Proulx saves the day & Santos wins it in exciting 2018 season opener
If the opening match of the 2018 United Women's Soccer (UWS) season between the Connecticut Fusion and the visiting New England Mutiny said anything it was this: buckle up because this year is going to be an exciting ride. Complete with momentum swings and top-notch goalkeeping, the first edition of the local UWS East derby lived up to its pre-billing. In the end, New England came back from a 2-1 deficit in the second half to earn a hard-fought 3-2 victory in what was an extremely fast-paced and energetic match.
"I am so proud of the character the women demonstrated," said New England Mutiny owner Joe Ferrara, Jr. "With just one training session under our belts and half the team introducing themselves to the other half in the locker room, it was a gut-check performance won on heart and passion."
The Mutiny opened up the scoring early in the match in the seventh minute, as captain Kate Howarth sent in a cross from the left flank that midfielder Brenna Brown volleyed into the goal with the outside of her foot for the 1-0 lead. From there, the Fusion picked up the pressure and equalized on a goal from former Mutiny midfielder Tori Sousa. New England goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx made an outstanding kick save on a shot from Chanel Johnson but Sousa gathered in the rebound for the 1-1 score.
Proulx kept the score tied with a pair of first half saves off of Connecticut's Rachel Morrier and Lauren Segalla to keep the game deadlocked as it went into halftime. Things started to look bad for the Mutiny as they lost central defender Jennifer Cafferky to injury as the team took the pitch for the second half. It appeared to get worse early in the second half as Morrier would get her goal to put the Fusion up by a 2-1 score. But after that, New England responded with help from Cafferky's replacement.
In the 65th minute, Sage Dieterle sent a long ball from central defense over the Connecticut backline and an onrushing Marissa Aniolowski beat Fusion keeper Ashley Cavanaugh to it. Her goal tied the match at 2-2 and the race was on for the victory. Elena Santos intercepted a ball from her right back position and flew with the ball 60 yards up the pitch to the Connecticut penalty area. Her initial pass was blocked but the UConn standout got the ball back and fired a low shot past Cavanaugh inside the left post. The visitors held on to that advantage for the remainder of the match for the 3-2 win.
The Mutiny were bolstered by a quartet of performances on opening night: first, Mutiny legend Meghan Schnur returned after a decade away from the team to put in a 90-minute display of midfield organization; two, newcomer Yo Tachibana was pure class in the midfield above Schnur's holding role, fast and crafty before being subbed out in the 81st minute; three, Howarth put in a 90-minute captain's shift after dropping a 200-pound trailer on her foot this week; and lastly, Proulx, of course. The Canadian youth international made her debut in goal a game-saving one with a number of big stops to keep her team in the match.