HOUSTON, TX ––(NWSL release) The Western New York Flash lifted the 2016 NWSL Championship trophy at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston after goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo made three saves to propel her team to a 3-2 victory over the Washington Spirit in the first penalty shootout in league history following a 2-2 draw.
In a game of big moments from a pair of NWSL MVPs, Spirit forward and 2015 MVP Crystal Dunn turned in a two-goal performance – handing her team the lead with the opening goal of the match in the 9th minute as well as in the first-minute of extra time.
But as Western New York had so many times this season, the Flash fought their way back into a match in which they’d fallen behind. With coach Paul Riley watching from the stands as he served a suspension after being ejected from the semifinals, he saw midfielder Samantha Mewis level the match in the 14th minute – and then watched as 2016 MVP and Flash forward Lynn Williams netted the game-tying goal in the 124th minute, just seconds before the final whistle.
The two goals were the 10th and 11th times in 2016 that Western New York was able to recover from a deficit to tie the game.
The Flash become the first No. 4 seed to win the NWSL Championship after they sealed their place in 2016 postseason with a win in their final game of the regular season that snapped a seven-game winless streak.
See below for a breakdown of all the action.
Flash 2, Spirit 2 (Shootout: Flash 3, Spirit 2)
Goals: FLASH – Samantha Mewis 14’; Lynn Williams 124+’. SPIRIT – Crystal Dunn 9’, 91’.
The Breakdown: The Washington Spirit opened the scoring for the 16th time in 22 games this season in the 9th minute when forward Crystal Dunn got on the end of a well-weighted long ball from defender Megan Oyster and rounded Western New York Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo before she slid her shot into the vacated net from a sharp-angle while falling to the ground.
The goal was the first time an NWSL MVP scored in the NWSL Championship Game as Dunn – the league’s MVP in 2015 – found the back of the net for just the third time this season (including playoffs) after scoring 15 times in a NWSL Golden Boot winning campaign last year.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Flash midfielder Samantha Mewis leveled the score in the 14th minute when she collected a pass from forward Lynn Williams before creating space to rip a low shot past Washington goalkeeper Kelsey Wys and just inside the far post from 23 yards.
It was the third consecutive game with a goal for Mewis stretching back to the final match of the regular season – with all three goals coming in the first half of those contests.
Spirit defender Caprice Dydasco was forced off through injury in the 22nd minute, but returned to the sidelines in the second half to support her teammates.
The teams traded chances over the final 76 minutes in regulation – with Washington midfielder creating the best opportunity in the 33rd minute as a change of pace took her into a gap in the Flash defense before she unleashed a low shot that forced a full-stretch save from D’Angelo.
But just as both semifinal matches did, the 2016 NWSL Championship Game went to extra time with the score knotted at 1-1 and the 8,255 fans at BBVA Compass Stadium didn’t have to wait long for the action to pick up as Dunn scored her second goal of the match in the 91st minute.
Less than a minute later, Mewis nearly replicated her equalizer from the first half with a shot that forced one of the four saves on the night from Wys.
But as they’d done all season, the Flash found a way back into the match – this time with Williams heading home the game-tying goal in the 124th minute to send the match to penalties as she became the first reigning MVP to score in a championship match in the league’s history. Ten of Williams’ 14 goals (including playoffs) came after halftime this year.
Moment of the match: Western New York goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo made her third save of the shootout to send the Flash to their first NWSL Championship. D’Angelo stopped shots from Ali Krieger, Victoria Huster and Diana Matheson in the first penalty shootout in the four-year history of the NWSL Championship Game in a performance that meant that she became the first goalkeeper to win the NSWSL Championship Game MVP award.