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Flash end road trip with action packed draw in Portland
Portland, OR (Sunday, July 14, 2013) The Western New York Flash closed out a four-game road trip with an end-to-end battle with the Portland Thorns FC on Sunday, finishing with a 1-1 tie at JELD-WEN Field. The Flash (6-4-6, 24 points) will retain fourth place in the National Womens Soccer League while Portland (8-4-3, 27 points) remain in second position.
Tied at 1-1 in the 84th minute, Abby Wambach was denied from the penalty marker by Thorns goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc on a diving effort to the left. LeBlanc correctly read Wambachs attempt and got her left hand on the ball, to push the shot off the post and out of play.
LeBlancs save was just one of many exciting goalkeeping efforts that 13,021 fans saw from JELD-WEN. On both sides of the pitch the keepers came up with big plays to help their teams walk away with one point.
Facing the offensive threats of Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath (who made her NWSL debut Sunday), Western New Yorks Adrianna Franch made nine saves including a number of athletic stops at close range. Early in the game Morgan made a quick turn in the box and fired a laser shot that Franch was able to get her body behind and block away.
Sinclair and Heath teamed up for some of Portlands best opportunities, but Franch answered the call each time. Late in the second half, Sinclair sent a through ball in to Heath who put a hard header toward net, but Franch reacted quickly and punched the attempt over. In second half injury time, the Oklahoma State product stopped Sinclair on a near-breakaway, coming out to corral the ball before the Canadian international could get a shot off.
In a game that saw 34 shots between the teams, the 30th minute kicked-off a flurry of attempts, starting with a Sinclair shot craftily set-up by Heath. In the middle of the 18, Heath tapped a pass over to Sinclair with her heel, but the forward shot directly at Franch on an uncontested opportunity.
Franch quickly cleared the ball, leading to a fast counter by the Flash. Veronica Perez and McCall Zerboni were able to get shots toward the Thorns goal, but the consecutive shots were both blocked away by defender Kathryn Williamson. The Zerboni shot went out for a corner and though Wambach was able to get a head on the set piece, LeBlanc held on to the ball, sure not to give a rebound to Sarah Huffman who was waiting at the doorstep.
Wambach eventually got the Flash on the board in the 37th minute when she connected on a pass from Samantha Kerr. The Matilda sent a lob into the box toward her teammate, who was able to get around her defender and put her foot on the ball to beat LeBlanc. It was Wambachs 10th goal of the year, tying her for the league lead.
But that lead didnt last long with Portland answering just a minute later. On the left side, Sinclair hustled down the line to win possession and fed across the top of the 18 to an oncoming Meleana Shim. Shim hit the ball low and tucked the shot just inside the post for the 1-1 final.
The Thorns opened the second half with two solid opportunities, but were unable to get a shot on goal in the efforts. In the 52nd minute, Morgan beat the Flash defense and carried towards Franch, but Estelle Johnson was able to recover and slide-in just enough to disrupt Morgans chance. Nine minutes later, off a chip from Sinclair, Heath tried to flick over Franch but the shot went wide.
Franch came up with two more big saves later in the half after Heath threaded a ball to Allie Long in the box. Long wasted no time on her shot, but Franch reacted for the stop. Seconds later the keeper was tested again, but she was able to knock away a Morgan header.
The Western New York Flash return to Sahlens Stadium for their next game, facing Sky Blue FC on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET. After falling 1-0 to Sky Blue in the season opener, the Flash won the next two contests against the New Jersey team. On May 1st the Flash gave Sky Blue their first loss of the season and later earned a 3-0 shutout in their next meeting.
Tickets for the game can be purchased by calling the Sahlens Stadium box office at (585) 454-KICK or online at wnyflash.com. The game will also be aired live on Fox Soccer.