CHULA VISTA -- You can take away its top goaltender. You can make it play a man short most of the game. But trying to eliminate the Flash from the A-League playoffs is quite a different matter.
That proved to be the case last night as the Flash overcame some difficult odds to defeat visiting Vancouver 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs in front of 4,178 at Southwestern College's Devore Field. The victory advances the Flash to the second round of the playoffs.
The Flash had to play last night without stellar goalkeeper Joe Cannon and midfielder Mauricio Alegre, who were serving one-game, league-mandated suspensions.
Then, later in the first half, defender Jaime Munro was slapped with a red card, meaning he was ejected from the game and couldn't be replaced.
Still, no worries for the Flash. Cannon's backup, former USD star Tom Tate, played well and the Flash completely dominated Vancouver, even being a man short.
"Backs against the wall and our players showed they have a lot of character," said Flash coach Costa Skouras. "All the credit goes to the players."
Midfielder Nate Hetherington, who scored the Flash's first goal, said overcoming adversity last night was pretty normal for the Flash, a team that struggled early in the season before winning 12 of its last 13 regular-season matches.
"We have been like a roller coaster," said Hetherington. "Right now, when there is a hill, we just charge up it. We know we are the better team and don't get worried."
Hetherington meant that the Flash is the better team when compared to everyone in the league.
"I feel we're the best team in this league," he said. "I'm just happy getting past this first one. In a one-game series, anything can happen, like you lose a man. You have to overcome that."
While the Flash dominated play early in the first half, Vancouver got on the scoreboard first. Tate blocked a shot by Vancouver's Chris Clarke in the 19th minute, but Jason Jordan kicked in the rebound.
"I didn't think getting a goal down with this team (the Flash) was something to worry about," said Tate, who notched his first victory of the season. "I knew we were bound to score some goals."
Tate was correct. The Flash tied the game in the 27th minute, thanks to a great play by Hetherington. He got the ball at midfield and burst by a defender going down the right side. He then centered the ball to Jerome Watson, who let loose a hard kick that was stopped by Vancouver goalkeeper Paul Dolan. The pesky Hetherington was in perfect position for the rebound and flipped the ball in the net.
The game's big controversy occurred in the 41st minute. Munro went sliding to knock the ball away as it was approached by an Eighty Sixer. Munro accomplished his goal. He also tripped up the Eighty Sixer and in a move that seemed to stun everyone in the stadium, referee Kari Seitz gave Munro a red card for a hard foul.
Carlos Farias scored what proved to be the game-winner in the 50th minute, when he headed in a pass from Antonio Robles. The Flash's Eric Chaisongkram added a goal in the 74th minute before Watson closed out the scoring with a goal in the final minute.
After disposing of the eighth seed in the eight-team Western Conference playoffs, the top-seeded Flash will meet No. 7 seed New Orleans in the second round in a home-and-home series. That's because New Orleans upset second-seeded Nashville last night.