WPS Post-Chicago: Engen Is 1st Red Star To Sign As Free Agent, With WNY Flash

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WPS Post-Chicago: Engen Is 1st Red Star To Sign As Free Agent, With WNY Flash
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
McCall Zerboni, Flash free agent signee

With a talented pool of free agents still available and the upcoming WPS collegiate draft, the Western New York expansion team looks to have a strong roster to open league play in April 2011.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2010) - The Western New York Flash of Women's Professional Soccer announced today that they have agreed to terms with defender Whitney Engen. Engen comes to the Flash after spending her rookie season in 2010 with the (now defunct) Chicago Red Stars.

Engen, 23, from University of North Carolina, was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 WPS Draft. As a rookie she started all 24 games of the season logging 2,156 minutes and helping the Red Stars keep an impressive 1.13 goals against average this past season.

"Whitney is a young, talented player who has her whole future ahead of her," said Flash Head Coach Aaran Lines. "She’s a leader from the back and has great experience from her rookie year in Chicago. I’m looking forward to working with her and developing her as a player throughout the 2011 season here in WNY."

UNC is a noted hotbed of women’s soccer in the U.S. collegiate ranks, and Engen stands out even in elite Tarheel company.

A three time NCAA champion with North Carolina, Engen was a force on both sides of the ball. In her freshman year, as a striker, Engen was Carolina's third-leading point producer with 37 and tied for second on the team in goals with 12 and in assists with 13. She was a Soccer Buzz second-team freshman All-America selection, and was selected for Soccer America's second-team All-Freshman squad, and a Top Drawer Soccer first-team All-Freshman Team honoree. In addition, Engen made the All-Tournament Team at the 2006 ACC Tournament and assisted on Casey Noguiera’s game-winning goal in the NCAA Championship match.

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Kandace Wilson, recently signed by WNY from defunct FC Gold Pride

After a solid sophomore season producing the third most points for the Tar Heels, Engen moved to the backline playing as a central defender her last two years. Engen exploded from the position having a tremendous junior season, leading the team in minutes and recorded three assists for the season. She was named to the All-Tournament Teams at both the NCAA College Cup and the ACC Tournament, as well as being named All-Southeast Region by both the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz.

Her senior season was capped off with another National Championship, in which Engen appeared and started in all 27 games, with one goal and three assists from the back. Engen earned the 2009 Honda Sports Award in soccer, which is given to the nation's top collegiate female athlete in the sport and was named to 2009 NSCAA Women's NCAA Division I All-America Team.

Earlier this week, the Flash also announced some other impressive free-agent signings.

Midfielder McCall Zerboni spent the 2010 season with the Atlanta Beat, starting 15 of 20 games she appeared in and logging 1,252 minutes during the season. Zerboni added two goals in her second year in the league. Zerboni was drafted 47th overall in the 2009 WPS Draft and appeared 10 times for the 2009 Regular Season Champion Los Angeles Sol. Of those 10 games, the UCLA alum started four times with one goal and one assist on the campaign.

Harry How/Getty Images
Could Marta, the world's best female player, also land in WNY?

"McCall is a great addition to the squad," said Head Coach Aaran Lines. "Not only does she bring WPS experience from over the last two years, but she is an extremely versatile player who has the ability to play in either the back four or midfield."

Goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, 24, is no stranger to championship teams. Cameron was drafted as the 52nd pick in the 2009 WPS Draft and like Zerboni spent the 2009 season with the Regular Season Champion Sol. After the Sol folded, Cameron moved up the coast to play for the Bay Area's FC Gold Pride, who won the 2010 WPS Championship. Cameron started and appeared in three games for the Pride, playing 270 minutes and boasting a 1.00 GAA in between the pipes.

"Brittany is a very athletic goalkeeper who I expect to push U.S. National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris," said Lines. "Brittany has some experience in the league and has clearly shown she can compete by being a member of two championship WPS squads."

Canadian International defender Candace Chapman rounds out the latest Flash signings. Chapman is recently coming off a CONCACAF Championship with Canada and an automatic 2011 World Cup Berth. Chapman has 65 caps with the Canadian National team, scoring five goals for her country. In addition to her recent successes internationally, Chapman was an integral part of the 2010 WPS Champion FC Gold Pride. Chapman started all 21 games she appeared in this past year playing center back for the Pride. Prior to the 2010 season, the Toronto, Ontario native played for the Boston Breakers in the 2009 season, appearing in 11 games.

"Candace is a solid, reliable central defender with great international and WPS experience," said Lines. "She has good size and athleticism and great character to top it off. It will also be nice to bring a Toronto area native to our squad as the Golden Horseshoe is so close to WNY."

Coach Lines says he has several more signings soon to be announced. Speculation is high that former (W-League) Buffalo Flash striker and Spanish international Veronica Boquete will return to Buffalo, after spending the end of the 2010 season with Chicago.

It should also be noted that the Flash are still listed among the few WPS clubs still attempting to come to terms with the world’s greatest female footballer, Brazilian international Marta.

Should the Flash front office be inclined, there are at least two or three other strong players in Chicago that could give a boost to the expansion team, including Engen’s Tarheel team mate Casey Noguiera, one of the Red Stars leading scorers in her rookie season, Ella Masar, offensive powerhouse, and defensive stalwart Natalie Spilger.

In addition to a large and talented pool of free agents from the defunct Chicago club and the league overall, the Flash will participate in WPS’s college draft on January 14. 

To date, the Flash has signed the following players, by position:

Striker: Christine Sinclair (Canadian international, from WPS’s FC Gold Pride)

Midfielder: Brittany Bock (from WPS’s Washington Freedom)

McCall Zerboni (above)

Defenders: Ali Riley (from WPS’s FC Gold Pride)

Kandace Wilson (from WPS’s FC Gold Pride)

Whitney Engen (above)

Candace Chapman (above)

Keeper: Ashlyn Harris (US international, from WPS’s Washington Freedom)

Brittany Cameron (above)  

Note: All team transactions must be approved by WPS before becoming official.


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