ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Friday night’s game at Sahlen’s Stadium between the Flash and Red Stars pitted the first two goalkeepers selected in the college draft earlier this year. At one end was Adrianna Franch, selected in the 1st round and a recent participant at U.S. national team training camp. At the other was Taylor Vancil, taken with the 17th pick and pressed into service because of an injury to Erin McLeod.
What may surprise you is that Vancil was the keeper the Red Stars wanted all along. And if Friday night was any indication, Vancil has bright days ahead keeping goal in Chicago.
“A lot of people questioned why we took Taylor,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “We thought Taylor was the best goalie in the draft. I know Taylor from back in the youth days. I wasn’t surprised by Taylor at all tonight. I think Taylor’s probably the goalkeeper of the future long term.”
Vancil played college ball at Florida State where she routinely faced some of the most dangerous offenses in college soccer. Friday she stared down some of the most dynamic attackers in NWSL, and while she wound up falling short 2-1, Vancil was the reason the match was scoreless at halftime.
There were several moments worthy of the highlight package, but among them one stands out. Just before halftime, Carli Lloyd let loose a shot that was ticketed for the far post. The only thing that stopped it were the hands of Vancil, extended right on a dive across the goal mouth. The save brought the entire Red Stars bench to its feet.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” said McLeod, who backed up Vancil due to an incomplete fracture in her right hand. “We’ve been training really well together. She’s such a positive person and has a really big heart and I’m very proud to play with her and to watch her do so well.”
A few minutes after the save on Lloyd, Adriana tried to play a simple chip from in close and Vancil used her athleticism to knock it away for a corner, likely preventing a goal. On the ensuing corner she again used her athleticism to allow her fingers to make first contact.
“It was an exciting half just to be able to play,” Vancil, 22, said. “(I was) just trying to do my part to help the team.”
Unfortunately for the Red Stars it was not enough. Lori Chalupny scored a magnificent goal in the 52nd minute to give the club a lead for the first time this season, 502 minutes after first kick. It lasted all of two minutes until the back line let Abby Wambach behind and she flicked Brittany Taylor’s pass home to tie the match.
“It’s not good to leave the FIFA World Player of the Year free in the box,” Dames said. The Flash then found the game-winner when Taylor flicked a corner to McCall Zerboni for another goal.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” Dames said of his club, now 0-4-2. “We’ve been fighting uphill. We have a lot of players who at the end of a year are going to be pretty good players at this level. But we just lack experience.”
Leslie Osborne also missed Friday’s match thanks to an MCL sprain and Shannon Boxx remained sidelined by knee surgery. Ella Masar played in the second half but was not fit to go 90 minutes so she did not start. The Flash meanwhile, were able to give Carli Lloyd her first start of the season.
“We had no real sort of experience to match some of the players they had on the field,” Dames said. “I thought some of our young players did a good job. But we scored a good goal and don’t know how to respond.”
Osborne could possibly make the trip to Portland next Saturday. Germans Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss are expected to be cleared and available to travel after joining the Red Stars last week. McLeod, Rachel Quon, and Carmelina Moscato will be with the Canadian national team.