National Women's Soccer League / Western New York Flash

Transformed Flash look to regain form

When the Western New York Flash open the season against the Seattle Reign this Sunday, the team will bear virtually no resemblance to the 2014 Flash, which could turn out to be a good thing. The Flash return one player from last year’s opening day starters after the team endured a massive overhaul following the team’s worst finish in franchise history.

Key Additions

Chantel Jones: A two-year backup goalkeeper for the Washington Spirit, coach Aaron Lines envisions the goalkeeper in a starting role this season. The Flash received Jones in a keeper-for-keeper trade that sent Kelsey Wys to the Spirit. The Spirit never won with Jones in net last season but she was the starting goalkeeper for the Australian W-League champion Canberra United during the winter.

Whitney Engen: Acquired as part of the Carli Lloyd trade, Engen will likely partner with Flash veteran Brittany Taylor and should help to anchor an inexperienced backline when she isn’t at the World Cup.

Samantha Mewis: Mewis was stellar in college and will have an opportunity for a breakout rookie season in a relatively young midfield.

Abby Dahlkemper: The former UCLA center-back dominated in college but is listed as a midfielder on the Flash’s roster. She will provide versatility during the World Cup if Lines and Naimo opt to shift her into the middle of the backline.

Becky Edwards: A gritty defensive midfielder, Edwards provides experience to a young side. She will be almost two years removed from having ACL surgery and is a familiar face to Flash fans.

Lynn Williams: One of the Flash’s four first round picks, Williams will add speed to the frontline when she arrives in May.

Sydney Leroux: One of two allocated players on the Flash’s roster, Leroux arrived in New York through a trade that sent Amber Brooks, their 2016 first-round draft pick, and the rights to Abby Wambach. While Leroux promises that she’s happy to be in Rochester, she isn’t thrilled about how she got there but will face her former club in the season’s opening match.

Key Losses

Abby Wambach:  Wambach announced she wouldn’t participate in the 2015 NWSL season this March and only a few weeks later her rights were traded to the Reign. This loss does free the Flash to play around with their style, but the loss of Wambach could hurt ticket sales.

Carli Lloyd: One of the Flash’s biggest moves this offseason, the Flash sent Lloyd to Houston for Edwards and Engen. Lloyd scored 8 goals for the Flash last season and her presence will be missed in New York.

Sam Kerr: The club’s leading goal scorer in 2014, Kerr was traded to Sky Blue FC for the fourth overall pick in the draft.

Kat Williamson: Williamson was traded along with Zerboni to the Portland Thorns in exchange for Amber Brooks, who the Flash later traded. Williamson appeared in 21 matches for the Flash and started 20.

McCall Zerboni: After her fourth season in New York, Zerboni requested to be traded and that landed her in Portland this season. She’s been a cornerstone off the franchise since 2011 and has been on the field for three championship matches in three leagues for the Flash. They will lose her leadership and perhaps, more importantly, her experience with such a young roster this year.

Adriana Franch: The team’s starting goalkeeper in 2013, she left the franchise to join the Norwegian side Avaldsnes.

Complete roster

Overview of last season

2014 was the worst season in the history of the franchise as the Flash finished in seventh place. After being regular season winners in 2013, it was a disappointing year for the Flash franchise. The club allowed 38 goals—nearly double the total in 2013 (20)—while scoring 42 during the season. With virtually an entirely new roster, the chemistry developed during preseason will be crucial to the success of the Flash. With almost a completely new squad, the team lacks the cohesiveness that comes with having a season (or two) of experience playing with each other. If the team clicks well, the team could contend for a playoff spot, but it might be a season too soon for the Western New York side.

World Cup Outlook

The club will miss the defensive anchoring of Whitney Engen and the attacking threat that Sydney Leroux can be. Yet the club’s personnel will be highly consistent throughout the season, one of the few advantages the Flash have. Lines indicated early on that he wanted to be able to build a club that could sustain the World Cup call-ups and it appears that he has done just that.

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