A battle of the top two teams in the East kicks off Week VIII action in the United Women’s Soccer East Conference at Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. Saturday at 2 p.m.
And expect nothing less than fireworks from this one, as it pits the two highest scoring offenses against each other.
The Rochester Lady Lancers have been the story of the UWS season so after a winless 2017 season, Head coach Sal Galvano has his team playing motivated soccer this year. Ever since losing 4-0 at home to Connecticut back on May 27, the Lady Lancers have gone unbeaten in their last four matches to vault themselves to the top of the table. They’ve relied on stout defending and getting timely goals, including two game-winners from UWS co-leading scorer Brooke Barbuto during the recent run of form and will hope to continue to see that formula carry over into this weekend.
It will be a tricky finish to the season for the Lady Lancers as over the last three weeks of play, they play a home-and-home against the Flash in addition to hosting Inferno Rush next weekend. But if they can start off their closing stretch with a positive result, there’s little doubt that Rochester will make the East Conference championship game.
Even though the one-year turnaround of Rochester is the leading story of the season, the rise of the Western New York Flash is hardly a footnote in the script. Matt Waddington’s team bounced back last week to snap a two-match winning streak by earning six road points on the road last week.
After trouncing the Worcester Smiles 6-2 Saturday, the Flash utilized an 85th-minute game-winner from Carissima Cutrona to snatch record points the next afternoon at New England. The Flash enter Week VIII sitting two points behind its regional rival but also have a match in hand on the Lady Lancers, as while Rochester only play one match next weekend against Inferno Rush, Western New York will play them along with the Connecticut Fusion before hosting Rochester in Week X. So if the Flash can get a result on Saturday, the team will be in great shape. It also will be buoyed by the fact that they swept the season series against Rochester last year, winning 4-1 at home with two braces from Maddie Pezzino and Cutrona, and taking a 3-2 decision in Rochester backed by another brace from Cutrona and a single tally from Pezzino.
New Jersey Copa FC vs. Inferno Rush
3 p.m. – Mercer County Community College (West Windsor, N.J.)
This is the second of two meetings between New Jersey Copa FC and Inferno Rush this season as the two sides tangled in Week VII in the Keystone State, with a late Tesa McKibben winner giving the Rush three points. But NJCFC has been a tough team to beat at home this season and it proved by defeating Long Island, 3-1, Wednesday. NJCFC got on the board in the 16th minute as after the Rough Riders failed to fully clear a free kick, Alexis Williams got on the end of a Camille Bowen header inside the area and tucked it home. It became the Tori Baliatico show in the second half as she extended the lead to 2-0 in the 76th minute where she took the ball right at the halfway line and split two defenders before ripping a shot past a helpless Kelsey Daugherty in goal. Five minutes later, she was at it again when she timed her run perfectly to beat an offside trap before latching onto Jackie Bruno’s service to score her second goal. Despite giving up a late consolation goal, it was a match that will give NJCFC a lot of confidence heading into the return match against Inferno.
The Rush had to really dig in last week to take a result against NJCFC last week as there weren’t too many chances created on either side. But Francisco Cleaves’ team took the chance that mattered the most aas veteran striker Tesa McKibben delivered with her third goal this season. Matches are going to come fast and furious for Inferno over the final three weeks of the season as the team will play back-to-back, two-match weekends before finishing out 2018 at home against Long Island in Week X. Which is why this road match could be the make-or-break for this team.
If Interno can open up it condensed part of the schedule off well and perhaps get at least four points out of this weekend, it will head up to the Western New York region in Week IX with the confidence of going up against the league leaders and taking away points.
Long Island Rough Riders vs. New England Mutiny
5 p.m. ET – Hofstra University (Hempstead, N.Y.)
Long Island fell to New Jersey Copa FC Wednesday night in early Week XIII action and was forced to chase the game for long periods. More importantly, the loss puts the Rough Riders four points out of playoff position with several teams ahead of them having a match in hand. That makes this game and every other match for the rest of this season for that matter, a must-win for Karim Diallo’s side if it wants to get back to the postseason and defend its East Conference crown. Interestingly enough, these two charter members of the UWS did not meet in 2017 so you have to go back to 2016 for the last head-to-head meeting and neither turned out well for Rough Riders, with the Mutiny winning a pair of one goal decisions that year, including a 2-1 result in Long Island.
New England will have to hope that history can continue to be on its side as the team travels down to Hofstra for its Saturday contest against the Rough Riders. Last Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Western New York was a tough pill to swallow for the Mutiny and one that saw New England fall back out of the playoff picture. This starts a very tricky stretch to finish out the season as after this match as the side will travel to take on New Jersey in a match that could determine the playoff fate for both teams before hosing Connecticut to finish out the season. The Mutiny struggled to break down the high line of defensive pressure that the Flash put out last weekend so no doubt a lot of focus in training this week was spent on solving those issues but if New England can get back to their winning ways, they are still very much alive in securing a playoff spot.
Connecticut Fusion vs. New York Surf
7 p.m. ET – Farmington Sports Arena (Farmington, Conn.)
The Fusion had a bye week last week and find itself still very much alive in the playoff picture, sitting two points behind the Flash, a team it will face in Week IX, for second place. In its four remaining matches, the Fusion will face the two bottom teams in the East so all things considered, Connecticut has a very realistic opportunity to get into the postseason in its expansion season. No doubt that giving up a two-goal lead in the second half at home in their last match against Long Island in Week VI left a sour taste in its mouths so it would not be a surprise to see the Fusion try to get out to a quick start and leave no doubt in its final match at the Farmington Sports Arena.
If the Surfs want to make the postseason, a lot of things need to go right. First things first, they need to win both of their remaining matches as any points dropped from here on out all but eliminates the team from contention. With its backs against the wall in Week VI, the Surf responded with a very convincing 6-0 win over Worcester, including getting a hat=trick from Furtuna Velaj to net her second appearance on a UWS team of the week. With having the week off last week to think about the situation, expect the Surf to play this match with a similar attitude from that game against Worcester and attack for 90 minutes and hold nothing back.
Sunday, July 1
Inferno Rush vs. Worcester Smiles
3 p.m. ET PM – Millersville University (Millersville, Pa.)
This will be the second match in two days for Inferno Rush as it welcomes Worcester to Millersville University. As mentioned earlier, this will be the first of two, two-match weekends for the Rush so keep an eye on how head coach Francisco Cleaves will rotate his team depending, as fatigue could be an factor on for this clash. The Rush welcome a team that is already eliminated from postseason contention and is coming off of a 6-2 loss to Western New York last weekend. This month was not kind to the Smiles as they lost all four of their matches by a combined score of 18-2. But if there were any positives to take away from their most recent loss, it was that the Smiles got a couple of goals to snap a three-match goal drought. Daria Spital and Talia Borci each got their names on the scoresheet in that one and will look to build on that come this Sunday when it makes the trek out to the Keystone State.