METUCHEN, N.J. – We’re heading into the final stretch run of the 2017 season in United Women’s Soccer and the race for the postseason is getting more dramatic.
The league has announced the procedure to determine the UWS National Championship representative from the East Conference. This season, the top two teams from the conference will face off in the East final Tuesday, July 18th with the regular season champion tentatively slated to host the match.
The UWS Championship is slated for July 21-22 with further details to be announced soon.
FRIDAY, JUNE 30
Long Island Rough Riders vs. Rochester Lady Lancers
5 p.m. ET – Saint Anthony’s H.S. (South Huntington, N.Y.)
The Rough Riders (4-1-1) were riding high in the saddle with an undefeated record up until last Sunday’s match at New Jersey Copa FC (6-1-1). The two budding adversaries have gone back-and-forth over their first two seasons in the UWS East, with Long Island picking up the first win in their season series in Week II play. But New Jersey came from behind last weekend in an important 2-1 win that vaulted Copa over the Rough Riders into sole position of first place in the conference. The top two teams in the East will compete against each other for the berth into the 2017 UWS Championship. With the loss, Long Island has now dropped back into fourth place but they do have games in hand on their competition.
After four straight on the road, the Rough Riders will return home for three of their final four games, starting Friday when they host the Rochester Lady Lancers (0-7-1 East) in the rubber match of their season series. On paper, Rochester may seem to be a good opponent for Long Island, especially in their mission to bounce back after suffering their first loss of 2017. But in the first meeting between the two teams in Week IV, the Lady Lancers gave their hosts a run for their money. Rochester could not take advantage of their first half scoring chances, while Long Island held the run of play in the second half in a 2-0 road win. Morgan Santoro came off the bench and netted the game-winner in the 60th minute while in the 79th minute, Kayla Saager tallied the insurance goal.
SATURDAY, JULY 1
Lancaster Inferno vs. Rochester Lady Lancers
3 p.m. ET – Millersville University (Millersville, Pa.)
It will be a tough turnaround for the Lady Lancers, as the second match of a weekend road trip will occur less than a day after their encounter against Long Island. And Rochester will be facing a Lancaster Inferno (3-4) side that – like their opponents on Friday – will also be looking to bounce back after a loss in Week VII. Its been an up-and-down season for Lancaster, as they have not strung together two wins. On the other hand, they have not dropped two losses in a row. So, it all depends on how the team chooses to finish their campaign. The Inferno are 2-1 at Pucillo Field and their next two games are at home before they hit the road for their season finale. So, on Saturday the hosts have a chance to post a winning record at home.
After last Saturday’s 3-1 road loss to the New York Surf (4-2-2 East), Lancaster will surely have the inspiration to get back in the win column. The Surf scored three unanswered goals to open the scoring while the goalkeeping combination of Jordan Kamp and Kelly O’Brien made five total saves in the loss for the Inferno. In the 70th minute, Lancaster’s Tesa McKibben brought one goal back for the visitors with thanks to midfielder Siobhan Cross. Bross tallied her team-leading fourth assist of the season on a through ball that McKibben drove low to the left of New York keeper Colleen Hickey (three saves) for her third goal of 2017 – good for second on the team.
New Jersey Copa FC vs. New England Mutiny
4:30 p.m. ET – St. John Vianney H.S. (Holmdel, N.J.)
In another big match in the run-up to this season’s East playoff, Saturday afternoon’s match between 1st-place New Jersey Copa FC (6-1-1) and 2nd-place New England Mutiny (5-2) will have more than one important talking point. New Jersey are not only looking to defend their 2016 UWS East title, but they are also looking to maintain their undefeated record at home. Over two seasons, NJCFC are 7-0-2 in their first nine home games in conference play, and Saturday’s home finale can keep that streak alive, especially after an impressive 2-1 win over Long Island last Sunday. After allowing an early goal, Copa’s defense went on shutdown mode while leading scorer Jeanine Nunez finished off the comeback with her team-leading sixth goal on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute.
New England had their own important conference victory last Sunday, as they posted a 2-0 win over the New York Surf at home. The Mutiny converted on two passing sequences in each half en route to the victory, while goalkeeper Gabby Arruda made three saves in the shutout. In the 14th minute, midfielder Charlie Branch drove her shot inside the left netting for the game-winner. New England clung to the 1-0 lead and tallied the insurance goal in the 65th minute. Midfielder Brenna Brown found team captain Kate Howarth with a touch pass on the wing and her cross reached forward Chanel Johnson who headed the ball under the cross bar for the 2-0 score. This will be the first meeting between Copa and the Mutiny this season, as NJCFC took both games between the two sides in 2016.
New York Magic vs. New York Surf
6 p.m. ET – Poly Prep Country Day School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
The New York Surf (4-2-2) are still in the mix for the East playoffs, but with only two regular season games remaining, they are up against the wall and will need to post victories in both matches for the best possible chance to qualify. There is further motivation for the Surf on Saturday, as they make the short road trip to Brooklyn to take on the New York Magic (0-5-1 East) in the rubber match of their New York City derby. After that, they will finish off their campaign at home on Saturday, July 8th with a potentially big finale against the Long Island Rough Riders.
In the first match of the NYC derby Saturday, June 10, the Surf recorded a 5-0 win over the Magic at SUNY Maritime. Forward Furtuna Velaj scored twice while goalkeeper Colleen Hickey got the shutout. Forward Erica Murphy opened the scoring on an unassisted tally in the fourth minute, touching the ball around a defender before firing past goalkeeper Sierra Bonham (seven saves). Murphy got on the other side of the stat sheet in the 31st minute, hitting a through-ball to forward Megan O’Connor for the 2-0 lead. Surf extended its lead to 3-0 in the 63rd minute on midfielder Maegen Doyle’s second goal of the season. Velaj connected for the final two goals.
SUNDAY, JULY 2
New England Mutiny vs. New York Magic
3 p.m. ET – E. Longmeadow H.S. (E. Longmeadow, Mass.)
The New York Magic will have their own tough turnaround to deal with this weekend as they travel north to western Massachusetts to face their old rival New England at East Longmeadow High School. In their last match-up on Sunday, June 4, the Mutiny were also on the back end of a two-game weekend and the Magic gave them all they could handle. New England goalkeeper Gabby Arruda made her first start of the season, and she proved her worth with a pair of fine stops in the first half, while a late goal gave the visitors a 1-0 win. The second half saw the Mutiny find more joy in the offensive end, as they battled the Magic’s offside trap (9-1 in offsides). In the 86th minute, defender Lauren Aldrich took advantage of a lapse in the Magic defense and converted on her breakaway off a throw-in.