about that crossbar
Both the Spirit and Flash survived semifinals by the skin of their respective teeth. For the Spirit, there was a moment frozen in time when it looked for all the world like they would be watching this final on television. Second half stoppage time and Christen Press sliced her way behind the defense to run onto a Vansessa DiBernardo long ball. The shot, the would-be game winner, hit the crossbar and the Spirit won in extra time. Here’s how some of the Spirit players recalled the moment:
Diana Matheson: I was a little further up the field and it was one of those moments when you’re helpless and you just wait to see what happens. Fortunately the cross bar at the fans’ end of the stadium held out strong.
Christine Nairn: The crossbar? Oh man. Press is a great player. She sits on players’ back shoulders. She can finish from wherever. She got behind our back line and Kelsey (Wys) made her make a decision and took her off balance I think to the left and did what she needed to do. Whitney Church was trailing back. (Press) chipped it instead of (playing) it on the ground. Like Kelsey said before you can bless the soccer Gods. At that point all of us were just hauling for all we’re worth back and I’m pretty sure I just punted the ball out for a throw in. At t he end of the day great players are going to make great plays. I think we did our best to put Press into the worst position of a good position if that makes sense.
Whitney Church: When that ball hit the crossbar I said to myself, ‘We’re going to win this game. Things are on our side.’ Just keep pushing through. That was the thought process there. asked if she had ever been happier to see a ball hit the crossbar.: No sir!
Doniak reflects on draft day, rookie season
The top of most NWSL drafts have been pretty stable, but Makenzy Doniak is one player who had to sit through pick after pick going off the board before her name was called. Speculated to be as high as the second overall pick, Doniak dropped out of the 1st round entirely and wound up going to the Flash at No. 11, the first pick of the second round.
“It was not exactly what I expected,” Doniak, who was home watching with her mother and sister, said. “I was happy to be drafretd anytime. I moved forward to it. It is what it is. It was an interesting day to say the least.”
Nine months later Doniak is a regular starter on an NWSL Championship team. Thursday, she said she could not imagine being drafted into a better team than the Flash. “I really enjoyed it. I think this team and this environment was great for me as far as of my rookie year. It was a great rookie season. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
On Doniak’s offseason agenda is to get closer to becoming a 90-minute player on a more regular basis. In 15 starts as a rookie, Doniak went the distance only once and on only two other occasions did she play as long as 80 minutes.
Eckerstrom family has ties to both
At least one family will have its loyalty tested on Sunday. Britt Eckerstrom’s parents are not only Spirit season ticket holders, they are Tori Huster’s host family. They keep quiet about this arrangement and it is likely no one would even know about it if not for that fact their house burned down the day before NWSL preseason opened. Everyone in the house—pets included—escaped without any physical injuries.
A few days later, Eckerstrom left for Buffalo to embark on her rookie season in NWSL. She got into three matches winning two—both shutouts—and losing one. She is currently the third keeper behind Sabrina D’Angelo and Katelyn Rowland and is unlikely to be in the 18-woman gameday roster on Sunday.
Huster has continued to live with the Eckerstroms who are currently in a rental house as they wait for work to begin on the rebuilding of their own house.
“My host family has been honestly incredible,” Huster said of the Eckerstroms. “They were an amazing family even before this, but even more so after I think of them as a second family. They let me stay with them with has been such a great help.”
Sunday will not be the first time the Eckerstroms have been caught between loyalties. When the Washington Spirit reserves won the championship with the Washington Spirit Reserves last summer, a team Huster’s sister played for, the opposing goalkeeper was none other than Britt Eckerstrom.
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