Veronica Perez

2013 NWSL team preview: Western New York Flash

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Over the next two days, ProSoccerTalk will be providing quick capsules of the eight teams participating in the new National Women’s Soccer League. Next up: Western New York Flash.

As historical pedigree goes, no team in the new National Women’s Soccer League comes close to the Western New York Flash. The Flash have won three consecutive championships in three different leagues. This new venture in NWSL offers a chance at going 4-for-4 in four different leagues.

It’s a mind-boggling statistic, one that speaks to both the consistent quality of the Flash under Kiwi coach Aaran Lines as well as the instability of women’s soccer.

“I have people remind me from time to time of what we’ve accomplished,” Flash head coach Aaran Lines told me in a recent chat. “Honestly, the more I accomplish with the Flash, the more I want to accomplish. Winning makes me hungrier to win. That’s certainly every conversation I have with players; it’s one of the things I look for.”

Last time out at the professional level (last year’s title was in a semi-pro league, though the Flash were pro), Lines had Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair and Marta at his disposal — easily the most potent front line in the world for club or country. This time around, Abby Wambach makes her homecoming to Rochester, N.Y. hoping to keep the trophies in Western New York.

Who you know: Wambach, the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, is three goals shy of tying Mia Hamm for the all-time international goal scoring record (158). Wambach will be motivated to win her first club title since a 2003 WUSA triumph alongside Hamm, with the Washington Freedom. Carli Lloyd — the Olympic gold medal game hero in 2008 and 2012 — will start the season sidelined with a shoulder injury but should be back sometime in May. As successful as she’s been on the international level, Lloyd struggled in all three seasons in WPS and has something to prove in Western New York.

Who you should know: Veronica Perez, a Mexican international midfielder who tore up the amateur USL W-League last season with Seattle Sounders Women. McCall Zerboni was arguably the Flash’s most important player on the star-laden 2011 roster. A strong season could earn her a national team call-up, about two years after one may have initially been warranted.

What it means: Western New York will contend for the title again, but its defense remains in question. First round college draft pick Adrianna Franch is viewed by many as the future goalkeeper for the United States, but she’ll have to lead what could be a makeshift back line to start the season. The Flash have some good defenders on their roster, but how they will fit in together remains unclear…for now.

Western New York begin their season at Sky Blue FC on Sunday.

More NWSL previews:

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NWSL Update: Finally, some signings (just not enough)

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The new National Women’s Soccer League’s free agency period closed on Thursday. At least, we suspect it closed, mostly because that’s what the league had previously announced.

From Jan. 18 through Jan. 31 teams would be able to sign four-to-five additional players. Teams were allowed to announce their recruits until the end of the window, but given most teams had verbal agreements with reinforcements before the league identified its free agency period, surely Jan. 31 or Feb. 1 would see a huge list of announcements. Fans would finally see a month of links between players and teams be confirmed or denied.

No such luck. Some teams have leaked or confirmed signings, but for the most part, everybody’s still in the dark, and nobody’s sure why. One way or another — whether it’s behind the scenes or front and center on social media — teams have made it clear their part of free agency is done, but with U.S. Soccer (who runs the league) not only approving all contracts but choosing to have approval over all press releases from clubs, there seems to be a bottle neck. News is only going to flow with the league turns to faucet.

Chalk it up to growing pains. If all goes well, these early hiccups will be buried by time, but with fans having waited around to hear who the eight teams had signed to augment the 10-11 players already on rosters, there’s understandable disappointment that news hasn’t come. It’s not the first time a new league has chosen to err on the side of control rather than let details flow (see early MLS), but don’t expect that to satiate information-starved fans.

A few notes have trickled in. In New Jersey, Sky Blue signed a strong class of free agents headed by midfielder Brittany Bock and Australian attacker Lisa De Vanna. For a team that had been defense-heavy in their previous acquisitions, De Vanna’s is a particularly welcome arrival, as is the signing of forward Danesha Adams. Midfielder Manya Makoski rounds out Sky Blue’s four.

Western New York, who were given an extra free agent slot as a result of getting one fewer U.S. international in allocation, have also had their free agents identified. Brittany Taylor has been added to the defense, Sarah Huffman and McCall Zerboni bolster the midfield, while Spanish international Adriana and Australian Samantha Kerr augment an attack that already features Abby Wambach and Mexican international Veronica Perez.

Boston announced the return of defender Cat Whitehill, Chicago’s announced the capture of Lesley Osborne, but the rest of the signings are left to speculation. We know Portland will eventually announce the captures of former Tar Heels Allie Long and Nikki Washington. It’s widely known Boston will add English forward Lianne Sanderson and have long settled on their other two signings. FC Kansas City will add former University of Virginia midfielder Sinead Farrelly and have also been linked to forward Melissa Henderson and former WPS Best XI midfielder Jen Buczkowski.

Other confirmations and half-acknowledgements float around social media, and in all likelihood, each of the league’s 36 free agent slots have been filled. We just don’t know who’s filled them.

Expect more news to start trickling in at the beginning of the week. With a Supplemental Draft to round out rosters slated for Thursday, we should know team’s 18-20 woman rosters by the end of the week.

At least, in theory.