’s strike, but Kalmari cleared Morgan’s shot off the line.
In the 78th minute, the breakthrough finally came for Western New York when Morgan returned the favor and gave Marta a through ball in behind the Sky Blue FC defense. Marta looked like she may have been offside, but with no raised flag the two-time reigning WPS MVP calmly curled a left footed shot around Bardsley at the far post.
“Obviously it was too much Marta for us, but I thought it was really disappointing in the first half because we weren’t sharp,” Gabarra said. “Our transition was bad. We weren’t good with the ball; we weren’t good without the ball. We got beat for speed in the back on the first goal and Marta could have had another one even. So, I was very happy with the second half. We came out a little bit better, put a little bit of scare into them, drew a goal back and then again we left Marta onside and she put the game away.”
The main bright spot for Sky Blue FC was Adriana, who only arrived in the U.S. on Wednesday but already made an immediate impact.
“It’s my first game and it’s important for me – the goal – for the team, but we lost to a good team,” Adriana said.
The Flash (3-0-1, 10 pts.) collectively seemed disappointed with giving up the second half goal to the bottom of the table Sky Blue FC (0-3-1, 1 pt.), but it is another three points in the second game of a four game homestand for Western New York.
“It helps us a lot,” Morgan said of scoring early. “But at the same time we shouldn’t have let down at all. In the second half there was a lull there and I think we need to learn from that and learn to work for each other a little more during that second half when we are a little bit more tired.”
Check out a full recap of the live blog from Rochester here.
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