That’s how the Western New York Flash describe the separation in the National Women’s Soccer League.
After getting off to a disappointing and frustrating start with two losses and a draw, a start that included an own goal, a missed penalty kick and a concussion to Abby Wambach, the Flash have won four of their last five games.
Their last win was a 3-0 shutout of first-place Sky Blue FC and the Flash are looking to continue the momentum tonight when they play at the Washington Spirit.
“We’ve definitely been tested with adversity early on in the season,” coach Aaran Lines said. “Just one point from three games to start the season wasn’t in the plan. But the way the girls have come together over the last five games has been really encouraging. It’s millimeters between winning games and losing games the way this league has been set up. To win gave us enormous confidence.”
The Flash won three straight games in May by 2-1 decisions. They started June with a 2-2 tie at Boston before following that with an impressive 3-0 decision at Sky Blue FC.
Gaining 13 points in five games now has the Flash in third place in the NWSL standings. They trail Sky Blue and Portland, both in first place, by eight points.
So what’s the difference?
The players say not really all that much. Nothing major has been tweaked. There’s been no revamping of team philosophy. After all, this is a club that has won three straight championships in three different women’s soccer leagues.
It’s been about understanding the nature of the season and continuing to put in the work.
“I think perseverance has been the key,” Flash midfielder McCall Zerboni said. “I think we were doing all the right things. We maybe got a little bit unlucky or the soccer gods weren’t with us. I think whether we win or we lose, we’re looking at ourselves to get better. Just because we win doesn’t mean we did everything right. We’re constantly trying to get better.”
“I believe that you create your own luck through hard work and belief,” Lines said. “And we created that little bit of luck that you need in tight games.”
Learning how to manage a one-goal lead has been a process for the Flash. While the overall talent of the team, and the entire league, is solid thanks to official backing from all three national governing bodies in North America – most notably USA Soccer – there still is a learning curve for a new roster. It’s been challenging at times for the team’s defense, which had to learn to play together. As they’ve grown, the defense has become solid, able to manage one-goal leads. And then they shut out Sky Blue, the league’s highest scoring offense.
“On both sides of the ball, we’re starting to finish our opportunities but more importantly, as a back line, and as a group defensively, we’re taking pride in denying chances and denying goal scoring opportunities,” said defender Brittany Taylor. “In return, we’re able to capitalize on that. As a back line, if we can keep everything nice and secure and at zero, then it will create a little less pressure for us offensively.
“Even though we’ve played here and there together, the back line have never played together collectively as a group. So that’s just going to take time to be able to get on the same page. And I think it’s just starting to really click. It was always just a step here that was a little off. Nothing major. To get a back line together and organized is very tough and we’ve just got to keep building on it.”
The Flash play again on Wednesday at the Chicago Red Stars before returning home for two games at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester – June 23 against Seattle Reign FC and June 28 against Washington.
And while third place is nice right now, FC Kansas City is only one point behind the Flash while the Boston Breakers are just two.
But the club understands the process. They’ve been here before. The regular season ends on Aug. 17, leaving plenty of time for wins, growth and position for a fourth championship run.
“As a club, our past success has always been that we peak at the right time,” Zerboni said. “I think a lot of teams peaked early on and I think that we know and understand how this is supposed to go. It’s a six-month season. We’ll get it done when we need to. The most important part is August.”
The Flash will team with Watkins Glen International for “A Pit Stop For Camp Good Days” when it hosts Seattle on June 23. The first 500 fans will receive two free tickets to Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, scheduled for June 28-30. The Flash will wear specialty jerseys that will be raffled off after the game. Proceeds will go to Camp Good Days and Special Times.
The Flash will be without Wambach and Carli Lloyd as both are training with the U.S. Women’s National Team for international friendlies against South Korea on June 14 and June 20.
Also missing from the Flash roster is Samantha Kerr, who joined the Australian women’s senior team for friendlies with New Zealand.
Rochester native Ashley Grove was added to the Flash roster for tonight’s game against Washington. Grove was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NWSL Supplemental Draft. A 2011 graduate of Maryland, Grove left ranked fifth in points (64), sixth in career goals (23) and eighth in assists (18).