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Washington Spirit fall to Western New York Flash in NWSL championship on penalties

Spirit suffer heartbreaking loss after leading twice

Spirit huddle Ed Willmore

A wonderful season for the Washington Spirit came to a cruel end at the hands of the Western New York Flash, who took the 2016 NWSL championship on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Crystal Dunn twice gave the Spirit the lead, only for Samantha Mewis and Lynn Williams - in the 124th minute - to pull the Flash back level each time. WNY goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo saved three penalties as the Flash won the tiebreaker 3-2.

Dunn opened the scoring in the 9th minute. An inch-perfect long ball from Megan Oyster picked the USWNT attacker out while also luring Flash ‘keeper Sabrina D’Angelo off her line. Dunn touched the ball around D’Angelo and, from a very wide angle, managed to roll a shot in despite having to rush her shot to beat the retreating defense.

The Flash responded quickly. A turnover in the midfield sparked a WNY counter, with Lynn Williams picking out Samantha Mewis. Mewis faked her way to a better shooting angle before firing a pinpoint shot into the lower corner in the 13th minute.

The news got worse for the Spirit in the 19th minute as left back Caprice Dydasco went down with what an NWSL spokesperson called a left knee injury. Dydasco was clearly in great discomfort and had to be stretchered off, with Alyssa Kleiner replacing her.

After halftime, the Flash started positively but the Spirit ended up having an Estefania Banini goal called back for offside, a call that drew arguments from the Washington bench. From there, both teams largely canceled each other out while referee Matthew Franz’s strict approach meant a lot of fouls being called.

The match headed to extra time, where Dunn scored almost immediately. Ali Krieger, having pushed far up the right wing all game long, found her USWNT teammate inside the box. Dunn squared up to the goal before blasting a shot past D’Angelo from 14 yards in the 91st minute.

Both goalkeepers made big saves soon thereafter, with Kelsey Wys snaring a rip from Mewis while D’Angelo did even better to prevent Krieger from turning a Dunn cross in. The Flash created a brief flurry in the 114th minute, while the Spirit nearly iced the in the dying moments through Dunn and Matheson. Those misses came back to haunt Washington, as Jessica McDonald’s cross in the 124th minute found Williams, who beat Wys to the ball to level the scores with a header.

The match went to penalties, where D’Angelo took over. The Canadian national teamer saved shots from Krieger, Tori Huster, and Matheson - the only three players to play every season for the Spirit - to give her team the win. Williams ended up with the winning spot kick in the fourth round, as D’Angelo and Wys exchanged saves at the end.

We will have a more complete recap after post-game press conferences are completed.