HEMPSTEAD, NY – The New York Fury and Chicago Red Stars traded early goals in an entertaining season finale for both at Hofstra University on Sunday night. The 1-1 draw allowed the Fury to lay claim to third place in WPSL Elite and booked them a Wednesday semi-final showdown against the Western New York Flash at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. The Red Stars finish fourth and will play the Boston Breakers in the other semi, also Wednesday at Sahlen’s.
“I don’t think they’ll be happy playing us, I think they’d rather play Chicago,” Fury coach Paul Riley said of the Flash. “Either one is going to be tough.”
Besides even play and high intensity, Sunday’s match was noted for the arrival of Casey Nogueira as the Fury’s surprise forward addition that Riley had promised. The flamboyant forward was introduced pre-game and played most of the second half. She created an early chance that Sinead Farrelly fired high, occasionally pressured keeper clearances and throw-ins, but for the most part blended in to the match.
“She’s a quality player. She understands the game,” Riley said. “She says she’s fit, but she came in at 2 o’clock this afternoon.”
Riley kept Nogueira’s inclusion in the team quiet enough that the Red Stars found out about it at the same time everyone else did.
“I was actually surprised,” said Red Stars assistant John DeJulio, who at one time played with Casey’s father Victor Nogueira. “I think she can make a difference for them though. It will be interesting.”
DeJulio was deputizing for Rory Dames, who was in Chicago guiding a different group of Red Stars to the US Women’s Open Cup title.
Sunday opened with a frantic pace as the teams pushed the ball up and down the park in search of early offense. The Fury found it first in the 6th minute. Gina DiMartino put a ball into the box and Meghan Lenczyk got enough on it to push it by Jamie Forbes and just over the goal line.
It was the Red Stars that controlled more of the play early though, and they were rewarded with the equalizer in the 11th minute. Ashleigh Ellenwood made a strong run up the right side, cut in behind the Fury defense and beat Michelle Betos with a sharp-angled shot. Moments earlier Betos came up with a strong save on Michele Weissenhofer.
That was the end of the scoring, but not the end of the action. In the 27th minute the Fury produced one of their prettiest sequences of the season. Kim Yokers won the ball in midfield and distributed to Merritt Mathias. Mathias shed a defender and got off a left-footed cross, but there were no Fury players in the area.
The Fury had two top chances after halftime. The first was Farrelly’s near miss from Nogueira. The second started with a Jasmyne Spencer shot in the 67th minute. Forbes got a hand on it but it took two defenders to keep the score level. First Jackie Santacatarina knocked it off the line—“It was close,” DeJulio said—and Michelle Wenino booted it out of danger.
“I thought it was dead even,” DeJulio said. “Most of the game was played in the midfield. Credit New York. I think they actually outworked us a little bit in midfield.”
The Fury finished the season 9-3-2 (29 points) but were only 1-3-2 against the other playoff sides. The Red Stars’ final mark of 9-4-1 (28 points) includes a forfeit loss to the New England Mutiny brought on by travel issues. The Red Stars were 2-3-1 against the playoff teams.
“I think any one of the four teams can win,” DeJulio said. “All four teams have good, hard players so it will be a fun (playoffs.)”
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