Move of Reign/Flash Match Prompts Backlash

Flash-Reign Frontier Field

A scheduling conflict forced the Seattle Reign and Western New York Flash to relocate Saturday’s match to Frontier Field, a move that prompted plenty of backlash.

In what was scheduled as a home game for the Flash, the two teams could not use Rhinos Stadium–the home pitch for the Flash and USL’s Rhinos–because it was being utilized for a Throwback 90’s  Concert. With this conflict, the game was moved to Frontier Field, which is primarily used for MiLB’s Rochester Red Wings and falls well below NWSL standards.

The infield and pitcher’s mound were still intact, which meant that the game had to be set up in the outfield. What was left was a pitch that measured just 58 yards in width, a dimension that is barely above FIFA standards and 12 yards below NWSL requirements.

According to Flash and league officials, the game was planned for Frontier Field despite both parties knowing that the outfield alone would not meet minimum dimensions. Additional issues were discovered before the game and, from the perspective of Reign head coach Laura Harvey, were not properly addressed and put the safety of players in jeopardy. More from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

Harvey was also visibly upset about a few other things Saturday. Harvey said it took too long, at least several minutes, for a stretcher to get into the stadium to take injured Seattle goalie Haley Kopmeyer off the field. She was being looked at by the team’s medical staff and tried to walk off the field twice with some assistance. Eventually, a stretcher from an ambulance that was in its customary area in the parking lot was brought in. Kopmeyer was trying to make a save on Erceg’s tying goal late in the first half. Harvey also made the assertion that game officials changed their call on that goal after seeing it replayed on the videoboard. Initially, it appeared a foul call on the Flash would negate the goal. After the officials conferred while Kopmeyer was being looked at, the goal was awarded.

All in all, it was a bad day for the Reign. Harvey said she received an e-mail from the NWSL at 1:30 p.m. Saturday saying the field wasn’t playable and changes would need to be made immediately. [Flash general manager Rich] Randall confirmed that. He said a walk-through with officials found six issues that needed to be  addressed and all were. That included adding grass so run ups by players on corner kicks wouldn’t be on the dirt warning track.

Apparently, Harvey thought the field width would be addressed. It was not and she was still upset when arriving to the stadium around 5 p.m. for the 7 p.m. kick-off. The night ended with her team, which entered the match having allowed an NWSL-low seven goals, giving up three to the league’s top attack, the Flash (25 goals).

While the Reign dropped the contest by a 3-2 margin, Harvey was not alone in her disappointment over Saturday’s arrangement. The Reign’s Jessica Fishlock and several members of the U.S. Women’s National Team–including NWSL players Alex Morgan, Carli Loyd, and Megan Rapinoe–took to Twitter to criticize the move. (You can see more from the Democrat and Chronicle’s account.)

The considerable scrutiny brought about a statement from NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush:

Earlier this evening, the Western New York Flash hosted a home match at a different venue due to Rhinos Stadium not being available.

The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision.

As a professional league, we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is always respected both on and off the field. We did not do that tonight and we apologize to the NWSL players, coaches and fans.

In the future, we will ensure that every NWSL match meets our standards.”

The poor conditions are not the attention that the NWSL–a league that is trying to grow with women’s soccer–wants, and the league and its teams are going to have to be diligent in avoiding a repeat of Saturday’s match.

Image of Saturday’s match courtesy of Western New York Flash. 

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August Publications