W-League Championships Game Report
Friday, July 26, 2013
BRADENTON, Fla. – The Laval Comets got a 110th-minute goal from Valerie Sanderson to advance to the first W-League Championship Game in club history as they took a 3-2 victory after extra time at the 2013 W-League Championships, presented by Nike, at IMG Academy on Friday evening.
Sanderson was able to capitalize after a good piece of composure by teammate Amandine Pierre-Louis, who drove into the left corner before cutting back onto her right foot and sending a picture-perfect cross to the top of the six-yard box. Sanderson was able to beat her marker to the ball, and flick a finish home for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
“I just jumped and I hoped that the ball was going in,” Sanderson said. “I had to sprint into the box to get the ball in and put the ball in.”
Laval entered the game as the No. 1-seed, but were given all they could handle by a resolute Carolina side that had its own opportunities to gain the upper hand in the first period of extra time. The Cobras best opportunity to break the deadlock came in the 95th minute as Rachel Baer took a pass at the top-left corner of the penalty area, cut inside onto her left foot and curled a shot that came off the lower half of the crossbar and away to safety.
Two minutes later the Cobras almost struck again as Savannah McCaskill slipped an outstanding pass through for Claire Joyce, but Laval goalkeeper, and W-League All-League selection, Genevieve Richard came off her line superbly to make the save.
The Comets came close to grabbing the lead themselves with a minute to go in the first period of extra time as Christina Julien was well denied by Rose Hull, but it was Cindy Walsh’s tactical adjustment at the intermission that paved the way for Laval’s victory. Moving her side into a 4-3-3 formation, giving Pierre-Louis the opportunity to get wide on the left, proved crucial as Pierre-Louis’ cross set up Sanderson’s finish.
“That was exactly what we were trying to do, try to reduce those passes out wide and try to put a little bit higher pressure on them to try and win those balls and try to get forward,” Walsh said. “We actually had a couple of good chances by Amandine, and she was a little bit frustrated that she was either offside, or couldn’t put it away. Their ‘keeper kept them in it, and so did ours.”
Carolina had taken the lead in the 26th minute as fine counter-attack led by McCaskill found a well-timed run by Stephanie Devita, who was able to round Richard and tuck her finish into the open goal. McCaskill was a driving force throughout for the Cobras, using her speed and power to attack the Laval defense throughout the 120 minutes.
Laval hit back quickly, however, and got back on even terms as a fine through-ball by Nkem Ezurike played Julien in behind the defense, and the Canadian international slotted her finish into the right corner of the net.
The Comets would take the lead four minutes before the halftime break through a slice of luck as a free kick by Kelsey Wilson floated over its intended targets and into the right corner of the net. The windy conditions caught Hull unawares as she misjudged the flight of the ball, while Wilson gave a shrug to her teammates on the bench as they celebrated her good fortune.
Pierre-Louis had a good chance to extend Laval’s lead just before the hour-mark as she was able to break in on goal, but Hull was able to come out and make a fine save to keep her side’s deficit at one. That would prove crucial in the 66th minute as a fine half-volley by Kaleigh Kurtz found its way into the right corner of the net.
Both sides had chances to gain the lead in the final 20 minutes, with Laval twice going close in the final 10 minutes. The first came in the 80th minute as a good cross by Sanderson from the right found her at the back post, only for the forward to have strayed offside. Eight minutes later, Vanessa Leagault-Cordisco was denied by a brilliant save by Hull, forcing the game to extra time, and Sanderson’s dramatic winner.
The Comets move on to face the Pali Blues, who also went to extra time to earn victory against the Washington Spirit Reserves earlier in the day. With their history, the Blues might be reckoned to be the favorites for Sunday’s clash, but Walsh is hopeful her side can rise to the challenge.
“They have a little bit more experience, they’re a little bit older, but we just have to be smart,” Walsh said. “We can’t give them too much respect, we have be smart and play our game and not bow down to them. We’ve got to go hard and show them that we deserve to be there just as much as they do.”