* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup
In A Nutshell:
Well, this is pretty easy. The Flash need everything, save a defensive midfielder, which looks well set with Becky Edwards and Amber Brooks. So it goes when your roster has been gutted in the offseason.
Biggest Needs: AMC, CF, WF, LB, CB, GK (if Franch does not return)
GK – Franch, *Jones
There’s as much drama here as with any other goalkeeping situation in the league, as the Flash continue to play hardball with AD Franch over a new contract. Franch looked like one of the league’s top goalkeeping talents as a rookie in 2013 but missed all of last season with an ACL injury. There’s no telling how she’ll recover from said injury, and Franch may be forced abroad if the Flash aren’t willing to ship her elsewhere if they can’t agree to a contract. Even if WNY does try and trade her, who exactly would pay a surely steep price for the former Oklahoma State star?
The Flash made what seems to be a lateral move on paper in terms of their other goalkeeping spot. Kelsey Wys wasn’t awful last season but may already be at her ceiling in terms of potential and was traded to Washington for Chantel Jones. Jones had impressed in 2013 with the Spirit serving as Ashlyn Harris’ understudy and playing behind an abysmal backline but was considerably shakier last season in limited minutes. If Franch doesn’t return, this will likely be Jones’ job to lose at the beginning of the season. At the same time, an exit by Franch could see the Flash target a goalkeeper with one of their many picks in the draft.
DEF – Edmonds, Palmer, Taylor, (*Engen), *Trotter
Naturally, there’s a lot to add here too. The Flash took a chainsaw to last year’s mistake prone defense, with the sole returning starter being Brittany Taylor, one of the very few holdovers from the entire team that competed last season. Taylor clearly was not up to being the quarterback of the defense last year but will be absolved of those responsibilities for the most part with the re-acquisition of Whitney Engen. Engen could become a fixture for the USWNT at center-back for some time and instantly fortifies the backbone of this defense to a much needed degree. If the club drafts a center-back early, Taylor might get shifted out wide to full-back, where her ability to get upfield can truly take hold.
The problem is, there’s almost nothing behind those two. The club signed India Trotter, which would’ve been a lot more encouraging if this were 2011. Trotter hasn’t played in a top level league in about four years, and there’s no telling what she’ll be able to provide other than leadership in the locker room. In a best case scenario, Trotter could provide some stability at left-back, though one wonders how she’ll hold up in the long run. The other two defenders currently on the roster, Kristen Edmonds and Haley Palmer, didn’t leave much of an impression last season and may struggle to make the squad if the club brings in a wide swath of new defenders.
And new defenders are certainly in order, as this group needs more than a few before the season starts.
MF – *Edwards, *Angeli, *Brooks, *Eddy
The trio of starting midfielders that served the club so well in 2013 before 2014’s comedown are all gone, and you wonder where the offensive invention is going to come from, considering this group is very functional to say the least. Becky Edwards overcame 2013’s ACL injury to impress with a hapless Houston side last season and will be the cornerstone of this group as well. She should be joined in a double pivot in midfield by Amber Brooks, who has not lived up to expectations thus far as a pro after so much promise following her collegiate career.
Elsewhere? Uh, all signs point to the club needing more help. Who exactly is going to fulfill the #10 role to break defenses down? It certainly isn’t anyone left on the roster right now. Jordan Angeli’s return from injury has been inspiring, but she looks little more than a minutes eating reserve at this point. Technical director Charlie Naimo undoubtedly helped with the addition of Elizabeth Eddy, a 2014 draftee from Sky Blue FC. She’s more likely to see action out wide though, and expectations are likely grounded considering her disappointing college career.
This group needs a spark, but the Flash may not be in a position to add one if Morgan Brian and Sam Mewis are both gone by the time they pick in the first round.
FW – *Spencer, (Wambach)
So, has anybody else noticed that the Flash haven’t exactly done much to replenish their attacking ranks after taking a chainsaw to most of the roster? While WNY has fortified the defense and midfield to a certain extent, the cupboard is pretty bare up top. Abby Wambach figures to be scrutinized to no end, as the aging USWNT forward surely begins her swan song at international and club levels. Though in noticeable decline, Wambach is still capable in front of goal, though the strain of juggling club and country duties could prove telling. And it goes without saying that Wambach will be prioritizing the WWC this season to try and add one final honor to a mantle full of them.
There’s nothing but questions behind her, which is a big problem considering Wambach won’t be there for much of the season in all likelihood. Jasmyne Spencer continues to defy the odds and keep ticking as a professional player and was in fine form for much of last season as both a reserve and spot starter, while she also shined in Australia in the offseason. But carrying an offensive load by herself is a big ask, and there’s very little behind her in terms of depth. The Flash figure to make major additions here before opening day…but this may be the worst draft for forward talent in a long time, meaning Naimo better have an ace or two up his sleeve.