Three years. Three leagues. Three championships.
The bar has been set higher than the 19-floor Kodak building that stands just off in the distance from Sahlen’s Stadium, close to downtown Rochester, N.Y.
For the Western New York Flash, the challenge remains the same: win championships. The only trouble is, they are yet to actually defend any of those trophies in the same league.
A chance for a fourth trophy comes in Western New York’s fourth league in as many years, the National Women’s Soccer League. USL W-League champions in 2010, Women’s Professional Soccer champions in 2011 and WPSL Elite League title holders last year, the Flash are already attracting attention as suitors of hometown hero Abby Wambach.
On Friday, Wambach was allocated to the Flash, a long overdue homecoming that made soccer sense, even if her old stomping grounds weren’t exactly where she envisioned herself living this year given the remodel of her house in Portland is set to finish this spring.
“For me coming back to Rochester to play and to be living in Buffalo playing for the Western New York Flash is a dream come true,” she said. “(It) may not have been geographically my No. 1 choice, but it was the right choice for me and the league.”
Wambach is joined by U.S. teammate Carli Lloyd, Canadians Bryana McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson and Mexican national team players Veronica Perez and Pamela Tajonar. Western New York’s six allocation pick-ups give the Flash one less player than each of the other seven NWSL teams currently have. An uneven number of U.S. entrants (23) into the allocation pool skewed the math, but coach Aaran Lines’ side will have little to complain about.
Rochester is now home to its biggest celebrity and the current FIFA World Player of the Year. It’s now home to Lloyd, the game-winning goal-scorer of the last two Olympic gold medal games.
Wambach is excited to play under Lines, who has guided the Flash to all three of those titles.
“His ability to put together a championship-winning team under the circumstances of the WPS restrictions was, in my opinion, something that was really amazing and of course, they were one of the best teams in the league.”
And not to be forgotten in the group is one of the brightest young Mexican stars in Veronica Perez.
Perez was a revelation for a Seattle Sounders Women team which drew headlines by signing Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Stephanie Cox. But Perez’s 12 goals in 14 games carried Seattle.
Now Perez has a chance to shine alongside the world’s best for a full season. She said she is particularly excited over playing with Lloyd in the midfield, where Perez prefers to position herself.
“Training day-in and day-out with these national team players, with players who are strong — that’s what I’m looking forward to,” she said.