Western New York Flash wins NWSL Championship
Canadian international Sabrina D’Angelo made three saves in the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League Championship match penalty shootout, securing victory for the Western New York Flash and earning the championship match most valuable player award. The Flash took the match 3-2 on kicks from the penalty mark over the Washington Spirit after a 2-2 draw in the 9 October final.
D’Angelo is the sole Canadian on the Western New York Flash, while Diana Matheson, Shelina Zadorsky and Stephanie Labbé play for Washington.
The Washington Spirit looked to have the match locked up leading 2-1 after Crystal Dunn scored her second of the game early in extra time, but the Flash were not to be put down and one last, desperate volley into the penalty area with moments left on the clock, led to a gutsy goal for Lynn Williams, the league MVP, to tie up the game and sent it into penalty kicks.
In the tiebreaker, Sabrina D’Angelo stopped three of Washington’s five attempts. In dramatic fashion, the final penalty kick came down to a faceoff between Canadian teammates when veteran Spirit midfielder Diana Matheson lined up to take a must score penalty kick for the championship. Matheson went low to the left, but D’Angelo anticipated correctly and was able to get down to stop the strike and claim victory for the Flash.
“It wasn’t our best performance and I think Washington got the better of the game, but we fought back and when it came to penalty kicks it was my turn to give back to the team and that’s what I did,” said D’Angelo after the match. “We had a mantra to move the boulder, and everyday we went out and pushed the boulder a little more, every game we pushed it up the hill a little bit more, and this game we just had to get it over and we did. I am really proud of the whole team.”
For Canadian internationals Zadorsky, Matheson and Labbé, the loss was bittersweet.
“It’s a tough one and a heartbreaker, said Zadorsky. “I think a lot of players stepped up and had a great game, but it’s just unfortunate for us that sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way and penalty kicks is a tough way to go out.”
For Matheson, who came into the game in the 80th minute, reflecting on the success of the overall year is important.
“I think that for most of the game we felt like it was ours to win, even in overtime,” said Matheson. “It hurts in the moment, but overall we are going to look back and see the positive year it’s been.”
For goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, watching her Canadian training partner win is exciting, despite being competitors in the moment.
“When you are out there of course you are wearing the Spirit jersey, but I root for Sabrina so much. She’s incredible and she has had an incredible year” Labbé said. “Selflessly, looking back on it, I am very happy for her to finish off her year like this.”
Watch the NWSL Championship highlights here.
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