Second Half Strike

Sunday afternoon presented one of the toughest tests WNY Flash’s U17 team will face all season. The Buffalo-based club battled with FC Dallas, currently in first place in the Texas Conference, setting up a match against two Champions League bound squads on the second day at ECNL Houston. 

“The girls were excited to play against a club that has a history of winning national championships and we were fortunate to be paired up with them at a national showcase,” said Aaran Lines, ECNL Girls Director for WNY Flash. “It was a privilege to play them.” 

From the opening whistle, the two sides showed it was going to be an even match, with both sides battling for quality scoring chances. FC Dallas opened the match with the majority of the possession, earning a couple of looks but no real dangerous chances, and WNY quickly followed with chances of their own. The sides traded possession and the ball, setting up a chess match in the midfield, with both teams looking for an opening. 

The first 45 minutes failed to yield a goal, with halftime looking vital to earning a competitive edge with mid-game adjustments. 

Armed with those adjustments, WNY Flash came out strong, immediately earning quality scoring chances and possession. FC Dallas counterpunched with a couple of good looks on net, but WNY Flash immediately counterattacked, reapplying pressure. But the FC Dallas backline stood strong, keeping the ball out of the net. 

It appeared the game was headed for a 0-0 draw, but then, finally, WNY broke through. 

Wrianna Hudson raced down the left side of the pitch, drawing the FC Dallas defenders to her. With space now open inside the 18-yard box, Hudson slipped a pass to Gabrielle Irwin on the back post, who deftly knocked home the pass to take the lead in the 79th minute.

“We’ve got some weapons up top that connected well for the goal,” Lines said. “It was a great finish by Gabrielle. Great individual build-up by Wrianna, played the ball across and Gabrielle got the finish for us. It was a really good moment for our club.”

Now leading 1-0, WNY Flash relied on its defense to carry the team home. FC Dallas put numbers forward and had multiple chances to even the game up, but WNY Flash thwarted every attack, securing the 1-0 victory. 

Sitting at 1-1 on the weekend, WNY Flash will look to end ECNL Houston with a win, but Lines said the team already has much to be proud of. 

“I think it’s already been a successful showcase for our players,” Lines said. “They showed really well in the first game against the Portland Thorns and we’ve got another great game tomorrow against San Diego Surf. For us, it’s about finishing up three great games with good individual performances from our players.”

Without a Shadow of a Doubt

Seattle United and Heat FC clashed on Field 4 at ECNL Houston for a West Coast showdown between two of the top teams in each of their respective conferences. A defensive battle until the end, only one goal turned out to be the difference between a win and a loss in this one.

“This was a very enjoyable game, both sides were very talented,” said Richard Reece, Seattle United Coaching Director. “It was a battle, which is fun to see the kids compete.”

From the opening whistle, each of the two sides had a defense-first mentality, waiting out their opponent and focusing on methodically working the ball up the pitch. The result was a back-and-forth affair through much of the first half, each side using their defensive prowess to kickstart the offense. Both Heat FC and Seattle United earned some quality scoring chances, but each goalkeeper made the save every time. 

At halftime, Seattle United made changes to how it defended the Heat FC attack, and the results were immediate. 

“We defend in a 4-4-2,” Reece said. “They had a very good No. 6, and if we got too concerned with marking her, it opened up space. So we shadowed around her, which I felt ended up taking away a good chunk of their attacking threat in the final third.”

With those defensive adjustments, Seatlle United opened the second half with a decided advantage in possession and played a majoirty inside Heat FC’s attacking third. In the 60th minute, after Heat FC made another stop, Seattle United was able to disrupt the clearance, resulting in the best scoring chance of the day. 

Deanna Montero stole the ball off the clearance and immediately cut toward the penalty area. Just inside the 18-yard box, she hit a looping shot that went over the head of the Heat FC goalkeeper for the tally, making it a 1-0 game. 

Coming out of the restart, Seattle United continued to hold possession, but as the half wore on and after making a few substitutions, Heat FC started to flip the possession in their favor. In the final 15, Heat FC peppered Seattle United with plenty of shots and scoring chances, but they all came up short. 

The Nevada squad earned one last free-kick in the 90th minute to earn a draw, but the shot went into the wall and at the final whistle, Seattle United had a hard-fought 1-0 win. 

With its wins today and yesterday, Seattle United will now look to close out the weekend with another win, capping off a perfect ECNL Houston. 

“As a collective group, we work hard together,” Reece said. “So tomorrow, whether it’s a win or a loss, they will put every ounce of effort they’ve got into the third game. But it’s been awesome to see all the different teams and the competition level is fantastic. It’s been a great weekend.”

To view the complete scores and schedules from ECNL Houston, click here