By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
By now, the rest of United Women’s Soccer is well aware of the scoring prowess that Brooke Barbuto possesses. That doesn’t mean many teams can do anything to prevent her from finding the net, however. Barbuto’s terrific individual-effort goal in extra time near the end of the first half gave the Lady Lancers a 2-1 lead, and they protected that one-goal cushion against New Jersey Copa FC until the final whistle for another victory.
This win was very special, too: It was the first on the home pitch in the two-year history of the franchise. The Lady Lancers went 0-4-1 at home in their inaugural season of 2017 and started the current campaign 0-1-1 on Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Marina Auto Stadium. But with Sunday’s victory, Rochester improved to 4-1-2 on the season and extended the lead in the UWS to three points (14-11) over the New England Mutiny as the Lady Lancers’ worst-to-first turnaround continues.
Barbuto has a great deal to do with the success. She leads the UWS in goals with seven and points with 16 through seven games. Just because the 31-year-old Syracuse-born forward has had success doesn’t mean she expects to score, however. “The more you score, the harder it becomes,” said Barbuto, who played professional in Iceland, Finland and Australia before deciding to stay home in Upstate New York this summer.
The Lady Lancers depth has enabled Barbuto to score with regularity, despite extra attention from opponents. Six different players have scored goals, including midfielder Elin Eklund, who has six. “We have a good supporting cast,” coach Sal Galvano said. “That allows Brooke to do what she needs to do.”
Last year’s leading goal-scorer, Taylor Wingerden, hasn’t found the net yet, but she has a team-leading four assists. No. 4 came Sunday when she set up Jada Sergeant’s goal in the 41st minute.
“The more dangerous your team is, the more players you have that can capitalize on chances, the better chance you have to score,” Barbuto said. “A lot of teams don’t know who’s the most dangerous or who we’re looking for.” Even when they do, they can’t do anything about it. Like as Sunday’s first half was nearing an end. Sergeant had given the Lady Lancers the 1-0 lead but Katarina Nilsson tied it for New Jersey in the 43rd minute.
Barbuto then took charge, even though it probably should have been a harmless dribble toward the box since she was 1-against-2. Not for long, however. She dribbled away from Christian Rodgers just above the 18-yard box, sliced past Sydney Cummings high in the box and then drilled a left-footed shot into the right corner of the net. “She makes a lot of things happen,” Galvano said. “She’s a work horse. She creates things on her own all the time.” Catie Broderick was in goal for the Lady Lancers. She has played in three games and has allowed just one in each with a 2-0-1 record. Thanks to solid team play, the Lady Lancers have won three in a row and are unbeaten in four (3-0-1).
“The girls are meshing now,” Galvano said. “The chemistry with the girls is great. We have a pool of about 30 players and it’s been a hard decision every game to pick the 18 to dress. We have depth. We’ve had a different 18 roster every game.”
The Lady Lancers will be idle until June 30, when they host the Western New York Flash at 2 p.m. at the downtown soccer stadium.