The NWSL season comes to a close today, as the Washington Spirit take on the Western New York Flash in the NWSL championship match. The final — hosted at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston — kicks off at 2:00 p.m. PT on Fox Sports 1.
While fans won’t be able to root on Seattle Reign FC this year, if the semifinal matches were any indication, this game should be an exciting one.
Path to the Final
The Washington Spirit advanced to the final for the first time in club history after defeating the Chicago Red Stars in the semis. While Washington went up 1-0 after dominating the first half, the Spirit struggled in the second half and allowed Christen Press to equalize in the 81st minute. After rounding Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, Press nearly put the game away in stoppage time, but her shot hit the crossbar.
Spirit forward Francisca Ordega came up with the game-winning goal in the second half of extra time to lift Washington to its first playoff victory in club history.
The WNY Flash reached the finals after a thrilling 4-3 victory over the NWSL Shield winners, Portland Thorns FC, in an action-packed game that also went into extra time. The Flash went up 2-0 early, but the Thorns battled back and the score was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation. The traveling Flash then found 2016 NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams twice, and went up 4-2.
While Thorns midfielder Lindsey Horan scored at the end of the first half of stoppage time, it wasn’t enough to help the Thorns advance.
Western New York (9-6-5) is an incredibly young team that has been an underdog throughout the season. Nobody on the roster played for the squad in 2013. The team barely beat out the Seattle Reign for the final NWSL playoff spot (we don’t need to reminisce for TOO long about that one game on that one field ...).
The Flash’s game is based on speed, a relentless attack, and high pressure on the ball. NWSL MVP Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald together tallied 21 goals for the Flash during the 2016 regular season. Along with Makenzy Doniak, there’s no faster frontline in the league, and that — paired with Samantha Mewis’ quality distribution from the midfield — is a big reason for their league-leading 40 goals this season.
The Washington Spirit (12-5-3) balance a strong attack with a disciplined defense. One of the best things going for the Spirit is its diversified attack, with six players scoring three goals or more during the regular season — making the team hard to defend. That group doesn’t even include Crystal Dunn, who has tallied just two goals, but contributes so much by pulling in defenders and making space for her teammates.
Washington has one of the strongest midfield trios in the league, with Tori Huster (goal, assist), Christine Nairn (3 goals, 3 assists) and Joanna Lohman (4 goals, assist) playing a big role on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Both teams are led by new coaches this season, with Jim Gabarra joining the Spirit from Sky Blue and Paul Riley heading to Western New York from the Portland Thorns. They’ve crafted very different styles of play, which should make this an exciting, end-to-end final.
How to Watch
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