In a rematch of the Flash’s win over the Reign on the narrowest of pitch’s at Frontier Field seven days earlier, the only two teams to have won the NWSL Shield battled to a 1-1 draw Memorial Stadium. The draw brought the Flash to within a point of first place while the Reign slipped four points adrift of a return to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Prior to kickoff Reign players Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe were honored for their inclusion in the United States Olympic team. The pair addressed the crowd but were not available to participate in the match. The Reign players who were came out buzzing and grabbed an early lead in the 3rd minute of the match.
Keelin Winters won a 50/50 ball from Lianne Sanderson and sent it ahead where it looked like Abby Erceg had an easy clearance for the Flash. But the ball eluded Erceg and Manon Melis pounced on it, leaving Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper behind and racing in on Flash goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. Her right-footed shot was no match for Rowland and the Reign appeared to be off and running on Melis’s second of the season.
The Flash though, hung tight and after the early wave of pressure passed began to win turnovers in midfield and utilize their speed to catch Reign defenders off balance. In the 45th minute they found an equalizer. A McCall Zerboni cross intended for Jessica McDonald was redirected out of play by a Reign defender. Jaelene Hinkle sent the corner kick over everyone to the back post where Dahlkemper was there to send it back to the other post. That’s where McDonald met it with her head and knocked it in. McDonald’s sixth goal of the season leaves her one behind teammate Lynn Williams in the golden ball race.
The second half opened with the Flash in complete command. They dominated the midfield and often spent extended time in the Reign box, coming perilously close to scoring on numerous occasions. On one of them a ball slipped through Andi Tostanoski’s hands and in but there were so many touches before it got there that Erceg had slipped into an offside position.
The draw clinches the season series for the Flash against the Reign and left the Flash (8-4-1) on 25 points, one behind the Thorns and Spirit. They are a full seven points ahead of the Orlando Pride who are on 18 points and currently the first team outside the playoff bubble. A point further behind the Pride are the Reign (4-4-5) on 17 points. The Red Stars on 21 occupy the fourth and final playoff position.
The Flash are back home–at Rochester Rhinos Stadium–next Saturday to host FC Kansas City. Flash head coach Paul Riley will be back on the sidelines for that one. He did not coach against the Reign after being suspended a game for actions directed at match officials in the game a week ago. Assistant Scott Vallow ran the bench in Riley’s absence. The Reign are also home next Saturday against the Pride.
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