April 8, 2011

2011 Western New York Flash Preview

Western New York Flash
Aaran Lines (1st year)
2010 Record:
Expansion Team
Home Stadium:
Sahlen Stadium (Rochester, NY)


Goalkeepers (3):
Ashleigh Bowers(R), Brittany Cameron, Ashlyn Harris.
Defenders (8):
Kim Brandão, Candace Chapman, Whitney Engen, Gina Lewandowski, Ali Riley, Alexandra Sahlen, Julianne Sitch, Kandace Wilson.
Midfielders (6):
Yael Averbuch, Brittany Bock, Becky Edwards, Beverly Goebel, Caroline Seger, McCall Zerboni.
Forwards (6):
Gemma Davison, Kaley Fountain, Marta, Alex Morgan(R), Kelly Parker, Christine Sinclair.
(R) denotes true rookie.
Probable World Cup players:
Harris, Chapman, Riley, Averbuch, Seger, Marta, Morgan, Sinclair.

The new kids in the league are likely to make a lot of noise. Considering they have seven players off of the 2010 champion Gold Pride team, plus four others from the 2010 W-League champion Buffalo Flash, it won’t be much of a surprise if this team is playing for a championship come August.

It doesn’t hurt that the Flash signed Marta, the world’s best player five years running, Christine Sinclair, Canada’s all-time leading scorer, and on top of that, drafted Alex Morgan, one of USWNT’s rising stars. This team shouldn’t have any problem scoring goals, except possibly during World Cup time. In fact, the only positions which might be short on depth are goalkeeper and midfield.

Goalkeepers: Ashlyn Harris started 2010 in Saint Louis as the backup to Hope Solo. She finished the season as the Washington Freedom’s starter, earning four shutouts on her way to 1.11 goals against average. Two of those shutouts down the stretch came against two of the most explosive offenses in WPS, Gold Pride and Philadelphia. Harris, who is vying for the third goalkeeper’s spot on the USWNT, is finally gaining some recognition as a top goalkeeper.

Backing up Harris will be Brittany Cameron, who started three games last season for Gold Pride, and Ashleigh Bowers, a rookie out of Niagara. Cameron is certainly a capable goalkeeper who just hasn’t gotten much action because she has had quality keepers in front of her. Bowers posted a 0.63 goals against average during her senior year, giving up more than one goal on only two occasions.

Defenders: The Flash have three quarters of Gold Pride’s starting back line, including rookie of the year Ali Riley. Riley is an excellent two-way player, solid at defending and a threat with her speed on overlapping runs. Kandace Wilson is another speedster at the right back position. There isn’t likely to be a more dangerous duo at outside back anywhere in this league. The third former Gold Pride defender is Candace Chapman, a starter for the Canadian National Team.

Western New York also signed Whitney Engen, who was one of the league’s best young defenders with Chicago last season. They added Kim Brandão, a member of the Portuguese National Team and of the W-League Flash. And they brought in center back Gina Lewandowski, a four-year veteran of the Frauen Bundesliga for FFC Frankfurt. Adding depth is the Alexandra Sahlen, who also happens to be the team president, and Julianne Sitch a veteran of both the W-League and WPS, who played for the 2009 champion Sky Blue FC.

Midfielders: For midfielders, it appears almost as though the Flash grabbed a player from each of the other teams in the league. They got Yael Averbuch from Sky Blue, Caroline Seger from Philadelphia, McCall Zerboni from Atlanta, Becky Edwards from Gold Pride, and Beverly Goebel and Brittany Bock from the Freedom.

Seger, captain of the Swedish National Team, is the team’s most experienced and accomplished midfielder. She had a strong season with Philadelphia in 2010, scoring one goal and adding five assists. Joining her is Averbuch, a defensive midfielder who has a cannon of a shot. Averbuch was a first round draft pick in 2009 and spent the last two seasons with Sky Blue.

Becky Edwards is another solid defensive midfielder, whose strong rookie season was overshadowed by her more well known teammates in 2010. After a promising rookie season in 2009, Brittany Bock struggled through an injury-filled season last year. She can play multiple positions which will add versatility to the Flash. Rounding out the midfield cast is Beverly Goebel, who scored one goal in 16 appearances for the Freedom in 2010, and McCall Zerboni, who was a starter for the Beat last year.

Forwards: With three world class forwards on this team and plenty of depth, this should be the strongest offense in the league. There isn’t much more that can be said about Marta that hasn’t already been said. She has been the best female player in the world for a long time now and she is still just 25 years old. She is fast, talented, and determined, nearly impossible to stop one-on-one.

The scary thing is defenses can’t just concentrate on Marta. Not when the Flash also have Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan. Sinclair has over 100 international goals for Canada and 16 career WPS goals. She is very intelligent about both the timing and shape of her runs. Morgan has come into the spotlight over the past year, becoming one of the USWNT’s best forwards and clutch goal scorers. She also has excellent speed.

England’s Gemma Davison and Canadian Kelly Parker move right from the W-League Flash to the WPS team. Davison has played club soccer in both the US and in England. She also has one cap for the English National Team and played at the junior level for England. Parker is a veteran of the Canadian National Team and played midfield for the 2009 Sky Blue championship team. She has good speed and is always a player to watch on the attack. Former Wake Forest star Kaley Fountain adds depth and can also play outside back.

Outlook: This team appears to have everything…talent, experience, and speed. They should score goals in bunches with the best group of forwards in the league and two excellent outside backs that can attack. The defense should be equally solid and has a lot of depth. The midfield does not have a lot of offensive-minded players. Averbuch and Edwards are primarily defensive mids and while Seger is skilled at setting up others with her strong passing game, she isn’t likely to score a lot herself.

My biggest worries for this team is depth in the midfield and how much they will be affected by the World Cup. They could very well lose eight starters to national team duties for a good part of the season. Obviously, this is a problem for most of the teams, but I think more for the Flash.

Making the playoffs should almost be a given for this team. Winning it all could be a bit tougher in what should be a fiercely competitive league, but this team could certainly do so.