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Sports Then and Now

Plot Twist: WPS 2012 Season Suspended, But May Yet Be Saved 16

Posted on January 31, 2012 by John Wingspread Howell

Thanks to Flash owner Joe Sahlen, the squad may have a chance to repeat in 2012.

Just one day after the news that Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) is suspending its 2012 season, we have learned from a senior official at the Western New York Flash, that Flash owner Joe Sahlen is working behind the scenes with the other franchise owners to save the 2012 season.

After campaigning successfully for a waiver from US Soccer to field only five clubs in 2011, and after holding and aggressively promoting this year’s college draft, WPS has announced their decision to suspend the 2012 season due to the financial cost of former owner Dan Borislow’s lawsuit against the league for suspending his magicJack franchise.

According to WPS Commissioner Jennifer O’Sullivan, the cost of the lawsuit would put more than one club in a precarious position, requiring a new business model. The league’s board decided to suspend play for 2012, revise the business model and re-launch in 2013 with eight teams.

Initially, Western New York Flash announced they would field a team for 2012 and affiliate with the best possible women’s league in the U.S. while waiting for WPS to come back. But today a team official told this reporter that Joe Sahlen, who is credited by many for saving the league for the 2011 season, is working to find a way to proceed with the 2012 season.

Sahlen brought his W-League franchise, the Buffalo Flash, to the WPS for 2011, and ended up leading the league in attendance, in the standings and ultimately winning the league championship. Without a sixth team and the cash that Sahlen brought to the league, it is likely WPS would have folded before the 2011 season, after seeing two of its franchises fold in the off-season. Read the rest of this entry →

WNY Flash Claim WPS Regular Season Title 5

Posted on August 15, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

The WNY Flash have claimed the WPS regular season title and will host the championship game on August 27th.

Pundits have been saying it all season: on paper Western New York Flash is the world’s best women’s club soccer side, bar none. Sunday evening, the Flash earned the honor for now, by taking the regular season championship of the world’s best women’s league, defeating The Atlanta Beat 2-0 in front of more than 5,000 fans on a rainy night in Sahlen’s Stadium.

Last place Atlanta came to play, however, containing a legendary front line to two goals while frustrating four times as many good attempts. The Flash will have to play better to win the championship match when they next take the pitch, at home, on August 27th.

Despite beating each WPS club at least once, and losing only to Philadelphia, it would be foolish for anyone to assume the Flash will waltz to the overall championship.

By virtue of winning the regular season championship, the Flash will “enjoy” a quirk of the WPS playoff format—a double bye and a guaranteed appearance in the championship match, with home field advantage. So while the Flash get a two week break, their opponents will have played one or two elimination games. As the opposition get sharper, the Flash will have to work hard to stay sharp and focused.

That is especially challenging since the Flash’s current starting lineup still hasn’t had an opportunity to gel completely, especially on the front line. Their starting front line at the close of the season is the holy trinity of Women’s soccer today: Brazilian phenom Marta on the left, Canada’s best, Christine Sinclair, the league leader in goals and assists coming into the final week, at center, and the newest United States weapon, Alex Morgan on the right.

No other front line in the world, including national teams, can match this one, and while World Cup preparation and play prevented them from being together consistently for their club team, since the Cup they have started to get their rhythm.

The operative term is started. Perhaps no WPS club suffered more from the disruption of the World Cup than the Flash. While some or all of the eight internationals on the Flash roster were out of the lineup, the club suffered both of its two defeats and two of its three draws. Read the rest of this entry →

WPS Enjoys a Major World Cup Bump: Attendance is Up in All Markets 3

Posted on August 02, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

More than 15,000 packed the stadium to see Marta and the Western New York Flash in their first game after the World Cup.

Just from an informal perusal of Women’s Professional Soccer box scores, it appeared that the three year old league that is the world’s premier club league for women had experienced a significant bump in attendance post Women’s World Cup.

After examining all attendance records for the season, the result is even more dramatic than expected. Average attendance per match has increased from 2,090 per match in 36 games prior to and through the World Cup, to 5,611 per match in 9 games played since the end of the world cup.

The range from low to high pre-World Cup was 864 on May 28th in Boca Raton (magicJack’s home venue) to 8,076 in Western New York. There were three gates under 1,000, with two of them occurring in Boca Raton and the third in Piscataway, New Jersey (home to Sky Blue FC). There were six matches around the league with an attendance of 1-2,000.

After the World Cup the two lowest gates occurred at Boca Raton (2,386) and Piscataway (1,593). The highest attendance was also a league record and a venue record of 15,404 at Sahlen’s Stadium (home to the Western New York Flash) three days after the conclusion of the World Cup. That was more than a sellout, since Sahlen’s seats 14,000. There was also a sellout at KSU Stadium in Atlanta of 9,345 one week following the World Cup, and a local record attendance of 6,222 in Boston on July 24th. Read the rest of this entry →

Western New York Flash Dominate Before a Record Crowd 2

Posted on May 23, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

The Flash stayed undefeated with their win over the magicJack.

The stars were back in action in Women’s Professional Soccer this weekend after being gone on international duty last weekend, setting the stage for a titanic matchup and a warm homecoming for mJ’s Abby Wambach  in Western New York.

As Florida’s magicJack took the pitch against the home side, Western New York Flash, the leagues two remaining undefeated clubs faced off before an all-time league record attendance for a single game.

After averaging well below 2,000 for their first three home matches, the return of Rochester native Abby Wambach with the visiting team helped boost the crowd. Wambach has her own fan base in the area and drew rousing applause at introduction, as well as some intermittent chanting of her name throughout the match, but it was also obvious that the large crowd was there for their own team as well. Read the rest of this entry →

With Each Game, WNY Flash Get Brighter, Blinding The Opposition 3

Posted on May 07, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

Alex Morgan has emerged as a star for the newest team in WPS.

It only took four minutes for the expansion team from Women’s Professional Soccer’s smallest market to score on the defensively strong former league champions Sky Blue FC from New Jersey. Swedish international Caroline Seger tallied her second goal of the season, fed by rookie sensation, Alex Morgan. Later in the half, it was Morgan who would score on a pass by Brazilian superstar, Marta. Late in the second half, the same combination would reverse roles and Morgan got the goal, taking the Western New York Flash into half time with a 2-0 lead.

In fact, the Marta-Morgan combination has become very effective in the past 2 and a half games they’ve played together. On Sunday, at the Flash home opener, Morgan scored her first WPS goal assisted by Marta.

The two make an interesting tandem in that 25 year old Marta is well established as the world’s best woman ever to play the game, while Morgan is just beginning to look like she could be the next Marta, or at least the next Mia Hamm, as the best U.S. player to come along since Hamm dominated the world and the women’s game.

The visitors made the game interesting for a few minutes by closing to within one goal after substitute Adriana scored on a spectacular high arching shot within a minute of entering the pitch. But it wasn’t long before the M & M attack returned the game to a safe lead for the home team.

So after two and a half games, Marta stands with 3 goals and four assists. Caroline Seger has scored twice, Morgan twice, Gemma Davison once and WPS Player of the Week (last week) Christine Sinclair has two. Read the rest of this entry →

WNY Flash Answer Chemistry Questions In Home Opener 1

Posted on May 03, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

The Western New York Flash won their home opener 3-0 over Atlanta.

Any questions that remained (and this writer raised several in previous articles) about the chemistry between Marta and her new team, WNY Flash, and about the reception the Flash would receive at home, were settled at the Flash’s home opener Sunday in Sahlen’s Stadium.

Before anything more is said, this writer needs to eat some Sahlen’s hot-dog crow.

After only managing a tepid tie with Atlanta in Atlanta last week, on Marta’s debut with the club, I suggested the insertion of the Brazilian superstar was a detriment to team chemistry. Without Marta, the Flash made a powerful statement the previous week soundly defeating a much better Boston Breakers squad, and it appeared that Marta would be no help to the already stacked roster, and perhaps would be an energy drain.

As the Flash took the pitch in their home side red kits, the club dominated from whistle to whistle, and while she did not score, Marta was the engine behind the dominant performance. Her speed down the left flank was superhuman. She kept the Flash on the offensive end of the pitch nearly all match, as evidenced by the fact that Atlanta made only two shots on goal in the match. It took them 80 minutes to get the second shot. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Dale Murphy: A Hallmark of Excellence
      July 2, 2024 | 1:53 pm
      Dale Murphy

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a standout player of the 1980s, remembered not only for his exceptional skills on the field but also for his exemplary character and sportsmanship.

      Born on March 12, 1956, in Portland, Oregon, Dale Murphy’s journey to becoming one of the most respected players in baseball history is a testament to dedication, perseverance, and a genuine love for the game.

      Early Career and Rise to Prominence

      Murphy was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the 1974 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut on September 13, 1976, at the age of 20. Initially a catcher, Murphy transitioned to the outfield early in his career, where he would solidify his place as one of the premier outfielders of his era.

      Read more »

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