2015 Women’s World Cup – Japan vs Australia – Japan Survives, Advances as Australia Wilts In the Heat

(Note: My primary computer’s in the shop, so you aren’t getting tactical lineup pics until I get it back.)

PRE – Lost in the hype surrounding the Germany-France match a day earlier, this showdown between the top two powers in Asia could be an instant classic. Australia are fresh off their upset over Brazil and looked formidable in the group stages. Holders Japan eased past Holland despite the close scoreline and have looked composed throughout. The winner of this match will likely be odds on to end up in the final, and the contrast in styles should make this a fascinating encounter.

8′ – After a bit of a feeling out process, Japan get the first real chance of the match. Naho lifts a ball from center circle towards the box and the stride of Ohno. She tries to hit it on the bounce to try and take advantage of Williams being well off her line, but the half-volley goes over.

12′ – Close for Australia, as Van Egmond slips through a challenge and plays a weighted ball for Kyah Simon in the area. She and Iwashimizu both dive for it, with Kaihori coming off her line to collect when neither reach it.

20′ – Miyama holds up on the near sideline and plays a nice ball through to the underlapping run of Sameshima. Sameshima’s cutback is right to Australia hand helps spring a counter through Gorry. The diminutive midfielder’s final ball is right to Japan though.

22′ – Williams misplaces a pass to the midfield stripe after a backpass, and Japan pounce. Japan combine at lightning-quick pace to get it wide before crossing in from Naho towards Ohno. The near post finish is wide though, and a great chance is spurned by the holders.

27′ – YELLOW CARD – Japan (Iwashimizu) – That’s probably the Mona Lisa of obstruction fouls. Kerr cuts inside and tries to play the ball past the Japanese defender, but she steps into her and checks her to the ground. Easy card and dangerous free kick. Kennedy aims near post, but her effort bounces wide.

31′ – De Vanna uses her pace to burn up the far sideline on the counter before crossing low to a wide open Katrina Gorry. Gorry is indecisive with it though and hits a tame shot that’s blocked at the edge of the area.

33′ – Sakaguchi plays it out wide to Ohno, who holds her run just enough to keep her onside. She holds up inside the area before shuttling back to Miyama, who rips a shot that’s tipped over.

34′ – Somehow, Iwashimizu is able to squeeze into some space and get a free header on goal. Kellond-Knight stops it on the line though, and Australia escape.

44′ – It’s a sweltering day of half-chances, and after a lot of Japanese possession with little end product, Australia get a half-chance of their own on the break. Kerr rushes through midfield but has it poked away as she goes down, and Simon latches onto the loose ball with a thumping shot from range that Kaihori holds well.

HT – Japan on top at the break. The holders have had the better of the chances despite looking vulnerable on the counter, with Sameshima’s underlapping runs looking particularly dangerous. At the same time though, both sides look to be drowning in the heat on the turf, making this one a war of attrition that hasn’t been pretty to watch given how entertaining both sides have been in earlier matches. It might come down to bench depth in the end here.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – United States vs China – Improved Americans In Control Against China

(Note: My primary computer’s in the shop, so you aren’t getting tactical lineup pics until I get it back.)

PRE – So the United States will approach this quarterfinal without the services of the banned Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, while Abby Wambach drops to the bench. In come Amy Rodriguez up top, Morgan Brian centrally in midfield, and Kelley O’Hara out wide. American fans will be hoping the shakeup ignites an offense which has looked anemic throughout. Defensively, the U.S. probably has little to worry about, with China likely looking to park the bus and hit on a counter or set piece chance. The Asian side have impressed but are still heavy underdogs, despite the U.S.’ stagnant form this tournament.

2′ – The U.S. should already be up, 1-0. Lloyd flicks a ball forward that really should be handled by Dongna Li but isn’t, letting Amy Rordriguez run in 1v1 against Wang Fei. Her finish is ridiculously wide though. As in, it doesn’t even go behind inside of the six-yard box. Shocker.

5′ – Morgan finds a lane of space just outside of the box and fires hard but right at Wang Fei. Bright start for the U.S.

7′ – Dare I say it, the U.S. is pinging it around. O’Hara has time to wind up and crank an uncontested shot from the right edge of the box. It hops onto the roof of the net.

18′ – OK, just because the U.S. is pinging it about doesn’t mean it’s any more palatable at this point. China aim at Solo with an optimistic shot from range by Peng Han but see it rise into Row Z.

20′ – Cross to Lloyd at the edge of the area that she chests down. Dribble back and turn before passing to Morgan at the edge of the box. First time shot bounces right to the keeper.

21′ – Heath shakes Haiyan Wu out of her boots with a dragback at the endline before crossing towards the six. Lloyd jumps and misses, while O’Hara’s diving header doesn’t make clean contact.

24′ – The U.S. is getting all the crosses it can serve in by a Chinese defense content to clog the middle of the park, but the accuracy on said crosses thus far has been woeful.

24′ – Johnston steps up from center-back and lofts a cross near the penalty spot. Wang Fei comes and doesn’t quite get there, but China still manage to clear. Soon after, Shanshan Liu obstructs O’Hara as she plays it by her but gets away with just a warning.

26′ – Heath swings through the free kick, but the China defense clears easily. China concedes another quick foul though, and soon enough, Krieger is lumping another cross in. Wang Fei comes out and misses her punch, with the ball bouncing to Johnston with the keeper down. She shoots, but China clear off the line, with Rodriguez’s shot blocked seconds later.

28′ – Brutal tackle from China’s Jiahui Lou. She charges recklessly for a ball against Johnston and plants her studs into the center-back’s right thigh. How that’s not a booking is beyond me.

31′ – Apparently China did not get the memo. Corner kick to the penalty spot towards the late run of Johnston, who’s criminally unmarked. She actually mistimes it a bit and has to slow up to wait for the ball, but the header lands on the roof of the net.

35′ – SUB – Jiahui Lou, who hurt herself in the spiking of Johnston earlier, is forced off, with Shuang Wang. This isn’t going to help China’s cause as they try and weather the storm.

37′ – Free kick from about thirty yards for Lloyd. It arrows towards the upper-left corner but not with the pace to trouble Wang Fei, who bats it away. China clear.

45′ – Wang Lisi (?) gets off a half-chance as she’s unmarked out on the far flank and rips a shot that hits one of the support posts behind the goal. About as close as its gotten for China thus far.

45′ + 1′ – Must do better. Long cross into the box is nodded down by Lloyd, right to a wide open Alex Morgan. Her first touch is scandalous though, and her eventual shot is blocked.

HT – As expected, China hasn’t provided much offensively. Not as expected, the U.S. has shown an ability to pass that hasn’t been evident in their first four matches. The finishing though has been lackluster as ever, with some bad shanks and awful first touches spread throughout. A goal is coming for the U.S. in all likelihood, but everyone’s still likely to be sweating until it actually happens.
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NCAA – 2015 AWK College Soccer Award Preseason Shortlists

You know the drill. No preseason shortlists for coaches or rookies. Position listings are done at my discretion.

Golden Glove

Emily Boyd – Cal
Jane Campbell – Stanford
Britt Eckerstrom – Penn State
Alejandria Godinez – DePaul
Tarah Hobbs – Minnesota
Megan Kufeld – Washington
Lindsey Luke – Utah
Cassie Miller – Florida State
Casey Murphy – Rutgers
Diana Poulin – Saint John’s (NY)
Kate Scheele – Colorado
Hannah Seabert – Pepperdine
Kailen Sheridan – Clemson
Abby Smith – Texas
Andi Tostanoski – Santa Clara
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2015 Women’s World Cup – Germany vs France – Germany Survives French Storm in Instant Classic

(Note: My primary computer’s in the shop, so you aren’t getting tactical lineup pics until I get it back.)

PRE – It’s the clash of the titans, much too soon in the eyes of most. On pure talent, these two sides are worthy of meeting in a final, but one will instead not even get the full complement of seven matches in Canada this Summer. Both will be working minus one starting defender with France missing Boulleau through injury, and Germany without Bartusiak through suspension. That may well increase the odds of a goalfest in this most fascinating of encounters between these European giants.

1′ – Oh my God. How are France not already ahead? Some forty seconds in, Le Sommer nods a long ball into the path of Thomis, who jets down the sideline. She bends a cross back to just inside the area and a wide open Necib. She has Angerer dead to rights at the left side of the goal but hits it wide. Shocking miss.

4′ – France free kick bounces around the box a bit before Georges’ awkward falling half-volley goes well wide.

6′ – France have another free kick, almost central from a little more than twenty-five yards out. Two efforts blocked by the wall. Henry tripped again on the near flank for another free kick. Necib plays short, but the referee gets in the way! Majri makes the most of it and hurries a shot, but it goes wide.

9′ – Necib cracks a shot from range that whizzes past the post and dents the adboards. All France early.

12′ – German free kick. Goessling drives it into the corridor of indecision, and Bouhaddi decides to go for it and gets there with a punch. It’s a bouncer right to Peter though, and France are fortunate that Georges hammers the bounce from that header out of danger.

13′ – Kemme slides through Houara from side/behind at the far sideline, with a borderline booking type challenge. Abily tries to flick on the free kick but puts it wide of the target.

15′ – Maier, waaaaay high up the pitch, taps to Laudehr right near the endline. The winger evades Necib and crosses across the six, which leaves Bouhaddi wandering a bit. Sasic should score with a reasonably open header via some slack marking from Georges, but she gets it all wrong, sending it off-target.

19′ – France leave Mittag open from range, which isn’t advisable. Her powerful effort is off the mark though.

23′ – France break up a German passing triangle at the edge of the box and counter the other way, with Delie springing Thomis in the box. She tries to cut it back, but Le Sommer has the idea of running far post, so the ball just finds a German.

25′ – Another golden French opportunity. Thomis gets down the flank and crosses in for Delie, successfully fronting Maier. The French forward’s header isn’t on-target though.

28′ – Germany has a free kick on the near flank. Goessling lofts it towards the penalty spot, where Mittag has a couple of efforts, including a blindside overhead volley blocked. It caroms out to Maier outside the box, but her hard shot is held well by Bouhaddi.

29′ – Another golden chance for France. Delie gets to the endline and manages to cut it back towards the penalty spot for Necib. Maier gets a great last ditch tackle in though, and a follow-up by Majri is blocked as well.

33′ – Mittag crosses towards the edge of the area towards Popp, who brings it down with a nice chested effort. She cuts inside, finds space, and shoots but right at Bouhaddi who picks up the soft, low effort with no problem.

35′ – Necib gets it in midfield and turns past Maier while cutting inside towards the area. She dishes back to Henry, who has an open lane to shoot as the German defense sinks back. The midfielder’s effort is a bullet towards Angerer, but the veteran keeper gets behind and stops.

37′ – YELLOW CARD – Germany (Mittag) – Mittag is booked for spiking Houara late with her studs. Painful.

38′ – Long ball by France is headed back towards the box by Krahn. Necib jostles with Peter as the ball bounces in the box and twists into a half-volley that forces Angerer into a brilliant save to push it wide.

39′ – Germany clear the initial corner kick but only as far as Majri, who whisks a shot wide for France.

41′ – Henry again running the show in midfield for France. She spreads wide to Thomis, who crosses in towards the goal, with Angerer rising and batting away from Delie’s head. She doesn’t catch though and is fortunate no France player is there to clean up.

42′ – Swift counter up the pitch by France, with Thomis and Delie playing a one-two into the box. Thomis opts to shoot instead of going far post with a cross to open French attackers, and her effort from a tight angle is to the keeper.

HT – A breathless first half, that’s surely the best of this tournament thus far. France will wonder how they aren’t ahead, given some of their chances. Angerer has made some crucial stops, while the French finishing hasn’t been good enough. They’re still bossing the game, but it remains to be seen if they can keep this pace up for ninety minutes. Germany are far from down and out though and have plenty of weapons off the bench to turn the game on its head.
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Washington Spirit Reserves Down Colorado Pride, 2-1, Win W-League Championship

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves (photo courtesy of Amber Stobbs)

For five years the Washington Spirit Reserves have been one of the class teams of the W-League. But in the post-season they’ve always been the bridesmaid, second or third while someone wins the crown. No more.

Today they claimed the W-League Championship in a tight, hard-fought battle with the Colorado Pride on two goals from Chilean National Teamer Yanara Aedo, the game-winner coming in the 89th minute.

On paper, it appeared that the Reserves had the stronger roster overall, though the Pride had both the better goalkeeper in W-League Goalkeeper of the Year Britt Eckerstrom and the most dangerous attacking player in Tara Andrews, the league’s leading scorer, leading goal scorer, and Most Valuable Player. In a game in which one big save or one opportunistic goal could turn the tide, there was no clear advantage. And certainly the Pride weren’t going to be intimidated by a strong roster after dealing with the Los Angeles Blues last year and the Seattle Sounders Women this year.

And that’s about the way it played out. Washington generally had the better of the play in the midfield but didn’t have the close-in teamwork or the killer instinct to get the ball in the net. Players would send in through balls without anyone making a run or with the run not matching where the ball was sent. Meanwhile, at the other end, Andrews lurked at the edge of the defensive line ready to pounce.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – Japan vs Holland – Japan In Control Until Late Scare

(Note: My primary computer’s in the shop, so you aren’t getting tactical lineup pics until I get it back.)

PRE – It wasn’t always by the most glamorous of performances, but Japan did end up winning all three of their group matches whilst rotating their squad and underlining their status as one of the favorites to make it all the way to the final. Opponents Holland are in tough. They beat New Zealand unimpressively, lost to China unimpressively, and battled back gamely to draw with Canada. But they’ve also shown little to suggest they can cause a shock here.

6′ – Holland get the first decent half-chance of the match, as Spitse corks a shot from about thirty yards over the bar. Japan already doing well to defend deep and stop the Dutch from playing through them at the edge of the area.

7′ – So about that “defending deep” thing. Right after I typed that, Martens plays a beautiful through ball on the turf towards Melis, who plays on the shoulder of Kumagai expertly. She runs through and has a clear chance in the box but utterly whiffs on her shot and falls. Bizarre.

10′ – GOAL – Japan (Ariyoshi) – Miyama jets down the nearside flank and drives a cross into the box that a pair of Dutch defenders miss. Flick header from an open Ogimi comes off the bar, and Van Dongen makes an absolute mess of the clearance, hitting it right back to an unmarked Ariyoshi. The full-back fires low and hard to inside the far post. Self-destructive defending.

11′ – Holland almost hit right back. Melis whips a cross in that goes over Miedema’s head, with Martens missing with a sliding attempt a split second later.

13′ – Another nervy moment for the Dutch. Off an innocuous looking backpass from Van den Berg, Geurts is almost caught napping, as she takes too many touches and is forced to put it into touch by Ohno.

19′ – Miedema keeps her legs churning and forces some serious pressure on the Japanese backline, with Sameshima forced into an awkward backpass to Kaihori. The keeper has to scramble it out into touch.

21′ – Japan really should’ve done more with that. Naho gets it out wide on the right and catches the Dutch defense totally out, with nobody within a mile of Aya Miyama in the box. The shot from the veteran veers well wide.

22′ – Movement, movement, movement. Sameshima is allowed to dribble towards the box before playing a slow one-two with Ohno. Sameshima tries to volley home Ohno’s chip for what would be a spectacular goal, but it isn’t on target.

24′ – Beautiful interplay, as Japan pings it around before Ohno posts up and squares for Naho, who dribbles a bit before sliding a shot wide. Holland being cut apart.

29′ – The Dutch get caught in possession trying to build out of the back, with Ogimi getting a foot in to create an opportunity the other way. Ohno passes it back to Ogimi, who shoots the ball wide of the target.

33′ – More slick passing to the endline and a deep run by Ariyoshi. She crosses short of the endline, with Ohno in space, but the forward mistimes her header. It drops for Utsugi, whose awkward sliding shot is wide.

42′ – Sameshima rumbles to the endline again to win a corner for Japan. Geurts manages to get a one-fisted punch on the delivery, with Holland trying to counter through Martens. Too many passes though allows Japan to clear with a mighty thump.

44′ – Kaihori falls on a deflected cross from Martens. That’s about the bulk of the danger thus far for the Japanese keeper.

45′ – The Dutch already look gassed from doing all the chasing with Japan pinging it about. Ogimi gets wide and is under no pressure whatsoever as she floats a cross in to Ohno who whips a header wide. That would’ve likely been curtains for the Europeans.

HT – A rather easy half for the holders, who wasted a few chances but made the most of a grievous Holland error in defense. They’re bossing possession and creating many opportunities in the box thanks to lacking ball pressure on service as well as slack marking in the box. The Dutch look like breaking through on occasion thanks to their pace, but they just aren’t technically proficient enough to avoid the slight errors in their passes that allow Japan to pounce and clear the danger. They aren’t out of it by any means, but it’s an uphill climb for the debutants.
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Spirit Reserves, Colorado Pride to Play for W-League Championship

To few people’s surprise, the favored Washington Spirit Reserves and Colorado Pride won their semifinal matches tonight and will face each other on Sunday for the trophy. What was a surprise were the scores. Top seed Washington struggled to get past fourth-seeded Quebec Dynamo ARSQ, 1-0, despite the Dynamo being down to 10 players with a field player as goalkeeper the final 14 minutes. On the other hand #2 Colorado thrashed the #3 seed and hosts Laval Comets, 4-0, and it could easily have been more.
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NWSL – Round Fifteen Fantasy Preview

Sometimes it’s better to eat some risk than to play it all the way safe.

It’s contrary logic for someone that’s near the top of the overall leaderboard, but it’s a strategy that might have saved my season last round. After a lot of hemming and hawing over who my captain should be, I settled on tabbing Christen Press, the no-brainer pick if she played both matches, instead of Beverly Yanez, the “safe” option. I looked like an idiot for much of the round, as Press didn’t play in the first match for Chicago and didn’t start in the second.

As it turns out, Press’ cameo against Boston mid-week featured a game-winning goal, while Yanez did little over two matches. It could’ve easily gone wrong, but it didn’t for me. And I suspect for many others thinking along the same wavelength. Intuition will get you a long way in fantasy, but a little luck like this certainly helps as well.

Onto Round Fifteen…

First of all, it’s another round packed with double gamers. Specifically, Portland, Houston, and Western New York all have a pair of games this round. There are plenty of Flash and Dash players worth investing into. Portland? Eh, not so much. But while I’m wary of stuffing my lineup with a lot of Thorns, you’ll still probably want to keep single-gamers to a minimum unless you’re going high risk.

GK

Double Gamers – I’m immediately staying away from Portland, as there’s no telling what Paul Riley will do, with splitting games between Betos and Angerer a real possibility. That means it’s probably between Erin McLeod and Chantel Jones for your fantasy services. I’d argue Jones has the better matchups, with both at home and a game against struggling Portland. But McLeod’s probably the better keeper but takes up an allocation slot. It’s a coin flip in my eyes, with what you do probably predicated by your strategy elsewhere in your team.

Single Gamers – Haley Kopmeyer’s a strong option for a single game keeper with the Reign hosting a moribund Portland side. There’s too much volatility with the other matchups in my mind to give a long look to anyone else.

DEF

Double Gamers – Jaelene Hinkle from the Flash and Steph Catley from the Thorns are the automatics, with both amongst the most attacking full-backs in the league. Catley’s coming back from an injury though, meaning I’m not sure she’ll go the full ninety for both matches. Houston’s a tougher call. Camilla’s been a solid fantasy scorer thus far but with a small sample size. Meghan Klingenberg is the allocated option, but you know how I feel about using allocated defenders…

Single Gamers – Arin Gilliland’s value is quickly catching up to Taryn Hemmings’ in fantasy, but against Washington, I can’t really recommend either. Obviously, stay far, far away from the SBFC-BOS matchup considering the defenses involved. Again, Seattle’s defenders are probably the best bet for those chasing a single game clean sheet. With Kendall Fletcher over her concussion, she’s again a top option here.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – United States vs Colombia – Unimpressive Americans Wheeze Past Colombia (Gee, What Happens Next?)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – The buildup to this one has been nigh-unsufferable, as Lady Andrade has kept talking and the American WoSo punditocracy has kept sticking their finger in Colombia’s collective chest while muttering “oh, yeah?”. At times, it’s made What Pia Said-gate look palatable in comparison, but it’ll finally get settled on the field here. France upset aside, Colombia are still major underdogs, especially with their starting keeper Sepulveda out via suspension. It’ll probably be a decisive U.S. win, but the question is if it’ll be through a performance supporters can finally get behind.

4’ – U.S. has a free kick chance in a dangerous spot on the far flank, AKA a Rapinoe special. Her delivery is aimed at Johnston, but Colombia block her off well and clear.

4’ – Big chance for the U.S. Colombia surrounds Morgan on a throw, but she still manages to poke out to a wide open Heath in the arc. First-time shot, low and headed to far post is tipped but spilled by Perez. Wambach charges and slides into ball and keeper, sending the ball in, but the flag is up for offside.

8’ – Krieger isn’t getting fooled by Lady Andrade’s tricks on the ball, and the Colombian isn’t going to get the call as she goes down in the box on a just barely there obstruction call. Montoya pounces on the loose ball, but her weak shot is deflected and easily collected by Solo.

10’ – Heath gets physical with Velasquez on the near flank, and the official whistles for a foul, giving Colombia a chance to swing in a dangerous free kick. Her effort is cleared, with Montoya driving a follow-up acres high.

14’ – Long ball nodded on by Morgan to Wambach near the top of the arc. Wambach turns and nails a rising volley that Perez does well to deflect.

16’ – Holiday swings a long diagonal ball to Klingenberg on the left flank. She cuts back to get around Carolina Arias and crosses towards the far post, but it whistles wide of the target.

17’ – YELLOW CARD – United States (Holiday) – Ack. Holiday comes in late and clatters Rincon, with the Colombian flying to the turf. Already on a yellow, Holiday now misses a prospective quarterfinal. Again, ack.

19’ – Holiday has a corner kick deflected around in the box before Johnston’s shot is deflected over for another corner. Perez totally misjudges the second delivery, but Lloyd and Wambach seem to run into each other at the far post as it goes wide.

28’ – From the near flank, Holiday hooks a ball high and into the area. Morgan nods a header down into the ground, but Perez stretches high to tip it over. The keeper punches, letting Colombia clear.

33’ – Heath crosses back towards the edge of the box, but Rapinoe puts a free header wide. It hasn’t been a promising half offensively.

37’ – Colombia are doing a reasonable job of heading away every diagonal ball the U.S. tries to hoof into the box. Something has to change for the Americans to try and break through this defense.

38’ – Vidal goes over pretty damn easily at the slightest of contact from Krieger, giving Colombia a dangerous free kick diagonally out from the near corner edge of the box. Rapinoe heads the free kick behind for a corner. Colombia plays short to Andrade who is triple teamed for another corner. Short corner has Rincon eventually delivering to the far post, but the U.S. clears again.

41’ – YELLOW CARD – United States (Rapinoe) – More aggro, as Vidal again goes down easily near the far corner flag. The set pieces are certainly mounting for Colombia late in the half. U.S. initially clears, but Rapinoe then shoulders Velasquez over at the far sideline. It’s a foul, but bloody hell, if every challenge like that was booked, we wouldn’t finish with fifteen players on the pitch. Rapinoe’s booking means she misses the quarterfinal too.

42’ – From that, the U.S. puts up a half-assed two person wall with Heath and Klingenberg, and Velasquez takes note, slipping a low, hard shot between the two that just slices wide of the post.

HT – A pretty dire half for the U.S., who put up no goals and saw two players ruled out for the potential quarterfinal through yellow card accumulation. The offense looks archaic, with the few attempts they did generate stopped by a few smart saves from Perez. Going the other way, the defense conceded a lot of cheap fouls with a painfully picky referee overseeing things. The U.S. defended set pieces well and have limited opportunities in the run of play, but it’ll only take one if the offense can’t get going.
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Washington and the W-League: A Brief History

As the Washington Spirit Reserves conclude the 10th season of Washington teams’ formal involvement in the USL W-League, I thought this would be a good time to look back at what led up to this.

To put this history in context, we have to go back to 2004. The WUSA had ceased operations in 2003 and but for a few fruitless “WUSA Festivals” the following year would exist no more. However, Washington Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra and assistant coach Clyde Watson – presumably with some financial help from John and Maureen Hendricks – kept the team name going, the only one of the eight WUSA teams to do so. (The Boston Breakers may claim heritage back to the WUSA era, but they did not exist in any form in the several years between WUSA and WPS.)
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