At the start of the season, few people thought either the Washington Spirit or Western New York Flash would be in the final, yet here we are. The season series went in Washington’s favor (1-0-1), but the Spirit were vastly outshot by the Flash. They both have fire power and solid defenses. The midfield is where this game will be won or lost. Make no mistake about it, these two teams are both more than ready for this game, and if the semifinals were any clue as to how this game will go, get ready for a showdown throwdown.
The Spirit had made the playoffs the last 2 seasons, after finishing last in the league the first season. They were a favorite to be there again, but no one thought they’d have the season they did.
With a coaching change and a slight roster overhaul, the team had a fresh start and a new outlook. They believed in each other, in their coaching staff, and in their abilities. They hit the ground running, and when most teams faltered during the Olympic break, the Spirit kept humming right along, not missing a beat. They played so well, in fact, that it has been difficult for the returning Olympians to break back into the starting lineup.
They locked up the first playoff spot in the league with 3 weeks still to go, clinched home field advantage the next week, and missed winning the Supporter’s Shield by just one game. The semifinal was the first home semi in team history. They won it in true Spirit fashion, by going up a goal, letting the other team draw level, and then winning it in extra time.
The Spirit have US national team stars Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger, as well as Canadian national team stars Diana Matheson, Stephanie Labbe, and Shelina Zardosky. The international power doesn’t stop there, they also have Nigerian international Francesca Ordega and Argentinian international Estefania Banini. These stars, along with veteran players, Johanna Lohman, Tori Huster, Christine Nairn, Megan Oyster, Kelsey Wys, Alyssa Kleiner, Katie Stengel, and Whitney Church help hold down the fort and make for a strong core of players. The younger group of Caprice Dydasco, Cheyna Williams, and Cali Farquharson make for a long night if you’re not quick enough to keep up.
Western New York Flash
Western New York had a lot of questionable off-season moves. There weren’t just changes to the roster there was a new team—a young team. There was not a single player on the roster at the beginning of this season who had played with the Flash before 2015.* They didn’t even have a head coach until February. Many thought they would finish middle of the table at best. Yet, their young players have a tendency to rip off goal after goal and surprise everyone but themselves. And they trades they made during the off-season gave them veteran players like Jess McDonald and Abby Erceg, who have been invaluable this season.
This is a team without many big international names, and yet they still put up impressive numbers and crashed into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season. They are another team that did not miss a beat during the Olympic break. They have continuously upset expectations and commanded attention. Then the Flash continued on their remarkable run by going into Portland, arguably the hardest place to play in the league, and shocked the heavily favored Thorns to make it to the final in what was one of the most entertaining matches in NWSL history.
The Flash have US national team star Sam Mewis and national team capped Jalene Hinkle. They have quite the offensive lineup with this year’s league MVP and Golden Boot winner, Lynn Williams, Golden Boot contender Jess McDonald, and young threats like Makenzy Doniak and Taylor Smith. Their defense (which really starts in the midfield) led by Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo can hold down and quiet any offense thrown at them. They are quick and will not only put up a ton of shots but will put those shots away. They have a young team thirsty to prove themselves and not afraid to get dirty to bring the trophy home.
*Kristen Hamilton was drafted by the Flash in 2014 but was not signed until 2015 due to injury. McCall Zerboni, who was traded from Boston mid-season played with the Flash in 2013.