January 30, 2017
COACH OF THE YEAR
BigAppleSoccer.com awards new Courage coach Paul Riley a new honor
By Michael Lewis
|Paul Riley received yet another honor, being named BigAppleSoccer.com's coach of the year Monday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Paul Riley Monday was named BigAppleSoccer.com's coach of the year for 2016.
The announcement of this honor comes coincidentally with the news that Riley was named head coach of the North Carolina Courage Monday as well.
The BigAppleSoccer.com annual honors are awarded to men and women who play or coach for teams or who live in the tri-state area. Riley hails from Bay Shore, N.Y.
Riley directed the Western New York Flash captured the National Women's Soccer League crown Oct. 9, 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.
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.
Now, he'll have an opportunity to celebrate more wins with essentially the same core of players in a new city and venue in 2017.