WNY Flash went a long way to prove they are the world's best women's soccer club, by beating the Boston Breakers 3-2 on Friday night. They were without seven starters and a total of eight players, called up for international duties. Among those missing were Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Alex Morgan, who together account for eight of the nine goals the Flash had scored leading up to Friday's contest.
The undefeated Flash took the pitch at Sahlen's Stadium without missing a beat, continuing their trend of scoring early. Brittany Bock scored first in the 10th minute, fed by McCall Zerboni.
WNY's second goal came 15 minutes later in the 25th minute with a header by Zerboni, assisted by Portugese international Kim Brandao.
The Flash dominated most of the first half, keeping the action on the offensive side of the pitch. However, as the period progressed, the Flash appeared to tire. In the 39th minute, Boston was able to penetrate the Flash defense, and made the most of the opportunity. Liz Bogus scored on an assist from Nikki Washington, connecting on the Breakers' first shot of the game.
The play continued to be more balanced in the second half but, in the 69th minute, the Flash found the back of the net for the third time. McCall Zerboni scored on a feed by Gemma Davison.
Boston drew to within one in the 80th minute on a penalty kick. The Breakers had a few chances to equalize in the waning minutes but the Flash held on to maintain their undefeated record without their biggest stars.
It was a night of firsts for the Flash. Zerboni earned the first assist and scored the first two goals of her professional career. Gemma Davison earned her first assist. Kim Brandao had her first WPS appearance and her first assist.
One of the stranger firsts came late in the match when Alex Sahlen was subbed in, becoming the first team president, who is also a player, who is also the coach's wife and owner's daughter, ever to play in a professional sporting event.
In fairness, Boston was also playing without five international stars including Kelly Smith, Stephanie Cox, and Alex Scott. But the Flash were missing more.
All in all, it was an impressive effort for what appears more and more to be the world's best women's soccer team. In the absence of their stars, a new class of stars seized the spotlight. Brittany Bock and especially McCall Zerboni, were stellar on offense and Kim Brandao was a factor for 90 minutes on both ends of the pitch.
Once again, it seems that Coach Aran Lines, in his third year as a coach at any level, and his rookie season at the highest level, is the genuine article. He may be the owner's son-in-law, but he also seems to be one of the world's great coaches. He has created a system in which "secondary" players can be inserted and be immediately productive, and in which a constellation of stars can work together selflessly for shared glory. Neither of those tasks are easy. There are few coaches in any major sports league who can achieve even one of those two feats.
Next up for the Flash, it could be their toughest test. South Florida's Magic Jack SC comes to Sahlen's Stadium for what could be a battle for first place (depending on Magic Jack's success this weekend). The Flash will be back to full strength for the match, and a record crowd is expected, as Rochester native Abby Wambach will be coming home with the visiting team.