Wambach and the Flash enjoyed a fantastic 2013 season as winners of the inaugural NWSL Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular-season record.
Western New York also boasted both the league’s best offense (36 goals) and defense (20 goals against) en route to making the inaugural NWSL Championship Game, which the Flash lost 2-0 to Portland Thorns FC.
Wambach in particular had a strong 2013 campaign, ranking second in both goals (11) and assists (8) on her way to being named as a member of the NWSL Best XI along with defender Brittany Taylor.
NWSL Second XI goalkeeper Adrianna Franch will miss the 2014 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee during the preseason.
The setback for Franch will open the door for Australia international Lydia Williams and second-round draft pick Kelsey Wys, who helped Florida State to the 2013 NCAA Championship Game, to impress coach Aaran Lines.
Midfielder and U.S. international Carli Lloyd also returns for the Flash. The Delran Township, N.J. native was sensational last season, scoring eight goals in 15 games during the regular season and both tallies in Western New York’s 2-0 semifinal victory over Sky Blue FC in the NWSL Playoffs.
The Flash also bolstered their backline during the preseason, acquiring defender Kat Williamson in a trade with the Thorns. Western New York also received midfielder Courtney Wetzel in the deal which sent midfielders Veronica Boquete and Sarah Huffman in the other direction.
New talent will also be on display for the Spirit as well – most notably in the person of Dunn, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NWSL College Draft.
The defender and North Carolina product joins midfielders Yael Averbuch, Christine Nairn and Veronica Perez as well as forwards Renae Cuellar and Danesha Adams as some of the newcomers to the team looking to help improve on last season’s bottom-of-the-table finish.
Coach Mark Parsons will also be looking to Canada internationals Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle as well as U.S. internationals Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to be instrumental in turning around the club’s fortunes.
Parsons will especially hope Matheson can reproduce her 2013 form, which saw her tally eight goals and three assists on her way to being named among the NWSL Best XI.
The match will be the first of two on the road for the Flash before they return to Sahlen’s Stadium for their home opener May 3 against the Thorns. Western New York play eight of their first 12 games on the road.
The Spirit play six of their opening nine games at home.
Reminder of the full 2014 NWSL Schedule
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