By MIKE McCALL
The Western New York Flash didn’t quite get off to the start they had planned this season, but things may be turning around.
After two losses, a draw and a head injury to star forward Abby Wambach, the Flash have picked up two straight victories to put themselves back among the National Women’s Soccer League’s best — a spot many assumed they’d occupy from the start.
Western New York was the big winner this weekend, riding two goals from Wambach to victory, and while the other three results weren’t exactly shockers, they do set up some intrigue in the NWSL standings.
For more, check out our weekend recap and NWSL Power Rankings:
LINDSEY STRIKE EARNS SPIRIT A DRAW
The second meeting between the Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers produced the same result as the first: a 1-1 draw.
But where their last matchup came down to a stoppage-time equalizer, this scoreline was set early in the second half via a spectacular strike from Spirit captain Lori Lindsey (watch it here).
That negated a first-half goal by Boston’s Joanna Lohman, and it ended a three-game streak where the Spirit’s only goals had come from Diana Matheson (she had the assist). It also slowed the Breakers’ momentum, as they came in after two impressive wins.
SKY BLUE FC CRUISES PAST SEATTLE REIGN
Another week, another loss for the Reign, who have taken just one point from five matches. Danesha Adams and Lisa De Vanna found the net in the 31st and 35th minutes to hand Sky Blue FC a 2-0 victory at home.
That briefly moved SBFC into a tie for the league lead, and even though they’re in second now, it’s another step in the squad’s bright start to the season. Seattle, meanwhile, is in a tailspin with four losses in a row, and head coach Laura Harvey said afterward: “We just looked like a team that had never played together before.” Yikes.
WAMBACH, LLOYD LEAD FLASH PAST FCKC
It doesn’t get much more positive than this for the Flash: Abby Wambach scored twice, midfielder Carli Lloyd returned from injury, and the squad came out with a 2-1 win over previously impressive FC Kansas City.
Wambach scored two goals in five minutes during the first half, and while her U.S. teammate Lauren Cheney pulled one back after the break, it wasn’t enough to stretch FCKC’s win streak to three.
The goals move Wambach into a tie for second in the NWSL for goals, while Kansas City’s Renae Cuellar failed to get on the score sheet for the first time this season. But the biggest news for WNY was seeing Lloyd play after missing a long stretch due to a shoulder injury. She subbed on, played 26 minutes and finished with two shots on goal.
ANOTHER GOAL FOR MORGAN, ANOTHER WIN FOR PORTLAND
The Thorns’ 2-0 win at Chicago shouldn’t come as a shock, given it was a matchup of the league’s best team and one of its worst. Alex Morgan scored in the third minute (her third of the year), and midfielder Allie Long added an insurance goal to hand the Red Stars their third loss.
Portland is living up to the preseason hype so far, with four wins in a row and a three-point margin atop the table.
Here’s how they stand after Week Five:
1. Portland Thorns FC (4-0-1, 13 pts) – After playing four road games, the Thorns should only get better with two straight in front of their massive home crowd. | (Last week: 1)
2. Western NY Flash (2-2-1, 7 pts) – They’re fourth in the standings, but don’t sleep on the Flash. If Wambach and Lloyd are in form, they can give Portland a run. | (4)
3. Sky Blue FC (3-1-1, 10 pts) – Great start for SBFC, but seven of those points have come against the bottom three teams. A test looms Thursday at Portland. | (5)
4. Boston Breakers (2-0-2, 8 pts) – Drawing with the Spirit wasn’t the most inspiring result, but the Breakers are still undefeated and in good shape. | (3)
5. FC Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 pts) – Admittedly, it’s harsh to drop them three spots for one loss. But home games against Boston and SBFC mean a chance to move back up. | (2)
6. Washington Spirit (0-2-3, 3 pts) – A solid draw against Boston, but the Spirit need something more. Scoring a goal a game and racking up draws won’t get them to the playoffs. | (6)
7. Chicago Red Stars (0-3-2, 2 pts) – It’s musical chairs at the bottom, and Chicago gets to take a seat this week thanks to a midweek draw with SBFC. | (8)
8. Seattle Reign FC (0-4-1, 1 pt) – Depressing. | (7)
Think Portland will keep pulling away? Who has the best chance to catch them? Have the Flash started to turn the corner? What will happen first: a Reign win or the return of the NBA to Seattle?
Share your thoughts below.