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Photo: Tony Quinn/ISI Photos
BOYDS, Md (Oct 7, 2016) – The Washington Spirit (12-5-3, 39 pts) will take on the Western New York Flash (9-6-5, 32 pts) in the 2016 NWSL Championship at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas at 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT)
Neither team has previously won the NWSL Championship. The match will be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1 and will be available for streaming via the FOX Sports GO app and online at FOXSportsGO.com.
“We are all extremely proud to be playing in the NWSL Championship in Houston,” said general manager and head coach Jim Gabarra. “Our season has provided us all the opportunity to grow and learn, and I am especially gratified by the balance of contributions throughout our roster. We have consistently met the extreme challenge every team in the league presents. I expect the same from both our club and the Flash on Sunday.”
The Spirit clinched the franchise’s first NWSL Championship appearance by defeating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in overtime in the semifinal. The Spirit struck first on a powerful header by U.S. Women’s National Team star Ali Krieger, taking the lead in the 36th minute, before the Red Stars tied up the match in the 81st minute. In the 111th minute, Nigerian international Francisca Ordega provided the winning goal, finishing off a beautifully-placed pass along the in-line from midfielder Christine Nairn.
The Western New York Flash advanced to the final by defeating 2016 NWSL Shield winner Portland Thorns FC 4-3 in the second semifinal, also in overtime. After finishing regulation 2-2, two goals from 2016 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams sealed the deal for the Flash.
The last time the two teams met on September 3 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Forward Katie Stengel scored the Spirit’s lone goal after beating Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and shooting into an open net. Samantha Mewis tied the game up for the Flash in the 86th minute.
The Spirit has relied on its depth throughout the season, with every player on the roster except one getting at least seven regular season starts. Offensively, 11 players scored goals, including team-leading Estefania Banini with five. At the other end of the pitch, Gabarra has a number of strong defenders to choose from who have all proven their worth as starters. For the semifinal, Gabarra chose to start a defense comprised of Krieger, Shelina Zadorsky, Whitney Church, and Caprice Dydasco.
The Spirit’s defense will have to contend with the Flash’s fast-paced forwards such as Williams, Jessica McDonald, and Taylor Smith. Mewis is also an attacking threat coming from the midfield, scoring six goals in 2016, including one in the semifinal.
The Spirit has never advanced to the Championship, while the Flash played in the inaugural 2013 NWSL Championship but lost to Portland Thorns FC. The only carryover from the 2013 to the 2016 Flash team is midfielder McCall Zerboni. Spirit defender Estelle Johnson was also a member of the 2013 Western New York Flash team.
The winner will raise the NWSL Championship trophy for the first time in club history. Fans can purchase tickets by visiting NWSLChampionship.com. To sit in the designated Spirit fan section, fans can email firstname.lastname@example.org.