The Connecticut Fusion has won four consecutive games. (Connecticut Fusion Photo)
BUFFALO, N.Y. – For the first time in organization history, the Connecticut Fusion is the champions of the United Women’s Soccer East Conference.
The Fusion defeated the tournament’s top seed and host FC Buffalo Women, 2-0, afternoon at Coyer Field on the campus of Buffalo State College Sunday.
Connecticut, which entered the tournament as the three-seed with a 5-2-3 regular season record, advanced to the four-team UWS National Championship Tournament the weekend of July 23-25 in Round Rock, Texas.
Picking up where it left off after knocking off tournament two-seed Syracuse DA, 2-0, in Friday’s semifinal round, the Fusion scored the opening goal nine minutes into the game. Chloe Landers sent a cross into a dangerous area and was not dealt with cleanly by the Buffalo back line. Tori Sousa, who scored the Fusion’s second goal Friday, pounced on the loose ball in the goalmouth and put it home for a 1-0 lead.
The next 10-15 minutes saw a flurry of Fusion chances to try and extend the lead, including a Chanel Johnson bullet header from close range on a Kylee McIntosh set piece in the 20th minute, but the team couldn’t find the mark.
FC Buffalo’s best chance of the first half came 10 minutes before the halftime interval as its leading scorer Kelsey Araujo drove down the left flank, cut inside and tried to put a curling effort inside the far post but missed leveling the score by the narrowest of margins.
The Fusion’s one-goal lead held firm to halftime. But not more than one minute into the second half, the Fusion doubled its lead as an FC Buffalo defender took an unfortunate slip inside her team’s defensive third and gave it away to an unmarked Cara Jordan, who slid the 1 v 1 chance past goalkeeper Gabrielle Wilson.
The Fusion was able to fend off the handful of FC Buffalo attacks over the remaining 43 minutes of the match with not much troubling Fusion goalie Allie Augur, who just had to make one save in the second half to preserve her second consecutive clean sheet.
It was a remarkable turnaround for a Fusion team that entered the month of July sitting outside the playoff picture with just two matches to go in the regular season. The squad will enter its first National Championship weekend on the strength of a four-match winning streak, outscoring its opponents 17-1 during that stretch.
The Fusion will await its opponent in the UWS national semifinal, which will be determined by the league office early this week. All matches during the tournament will be hosted at Elite Field at Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.
Joining the Fusion will be the winner of the Midwest Conference Playoffs, either Midwest United FC or St. Louis Scott Gallagher, the winner of the Southwest Conference Playoffs, either the San Antonio Athenians or Lone Star Republic, along with the winner of the West Conference Champion as that division’s berth into the National Semifinals is decided by the Regular Season Champion. Both of the other conference playoff Finals, as well as the West Conference regular season title decider between the Santa Clarita Blue Heat and Calgary Foothills, take place late Sunday.