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Independence fall to Western New York on penalty kicks in WPS title game

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Another chance at Women's Professional Soccer glory. That's all the Independence wanted. They got their chance. They ended up with more disappointment.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Another chance at Women's Professional Soccer glory. That's all the Independence wanted.

They got their chance. They ended up with more disappointment.

Behind the marksmanship of their World Cup shooters, and with one big save from goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, the Western New York Flash defeated the Independence on penalty kicks, 5-4, after battling to a 1-1 tie in the WPS championship game on Saturday.

The game required 90 minutes of regulation play, 30 minutes of overtime, and then the minimum five rounds of penalty kicks to determine a winner.

"We waited 365 days to get revenge, and we didn't get revenge," said Independence coach Paul Riley, whose team lost, 4-0, to FC Gold Pride in the 2010 title game.

After playing to a 1-1 tie through 120 minutes, the Flash scored on all five penalty kicks while the last Independence shooter, Laura del Rio, was stopped.

"It's just unlucky," del Rio said. "I shoot to my right side, and she got it."

Harris, voted the WPS goalkeeper of the year, dived to her left and got both hands in front of the ball near the post, batting it harmlessly toward the corner.

Let the celebration begin - for the Flash, who played at their home field, Sahlen's Stadium, in front of 10,461 fans.

"Every story line that was out there was written tonight," said Flash coach Aaran Lines, whose team also won the WPS regular-season title.

"We've been chasing them all season long," Riley said after the Independence finished 12-5-3.

That chase continued right into the 87th minute of regulation. The Flash had taken a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute when Christine Sinclair turned a Candace Chapman cross into her league-leading 11th goal. Sinclair scored twice for FC Gold Pride in the 2010 championship game.

Once behind, the Independence turned up the attack, however, and tied the score in the waning minutes.

Amy Rodriguez pounded in the rebound of a Danesha Adams shot off the post in the 87th minute. Just over three minutes from a loss, the Independence were suddenly back to even.

"Our team fought back from down 1-0, and I thought we had countless chances after that," Rodriguez said. "I had countless chances myself. It makes you want to kick yourself. You can't get those moments back."

The Flash won the toss to decide which team would go first in the penalty kicks. That was a bad omen, Riley said.

"You've got to go first, you got to put the pressure on the opposition," he said. "We had the pressure every time."

Marta (a member of Brazil's World Cup team), Sinclair (Canada), McCall Zerboni, Carolina Seger (Sweden's World Cup captain), and Yael Averbuch all tallied for the Flash.

The first four Independence shooters - LiAnne Sanderson, Adams, Leigh Ann Robinson, and Veronica Boquete - matched them. But del Rio's shot for the lower right corner was swatted away by Harris.

"Even the PK save was a good PK," Riley said. "I thought it was a fantastic save."

Harris was out for redemption. Rodriguez's tying goal in regulation was the product of her mistakes.

"That would have haunted me, that would have haunted me for sure," Harris said.

Instead, it will be the Independence who will be haunted by their failure to capitalize on many chances in the overtime.

"If you don't put your chances away, you finish second," Riley said. "That's how it is in every league - every Champions League, every World Cup, every Premier League."

And in every WPS championship game.

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