Category Archives: Western New York

Spirit Clinch Playoff Spot With 1-1 Draw Against Flash

It’s not hard to tell when the Spirit are going to win: they’ll be pinging the ball around from player to player, players always on the move to make themselves an open passing target, everyone calmly keeping possession and looking for an opening. I knew from the start of last week’s game that they’d beat Orlando because they came out playing that way.

Tonight against the Western New York Flash it was like that for only about ten minutes late in the first half. Other than that and a few minutes in the second half, the team seemed to be on their heels the entire evening. For both halves I sat near the goal Washington was attacking, and for both halves my dominant recollection is peering into the distance as the Flash went after the far goal.
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In opener, Spirit sputter while Spaniard sparkles

Defender Robyn Gayle was the one strength in an otherwise porous back line

Defender Robyn Gayle was the one strength in an otherwise porous back line

Sometimes there’s more to being the winning team than having more talent. Even without Abby Wambach (out with a broken bone under her left eye) and with a tired Carli Lloyd just back from her stellar Thursday night WNT performance, the Western New York Flash showed more mental toughness, behaving like last year’s regular-season champions as they downed the Washington Spirit, 3-1.
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Spirit doubleheader: amateurs win, pros lose

Despite the best efforts of captain Lori Lindsey, the Washington Spirit would be shut out yet again

Do the Spirit professionals need to take some lessons from the amateurs? The Reserve team, playing against W-League rivals the New Jersey Wildcats, seldom had trouble scoring in an 8-1 rout. By contrast, the NWSL team lost, 2-0, to the Western New York Flash, the third straight match in which they’ve failed to score.
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Overflow crowd watches Spirit come back late to draw Flash

Canadian international Diana Matheson scored the Spirit's first-ever home goal

The west stands were packed. The east stands were packed. The beer garden was packed. The south hill was packed. All in all, 4,569 fans squeezed themselves into a stadium designed to hold 3,200. And for the future of women’s professional soccer, that was a more important number than anything that transpired on the field.

Happiness over the fan participation was tempered, though, by concern over Abby Wambach, who in the 80th 90th minute took a ball in the face at close range from teammate Brittany Taylor and was in uncertain condition after the match. Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines said after the match she was “not doing too well.”
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WPSL Elite: Does The Regular Season Title Mean Anything To You?

LISLE, Ill. – Perspective, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder, so when suddenly red-hot Western New York ran its unbeaten streak in WPSL Elite to 11 with an impressive 2-1 road win over Chicago last Saturday night at Benedictine University, it shouldn’t have been all that surprising that the competing coaches had different takes on what the game meant as the season draws to a fairly abrupt close in the next couple of weeks.
The Flash – who early in the campaign looked the most likely of the “big four” teams to possibly drop into a playoff dogfight – now have a realistic, even good, shot of capturing the regular season title. They are tied atop the standings with Boston with one game to go, and host the Breakers on Sunday. A win will likely gave them the regular season crown (Chicago could then tie WNY with two wins this week, but the Flash hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and – barring a hiding somewhere – should win on goal differential as well).
But what is that worth? Depends on who you talk to.
“We’d like to finish the season on a high,” Flash coach Aaran Lines said. “Boston will come in looking for a fight, they’re a great team. We’ve got eight days now to recover, which is huge.”
Chicago coach Rory Dames answered: “I don’t think it really matters where you end up 1 through 4. I think any of those teams are going to beat any other. It’s going to come down to that day and what goes on that day. Western New York will have a bit of an advantage because it’s at their field. But it’s 11 players versus 11 players. I don’t think dropping the points is an end all for us. It’s disappointing, we had a great crowd. We just need to be able to put the effort and commitment for 90 minutes the way we did in the second 45.
“Everywhere else in the world, (winning the regular season) is important. We said at the beginning of the season, we just have to be in the top four. We’re still an amateur team contrary to what everyone believes. We have players that have full-time jobs during the day. We have players that come in and out based on events and travel based on their work schedules.Our goal was always to get into the top four and give ourselves a chance at the end. We’re not Boston or Western New York who have their players all the time and train every day. It’s not where we’re at right now.”

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WPSL Elite: Morgan Andrews Continues To Impress, Smiling All The Way

Despite the tough result for the Flash, Meghan Klingenberg and Lori Lindsey took time to sign autographs after the 3-3 draw with New England before rejoining the U.S. national team this week.

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Soccer, like most sports, like life, is about moments. We live for those quick rushes, sometimes we know when they’re coming, sometimes not.

As soccer fans, we rarely know when the hour is at hand, which is part of our enjoyment, but we inherently know special players have a proportionally greater chance to give us them.

Morgan Andrews still has a long way to go in her soccer education, and the last thing I want to do is put undue pressure on her as she begins to prepare for her senior year of high school (try to think back to what your priorities were the summer before yours for comparison) that will include a trip to exotic Azerbaijan as captain of the U.S. national team for the U-17 World Cup among other things.

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Western New York Unveiled as True Contenders Already

The Western New York Flash was formally unveiled today at Sahlen Sports Park in Elma, New York. It may have taken the expansion franchise more than two months to officially reveal its identity, but the team has clearly been hard at work assembling a quality squad, one that could possibly rival more established WPS teams.

The Flash has made four player signings thus far (that we know of at least) and the team’s ambitions are plain to see. Beverly Goebel and Kaley Fountain were acquired from the Expansion Draft two weeks ago. Perhaps the 22 year-olds can offer as much value to the expansion team as Lori Lindsey and Joanna Lohman provided to the Philadelphia Independence in 2010. Both Lindsey and Lohman were acquired from the Expansion Draft and played sizeable parts in Philadelphia’s run to the 2010 WPS Championship game.

 The Flash also announced the signing of former Washington Freedom goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Harris proved to be a #1-in-waiting last season as assumed the position of starting goalkeeper after Erin McLeod tore her ACL on July 24th. Harris went on to concede just four goals over the Freedom’s final seven games. The sterling defensive record helped the Freedom make a return trip to the playoffs, a feat that had seemed impossible just three weeks prior. The ex-Tar Heel really made her mark in the WPS First Round match against the Philadelphia Independence. Her extraordinary performance in goal was blighted slightly by Amy Rodriguez’s 120th minute goal but it clearly caught the attention of the right folks, including USWNT coach Pia Sundhage. Harris was invited as an additional player to the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament. She figures to be a key player in the USWNT goalkeeping set-up going forward. With the starting position in Western New York, she’ll now have the chance to impress every week.  

Harris won’t be the only person with Washington Freedom connections headed up to Rochester (or Buffalo). Former Freedom Technical Director Emma Hayes was quietly revealed to be assuming the same role with the Flash. The ex-Chicago Red Stars coach was appointed to the position with the Freedom on August 10th. Thereafter, the team finished the 2010 season with three wins, one loss and two draws. Hayes’ experience and knowledge of the league could pay dividends for the expansion club.

The Flash’s most recent move is not very expansion club-like at all. The inspired ambition behind possibly attaining former FC Gold Pride star striker Christine Sinclair should be noted. Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle Jeff Di Veronica tonight broke the news that the team had come to terms with the Canadian international. (This is also notable because in Di Veronica, Western New York could have something else WPS clubs have lacked thus far: a faithful beat reporter with columns to fill or blogs to post for a local newspaper). The 27 year-old had an absolutely banner 2010, leading the league in assists with 9 while en route to a WPS Championship. If that isn’t enough to seal her status as one of the world’s best female players, her FIFA World Player of the Year nomination and 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament winner’s medal should. Signing Sinclair signals two things: the team wants on-the-field success now and it may want to capitalize on its close proximity to Canada, both in terms of luring in Canadian fans and perhaps players.

In addition to Sinclair, the Flash also has the #1 overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft. Cal Bear Alex Morgan is expected to go first, what with her goal-every-other-USWNT-game ratio and all. A front line composed of Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan? That’s promising.

Team owner Joe Sahlen, team President Alex Sahlen and head coach Aaran Lines are clearly trying to repeat the instant success they experienced in the W-League. After just two seasons of being in existence, the only professional club in the league went on to lift the 2010 W-League Championship trophy. As the Bleacher Report suggests, the team is expected to fill out its roster with a handful of players from that Championship winning side as well as with blue chip free agents who are still on the market, including the lion’s share of players who were involved with a team some dubbed The Best Women’s Club Team Ever.  

While the team’s locale is still being situated (the club might play the bulk of its home games in Rochester), its identity is less mysterious. Suddenly the Western New York Flash is the real deal.

WPS Protected Lists To Be Released Tomorrow, Expansion Draft Set For November 4th

WPS has announced key dates and the format for the Western New York Expansion Draft.

Protected lists are due to the league office by the end of the day. Each WPS team is eligible to protect up to 10 players from the Expansion Draft and must leave a minimum of three players unprotected.

Unlike last season, these lists will be made public tomorrow at 5pm ET which will inevitably elicit dozens of mock drafts (yay).

The Expansion Draft will be held on November 4th starting at 4pm ET, four days after the final game of CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying. A total of nine players will be drafted by the Western New York franchise. No existing WPS team can lose more than two players. Simple math suggests that several WPS franchises will lose just one player.

Come tomorrow, the Western New York franchise may not have a name, but at least it will have some players.

Querying About the Western New York Franchise, pt. 2

Will any new players be arriving from Europe?

There’s a case to be made that players whose national teams will be competing in the World Cup will stay on home shores next season. That, however, only figures for four countries (England, Sweden, Norway and France. Germany doesn’t count). The fifth will be decided in due course but it will likely either be Italy or Switzerland. That leaves the bulk of the European continent. In other words, there are plenty of players who won’t be competing in next summer’s World Cup and thus will presumably be eligible to play in WPS. This includes nations like the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Spain and Denmark (assuming they don’t beat Switzerland tomorrow). Players from the listed countries have done reasonably well in WPS thus far, even if they are well underrated like Laura Kalmari or Johanna Rasmussen. The Western New York franchise should not be discouraged from looking towards Europe for players, despite the fact that players from more “prominent” national teams will likely be staying home.  

Moreover, the climate of Western New York could be favorable to European players. American coaches seem to think that European players have a hard time acclimating to the temperatures stateside. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the WNY franchise will be the northern-most in WPS so that shouldn’t be an issue.


Will Abby Wambach return to her hometown?

This is the million dollar question and will tie in to the query below. If Western New York wants to make a real splash, it will do everything in its power to woo the native upstate New Yorker, who also happens to be the best striker in the women’s game. The Washington Freedom seem to be in a state of transition with the departure of both Sonia Bompastor and Jim Gabarra. The union between the Freedom front office and Gabarra didn’t seem to end well, at least according to this piece in The Washington Post. Wambach will have a choice to make: will she desert the only professional team she has ever suited up and in doing so, avoid the cloud of uncertainty that hovers over the club or will she elect to stay and offer a steady hand in the rebuilding process?


Who will be the team’s first ever draft pick?

If Wambach (and presumably Sarah Huffman) decide to make way for Western New York, the Freedom should receive nothing less than the #1 overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft, plus a few more in the lower rounds. Picks in the Expansion Draft could also be part of the package, if possible. Chris Henderson assures us that Cal forward Alex Morgan will be the proverbial chosen one “unless hell freezes over or an ACL snaps”.

Western New York will have two options, both of which have to do with building from the top down. They can choose to hold on to the #1 pick, draft Morgan and hopes she evades the curse that has struck former #1 picks Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath. Alex Morgan’s inclusion in the USWNT senior side this year speaks to her potential. She has to prove it first (the lessons of over-valuing a young A-Rod are still fresh) but if everything goes according to plan, she could be something special – due to both her goal-scoring prowess and well, you know. The breakout star of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is one of those rare college draftees who team owners and GM’s dream of building a franchise around.

As has been mentioned, the franchise could instead decide to go for Wambach whose star quality would do an expansion team wonders.

If Western New York is able to nab Wambach, however, the Freedom probably wouldn’t mind receiving Morgan as a consolation prize. This scenario is far afield and could possibly never materialize but it’s one worth thinking about. Western New York will have to present one hell of a deal to a Washington Freedom side whose identity is currently in the balance.  


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Querying About the Western New York WPS Franchise

The introduction of the Western New York franchise is perhaps the best news the league could have asked for in the offseason. WPS expansion means more storylines, more prospective fans, more new faces and more $ for the league (Western New York team owner Joe Sahlen reportedly paid a seven figure expansion fee). There was supposed to a press conference tomorrow that would mark the unveiling of the team but it has been postponed to a later date, as the team and league are still ironing out legal details. 

In the meantime, here are a few on-the-field questions for the new WPS team.


Will the team attract Canadian players? And/or fans?

As WPS waits (or hopes?) for the day the Vancouver Whitecaps join the league, the Western New York team could be a proxy of sorts. Canadian guru Lissa pointed out the fact that both Diana Matheson and Kara Lang spent time with Oakville Soccer Club. The club has become “one of the largest soccer organizations in North America”. It’s also 30 minutes south/west of Toronto which makes it about an hour away from Niagara University  and two and a half hours away from Rochester. Matheson had a terrific game against China in Canada’s most recent friendly and may or may not have signed a multi-year deal with Norwegian club LSK. Kara Lang’s career has been hampered by injury but she had a fine turn with the Vancouver Whitecaps this summer. And then there’s Kelly Parker. Parker doubled as the W-League’s MVP in 2010 and the league’s top goal scorer. Additionally, she helped defeat Lang’s Whitecaps in the 2010 W-League Championship. The 29 year-old signed returned to Sky Blue FC late in the WPS season but only appeared for a total of 10 minutes. Could a return to her old club be in the cards?

As for the fans, Canadians will have to make quite the trek to see the team. The drive from Toronto to Buffalo would take about two hours. Add the time it takes to cross the border with the bridges and such and that’s a total of two and a half hours. (Would it be worth it to take a ferry instead? Are there such things?) The driving time from Montreal to Buffalo is an untenable 10 hours. Quebec and Ottawa aren’t much more manageable. Rochester is about an hour and a half away from Buffalo. If the team expects to attract any Canadian fans, perhaps discounted tickets would be a nice gesture.


Will the team adopt Sky Blue FC as its rivals?

This probably won’t be discernable this season but both clubs will be the team’s geographical neighbors. You wouldn’t know by the name but Sky Blue FC does have some association with the state of New York. Or at least it did (the team was known as WPS’ ‘NJ/NY’ franchise). WPS doesn’t really have a true regional rivalry yet so a quasi-interstate rivalry would be fun.


Should the team nab Karina LeBlanc?

This is just a hunch. After the 2010 WPS Championship game, Paul Riley confirmed that Val Henderson was Philadelphia’s #1 goalkeeper. As the old adage goes, you can’t keep two #1 goalkeepers happy. LeBlanc’s former back-up started every one of Philly’s playoff matches. So where does that leave Canada’s first choice goalie? LeBlanc had definitely regressed from the dominant form she enjoyed while in Los Angeles in 2009. She’s probably too good to be a permanent back-up and every established WPS team seems set with their first choice goalkeeper. It might make sense for the franchise to start building from the back. A possible move for LeBlanc, however, would mean a third different club for LeBlanc in three years. The Buffalo Flash enlisted the help of 25 year-old Mexican National Team goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar. She helped guide the club to an undefeated season so perhaps the team won’t be so hasty in picking up a brand new goalkeeper.


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