Kylee McIntosh during the run of play for the Connecticut Fusion against the Santa Clarita Blue Heat. (Photo by Carlos Barron Photography)
ROUND ROCK, Texas – Three weeks ago, most people had the Connecticut Fusion projected as unlikely to make the postseason.
What ensued over the past few weeks was a run to and through the United Women’s Soccer postseason that won’t be forgotten for a long time. From winning their final two matches of the regular season just to get into the playoffs, then upsetting the top two seeds in the East Conference Tournament last weekend just to reach the national semifinals before knocking off the top-scoring side in all of UWS this season, Midwest United FC, in the semifinals on Friday.
But unfortunately for the Fusion, that run came to an end on Sunday afternoon as they fell in the UWS National Final to the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, 5-0.
The Blue Heat won its second UWS championship, securing its inaugural title in 2016, and completing the weekend by outscoring its opponents, 9-0. The side routed the San Antonio Athenians, 4-0, in Friday’s semifinal.
Over the opening 20 minutes, the Blue Heat held the majority of the possession. But Fusion goalkeeper Allie Augur came up with three scintillating stops to keep the West Conference Champions at bay.
But coming out of a water break due to the 90-degree temperatures just before the half-hour mark, Santa Clarita got the breakthrough tally. Lena Silano got on the end of Sade Adamolekun’s cross from the right flank and put her glancing header past Augur.
Blue Heat midfielder Alyssa Thompson, the Gatorade High School Girls Soccer National Player of the Year, picked the ball up in the midfield, made a weaving run through the Fusion midfield and defensive lines before laying a pass off to Angie Escobar at the top of the box. Escobar placed it past Augur just inside the far post to give Santa Clarita both a two-goal lead, and all the momentum heading into the second half.
That led to two more goals for the Blue Heat inside of five minutes after the second half restart as Ademolekun and Silano each scored to put the game out of reach.
The icing on the cake for Santa Clarita came with nine minutes left as Iris Rabot’s corner kick found its way through traffic and into the back of the net for an Olympico goal, and the fifth goal of the match.
While the result wasn’t one that the Fusion hoped for, it didn’t define its season. An organization that entered the 2021 season without a playoff victory despite a pair of top-two finishes in their conference, the Fusion won its first conference title this year and became the first New England based UWS club to reach the national semifinals (and final) in the process, as well as setting a club season record for goals (45).