Looking to continue the momentum established in its Women’s Premier Soccer League season opener, the Columbus Eagles hit the road this week to take on Cincinnati Sirens FC at Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio.
Saturday’s match added another chapter to the continuing rivalry between the two WPSL clubs. Both teams couldn’t be more different in how they attack the game of soccer. The Eagles play a style of possession-oriented soccer, while the Sirens opt for a more physical approach as they aim to stop play and frustrate the opposition. The rivalry between Columbus and Cincinnati has a mystique about it with neither team has claimed victory away from its home stadium.
Columbus began the game with a number of attacking chances. Quality buildup from the Eagles allowed Midfielder Larissa Najjar to link up with forward Dani Gunderson multiple times. The most threatening attack coming in the fifth minute, as Najjar ran down the right side of the field and found Gunderson with a quick cross. The forward took a quick touch but a Cincinnati defender swept in to clear the ball.
The Sirens answered on the attack as former Eagle Christy Zwolski ran down the right wing looking to cross the ball into the Columbus penalty area. A questionable moment came as the cross from Zwolski appeared to bounce awkwardly off the outstretched hand of Eagles defender Micaela Powers. The center official awarded a free kick from just outside of the penalty area, but goalkeeper Hannah Sargent cleaned up the opportunity to start the attack the other way.
Things got interesting in the 11th minute when Columbus midfielder Larissa Najjar was fouled by a Cincinnati Sirens player. Najjar, in serious discomfort, laid on the turf for a few moments before the center official whistled the play dead. She waved the athletic trainer on to attend to Najjar, but no athletic trainer was present at the venue.
The match was temporarily delayed as the both teams attempted to iron the logistics out. WPSL rules state that the home team is required to provide an on-site athletic trainer for both teams. After a conversation with the league office, the Sirens failed to produce an athletic trainer and were forced to forfeit. The result goes down as a 3-0 victory for Columbus, but that doesn’t sit well with some of the Eagles.
“Our team’s trip down to Cincinnati didn’t turn out the way we planned,” midfielder Alexa Cheripko said. “While we technically walked away with a win, which is always our goal, we were unable to play the 90 minute game we consistently practice for.
Occurrences like today are never planned, nor hoped for. It was unfortunate being unable to carry out the fast-paced match up against the Sirens, especially after having made the two-hour trip south.
This could have been great
Cincinnati and Columbus possess a lot of firepower on both squads. Fans could have benefitted from watching a stellar match between these two clubs, and the weather actually turned decent for a soccer match.
The WPSL, which sells itself as the world’s largest women’s soccer league, will not be happy with something like what happened on Saturday in Cincinnati. To deprive fans of a game because a team failed to properly plan ahead is disgraceful. Women’s sports has a difficult time keeping up with other mainstream sports as it is, and a move like this will not help the professional claim.
Columbus Eagles Owner Mark Wise met with WPSL officials via phone call on Tuesday afternoon. League officials informing Wise the official record awards the Eagles a 5-0 victory, and increases its goal differential from plus-two to plus-seven.
Luck did not favor the Sirens as the WPSL slapped the team with a 5-0 loss, a minus-five goal differential, and the possibility of a $1,500 fine. Massive Report will continue monitoring the situation.
The Eagles head back on the road Sunday, May 27th to take on a talented Cleveland Ambassadors squad. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.