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Friday, August 26, 2011
The spotlight shines on Flash's other stars

By Jeff Kassouf

Western New York Flash star forwards Christine Sinclair, Marta and Alex Morgan get most of the media attention, thanks to combining for 24 goals and 16 assists this season.

But behind the marquee names stand Flash midfielders Brittany Bock and Becky Edwards. They're not standout names, but they have combined for four goals on a team that scored a WPS-high 40 this season.

Bock and Edwards have been integral to the success of the Flash, which hosts the Philadelphia Independence in Saturday's WPS championship in Rochester, N.Y. They are the only two field players to see action in every match this season, other than goalie Ashlyn Harris, who also played every minute.

Both players are overshadowed by international superstar teammates. But that doesn't bother either of the soft-spoken role players.

"I know now that I can play with these world-class players," Edwards said. "I don't necessarily get the recognition that they get, but I go out every day and I do my job. I think I am quietly confident."

That consistency -- and confidence -- is why the Flash won the regular-season title and the right to host Saturday's final. Teammate McCall Zerboni called Edwards and Bock "vital" to the team's success, a statement that Flash head coach Aaran Lines took a step further.

"I think on any team that has scored as many goals and been as offensively effective as we have in the regular season, automatically those praises will go to the assisters or the goal scorers," Lines said. "But you don't win that championship without players like Bock or Edwards."

Both came to Western New York facing serious changes in scenery. Bock played all but one game for league runner-up Los Angeles Sol in 2009, before having surgery on both feet following that season. She had a pin put into her left foot to heal a snapped ligament, and suffered a broken bone in her right foot.

Complications kept her out longer than expected, and Bock played just 388 minutes last year with the Washington Freedom.

Following the 2010 season, Bock had another surgery on her right foot, and felt underprepared entering the preseason with the Flash. But Lines made sure to keep her on the field, and she built up her fitness throughout the six-week preseason.

Bock, 24, has always been known as a ball-winner in the midfield and she quickly regained that form during preseason. Her Flash teammates have nicknamed her "Bock the Rock" and "Brick Bock," but she is more than just a physical player. Bock is technical on the ball, just like Edwards.

Edwards, 23, is already the vice captain of one of the league's best teams. She entered the scene in Western New York fresh off a WPS championship as a rookie with FC Gold Pride. There she played as a holding midfielder -- the same role Bock now plays for the Flash.

Lines asked Edwards to become more of an attacking player, and she quickly became the link between Bock and attacking midfielder Caroline Seger. The synergy between the three has been nearly unstoppable.

Unlike last season, when Edwards had to worry about tracking back defensively, she now has freedom to attack. She is confident going forward, because she knows Bock will win the ball back. The trust is mutual.

"She is very composed," Bock said of Edwards. "She is just someone that you can rely on."

Lines also knows that Edwards and Bock can play at the highest level. Western New York enters Saturday's final with arguably the best midfield in WPS. Bock and Edwards will have to deal with an Independence midfield that ran over magicJack 2-0 in the super semis last Saturday.

Philadelphia's midfield includes player of the year Veronica Boquete, but Edwards & Co. are confident in their abilities, even if they go unrecognized.

"Their midfield is great but we also have a great midfield," Edwards said. "We don't necessarily get the recognition we should, but we know how to play together. If we play our game, keep possession of the ball and put pressure on them, we'll be all right."