The Western New York Flash were seconds away from defeat in the NWSL final, but a last-gasp goal from the league's MVP and clutch saves from the club's goalkeeper turned what would've been a demoralizing defeat into title jubilation.
The Flash won their first NWSL championship in penalty kicks, with Sabrina D'Angelo making three saves in the shootout to preserve the 3-2 PK triumph after a 2-2 draw. League golden boot winner and MVP Lynn Williams sent the match to PKs, scoring on a header with seconds remaining in stoppage time of extra time at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium Sunday night.
NWSL 2015 MVP Crystal Dunn scored twice for the Spirit, nine minutes into the game and then seconds into extra time, and it appeared it would be enough to cement the title. Jessica McDonald's hopeful cross into the center of the box was met by a leaping Williams, though, breathing new life into the Flash's title hopes and stunning Washington.
In the PK shootout, D'Angelo made saves on Ali Krieger, Tori Huster and Diana Matheson, with the latter clinching the victory. D'Angelo won match MVP honors for her performance. Spirit goalkeeper Kelsey Wys saw McDonald put her chance over the bar and also saved from Samantha Mewis–who had scored in regulation–to keep the Spirit going in the dramatic penalty session.
The two teams got the final off to an electric start as well. A pair of U.S. women's national team players, Dunn and Mewis, scored goals in the opening quarter of an hour to kick off the chase for the crown.
The league's 2015 MVP, Dunn, opened the scoring in the ninth minute with an impressive finish from a tight angle. After running onto a long ball over the top from Megan Oyster, Dunn beat the onrushing D'Angelo to the ball, with the touch taking her wide and to the right. Dunn managed to whip her right leg around and put a shot on target into the vacant net while falling to the ground, giving the Spirit the 1-0 lead.
It was short lived. Mewis placed a low shot from over 20 yards inside the far post to level the score in the 14th minute. Mewis took a pass from Williams, cut back on a defender and let her attempt go, making it 1-1.
Dunn, Mewis and Williams were all called in by Jill Ellis as part of a new-look USWNT for friendlies against Switzerland later this month.
The early fireworks gave way to a more pedestrian remainder of regulation, but Dunn got back on the scoresheet just over a minute into extra time to restore the Spirit's lead. Her left-footed blast after a feed from Krieger found the upper right-hand corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Mewis had a chance with six minutes remaining, but she scuffed her volley off a cross from Jaelene Hinkle by the far post and hit it right at Wys.
Williams left it late, though, pushing the match to PKs. She raced onto a cross from McDonald, heading home the dramatic equalizer.
Both teams, which advanced after extra time in the league semifinals, entered Sunday vying for a first league title. The Portland Thorns won the inaugural championship in 2013, followed by back-to-back titles by FC Kansas City.