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Why Bay FC believes it can compete with rest of NWSL right away

Why Bay FC believes it can compete with rest of NWSL right away originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN JOSE -- The early stages of expansion tend to be difficult for professional sports franchises, but Bay FC is confident it can hit the ground running and field a competitive team during its inaugural season in the National Women's Soccer League.

The winning attitude instilled in the Bay Area's newest professional sports franchise starts at the top with general manager Lucy Rushton, who made her intentions clear during the club's media day on Monday in San Jose.

"We built a team to be competitive," Rushton said. "We wanted to come in with a bang. I wake up every day trying to win championships, not just survive."

While it won't be easy, an expansion franchise immediately joining the ranks of title contenders is not unheard of in the NWSL. The San Diego Wave debuted during the 2022 season and finished with the best record in the league just one year later in the franchise's second campaign in the NWSL.

The architect tasked with building Bay FC's foundation in the club's first season explained her vision for the roster she's crafting, citing the importance of an expansion team having a stout defense right out of the gate.

"The roster we've put together, I really belive we'll be competitive," Rushton said. "There's a few players we're going to add to it and I think once we see the full picture, you'll see we've got a team that allows us to play the brand of football we want to play … I think we're going to have an exciting team and that makes you competitive."

"I think we've got a really solid defense, which I think any expansion team needs to have. I think early you need to be able to be solid at the back and I think we've got a team that can be competitve both in defense and in attack."

Rushton stayed true to her philosophy of fortifying the back end by bringing in veteran defender Emily Menges as one of the club's centerpieces as the franchise navigates its infancy stages.

Menges, entering her 12th season in the NWSL, is a two-time league champion. She relies on that pedigree to instill a winning mindset that she hopes to permeate as Bay FC gets off the ground in its first campaign.

"We don't want to use expansion as an excuse," Menges said. "You want to use this as this will have its different challenges than an established team, but if you come in with the expectation that this is going to be a winning team ... if you look at your team as a winning team, that will perpetuate championship style teams."

Menges isn't the only former NWSL champion on the roster -- veteran goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland has been on four title teams during her nine years in the league.

Rowland detailed how the potential she saw in her championship squads is strikingly similar to what she sees with Bay FC's roster.

"Honestly, if you asked me at the end of every year, at the beginning of the year, 'Did you know you'd be a championship team?' my answer would be 'I don't know,' Rowland said. "I had hope, I believed in our rosters, I believed in the coaching staff, I believed in our potential, and that's exactly how I feel about [Bay FC]. I believe in our potential. I believe in our technical staff, coaching staff, the roster, everything that they've been about, I really believe in and I think we have a whole lot of potential to be great."

Caprice Dydasco has made 148 career appearances in the NWSL, knowing firsthand what it takes to be successful in the league. Dydasco pointed to the league's parity as a reason she remains confident Bay FC can find success early on.

"I think that this league is so competitive; that's what makes this league so great is that any team can win on any day," Dydasco said. "Just because we are an expansion team, that doesn't give us an excuse just to give us a year to say we're building up. Seeing the expansion teams be successful these past few years, I think that gives us the confidence going in and I think other teams are going to underestimate us. Every day, we're going to have to prove ourselves, and it's going to be tough, but I think we have the roster to be successful."

Rushton tagged defender Alex Loera as a player the team will look to build around, citing the 24-year-old's rare blend of NWSL experience and youth as an invaluable asset.

As Bay FC looks to make noise in its first season, Loera pointed to how an ownership group that includes former United States women's national team stars Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Leslie Osborne and Danielle Slaton sets the standard for the rest of the franchise.

"I think when you have an ownership group full of winners and that's what we do, they've already set the mentality and the standard," Loera said. "Obviously, it was awesome to see San Diego's success as an expansion team, but I'm hoping that it's going to be the same for us. Just the players, the level of talent that we already have on this team.

"It's super inspiring. It gives a lot of hope for this season. I know we're going to run into adversity and challenges, as does anybody, an expansion team especially. Just the mentality that these players have that are already on the team. The winning culture that each of them come from, I think it's going to be so cool."

With Bay FC set to kick off their first season in March, the club hopes to quickly make its mark in a Bay Area market that has seen its share of winning franchises over the years.