December 23, 2016
THE YEAR'S BEST -- NO. 8
Living the life of Riley: LI coach Paul Riley bags another national championship
Throughout his long and illustrious playing and coaching career, Paul Riley has won dozen of championships from State Cups in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association, in the old Northeast Super Soccer League and the Hellenic-American Soccer League, among others.
|Paul Riley: "People talk about teams with destiny. This was a team with destiny for sure."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
He also won pro soccer championships as a player and as a coach with the Long Island Rough Riders.
He directed the Riders to the 2002 USL PRO title. He had to wait some 14 years to secure another one, but the wait certainly was worth it for the Bay Shore, N.Y. resident.
On Oct. 9, the Western New York Flash captured the National Women's Soccer League crown, defeating the Washington Spirit in penalty kicks, 3-2, after playing to an exciting 2-2 draw in regulation and extratime at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
Riley had come close to winning a women's title twice before but fell short with the Philadelphia Independence of the defunct Women's Professional Soccer circuit.
Despite its inexperience, the Flash showed great resilence throughout the season, a quality that defined the team in its ascension to the top of American pro soccer.
"It was just a gutsy performance," Riley said. "I think that game probably summed up the season for us. We've come back in eight, nine games now.
"People talk about teams with destiny. This was a team with destiny for sure."
Riley took over the coaching reins only 57 days prior to the Flash's season-opener. He took a young team and turned them into champions.
"As soon as Paul came in, he's such a player's coach and was really just all for us," defender Abby Dahlkemper said. "He listened to us and he fixed the things that we needed to fix in order to be in this situation. I just think even off the field, the players were together and we love each other and you can just tell the union off the field translates straight on it and we believe in each other."
Midfielder Sam Mewis credited Riley with preparing the team with the proper mentally.
"None of us really expected this until a certain point in the season where Paul just cultivated this mentality like, 'We're the underdog. It is us against the world. If you guys believe it, there's no one that can stop you,' " she said. "Paul - I cannot say enough good things about him - we could not have done this without him. I have no doubt. I am eternally so grateful to him for giving us this experience and giving all of these young players this place to come and make this family and I'll never forget this team. This is one of the most special things that has ever happened to me."
Riley? He just deflected the credit back to his team.
"It just feels like it encompasses the entire season," he said. "It's been a great process. A great journey and we just kept plugging along. Every time teams wrote us off we came back, and every time you wrote us off we came back. It's just good. It's just an amazing feeling for the troops. I think they've been very loose all week and very calm, which is unusual for a very young team.
“We didn't play our best performance because I think they're young. I think the legs got heavy real early in the game, and they weren't able to play better. But I think having tasted it, hopefully they'll want more. Hats off to them. They were awesome."
Riley was forced to watch the game in a skybox because he had been dismissed from the Western New York bench during its semifinal win. He was allowed on the BBVA Compass field to celebrate with his team.
Saturday: Story No. 7