NWSL Week 12 Rewind: Flash’s field fiasco overshadows victory over Seattle

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By TOM SLATER

The biggest news coming out of week 12 of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) didn’t involve any action on the field.

It was actually the field itself.

With its regular stadium booked with a 90s throwback concert starring TLC, Western New York moved its match against Seattle — with permission from the NWSL  — from Rhinos Stadium to Frontier Field, a baseball stadium.

Trouble was the field was only 58 yards wide which is even below the minimum agreed up on by Seattle and Western New York and okayed by the NWSL front office.

The game went on with Western New York scoring twice off long throw-ins to win 3-2, their sixth win in seven matches.  Captain and defender Abby Erceg scored two goals and assisted on another. Lynn Williams scored her league-leading seventh goal, which turned out to be the winner. Seattle’s Naho Kawasumi gave the Reign an early lead and Rumi Utusugi scored in stoppage time.

During and after the game, social media blew up with many United States National Team Players like Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe blasting the league and Western New York for allowing the game to be played on such a field. Following the game, Seattle coach Lauren Harvey expressed her dissatisfaction with the decision to play the match in a long tweet.

NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush made this statement following the game. ‘

“The Western New York Flash hosted a home match at a different venue due to Rhinos Stadium not being available. The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision. As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans. In the future, we will ensure that every NWSL match meets our standards.”

The NWSL office also said they were conducting an “exhaustive investigation” before making any further statements.

FC Kansas City 2, Portland Thorns FC 1

FC Kansas City became the first team this year to defeat Portland as well as the first to score more than one goal against them.

Shea Groom scored both goals and Tiffany McCarty had both assists to lift FC Kansas City.  The two-time defending champions improved to 3-5-4 and Portland, the 2013 champion, dropped to 7-1-5. Groom scored the first goal in the 23rd minute with a header off an assist from McCarty. The two connected once more in the second half for Groom’s fourth goal and McCarty’s second assist. It was also a header for Groom. Cat Williamson, who had not played since April, subbed in during the 61st minute and scored the Thorns’ lone goal in the 76th. The Blues held on despite giving up a free kick in stoppage time. Nadia Nadim’s shot soared over the goal in a bid for the equalizer.

Washington Spirit 2, Chicago Red Stars 0

The host Spirit opened some distance between them and Chicago with a shutout victory.

Washington (7-2-2, 23 points) scored a goal in each half and are five points ahead of Chicago. The victory also kept them a point behind Western New York and only three behind league-leading Portland.

Estefania Banini opened the scoring in the 20th minute with a rolling shot past Red Stars goalkeeper Michele Dalton. Banini worked a give and go with Francisca Ordega and got the ball back just inside the box. Katie Stengel doubled the lead in the 74th minute when she headed in a corner kick from Christine Nairn. Stengel had just replaced Ordega and the goal was on her first touch of the match.

Chicago is now 5-4-3 with 18 points. They hold a two-point lead over Seattle and Sky Blue FC.

Orlando Pride 2, Boston Breakers 1

It appeared that Boston was moments away from snapping a ridiculously long league record for on-the-road futility.

The visiting Breakers had a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Mollie Pathman’s first-half goal and were only stoppage time minutes away for ending a winless streak on the road that dates back to July 2014.

Enter Kristen Edmonds.

The Pride midfielder connected in the 90th minute to bring the home team level and then again deep in stoppage time to give Orlando the narrow win The Breakers had their first away lead in about a year when Pathman took advantage of a bobbled save by new goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage. In the 90th minute, Edmonds took on three Breaker defenders and was fouled.  On the ensuring free kick, Edmunds bent the ball around the Boston wall and beat goalkeeper Jami Kranich to the far post.

Several minutes into stoppage time, Edmonds took advantage of a poor clearance and chipped Kranich for the game-winner. The two collided on the play and Edmonds left the game for the final seconds.

The match was delayed nearly an hour because of bad thunderstorms.