EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. — Plenty of the talk about WPSL Elite League this inaugural season has been about the lack of parity. There are four top-tier teams and four bottom-tier teams; just split the table in half.
Kate Howarth is sick of that talk. On Sunday, she backed up her resentment toward the sentiment with a big performance for the New England Mutiny, helping the team draw 3-3 with the Western New York Flash in East Longmeadow, Mass.
“All of the articles say it is ‘that four team(s)’ and ‘these four teams’ and it’s just like, there’s no barrier,” Howarth said. “Anybody that’s come to the games sees that anybody can hang with the teams.”
Howarth scored twice on Sunday for the Mutiny, which nearly held out for a shocking victory over the Flash. A 77th minute handball in the box by Mutiny defender Sarah Brochu gave Flash forward Adriana the chance to level the game at 3-3.
Howarth put the Mutiny on the scoreboard first inside four minutes with a goal following a well-worked combination with Becca Mays. Howarth played a diagonal ball through the Flash back line and out to Mays on the left wing before darting to the near post and for the tap-in on Mays’ left-footed cross.
New England’s lead did not last long, however.
Adriana finished a tap-in of her own from inside the 6-yard-box on the other end to equalize just four minutes later. U.S. international Meghan Klingenberg provided the service from the right flank after Tori Huster played her into space.
It was Klingenberg who then gave the Flash the lead in the 23rd minute with a powerful header into the back of the net. Lori Lindsey hooked the ball down the right sideline for Adriana, who returned the earlier favor to Klingenberg with the cross.
But just like the Flash had done to the Mutiny in the opening minutes, New England quickly scored the equalizer.
“It was poor. It was poor from our end,” Western New York head coach Aaran Lines said. “I thought we approached the game well and then going in obviously you can’t make decisions for players out there when they are on the field. Extremely disappointed with the first half – our worst half of the season.”
Morgan Andrews made it 2-2 in the 25th minute on a brilliant individual run, slicing through the Flash midfield and back line before hitting a left-footed shot to the far post past Flash goalkeeper Brittany Cameron.
The U.S. U-17 national team captain wasn’t done showing up her elders, either.
Andrews set-up Howarth on the stroke of halftime to give New England a 3-2 lead heading into the break. For the second time of the half, Andrews snuck past Western New York defenders, finishing her run with a swim move around Huster and driving a left-footed cross right onto the head of Howarth for the goal.
The thrilling second half turned into a period of gamesmanship as New England milked the clock, looking for the big upset, and the match evolved into a physical encounter.
At least one more goal seemed imminent in the match as New England players tired from Western New York’s constant pressing. It finally came in the 77th minute when Adriana finished the PK – one that Mutiny goalkeeper Vikki Alonzo nearly saved – and the Flash walked away with a share of the points.
“They were a lot more dangerous today than what they were at Sahlen’s Stadium,” Lines said. “Obviously, second half, [Tony Horta, Mutiny head coach] has gone in[to halftime] 3-2 and he’s come out and said, ‘I’m just going to defend. I’m just going to make it really difficult for them to break us down.’ They did a decent job of that. I don’t know if it would be my approach if a team equalized on me 3-3 and I was playing at home in front of 500 people. I’d probably be trying to win the game. That’s our – that’s my mindset, but it wasn’t the approach here in New England.”
This is the second time in as many weeks that Western New York has settled for a draw on the road against an amateur team. The Flash tied the Philadelphia Fever 0-0 on June 17 before beating the Fever 2-0 at home on Friday.
Western New York does not play again until July 8 at home against ASA Chesapeake Charge at 4 p.m. The Mutiny travel to play the New York Fury on July 3 at 7 p.m.
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