Five teams will battle for final spot in East Conference championship game of United Women’s Soccer.
The teams are the Western New York Flash, Rochester Lady Lancers, Long Island Rough Riders, Connecticut Fusion and New England Mutiny.
Here is a look at the weekend’s game.
SATURDAY, JULY 14
New York Surf vs. New Jersey Copa FC
1:30 P.M. ET – SUNY Maritime (Bronx, N.Y.)
Unfortunately for New York and New Jersey, their year will come to an end after Saturday’s match as both sides were eliminated from postseason contention in Week IX. But, both will want to finish the season on a high note so expect nothing less than a quality match out of this one. Despite early season struggles, New York have been playing some really good soccer lately, going 2-1-1 in their last four matches. Also, they’ve been able to take points off New England and Connecticut to make their respective roads to the postseason more challenging. The Menta sisters have propelled the team on the offensive front during that stretch as older sister Melissa is second on the team in scoring with four goals, with younger sister Jenna running run behind her with three. Jenna also played the part of hero in the Surf’s last match in Week VIII as she scored the game-tying and winning goals inside the final ten minutes against the Fusion. Expect those two to be at it again on Saturday afternoon as they try to lift their team to a season-ending win.
For New Jersey Copa FC, 2018 was a setback season after making the East Conference Championship Game in each of the last two seasons, including winning it and advancing to the UWS National Championship Game in 2016. But the stretch run took a toll on the Garden State side as they’ve lost four of their last five matches after starting the season 2-1-1. To be fair, those five matches included a pair against top-ranked Inferno Rush and the other three contests came against teams still alive in the playoff hunt. But, they’ve hurt themselves by continually giving up the first goal and having to play from behind during this stretch, which at the end of the day, that will come back to hurt you against the caliber of opponents that they’ve faced. But they will look to finish the year on a high note as they play the return match against the Surf, after drawing with them 1-1 back on June 2nd. That contest saw the Surf jump out to a first half lead by way of Melissa Menta’s first goal of the season before Tori Baliatico leveled things in the second half. But the match was cut short in the 85th minute due to bad weather in the region and ultimately, it was ruled a draw. So with a little unfinished business to attend to, this rematch could be fun to watch.
Inferno Rush vs. Long Island Rough Riders
3 P.M. ET – Manheim Township H.S. (Lancaster, Pa.)
Last weekend, the Inferno Rush clinched the Regular season title in the East Conference by winning both of their matches in the Western New York region. First, they beat Rochester 3-1 last Saturday by the strength of a pair of Haley Crawford strikes and then on Sunday, they took down Western New York 4-2 with Crawford scoring all four goals for her team. The JMU striker, who later earned the Week IX UWS Offensive Player of the Week award for her efforts, vaulted herself into second place in the UWS Goal scoring charts with ten tallies, trailing only Houston’s Gisela Arrieta by two. So while the Rush will wait around to see who they will be playing in the East Conference Championship Game next week, they will want to keep the momentum going into the postseason with a good performance against Long Island. However, this matchup against Long Island hasn’t done them any favors as they’ve lost three of the four all-time meetings, including a less than memorable 6-1 loss at home last year. But, the Rush have overcome almost every challenge thrown their way this season so expect nothing less than a strong effort on Saturday.
Now this is where the East Conference starts to get very interesting. The Rough Riders are in a group of five teams that are still fighting for the second spot in that East Conference Championship Game. Currently, they are in a three-way tie with New England and Rochester in third place on 14 points and while there are plenty of scenarios that could see them make that Conference Championship Game, they first need to beat Inferno Rush. As stated above, they’ve won three of the four previous meetings against them so they’ve got that to lean on come Saturday. Also, since their come-from-behind 2-2 draw at Connecticut on June 16th, they picked up confidence boosring wins against New England and Worcester to keep their playoff hopes alive. Morgan Santoro broke out last week with four goals against the Smiles and Kayla Saager continues to put together a fine season as she leads the team offensively with five goals and two assists. Long Island will look again to those two to stay hot offensively against one of the best defenses in the league.
New England Mutiny vs. Connecticut Fusion
3 P.M. ET – Agawam H.S. (Agawam, Mass.)
Two more sides that are in the middle of that five-team fight for second place will clash for the second time this year on Saturday. New England traveled to the Farmington Sports Arena on May 11th and played the part of spoilers in the Connecticut Fusion’s inaugural match, winning 3-2 with substitute Elena Santos netting the winner in the 75th minute. But for what was a very bright start to the season, New England will consider 2018 a bit of a disappointing one as far too often for their liking, they’ve dropped key points by giving away leads in the second half. But, they can’t worry about the past and can only focus on the present as they still have a realistic chance of clinching that second spot in the East Conference Championship weekend. A win plus a bit of help elsewhere will see the side, led by eight-goal campaign from Kate Howarth, reach the postseason for the first time in their time in UWS.
After defeating the Western New York Flash on the road in Week IX, they have the most direct and straightforward path to the East Conference Championship Game. A win against New England followed up by a victory on Sunday against Worcester will clinch their spot and send them off to face the Inferno Rush next week. UWS Week IX Team of the Week member Chanel Johnson stepped up to the challenge last week as her first-half brace propelled the Fusion to a 2-1 victory up in Buffalo. And they got an inspired performance from that match by Meghan Dalton in goal as the Bryant College product came up with eight saves to preserve the win. But even though Connecticut’s path to the postseason is clear, they can’t worry about their second game until their first one is over so expect them to press early and take it to New England as they look to pick up a necessary three points.
Western New York Flash vs. Rochester Lady Lancers
6 P.M. ET – D’Youville College (Buffalo, N.Y.)
No doubt that a lot of eyes will be fixed on the happenings in Buffalo on Saturday evening as the Flash will take on the Lady Lancers for the second time in three weeks. Western New York, who returned to their organization’s old stomping grounds at the Marina Auto Stadium during their previous days in WPS and the NWSL, took a 2-1 decision over Rochester with Carissima Cutrona scoring a brace. The Flash didn’t do themselves any favors last weekend as they squandered an opportunity to secure their spot in the East Conference Championship Game by dropping back-to-back home matches. They fell 2-1 to Connecticut on Saturday night, despite a furious comeback in the second half but were overwhelmed by Inferno Rush on Sunday and lost 4-2. But, the path still is fairly clear for them to secure a spot in the postseason as a win plus the Connecticut Fusion failing to pick up all six points from the weekend will get the job done. The Flash have experienced trouble at home however as they’ve lost all four matches at D’Youville Collge this season and have been outscored 15-7 by their opponents. Which is of course the great irony with this team as they are a perfect 5-0 on the road, so perhaps tricking their minds to think that this is road match may be answer that the Flash will need to get the job done.
Similar to their regional rival, the Rochester Lady Lancers have struggled at home but have excelled on the road. Despite a 1-4 record at the Marina Auto Stadium, Sal Galvano’s team is 3-0-1 on the road and will hope that recipe for success can come true one more time this weekend. After winning the three prior matches going into their first meeting with the Flash, they’ve dropped their last two matches and have fallen from first place to being in the three-way tie for third. Last week, the Lady Lancers went ahead halfway through the first half against the Rush with a brilliant solo effort from Brooke Barbuto, as the former Stony Brook product continues her wonderful season by leading the squad with eight goals but they couldn’t find an answer to unlock their opponents defense and ultimately lost. Now unlike the Flash, their road to the East Conference Championship Game is far more challenging as a win won’t be enough to clinch their spot. They will need at minimum a win (and scoring a few goals to up their goal difference would help their case) plus the Inferno Rush to defeat Long Island and the Mutiny to defeat the Fusion just to give themselves a chance. Fortunately, they will know exactly where they stand by the time they kick off so if they get the results to go in their favor, they will come out trying to push the tempo early.
SUNDAY, JULY 15
Worcester Smiles vs. Connecticut Fusion
1:15 P.M. ET – Worcester State University (Worcester, Mass.)
To wrap up their weekend in the Bay State, the Fusion will make the hour-plus long drive from Agawam to Worcester to wrap up their regular season schedule against the Smiles. If the Fusion can defeat the Mutiny on Saturday, a victory over Worcester, who currently sit at the bottom of the table in the East, will clinch their spot in the East Conference Championship Game.
The Smiles have had a challenging last few weeks to wrap up their inaugural season as they’ve lost their last six matches and in the last four, they’ve been outscored 28-3. Anthony Cosky’s team competed well last week at Long Island and were tied at one right around the half hour mark, by way of Jessica Ong’s 15th minute equalizer. But giving up a pair of goals right before the end of the half was the downfall for Worcester as the Rough Riders bagged six goals in the second half to put the match away. Now, the Smiles will hope to finish the 2018 on a high note by playing the role of spoilers against the Fusion.