A women’s soccer team based in Elma, New York, the Western New York Flash (WNY Flash) competed in the United Women’s Soccer League. The franchise won four league championships: USL W-League in 2010, Women’s Professional Soccer in 2011, Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite in 2012, and National Women’s Soccer League in 2016.
Western New York Flash was owned by Joe Sahlen and his family. He had a daughter, and a former defender in the team, Alex Sahlen, ran the day-to-day operations. The franchise was sold the franchise rights to Stephen Malik, who moved it to Cary, North Carolina. They are now known as the North Carolina Courage.
Let’s review the short history of the Western New York Flash.
Joe Sahlen, the owner of Sahlen Packing Co., founded the Western New York Flash in 2008 – then known as the Buffalo Flash.
In 2009, the Buffalo Flash made their first competitive appearance as a W-League team.
As a result of the team’s stellar season, head coach Aaran Lines was named Coach of the Year by The W-League after defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 at Harry Welch Stadium in Santa Clarita, California.
Western New York Flash joined Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) as an expansion team a year prior, becoming Western New York Flash and moving its home pitch to Rochester, NY, at the newly renamed Sahlen’s Stadium.
After selecting Alex Morgan as its first pick in the 2011 WPS Draft, the Flash signed 2010 WPS MVP and Golden Boot winner Marta and Canadian star Christine Sinclair.
With a regular season record of 13-2-3, the Flash hosted the 2011 WPS Championship and became back-to-back champions, defeating the Philadelphia Independence on penalty kicks.
Marta won the league’s Golden Boot as the top scorer, Ashlyn Harris won the WPS Goalkeeper of the Year award, and Whitney Engen won the WPS Defender of the Year award. Lines was named the FieldTurf WPS Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year, and the Flash won the WPS Team of the Year award.
In July that season, the Western New York Flash set a new single-game crowd record of 15,404 spectators during a match between the Flash and magicJack.
Following the suspension of WPS operations in 2012, the Flash joined the WPSL-Elite and continued to win. After finishing 9-3-2 in the regular season, the Flash earned the second seed in the WPSL-E playoffs and defeated the New York Fury 1-1 (4-2 PKs) with another penalty kick decision.
The Western New York Flash joined the then-unnamed National Women’s Soccer League, better known as the NWSL, in November 2012.
Flash won the Regular Season Championship in the team’s first season in the NWSL and was seeded first in the playoffs. Having defeated Sky Blue FC 2-0 in the semifinals, the Flash hosted Portland Thorns FC for the league title at Sahlen’s Stadium on August 31, 2013.
After losing 2-0 to the Thorns in front of a season-high 9,129 fans, the Western New York Flash finished as runner-up.
For 11 straight games, the Flash were undefeated at home, reaching the top of the table on the final day of the regular season. Aside from its home opener on April 27, the team did not lose again until the NWSL Championship on August 31.
Several league records were set by the Flash, including the most goals scored (36) and the most goals conceded (30). The NWSL Best XI included forward Abby Wambach and defender Brittany Taylor, while the Second XI recognized goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.
The Flash did not make it to the playoffs for the second time in franchise history in its second season in the NWSL. However, they had many high points, including a 5-0 shutout of Portland Thorns FC.
It was the largest margin of defeat in NWSL history and the largest win margin by a road team at the time.
After posting eight goals and five assists, Midfielder Carli Lloyd was named to the League’s Second XI.
The Flash finished its third NWSL season with a record of 5-9-6, missing the playoffs. In 13 matches, Sam Mewis ranked fourth in shots (55) and sixth in shots on goal (27), while Chantel Jones ranked fourth in saves (60).
Western New York Flash’s fourth NWSL season ended with a 9-6-5 record and the franchise’s first NWSL title win since 2013.
The 2017 season was also the end of the NWSL franchise’s existence in Rochester, New York, after being purchased by North Carolina FC. They moved to Cary, North Carolina, and rebranded as the North Carolina Courage.
The Flash announced on March 7, 2017, that they would join United Women’s Soccer for the upcoming season, where they will play in Buffalo for the first time since 2010.
Gary Bruce, a former assistant to Paul Riley, was named the new head coach for the Western New York Flash. They have played in five leagues during their nine years of existence.
Famous Soccer Players Who Played For Western New York Flash
- Sam Kerr
- Christine Sinclair
- Abby Dahlkemper
- Carli Lloyd
- Samantha Mewis
- Alex Morgan
- Abby Wambach
- Alanna Kennedy
- Sydney Leroux
Western New York Flash Honors
- 2010: USL W-League Championship
- 2011: WPS Championship
- 2012: WPSL Elite Championship
- 2013: NWSL Shield And NWSL Championship Runners-Up
- 2016: NWSL Championship