Twelve. That’s how many players Western New York Flash had on their roster prior to Friday’s NWSL draft. At the conclusion of the draft, the Flash had added six faces to their roster, marking an important shift in Rochester.
With 2014’s seventh-place finish being the worst in franchise history, only five players from last year’s 8-12-4 squad are set to return. The Flash, lacking many tradeable assets, dealt most of these former players for draft picks, making this draft crucial to its 2015 season.
With the Flash holding four of the opening seven picks, Flash head coach Aaron Lines was happy with how the draft panned out.
“We think we’ve come up with something good,” Lines said. “We’re very happy with the draft, especially when those four picks went our way. That was our plan and we were able to execute that plan.”
The Flash drafted UCLA duo Abby Dahlkemper and Sam Mewis with their third and fourth overall picks and followed up by selecting Lynn Williams and Jaelene Hinkle as sixth and seventh overall. The Flash also selected forward Tatiana Coleman at the end of the second round and Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo in the third round.
A Menlo Park, California native, Dahlkemper fills the need for a center back after the Flash parted ways with most of their 2014 backline. The UCLA center back will likely work with Whitney Engen or, when Engen is away for international duties, Brittany Taylor.
Mewis, who is currently with the national team in California, was selected as the fourth overall pick. The midfielder from Hanson, Massachusetts has the second-most assists in UCLA women’s soccer history, and should provide an attacking mindset in the midfield following the departure of Carli Lloyd.
While Dahlkemper and Mewis will be new faces to the Flash in 2015, they already have a connection to Western New York. The UCLA duo, which won the 2013 College Cup, played under Western New York’s technical director Charlie Naimo as part of the Pali Blues team that won the 2013 W-League championship.
Williams was the next selection for the Flash and will fill a hole at forward. She will arrive late to Western New York as she will finish school at Pepperdine prior to the season. In her senior season she scored 14 goals and recorded 10 assists in 22 starts. Lines praised Williams’ “enormous athleticism” which could help the Flash when she is placed alongside an aging Abby Wambach.
“[She has] great athleticism, good pace and good technical ability,” Lines said of drafting Hinkle. “It’s tough to find a left-footed fullback in the league so we’re excited about her.”
Hinkle played for the Seattle Sounders Women in the W-League, competing against Naimo’s Pali Blues.
Coleman scored 24 goals in two seasons for the University of Central Florida and performed well against top teams, providing strong potential for a dangerous Flash attack this season. Coleman, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, led the Knights to their first win over a Top-10 team since 2009 with a win over Wisconsin in November.
Continuing its tradition of drafting goalkeepers, the Flash will hope for success with the selection of Canadian Sabrina D’Angelo. The 2012 U-20 Canadian player of the year led the SEC in 2014 by allowing only 13 goals at South Carolina.
The Flash brought in former Spirit goalkeeper Chantel Jones this offseason, but lost all three of their 2014 goalkeepers. Lines views Jones as their starter next season, but Sabrina D’Angelo could be a solid backup.
While the draft set up a promising future for the Flash, this season will still be challenging. An inexperienced, young team doesn’t normally bode well in the NWSL, and the Flash declined an allocated player, leaving the club with just two allocated players in 2015.
Over half of the Flash’s nine draft picks in league history have never played more than a minute, and for the Flash to contend for a playoff spot all of their draft picks will need to excel.