Sunday August 28th, 2011

Three thoughts on Saturday's WPS final, won by the Western New York Flash on penalties over the Philadelphia Independence after a 1-1 tie:

• A sleepy game turned epic at the end. The Flash seemed on its way to a workmanlike 1-0 title-game win on Christine Sinclair's classy second-half finish until Philly's Amy Rodríguez equalized in the 87th minute, and then things got crazy. Both teams had golden chances in the dying minutes of extra time: Philly keeper Nicole Barnhart made a remarkable diving save on Caroline Seger's header, and then A-Rod misfired on a wide-open shot, one of several that she had in the game. (Rodríguez should have had two or three goals.) That set up the drama of penalty kicks, the same kind of shootout that we had seen the U.S. women butcher in last month's World Cup final. This time, though ...

• The penalties were taken brilliantly. With so much pressure, you would have expected some poorly taken spot kicks and one or two that weren't even on frame. But both teams converted the first nine penalties with exquisite skill before Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris made a diving save on Laura del Río's fifth-round kick to win it for Western New York. The encouraging crowd of 10,461 that attended the final in Rochester, N.Y., got their money's worth in the end, and that's a good thing for WPS. One question from this end on the penalties: Is WNY's Alex Morgan not very good at them? Morgan was taken off before the shootout in this game, but she didn't take any in either of the U.S.'s two shootouts during the World Cup. Seems strange considering she has such a good shot under pressure as a forward.

• Will WPS make it to 2012? After a thrilling World Cup '11 and an uptick in WPS interest after the WWC, we'll have to wait and see if the six-team league is able to come back for another season. Teams are still losing money, and while the Sahlen family had a great first season as the owner of the Flash, the unnecessary drama with Magicjack owner Dan Borislow (litigation threats, verbal abuse of players, league fines, etc.) was bad for the league. Women's soccer needs a top-flight league in America, and you have to hope the owners and league administrators get things in order for 2012.

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