The time is now for Flash

Courtesy Western New York Flash

Carli Lloyd says she's become more of a leader this season, and she has a specific destination in mind for the Western New York Flash.

The season may have gotten off to a slow start, but the Western New York Flash have been slow and steady all season long. I always tell myself it’s not a sprint but a marathon!

We spent a majority of time in fourth place, but we didn’t lose focus on what we needed to do, and that was to clinch a spot in the playoffs and push for home-field advantage.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter that we finished in first place. Being the inaugural NWSL regular-season champs doesn’t mean anything to me. What matters is winning our semifinal game against Sky Blue FC and then trying to win that championship. I said from day one that I was here to win a championship, so this is it. You put all your marbles in one bag, and you go for it.

It’s been a great season, and I think our team deserves more credit than it has received for much of the season. We have a lot of underrated players -- not a lot of stars. We’re feisty, gritty, organized and here to win. These pressure-type games where everything is on the line are what fuels me, and I’m feeling great. We’ve done all the right things, we have worked hard all season long, we have been patient, and now the time has come.

We know everything is in our hands, but we’ve got to make it happen.

The new league has been good to me as a player. Playing a game week in and week out -- sometimes even two in a week -- you're able to work on things. You get into a game rhythm, and if you don’t do as well in one game, there’s another opportunity to redeem yourself and improve in certain areas.

Everything is a learning curve, and I’ve continued to grow as a player and person each and every week. Being away from the U.S. national team has helped me realize I am a bigger leader on the Flash than I initially realized. It’s helped me see the importance of not only leading by example on the field but also being vocal and encouraging my teammates to get the best out of them. We have some younger players who do look up to me, and I don’t always notice it because I just show up, go out and play. So it’s been humbling -- and fun -- to learn how to become more of a leader.

This is essentially a new season, though. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done prior to this. Yes, we’ve seen Sky Blue. Yes, we’ve played them four times, beat them in three and lost one. But all of that truly doesn’t matter. We’re two different teams coming off a 22-game season, and this is where you see big players come up in big moments.

It’s going to be a battle. Having lost to us three times, Sky Blue isn’t going to come out and just let us play with the ball. They’re going to come out hard and ready to play. We must continue to do what we have been doing all season long. As long as we focus on ourselves, we can take care of business.

I’m approaching this game as if it’s the final, since there won’t be a final if we don’t do what we need to do on Saturday. That means continuing to do what I’ve been doing all season long -- trying to create goal-scoring opportunities, getting into hard tackles, winning the battles in the midfield and making good runs off the ball. I’ve got to focus and show up big on Saturday.

This is the time.