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WNY Flash appoint Paul Riley as new head coach

Paul Riley is the new coach of the Western New York Flash after spending the past two seasons in charge of Portland Thorns FC. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Paul Riley is the new coach of the Western New York Flash after spending the past two seasons in charge of Portland Thorns FC. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Paul Riley is the new coach of the Western New York Flash, continuing the offseason trend of inter-NWSL coaching movement. The news was first reported by Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Jeff DiVeronica. The club made the announcement on Friday.

Riley takes over in Western New York after two seasons in charge of Portland Thorns FC, where he went 16-18-11, including a semifinal loss in 2014. A talented Thorns team missed the playoffs in 2015 and Riley’s expiring contract was not renewed following the 2015 season.

Riley replaces Aaran Lines, who until now was the Flash’s only coach in history, guiding the team through seven seasons in four different leagues and winning three titles, falling just short of an NWSL Championship in the league’s inaugural year in 2013, when the Flash lost to the Thorns (then coached by Cindy Parlow Cone) in Rochester, N.Y. Lines stepped down as head coach in December, citing the growth of the club’s businesses with its youth academy and Sahlen’s Sports Park. Lines was named vice president of the club in January.

[MORE: NWSL regular-season schedule announced; three-week Olympic break included]

“After matching up with him for many years, I’m thrilled to announce Paul Riley as the second coach in our club’s eight-year history,” Lines said. “It was obviously very important to me to find the right successor and we couldn’t be happier to have Paul. He is an excellent coach and very well respected across the globe.”

Coaching movement within the 10-team NWSL has been abundant this offseason. Mark Parsons left the Washington Spirit to take Riley’s old job in Portland. Jim Gabarra then left Sky Blue FC to return closer to home in Maryland with the Spirit. Now Riley shifts over from the Thorns to the Flash. And even Tom Sermanni’s appointment in Orlando is a return of a recent U.S. coach. In total, five of last year’s nine NWSL teams changed coaches this offseason, in addition to the arrival of Orlando and Sermanni.

The Flash club is one Riley knows well from his days in WPS. Riley was in charge of the Philadelphia Independence club which lost back-to-back WPS Championships, first to FC Gold Pride in 2010 and then to the Flash in 2011, on penalty kicks in front of over 10,000 fans in Rochester, N.Y.

Western New York has a crop of young talent, including Abby Dahlkemper and newly allocated U.S. internationals Sam Mewis and Jaelene Hinkle, all of whom enter their second season with the club. The Flash selected five players in last month’s NWSL College Draft.

“I would like to thank Aaran and the WNY Flash for this fantastic opportunity. The league has grown substantially over the last two years and I’m excited to coach such a young, hungry and talented group of players,” Riley said of his new appointment.

But Western New York has seen immense turnover over the past two years, with not a single player left on the roster from 2014 preseason. The offseason rebuild became even more obvious with the trade of veteran leaders Brittany Taylor to FC Kansas City and Becky Edwards to Orlando Pride. Sydney Leroux was also traded away to FC Kansas City, a process which Kansas City coach Vlatko Andonovski said took about a year. (Leroux soon after announced she is pregnant and will miss the 2016 NWSL season and the Olympics.)

Now, Riley’s task is restoring glory to a club which set the standard in women’s soccer for a half-decade but has missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

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