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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v9n31 (08/04/2010) » Eight Questions With...

Alex Sahlen: President, Buffalo Bash

Alex Sahlen (photo by Mark Novak)

Get to know a Buffalonian...

In only their second year of operation, the Buffalo Flash women’s soccer team capped off a dominant, unbeaten season on July 31 with a victory in the W-League championship game. The Flash came from behind—the first deficit they faced all season—to secure the 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Sahlen, whose father Joe is team owner and a name known to local hot dog aficionados, talks about the latest team to reverse the curse of Buffalo sports championships.

To what do you attribute the team’s extraordinary success so early on in its history?

There were a number of factors that contributed to our success. Obviously, we were able to attract players with International experience as well as players who have experience in the WPS and top college programs. That being said, I think that anyone that has ever played a sport can attest to the fact that just because you have a talented team does not mean that you will have success. Just as important as our talent was our great team chemistry, a family like atmopshere and a good team concept from our head coach, Aaran Lines.

How did you try to avoid being overconfident prior to the game? What did coach Aaran Lines say to rally the team from its first deficit all season?

I think we all knew deep down that we had the most talented team and it was just about taking care of business when we stepped on the field, being professional. We knew that we nobody was going to hand us the championship and it was a matter of doing our jobs. When we were scored on, not one of us got our heads down. Like Coach Lines always says, we will create. We knew we always create chances so it was just a matter of time before we equalized.

What was the most difficult challenge your team faced all season and what did you learn from it?

I would have to say that the biggest challenge we faced this year was several issues with player clearances for our internationals as well as our grueling schedule at times. It was difficult when we were playing back to back games, and at the end of the season we played 5 games in 8 days. This is where being a professional and really looking after your body sets you apart from other teams.

Your team has quite an international flavor to it. How did the Flash recruit these players to Buffalo and what are the challenges of integrating so many diverse players onto one team?

Coach Lines did an amazing job recruiting our team. Obviously, financially was one way to attract the players here to Buffalo. Just as importantly, the players are looking for a professional set up where they can train on a daily basis to improve their game. Here, they could work under a former European and International Professional at a top rated facility (Sahlen Sports Park). In addition that, we offered a bonus system as an incentive as well as fully furnished accomodation.

After our first year, we knew how important team chemistry was for success, so we went out of our way to do several team bonding activities early in the season. I think the players all bought into the family like atmosphere that was created by the staff and owners which also helped gel the team so quickly.

How difficult was it to balance the responsibilities of team president and player during the season?

I try to do a lot of things in advance so that when we are in the middle of the season, a lot of little details are already taken care of. Also, I have had great people working around me to help me out if I need be.

Women’s pro soccer rode a wave of popularity following the 1999 Women’s World Cup but came back down to earth with the folding of the WUSA in 2003. What are you trying to build with the Flash and where do you see the W-League going in the future?

When we first acquired the franchise, our goal was to win the W-League. We did this in two years which is an incredible feat. The WPS is in its second year, and now that we have conquered the W-League, we will look to explore moving up to the WPS for possibly the 2011 season. A lot will happen in the next month so stay tuned!

What does this victory mean for the development of Western New York Soccer? How does the talent level locally stack up?

The emergence of the Buffalo Flash has been phenomenal for the Western New York area. Young boys and girls can come out and watch International stars and emulate the way they play. Many of the girls have worked camps and coached small group sessions over the last 4 months which is great exposure for the area and shows a lot of promise. It’s really exciting.

At any time did you fear Buffalo’s sports championship demons would strike again?

Ha, Ha. After the game, team owner Joe Sahlen told the team he wanted to say Marv Levy’s quote before the game “Where would you rather be than right here, right now,” but did not want to jinx it because of the Four Super Bowl losses!!!

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