Wednesday night was special for a number of reasons. What happened on the pitch, however, had nothing to do with it. Western New York Flash, in front of a Women's Professional Soccer record attendance of 15,404 at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., blasted magicJack of Boca Raton, Fla., 3-1.
It was Abby Wambach Day in Rochester, celebrating the western New York native for her athletic accomplishments; she received the key to the city as a commemoration of her achievements. Not to be outdone, WPS celebrated the faces of the 2011 FIFA World Cup, including Wambach, Alex Morgan, Shannon Boxx, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Christie Rampone and Jillian Loyden of the United States, along with stars from across the globe such as Brazil's Marta, Canada's Christine Sinclair, Australia's Lisa De Vanna and New Zealand's Ali Riley.
Women's soccer is at a level of popularity that can only be bested by the 1999 World Cup winning club. A lot of that has to do with the deep run the U.S. national team made, ultimately losing in the final July 17 vs. Japan.
That deep run also played a factor in the outcome on Wednesday night. Wambach, Boxx, Solo, Rapinoe and Rampone were all out because of wear-and-tear from the World Cup, leaving their magicJack side a bit shorthanded. Meanwhile, on the Flash side, Sinclair, Marta, De Vanna and Riley were all eliminated early on, allowing them to dress for the match. They took full advantage of the situation.
She may not have been able to get her nation out of the group phase, but Canadian international Sinclair showed why she very well could dethrone her teammate Marta from her back-to-back WPS MVP award winning seasons. In 72 minutes of play, Sinclair factored in all three Flash goals.
Sinclair scored her two goals in completely different fashion. In the ninth minute, the WPS points leader tracked down a flicked header by teammate Becky Edwards, took a touch past magicJack keeper Loyden into the box and tapped it into the empty net for an early lead. After Ella Masar tied it for magicJack in the 41st, Sinclair put the Flash back on top with a gritty goal, wrestling the ball off magicJack defender Tina Ellertson and sliding in a shot past Loyden to the near post in the 51st minute. Sinclair helped in securing the win when she ran onto a loose ball, cut into the magicJack box, and bent a cross to McCall Zerboni who headed it into far post side.
On the year, the Flash (8-2-2, 26 pts) is 3-0-0 against magicJack (5-5-1, 15 pts -- one point deducted from WPS violations), although each time the Wambach-led club was shorthanded. As to why Wambach -- and likely the rest of the U.S. national team players -- weren't on the field Wednesday night for magicJack, the veteran striker said, "My body really needed a rest."
If magicJack has visions of winning a WPS Championship, they'll need Wambach, and the rest of her national team mates back as soon as possible. With just seven games left in their season, magicJack is just two points ahead of Sky Blue FC for the final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Flash showed why they are the class of WPS, even if they are in second place (just a point behind Philadelphia Independence with a game in hand at the conclusion of the match).
They show the signs of a championship club, winning in different ways, with a slue of players factoring in the wins. On Wednesday, it was Sinclair. Who will it be on Sunday when they head to Massachusetts to take on the Boston Breakers Sunday night? You can watch it live. Tune in, 6 p.m. ET on FOX Soccer.