January 20, 2011

Western New York Aces First Draft

Any draft that starts with USWNT forward Alex Morgan will be a good one, but Western New York added quality players later on to make this a top notch draft in their first time out.

After signing several members of the FCGP championship team, the Flash returned to the bay area for their first selection of the 2011 WPS Draft. And make no mistake about, Morgan was the focal point of this draft. The Cal forward burst onto the national scene scoring four goals for the USWNT in 2010.

Morgan also showed a knack for scoring big goals at the right time. None was bigger than Morgan's stoppage time goal against Italy in Padova on November 20, when it looked like the US would have to settle for a tie in the first leg of a home-and-home playoff for a World Cup berth. She also scored a late game-tying goal in a friendly against China, which preserved a long US home unbeaten streak.

Morgan has speed and finishing ability. Her runs are usually well-timed and she has a good sense of spacing and her position on the field. She has also showed the ability to work well with big-time forwards like Abby Wambach on the USWNT. That should bode well when she pairs up with all-time Canadian leading scorer Christine Sinclair on the Flash.

With the 8th overall selection, the Flash scored big with Portland left back Elli Reed. Reed was probably the best outside back in the draft and many had her rated as the best back line player overall. She has the ability to make runs out of the back and was an offensive force at Portland with 12 goals and 13 assists in her college career. She is also a solid defender that can play tough, and even a little feisty, if need be.

The only problem could be getting Reed into the lineup, considering that Rookie of the Year and New Zealand National Team star Ali Riley already occupies the left back position. But considering it's a World Cup year, Reed should get plenty of opportunities with Riley away.

With the first pick of the third round, the Flash chose MF/F Rose Augustin with the 13th overall selection. Augustin is just coming off of a national championship with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. She hit double figures in both goals and assists in 2010 and scored 29 goals with 23 assists over her career. She had a goal and two assists in Notre Dame's 4-1 thrashing of UNC in the NCAA tournament. Augustin has good skills and is calm when on the ball. She is also good at placing balls on long kicks.

With their final selection of the day, the Flash stayed local choosing Niagara goalkeeper Ashleigh Bowers. She had 15 career shutouts for the Purple Eagles and an impressive 0.63 goals against average in her senior year. With Ashlyn Harris and Brittany Cameron already on the WNY roster, Bowers will likely fill in as the developmental keeper where she can sharpen her skills for the future.

Western New York has built a solid foundation with a solid draft and key free agent signees. Like last year's Independence team, the Flash should be well positioned to compete for a playoff spot in their first season. This draft was a great step forward for the Flash.