The New York Fury put forth their best effort of the season Tuesday night, a decisive, 4-0 victory over the New England Mutiny. The result officially secured playoff berths for the Breakers and Red Stars and moved the Fury and Western New York Flash to the brink of booking spots.
“That was our best game of the season and our best half of the season,” Fury coach Paul Riley said. “This was a breakout game for us. I thought we were really good tonight.”
The best half Riley referenced was the first when Allie Long put the hosts on the scoreboard after four minutes and goals by Jasmyne Spencer and Meghan Lenczyk made it 3-0 into the break. Lenczyk connected again in the second for the cherry on top.
“We’ve played well in patches but we never really played well consistently for 45 minutes let alone 90 minutes,” Riley said. “So we’ve been slowly inching up the thermometer. I thought tonight we went up about 10 degrees.”
Long, in her second game of the season following an injury, keyed the attack by controlling the midfield from just on top of the Fury’s solid back four. Long did not take her defensive midfield role too literally though, finding herself in the box in the fourth minute where she cleaned up a deflected cross to bang home the first goal of the night.
“I’m not going to tell Allie Long that you’re going to sit in defensive mid and don’t move,” Riley said. “We tell them, I don’t care who’s doing what. You do whatever the hell you want. Just make sure that when it turns over we lock in quickly and we pressure quickly and we force them into mistakes. Which we did. I was really pleased with them.”
The Fury pressure limited the effectiveness of Mutiny teenager Morgan Andrews, who drew high praise for schooling the Flash midfield in an exciting 3-3 draw in New England last week.
“They’re very disciplined,” Mutiny coach Tony Horta said.
The Fury went ahead 2-0 in the 26th minute when Merritt Mathias found Lenczyk with a crisp cross that the McLean, Va. native was able to finish despite tight marking from the Mutiny. In the 40th, Jasmyne Spencer collected a free ball in the penalty area, made a smart cut to gain position and beat Vikki Alonzo to make it 3-0.
“They victimized us on the opportunities they had,” Horta said. “I didn’t think they had that many, but the ones they had they capitalized.”
Capitalizing on chances has been an issue for the Fury this season. It was no such issue on Tuesday. Riley said he gave each player an area to work on for the game. Spencer’s was to relax on the ball in the final third. She responded with a goal plus an early shot that forced Alonzo into a leaping save.
The Mutiny had a few flashes of solid possession. In the 34th minute Kate Howarth got in on a counter and took a strong shot that forced Michelle Betos into her only difficult save on the night. Late in the half Tiffany Weimer put herself through a seam between central backs Nikki Krzysik and Brittany Taylor but the veteran defenders kept suitable contact to force Weimer into a tough shot that rolled harmlessly to Betos.
“This is a team that has some quality players and it’s tough to break it down,” Horta said.
In an earlier contest at Hofstra, New England Mutiny Resreves downed the Long Island Fury, 3-0. A 1-0 lead was extended when the Fury pushed forward in search of a late equalizer.
“Unfortunately the final third today was not in our favor,” said Long Island Fury coach Phil Casella.
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