Abby Wambach will lead the attack for Western New York Flash in the new National Women's Soccer League. Photo courtesy of WNY Flash
Women's Soccer News: Abby Wambach Comes “Home” to Western New York
Women's Soccer News: U.S. Women's National Team star, 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year Abby Wambach will take the field for the Western New York Flash in the inaugural National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season.
It may not have been a foregone conclusion, but it was little surprise to those in the know when the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) allocated U.S. Women’s National Team star and 2012 FIFA Women’s Soccer Player of the Year Abby Wambach to the Western New York Flash. Everyone knew that Wambach, who grew up in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., had picked the Flash as her top choice, and the Flash had likewise put her at the top of their list. Between them they hope to bring the title of Soccer Town, USA, back to Rochester.
“Coming back to Rochester to play for the Flash is a dream come true,” said Wambach during a telephone interview organized by U.S. Soccer and the Flash. “I have played all over the world and I know that I will be playing at my best playing with my family in the stands.”
Wambach will join fellow U.S. national Carli Lloyd, Canadians Bryana McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson and Mexico nationals Veronica Perez and Pamela Tajonar for the inaugural NWSL season. The six, along with 49 other national team players, were allocated to the eight founding teams on Friday, January 11. The first NWSL College Draft will take place on January 18, and free agent signings are expected soon after that. There are high hopes for an exciting first season for the new league.
Having been a part of two previous professional women’s leagues that both folded, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), Wambach is cautiously optimistic about the NWSL. U.S. Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federation of Mexican Football will subsidize the salaries of their respective players, which will be of great benefit to the league as it develops a fan base and looks for sponsorship dollars.
“The model on the table is the best model to move forward,” said Wambach. “Thankfully the federation stepped in, and they see the value. They are being smart; they are investing in the growth of women sports, in this league.”
Wambach acknowledges that perhaps the previous professional leagues attempted to start larger than they should have. She also realizes that, while everyone would like this to be a fully professional league that pays its players enough to live on, some players will need to take outside jobs to continue. However, as Wambach said, “I think we have to take what we can get.”
As the marquee player in the league and a multi- gold medal winner, Wambach knows that much of the early success of the NWSL will fall on her shoulders. As one of the most visible players from the National Team in the league, she feels a measure of responsibility for the failures of the previous two leagues and the need to make sacrifices for the NWSL. Although she recently bought a house in Portland, which she is remodeling, she felt that playing for the WNY Flash was the best choice.
“This was a decision for my family and get to my roots,” Wambach said. “NY Flash seemed to me to be the most professionally run WPS team,” she said of the team she played against while with Washington Freedom and magicJack.
“Aaran Lines and Joe Sahlen want to build the team a going forward, and I am very excited about giving my input when needed,” said Wambach of the Flash’s head coach and owner. “I am looking forward to how Aaran wants to play the game.”
Following her new coach’s directions will not be a challenge for the talented forward, who currently ranks behind Mia Hamm as the second leading scorer in international soccer history. Wambach said she told Lines that, having grown up in a large family, she does what she is told. “Just tell me to go win a championship," she said. “In a few months we can see what happens.”
Lines has shown that he knows how to get the most out of his players, having directed the Flash to three consecutive championships in three different leagues. In 2010 he led his side to an undefeated season and the W-League championship, which paved the way for the team to move on to the WPS in 2011. That year, with such high-powered players as Brazil’s Marta and U.S. striker Alex Morgan, the team took their second straight title. Then in 2012, after the collapse of WPS, the Flash joined the newly-formed Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite and won the championship against another future NWSL team, the Chicago Red Stars.
Wambach will have plenty of help on the pitch this season from Lloyd, who has patrolled the U.S. midfield since 2005. “Carli and I complement each other,” said Wambach. “She is a dribbling attacking center mid and I can read her really well. I can tell when she is about to get in one of her dribbling phases.”
While the Flash have Wambach and Lloyd, the other seven teams are just as well provided. Wambach knows there is no clear heavyweight among the eight teams in the league, which includes some of the best players in the world. "I'm impressed with all the players who have been allocated,” said Wambach.
For ticket information for the WNY Flash's inaugural NWSL season, visit their website.
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