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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 →

Western New York Flash Claim the WPS Championship 0

Posted on August 28, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

The Western New York Flash completed their first season with a league championship.

What we’ve been taking liberties to say about the Western New York Flash of Women’s Professional Soccer, we can now say with authority. We have, here in Buffalo, Rochester and Western New York, the absolute world’s best women’s club soccer team.

The Flash defeated last year’s runner up, the Philadelphia Independence, on penalty kicks after finishing regulation and two overtime periods tied at 1-1. It was a hard fought match.

Independence Coach Paul Riley showed why he won the league’s Coach of the Year award two consecutive years. Philadelphia, outgunned in the individual talent department, stayed in the match by out coaching the home team and regular season champions.

There was only one shot each in the first half, which was played almost entirely in the midfield. Throughout most of the match Philly was successful in disrupting Flash passing, especially in the offensive third of the pitch.

Things opened up midway through the second half with each club getting an occasional shot. As time went on the Flash finally began to break through with their typical attack of long passes to their speedy forwards , and after some near misses by Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, Marta hit Sinclair deep in Philadelphia territory in the 61st minute with a long high-arching pass which Sinclair pounded into the right side of the net from twenty yards out. 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 →

World Cup Afterglow In Western New York: a Lot of Flash, a Little Magic, and a Big Heroes Welcome 22

Posted on July 21, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

Abby Wambach got a heroes welcome during her return to Rochester.

The Women’s World Cup momentum swept like a tsunami through Western New York just three days following the emotionally draining, ultimately disappointing US defeat in the finals, by Cinderella Japan.

With the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) match between the home team, Western New York Flash, and magicJack SC, half of the league’s 35 World Cup representatives, including six from the U.S., were represented in one arena. And the crowds came out to pay homage.

In a ceremony just prior to the game, Rochester native Abby Wambach–America’s newest national symbol– received the keys to the city of Rochester from the Mayor. At half time the Monroe County Executive added to the praise, with a proclamation of Abby Wambach Day.

While Wambach didn’t play, she did address the crowd at half-time with an emotional, triumphant speech, and promised a gold medal for the U.S. in next year’s London Olympics.

Although World Cup fever was largely responsible for the record crowd of 15,400, it was still an unprecedented crowd for women’s club soccer. Extra bleachers were brought in to the open end of the park, and standing room tickets were also sold. It was not only the largest crowd in the history of WPS, it was a record for the venue as well, bulging with 1,400 more than the listed capacity.

It was obvious the crowd came to honor the local hero, to celebrate with Wambach’s magicJack cohorts from Team USA such as Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Shannon Boxx, and to cheer for the Flash’s own US hero, Alex Morgan, as well as the Flash’s international stars: Marta, Canadian captian Christine Sinclair, and Swedish star, Caroline Seger. But it can also be hoped that it wasn’t just that, that it was also the beginning of a new love affair with women’s soccer, and with a local team that has played in relative obscurity, despite the fact that they could very well be the world’s best women’s club side.   Read the rest of this entry →

Flash Forward: Will WNY Collapse in WPS? 2

Posted on June 24, 2011 by John Wingspread Howell

Will Marta and the Flash be able to turn things around when they return from the World Cup?

Because the WNY Flash has a month off for the World Cup break after losing their first match this season, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the significance of that loss.

The loss occurred at home, 1-0 against Philadelphia, with the only goal being scored near the end of the game. The goal was scored by Danesha Adams, who has not had much playing time in Philly, or on her previous WPS clubs. She had just returned from a loan-out to the W League to sharpen her game. She was wide open close to the right side of the goal (keeper’s left).

Adams was close enough to absolve Flash keeper Ashlyn Harris of responsibility. Responsibility goes to a defense that let Adams get that close. Harris has let a few go through that shouldn’t have, especially early in the season, but she’s grown into her starting role. And when her club has lapsed on defense, Harris has saved their necks more than once. She remains the league’s leading goaltender with a 1.14 goals against average.

The loss was the continuation, even acceleration, of a slide that began with a tie the previous week against New Jersey, when the Flash blew a 2-0 halftime lead, including allowing a goal in the 89th minute by Sky Blue’s Casey Nogueira. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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