Thorns FC Opponent Dossier: Western New York Flash - July 14, 2013

Abby Wambach leads the Flash into Portland Sunday aternoon

Abby Wambach, WNY Flash 2013

Photo Credit: 
Western New York Flash

Ready to bounce back to winning ways, the Portland Thorns play host to Western New York Flash on Sunday afternoon in the first meeting between the teams (2pm PT, stream: www.portlandthornsfc.com, radio: Freedom 970). Find out all you need to know about the opposition.

A brief history…
There has long been a history of soccer in New York, particularly in Rochester, where the Western New York Flash is based and they have cemented ties with the local community since being set up originally as Buffalo Flash in 2008. They adopted the New York moniker in 2011 when entering the Women’s Professional League (WPS), where they lifted the regular season title.

Where do they play their home games?
Home for New York is Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, which is where the Rochester Rhinos play their USL games. Redeveloped in 2006, it has a crowd capacity of 13,768 and the pitch is made up of a synthetic grass similar to JELD-WEN Field's FieldTurf.

What players have they recruited?
As part of the NWSL Player Allocation process, New York picked up two United States internationals in Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd, two Canadians in Bryanna McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson, and two Mexicans in Veronica Perez and Pamela Tajonar to make up the spine of their squad for the inaugural season.

From the NWSL College Draft, they selected Adrianna Franch, Amy Barczuk, Vicki DiMartino and Jackie Logue, while their international recruitment saw them bring in Australian ace Samantha Kerr and Spanish striker Adriana Martin. Other notable pickups included Brittany Taylor, Katherine Reynolds, McCall Zerboni, and Ingrid Wells.

How have they fared so far this season?
After 15 games played, New York sits on 23 points and two places behind the Thorns in the overall standings with a record of 6-4-5. In those games, they have scored 24 goals and conceded 16 times, while they have kept four clean sheets. At home, they have lost just once, while their away form has seen them win only twice from nine attempts.

KEY PERSONNEL

Head coach: Aaran Lines
Portland Timbers supporters may recognize the name of this New Zealander as he played for the team in their USL days in 2005. He landed in the U.S. after spells in Germany and Poland, while also representing his country 31 times, before moving into coaching. He started out with the Buffalo Flash, but has been with Western New York since 2011 – leading them to an undefeated season in his second year.

Star Player: Abby Wambach
The most prolific goalscorer in United States women’s history, Wambach is one of the best there ever has been. The reigning FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year may be 33 now, but she is still as good as ever. Powerful, quick to move the ball, superb at drifting into dangerous positions, and lethal in front of goal, she is the ultimate forward and lifts every team that she is on.

One To Watch: Jodi-Ann Robinson
Born in Jamaica, but representing Canada, this hard-working midfielder can make a difference in games on both sides of the ball – defensively and offensively. When contributing to attacks, the 24-year-old uses her pace and positioning well as she links play with team-mates. Then when she is on the backfoot, trying to stop the opposition, she is tenacious with her tackling and clever with her covering for others.

TACTICAL VIEW

What can the Thorns expect?
A physical team that prefers to set up in a 4-4-2 formation, everything about New York’s play is about shifting the ball forward as quickly as possible and building off Wambach. Whether it is long balls flung into the opposition’s penalty area or into her feet, the primary tactic appears to be: get Wambach involved in the play as often as possible.

At times, it really can be the Wambach Show as she takes aim with the bulk of their shots on goal – hitting the target five times out of seven in their midweek loss to Seattle Reign. Up front beside her, Kerr is a willing runner and opens up space, while Zerboni and Lloyd regularly burst forward from midfield in an effort to link play with their forwards.

Who are their main threats?
Clearly, Wambach is their main threat with nine goals scored and she really can be a game-winner. So the Thorns must find a way of denying her space when the ball is played into her feet and to make sure that she is not afforded an easy jump when attacking aerial balls. But a big part of that is cutting out the service into the striker – both from open play and not conceding as many set-pieces.

The other big danger in the New York team is Lloyd, who has registered four goals, because she is so neat with the ball at her feet and capable of cutting defenses open at will. The Thorns will also be prepped on Kerr, who is a very unselfish player as her three assists prove, and Perez, who can provide moments of magic when a game is drifting away from her team.

Where are they most vulnerable?
If the Thorns can match New York in midfield they have a real chance of beating them. Keeping track of Lloyd’s runs, dealing with Robinson’s energy and putting pressure on Angela Salem are all tasks that Cindy Parlow Cone will be demanding of her players in order to dominate in that crucial area of the pitch, where the visitors’ creativity stems from and their defensive game-plan starts.

Unloading shots at goalkeeper Franch can prove to be somewhere that the Thorns can profit from. While she is a solid shot-stopper – clocking up 10 saves against Seattle last Thursday – a lot of balls can spill out of her reach and allow Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclair, or possible debutant Tobin Heath, to take advantage. In front of Franch, the New York defense is not as solid as it could be and they can be exposed.

Did You Know?
Portland Thorns forward Alex Morgan scored four goals in 13 appearances for Western New York Flash during their WPS days when she was selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 Draft.

Gareth Maher is a contributing writer to PortlandThornsFC.com. He is a frequent writer about soccer for the Irish Daily Mail in Dublin as well as ESPNFC.com.