March 30, 2011

WNY Flash - An Expansion Team...Not Exactly

WPS's newest entry in Western New York is an expansion team in name only. The Flash bear little resemblance to what most would picture when thinking expansion. The fact that they have no fewer than seven players from last year's championship team, FC Gold Pride, is enough evidence to see that.

Gold Pride's two top goalscorers and three quarters of their back line have moved nearly 3000 miles east to play for the Flash. And you can add to that the number one overall draft choice and several national team players from around the globe that were signed as free agents. This expansion team could very well be the favorites to win it all.

Let's start with forwards. Five-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta and Canadian all-time leading scorer Christine Sinclair scored a combined 29 goals last year in the regular season, more than three other teams. Marta has no peers when it comes to scoring goals and she just might be the fastest player in the league as well.

If that weren't enough, the Flash selected Alex Morgan with the first overall pick in the draft. Morgan has already made quite a splash with the USWNT, scoring a game-tying goal against China and a game-winning goal in a key game against Italy. The Flash also signed Gemma Davison of England, who has played club soccer for both Arsenal and in the W-League on this side of the pond.

The midfield starts with Caroline Seger formerly of the Independence and a member of the Swedish National Team. Yael Averbuch, a USWNT player, comes over from Sky Blue and Becky Edwards is yet another former Gold Pride starter. The Flash have four other midfielders with WPS experience...Brittany Bock, Kelly Parker, Beverly Goebel, and McCall Zerboni. They also picked up Notre Dame midfielder Rose Augustin in the draft.

Defensively, Candace Chapman, Ali Riley, and Kandace Wilson come over from Gold Pride. Riley earned Rookie of the Year honors last season. WNY also signed Whitney Engen, who played nearly every minute of every match for the Chicago Red Stars last season. They also brought in Gina Lewandowski, an American who has spent the last four seasons playing for FFC Frankfurt in the Frauen-Bundesliga. Another defender is Alex Sahlen, a member of the 2010 W-League champion Buffalo Flash, who also just happens to be the president of the club.

The goalkeeping duties will probably go to Ashlyn Harris, who posted four shutouts down the stretch for the Washington Freedom last year. Brittany Cameron, who has been a backup keeper for both the 2009 and 2010 league champions, is also in the mix.

There is no reason to think that this team won't compete for the league title. The talent is certainly there. Like some of the other teams, they will have to navigate around the World Cup schedule, in which several of their players will be participating. Most likely, they will be around come playoff time.