Author Archives: Lauren Barker

USWNT 2, New Zealand 1: It’s Alex Morgan Time In America

When the US faced China in a friendly on October 6, 2010 at PPL Park just outside of Philadelphia, the match was notable for a few reasons; Abby Wambach de-hotdogged some dude, roughly 12 people showed up to watch, and, oh yeah, Alex Morgan: Clutch Goal Scorer became a thing. Staring down the possibility of its first loss in six years, the U.S. trailed China 1-0 heading into the game’s final quarter of an hour. Morgan earned her third cap when she replaced Amy Rodriguez in the 71st minute, and tallied her first goal for the senior side less than ten minutes later, netting the equalizer in the 83rd to preserve the U.S.’s home unbeaten streak.

A year and a half later, and even after Abby Wambach’s very very very late equalizer against Brazil in the Women’s World Cup, those final 15 minutes still very much belong to Alex Morgan. Down 1-0 to New Zealand in front of a sellout crowd of 20,677 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, Morgan grabbed a pair of late goals to give the U.S. the 2-1 win. Hannah Wilkinson put New Zealand ahead in the 48th minute before the Americans stormed back, with Morgan scoring in the 88th minute and again in stoppage time to keep that streak alive.

Earning her second consecutive start, Morgan’s speed caused trouble for New Zealand’s back line from the opening whistle. In the 9th minute a blurry person wearing black that was decided by a Twitter-consensus vote of 4-2 to be Ali Riley (but possibly Rebecca Smith) fouled Morgan in the box. Referee Moo “It Would Be So Much Better If Her Name Was ‘Baaaaah,’ Because, Sheep, New Zealand, Get It?” Hackett pointed to the spot. Abby Wambach promptly rang the PK attempt off the post. New Zealand countered, with Wilkinson finding space behind the still-a-work-in-progress U.S. back four, but the Ferns striker sent her shot over the bar.

Morgan’s speed continued to be a problem for New Zealand, but the U.S. couldn’t muster much in the way of shots that didn’t go directly into an opposing player or New Zealand keeper Jenny Bindon’s hands. The Americans finished the half with a few shots that would have counted if this was the other kind of football, but alas… Continue reading

All I Want for Women’s Soccer in 2012…

Ah, the end of the year. Those last few days before you start writing the wrong dates on checks for another six months. According to the Worldwide Rules of Blogs, year-end recaps/lists/etc. are mandatory as those last few days of page-a-day calendars across the globe make their way into the trash. Ray Curren kicked off AWK’s year-end coverage yesterday with his piece, “My 2011 On AWK: At Least We’ll Always Have Germany,” and today it’s my turn.

2011 was, despite a few bumps in the road, a pretty awesome year for women’s soccer. There was a World Cup for the ages, where Homare Sawa, Kelly Smith and Abby Wambach cemented their places among the greats of the game and a whole lot of new faces gave us hope for where things are headed. And where our cool little underground spot suddenly became the hottest club in town, for better and maybe a little for worse. There was a pretty damn entertaining WPS season – from the opening whistle back in April to that final PK in August – and the good news that we’ll be getting another season that promises to be, at the very minimum, just as good.

On a personal level, I got to go to the WPS Draft in Baltimore and check out games not only from my usual spot in the Yurcak press box, but also in Boston, Philly and Western NY – p.s., Other States: your self-serve gas is dumb, you don’t know what you’re missing here in Jersey. I got to see a WPS Final live for the first time (and do the ten-hour-plus round-trip drive all in one day, the last hour or two home through a hurricane). Jenna and I started a podcast, then got distracted and accidentally put it on hiatus. I got to write about soccer a whole bunch in a few different places, including here on occasion, and I got to make a small contribution to an awesome project that two people whose work I admire a whole bunch put together – and share in being blown away at the response from all of you. And of course, I got to meet/see again and talk soccer with some pretty great people.

But, enough with the sentimental, reflective stuff. Here’s what I’d like to see for the world of women’s soccer in 2012:

For the Atlanta Beat to be not completely horrible. Jenna and I had many a discussion about how bad the Beat would be before the 2011 season – I thought they’d be bad, Jenna thought they’d be less bad than I thought they’d be. Neither of us thought they’d be as bad as they actually were. The Beat will enter 2012 riding a totally-impressive-in-the-wrong-way 757-minute goalless streak, but have made some pretty impressive-in-the-right-way offseason moves. Christen Press and Nikki Washington in particular bring some offensive hope Atlanta’s way. Just don’t think about the fact that Press’ eight goals in 2011 are more than the seven the entire Atlanta Beat team scored in 2011. Or that Washington has now been associated with as many teams as the Beat have scored goals. Seriously, don’t think about it. Your head might explode. Atlanta will have three picks in the 2012 draft, and with what people who know more than me say is a strong draft class, maybe the Beat have a chance to really build a real team. Then again, if the 2011 draft is any indication, you really never kn— you know what, just don’t screw it up.

For something good to happen for Lori Chalupny. This one shouldn’t need an explanation.

That Cat Whitehill can make it though a season without having to play the part of emergency goalkeeper. Wait. Forget that one. I think I’d miss it if it didn’t happen.

That James Galanis doesn’t declare halfway though the season that he had no plans on his team making the playoffs anyway, so like, whatever. Really, James Galanis, don’t do this again.

That new Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole can give post-game interviews that are at least half as interesting as former Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco. I had no idea what the guy was talking about half the time, but it all seemed really important and insightful.

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Will WPS Have A Hollywood Ending?

We’ve seen this movie before. The housekeeper finds the jewels that the Fratellis missed in the marble bag and the Goonies don’t have to move. Eddie Valiant figures out where Marvin Acme’s will is, and Toontown won’t be turned into a freeway. It’s a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and th— oh, wait, that one’s a different metaphor.

And this is where Women’s Professional Soccer sits now. Waiting for a marble bag full of One Eyed Willie’s treasure or that curmudgeonly Eddie Valiant to do a song and dance number and figure out that he had the will the whole time and – oh em gee! – it was just written in disappearing and reappearing ink! [1]

Players and fans have been coming out of the woodwork to beg and plead and hashtag and make petitions and write heartfelt things [2]. If Twitter existed in 1985, Mikey, Data, Chunk and the rest of the Goonies could have just done a quick #savetheGoonDocks hashtag and not had to worry about that whole pirate ship business. It’s pretty unlikely that anyone has an actual marble bag full of actual treasure, so we’ll call that the Dan Borislow and the League Kiss and Make Up Option. Otherwise, sometime in the very near future WPS’s fate will be decided.

First off, the league (or its coaches, at least) seem determined to trudge on, with or without the USSF’s blessing. The difference between sanctioning and not is more about what names are on the backs of the jerseys than if there will be jerseys for those names to be on the backs of. Without sanctioning from U.S. Soccer there’s a chance that the 2012 season will not feature players from either the USWNT or other National Teams, as playing in an unsanctioned league would put those players on rocky ground with their respective national federations. A 2012 season without those players is certainly feasible and really wouldn’t look that different from the large chunk of the 2011 season that was played while those players trained for and participated in the World Cup.

Of course, the league would have to do some serious work behind the scenes to bring in new investors and new teams for 2013 and beyond. But even one season of unsanctioned play doesn’t come without risk. While a rogue league might be admirable for its nobility, idealism isn’t the thing that’s going to make money, and at the end of the day WPS is still a business – not a charity. Committed followers of the league know that the level of play in WPS is extremely high, even without those big names. And once people come to a game and see that, they might come back, regardless of whether Abby Wambach and Hope Solo are on the field or not.

But 2011’s post-World Cup attendance numbers reveal an undeniable fact [3] – those players are the ones who get the first-timers and casual fans through the gates. Without them, the whole thing could come to a screeching halt. No stars, no new interest, no new money, no more league. I’m sorry if I made you sad with that last part, but that’s where we’re at. I’d love to think that Scrooge McDuck appreciated the play of McCall Zerboni and Jen Buczkowski [4], but he’s not even coming to check out a game in this “world’s best league” that can’t even guarantee the world’s best players.

So, how did we get here? Well…

U.S. Soccer has become the target of much of the anger of this whole situation, and certainly the federation’s decision seems on its face kind of like they’re just being jerks about the whole thing because they can. And there’s certainly some merit to that anger – hell, it was my initial reaction too, although I was far less eloquent about it [5]. But it isn’t that simple. According to US Soccer’s official policy (on pages 14-15 of the PDF titled “Policy Manual” that you can find here):

(d) The competitive divisions referred to in subsections (a) – (c) of this section shall consist of professional leagues. Each professional league shall be:

(1) certified by the Board of Directors (BOD) based on standards established under these policies;

(2) subject to the authority of the Federation;

(3) comprised of at least 8 professional teams certified by the Board of Directors; and

(4) subject to all rules and regulations of the Federation, autonomous in its operations.

Oops. In the history of WPS the league has had played just one-quarter of one season with the required eight teams, the first six games of the 2010 season – when St. Louis Athletica was still a thing. Technically, the league once made it to nine teams, but L.A. never made it much further than the 2010 draft. If only that rule said “comprised of 8 teams ever in your history.” Because that number is eleven and then it would all be okay. But the USSF doesn’t roll that way, and it’s apparently based on teams that actually exist now. U.S. Soccer has, in fact, been letting WPS slide on the whole eight teams thing for three years. Why the federation made this decision now, why five is too low and six is okay, who knows. If the USWNT had really crashed and burned at the World Cup, U.S. Soccer could have made the argument that the league was somehow a problem for the National Team. Except the U.S. made it to the final and despite the loss in PKs, it was probably the team’s best complete game of the tournament and overall, one of the greatest World Cup matches ever. So, there goes that.

It is understandable that U.S. Soccer would want total control over its players heading into another major tournament – in this case the 2012 Summer Olympics – but would the federation really sink the entire WPS ship on a premise that’s already been proven to not really be a problem? Or is it that U.S. Soccer is asking the question that all of us are, maybe not out loud but in the backs of our minds – is anyone going to take a five-team league seriously? And is it worth risking injury and fatigue for USWNT players for that? Or maybe it’s that all the crazy infighting and wars of words do nothing to help the game and can you really blame U.S. Soccer, and the USWNT – who are still riding the good feelings of the World Cup – for wanting to distance themselves from a whole lot of nonsense and legal battles? Of course, the argument can certainly be made that U.S. Soccer doesn’t actually lose anything – and maybe even gains something (a better system for scouting players, a larger pool to cull players from, a way to avoid the costs of residency, etc.) by sanctioning a five-team WPS, even if it’s as a Division Two league. And it would be easy to blame U.S. Soccer, to say the federation is just flexing its governing muscles and reminding WPS who really is boss, but take a step back: U.S. Soccer didn’t really create this whole mess. Or really create this mess at all. In the end they’re the parent who’s got to come in and ground the kids because they just can’t. stop. fighting.

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Catching Up With WPS: A Rundown of All the Goings-on While That Whole ‘World Cup’ Thing Was Happening

Are you a new fan who found your way here after being sent into a soccer-related Googling frenzy by the awesomeness of the World Cup (Hello!)? Perhaps an old friend who just got a little too caught up in the tournament and accidentally maybe neglected WPS a little bit? Bored at work and just looking for something to read? Yes?

You’ve come to the right place! Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of what’s been going on in the land of WPS while all that awesome was happening in Germany. All six teams are in action this weekend and the playoff race is tighter than ever as the season hits the homestretch. So read on and catch up. (Or don’t – it’s really up to you, but you’ve already made it this far.)

Atlanta Beat (1-10-3, 6 points 6/6 – 4 Games Remaining)

Previously: Atlanta was 0-5-0 in the month of May, conceding 14 goals and scoring just one.

At the end of May the Beat acquired Kelly Parker and Julianne Sitch from Western NY – perhaps a nod to the fact that the whole “youth movement” thing had gone way more awry than they’d planned. With Sitch and Parker Atlanta managed a 0-0 draw at Philadelphia to start June off with a point. Then Parker made Canada’s World Cup roster and Sitch got relegated to the bench, and has played just 118 minutes since joining the team.

Atlanta also lost Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts to the World Cup. The Beat picked up Kacey White from magicJack in exchange for a 2012 fourth round draft pick – and promptly lost 3-2 to White’s old team – even after Dan Borislow called the Beat a  “high school team”.

A sleepy 0-0 draw with Boston earned Atlanta their second point of the month, but cost the Beat defender Keeley Dowling, who went down with an ACL injury. And then, not to be outdone by Borislow, James Galanis dropped this gem after the Beat closed out the pre-World Cup part of the season with a 1-0 loss at Sky Blue, stating that “Nothing changes for us, we just continue. We didn’t expect to make the playoffs and even if we did we don’t know how far we would have gone with the lack of experience we’ve got…” So, yeah. White flag: raised.

To start the post-World Cup part of the season, Atlanta waived Katie Bethke and mutually terminated Lyndsey Patterson’s contract. Atlanta has yet to score a goal since play resumed, losing 2-0 at Boston and 1-0 against Philadelphia.

With just four games remaining, not a single road win this season, the league’s worst goal differential by a landslide (7 for, 27 against, -20), and just one win thus far, Atlanta is en route to a worse finish than when it was an expansion team last season. Quite a feat.

Next Up: Atlanta will host magicJack on July 23rd in front of a sold-out crowd. Mitts should be back – and is probably pretty well-rested after not seeing the field in the World Cup. Lloyd will also be back, but probably not for long – she’s just one yellow card away from suspension. In 2010, Lloyd was two yellows away from suspension when she broke her ankle. She earned a cautions in her first two games back. So, Atlanta, you’ve been warned. Mitts, for the record, is two cautions from a suspension of her own. Sigh. Well, at least Lori Chalupny gets to play somewhere.

 

Boston Breakers (4-5-3, 15 points 3/6 – 6 Games Remaining)

Previously: Boston, the team that looked destined to be in real trouble when the World Cup rolled around, is riding a four game unbeaten streak. Despite losing Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Amy LePeilbet, Lauren Cheney, Kelley O’Hara, Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Aya Sameshima, the Breakers are actually in a better position than they were with those players.

Boston traded Nikki Washington to magicJack in exchange for Meghan Klingenberg and a player to be named later on June 1st. Four days later Klingenberg scored one goal and assisted on the other in her new team’s 2-1 win over her old team. The “player to named later” was revealed to Nikki Marshall, who would continue playing for magicJack until late-July. On June 9th Boston officially signed Japan outside back Aya Sameshima, who made her WPS debut three days later in a 0-0 draw at Sky Blue FC.

The Breakers signed backup goalkeeper Kati Jo Spisak in mid-June, but she didn’t get to make her debut against her old team – or at all, because Alyssa Naeher was busy earning clean sheets (and her old teams are Washington and St. Louis). Boston closed out pre-World Cup play with that 0-0 draw at Atlanta and then Tony DiCicco got on plane to go be on ESPN to analyze the World Cup sit at a shiny desk in a big blue truck and interrupt Brandi Chastain and Bob Ley.

With assistant coach Lisa Cole at the helm, Boston beat Atlanta 2-0 when play resumed. In order to make room for Marhsall the Breakers terminated Kiersten Dallstream’s contract on July 18th, a little more than two months after acquiring her from Sky Blue. Marshall officially became a Breaker on July 21.

Next Up: Boston play host to Western NY on June 24th, live on Fox Soccer. Stephanie Cox, Alex Scott and Kelley O’Hara, will be back. Kelly Smith and Lauren Cheney are listed as injured while Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, and Aya Sameshima are also expected to miss the match. With six to play and the Breakers even on points with magicJack and Sky Blue just two back, Boston’s playoff fate is still very much hanging in the balance.

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USWNT WWC Roster Unveiled

The USWNT roster for the 2011 Women’s World Cup was announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning. Jenna will be back later with more, but for now here’s a quick look at the 21 players who made the cut.

Goalkeepers (3): Nicole Barnhart, Jillian Loyden, Hope Solo

Defenders (7): Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn

Midfielders (7): Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsay Tarpley

Forwards (4): Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach

Dan Borislow (Sort-Of) Made Me Rewrite This Five Times – On Idealism, Reality and the Washington Freedom

Like everyone else, when new Washington Freedom majority investor Dan Borislow revealed some of his intentions for the team, I was a bit worried. I may have even sent an expletive laden email to All White Kit’s own Jenna Pel. But then a funny thing happened to me. I came to terms with Dan Borislow, even started sort-of-defending him and the trip to Crazy Town he was taking with the Freedom and all of WPS in tow. And so I set out to write something about how we needed to accept what Borislow was doing, to put our idealism aside and face the reality that WPS is at its core, a business.

I was going to do that, and then Dan Borislow just kept talking – each new quote more ridiculous than the last.

I had planned to write about how the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer draft served as something of an unveiling for the team once known as the Washington Freedom. That it wasn’t until just before the draft that the name change from Washington Freedom to magicTalk SC, first reported by The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf, was officially confirmed by the league – and it that was entering the draft room that confirmed rumors of former Sky Blue FC assistant Mike Lyons and former Freedom and US National Team goalkeeper Briana Scurry as the team’s General Manager.

Much has been made Dan Borislow’s plans for the team. As Beau Dure reported, no one is left in the team’s front office, part of a massive restructuring that also includes renaming the team and playing a split home schedule in Florida and the Washington DC area. That part was gonna be just to catch you up.

Then I was going to go on to mention that WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas was on hand in Baltimore for the draft and that as far as Borislow’s intentions for the team’s move and the fact that as of now, they have no concrete place to play in either market, Eileraas had this to say, “I think sports team owners are a colorful bunch and they come in with their own view of how to run a team, and there is a learning curve and ultimately they shape the team in the way that they shape it and that’s really up to them to figure that out.” Eileraas added, “The reality is that it’s gonna be in this state of two territories for a very short time. I think he’s gonna make up his mind of whether he wants to move the team permanently to Florida and then it’ll have a home in Florida and it’ll really effectively be a new team.”

I figured I’d bring up that, yes, Borislow may be a bit clueless, and that his statement that the move to Florida is in part because of “some of the Hispanic players in the league” seems a bit nonsensical considering the actual amount of Latina players in WPS (you could count them on one hand, and have fingers left over). Two of the “Hispanic players” in the league are presumably Amy Rodriguez, who’s under contract with the Independence and Stephanie Cox, who recently re-signed with the Boston Breakers. Then there’s Monica Ocampo, who’s currently a free agent but was completely unimpressive in 2010 with the Atlanta Beat. That there are also limits on internationals and unless Erin McLeod does some sort of disappearing act, that leaves the team with five international slots for the upcoming season.
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The First Rule of Women’s Soccer…

“If you’re at all smart about the media – any press is good press, especially when it comes to women’s sports.  The irony of the whole thing is when the US Men win they get all the coverage and when the US Women lose they get the coverage.  The problem with that is we are good enough and we are strong women and we do deserve to be in the World Cup in Germany, but we gotta prove it.  And in order to prove it– the joke that we’ve been telling each other is ‘we planned this, this is the only way we’re gonna get the kind of coverage we think we deserve and this all just a big joke’…but that’s obviously a joke.”   -Abby Wambach, 11/18/2010

A funny thing happened on November 6, 2010.  No, I didn’t have to wait to use the ATM because a clown was ahead of me in line or get yelled at by a parrot.[1]  This funny thing was less “funny ha ha” and more “funny what the hell?”.   See, on November 6th the so-called mainstream sports media started giving a damn about the US Women’s National Team.  This fact wouldn’t be extraordinary in some other world where laundry comes out of the dryer folded, groceries shop for themselves, I’m gainfully employed and not still getting carded for beer and cigarettes at the age of 28.   But we don’t live in that world.  We live in that other world, commonly known as “the real world,” where clothes come out of the dryer still wet, grocery shopping makes me angry, my “job” is the family business that I got fired from six years ago and a casino security guard once pulled my friend aside, pointed at me, and loudly asked “is she old enough to be in here!?”  And in this real world, Women’s Soccer in the US is like Fight Club – and if you’ve never seen the movie or read the book, let me fill you in – the first rule of Fight Club is “you do not talk about Fight Club.”  Now substitute “Fight Club” for “Women’s Soccer.”   (For those of you that failed Mad Libs, that would be: the first rule of Women’s Soccer is “you do not talk about Women’s Soccer.”)  On November 6th the USWNT was suddenly big news.  It was announced that ESPN would be airing the team’s next match and every mainstream news or sports outlet picked up the AP article or had at least a few lines on the team.  To recap, in case you’ve been living under a rock, on November 5th, 2010 the US lost 2-1 to Mexico in Mexico in CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers.  On November 6th, soccer’s collective head exploded.

Here’s a fun little Google experiment: a search for “US Women’s Soccer” “Italy” gets you somewhere in the neighborhood of 539,000 results.  The same search replacing “Italy” with “Mexico” gets you 650,000.  But try it with some other recent USWNT opponents – “Haiti,” “Guatemala,” or “Sweden” – and see what happens.[2]  A Google News search for “US Women’s Soccer” “Italy” reveals thousands of articles on the subject.  So why the all-of-a-sudden coverage of the team?  In a word: failure.  As in, failure to outright qualify for the Women’s World Cup.  And yes, the US’s first ever loss to Mexico and first loss since 2009[3] is big news and indeed newsworthy, but so was the fact that the USWNT was even in Mexico, you know, trying to qualify for the World Cup in the first place.
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Who’s to Blame For 2,505?

Two Tuesdays ago in Hamsterdam Chester, PA the US Women’s National Team played a friendly against the China Women’s National Team.  2,505 people showed up.  When I arrived around an hour before kickoff and PPL Park looked empty I assumed everyone was just running late.  Or that they were all sitting directly under the press box and I couldn’t see them.  Or that they were all suffering from some ailment that made them transparent.  None of these things were true, it turned out.  Instead, it seems the only truth was that everyone just had, uh, more important things to do.

So why did only 2,505 people show up?

Well, some of the responsibility has to fall on US Soccer.  If you’re reading this, chances are you were aware the game was going on.  The problem is, if you’re reading this, you’re likely already a fan of the USWNT.  In our little world we’re tuned in to what’s going on, to when the games are, who the players are, what’s at stake.  But outside of our little women’s soccer bubble is a whole other world, unaware.  There were two recent Men’s National Team games – and a quick look at the main US Soccer Twitter feed revealed all kinds of information on the men’s teams they geared up for their friendlies; what’s going on at training, jerseys being printed, players making appearances on the radio.  The WNT meanwhile, got just a couple mentions. Of course, the WNT has its own separate feed, which does fine providing interesting tidbits every now and then as well as a bit of commentary during matches.  The issue is that the @ussoccer_wnt feed has just 3,614 followers, a mere 2.4% of the 150,765 that the main @ussoccer feed has.  For casual fans who get their info from @ussoccer and were unaware that WNT had its own feed, you’d think the team no longer existed.  Did you know the Women’s National Team played a game on October 2nd in Kennesaw, GA?  The @ussoccer feed didn’t either.  Or that the dates for CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying were announced?  Again, don’t feel bad, @ussoccer is just as clueless.  But don’t worry, there’s photographic evidence that Bob Bradley eats lunch.  I’m fine with the USWNT having its own Twitter feed, but the existence of @ussoccer_wnt shouldn’t serve as an excuse for whatever person or persons runs @ussoccer to pretty much completely ignore the women’s team.  It is, after all, the verified account of “U.S. Soccer: the governing body of soccer in all its forms in the United States.”  Kristine Lilly is now just one cap away from 350 and breaking records on fitness tests at age 39.  Alex Morgan, the only collegiate player rostered for the match, scored her first international goal.  But really, tell me more about the first ever Jermaine Jones jersey and OMG!whereshouldtheplayerseatdinnerinChicago?!?!  The USWNT hasn’t lost in the US since November 6, 2004.  They’re the number one ranked team in the world and they’re about to head into CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying.  And then there’s the 2011 World Cup.  But really, lets talk more about Bob Bradley and preparation for the 2014 World Cup.  It’s right around the corner!  US Soccer’s separate Twitter feeds become a case of “preaching to the converted” – there’s no chance of bringing fans of the MNT to the women’s game as well if they don’t know it’s even happening. Continue reading

Dear WPS, You're (Almost) a Big Kid Now!

Dear Women’s Professional Soccer,

We need to talk.  You’ll be turning three soon, and assuming sports league years are somewhere between dog years and human years, that means you’ll be an adult soon.  So it’s time to have a talk (Not the talk – you probably learned that stuff “on the streets” already anyway).  First of all, WPS, I’m not sure of your religion/culture/etc., but if any part of becoming an adult in said religion/culture/etc. involves being hoisted into the air atop a banquet hall chair, I have a cautionary tale about that.  It goes like this: your uncles are not as strong and steady-handed as they think, and are even drunker than you think – they will hoist you right up and into the chandelier and it will hurt.*  Second of all, don’t do as many shots as you are years old in rapid succession.  That stuff will catch up to you quick, and you’ll feel it in the morning.**  If you do decide to celebrate with copious amounts of alcohol, please don’t drive home.  Give the NHL or WNBA or MLS your keys when you get to the bar, ‘k?  Or better yet, ask Major League Baseball to be the designated driver, that guy could probably use a break from the intoxicating substances for a while anyway.  And thirdly, be careful of trick candles.  I don’t know why, but people find trick candles hi-larious.  So don’t exhaust yourself blowing them out the first time – they’ll probably re-light themselves 20 or 30 more times and NBA and NASCAR and the PGA and the LPGA will just laugh and laugh.

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to the real stuff.  The nitty gritty.  As an adult, you need to start hanging out with other adults.  Now now, you can still chill with the kids, they seem to like you – but you should also probably get some friends your own age.  If you just keep making friends with small children, well, people are gonna think you’re pretty uncool, like that one weird senior that’s still hanging out with the eighth graders.  So here’s six ways you can get real live grownups to come over and drink wine and play Parcheesi…or whatever it is that grownups do.

1. Know Thyself: There are seven nine seven franchises in WPS.  Each with their own city, stadium, etc., etc., etc.  The thing is, it’s tough to tell sometimes.  Each team seems to be operating out of the same manual about how to operate a sports team.  Which is understandable for a league in its second year.  But now that you’re turning three, it’s time to start forming your own identity. Like if your dad is always rockin’ out listening to CD 101.9-Smooth Jazz, you might go ride your bike to The Wiz and buy a Greenday casette.  Or dye your hair green.  Or start wearing only black and a beret and talking in a French accent even though you’re from Boise.  Whatever.  Let’s use the jerseys and other merchandise as an example.  All the teams have a home kit and an away kit, sure, but they’re all pretty interchangeable.  The Boston Breakers and the Philadelphia Independence wear the exact same home jersey, except one is blue with white accents and one is gray with yellow accents.  Sky Blue FC and FC Gold Pride also sport their own versions of these jerseys, which I like to refer to as the “Ol’ Star-Necks” (it should be noted, these are a vast improvement over 2009’s “Ms. Box Neck” – which I can only imagine were designed under some kind of bizarre assumption that all the players had upright pianos for heads and needed an neckline that would accommodate said uprightpianoheads).***  The Washington Freedom have the most daring home kit in the league, because there’s – wait for it— pinstripes!  I know, I’m just as underwhelmed as you.  Sky Blue FC have the most daring away kit in the league because, well, it’s orange and they’re called Sky Blue FC.  Get it?  I know.  I’ll give you a minute.  Now, the LA Sol had the potential to have a real identity coming in to 2010, and a big part of if would have been that their home jersey was half yellow-half blue.  The split kit.  I’ll give a little credit to the Chicago Red Stars here, for cleverly making their team name something that could be easily depicted and oh yeah, representative of Chicago.  The Red Stars’ jerseys are basically the Chicago flag with arm and neck holes.  Obviously no team is going to go changing their logo, and I don’t know how the whole uniform design process works in WPS, but it seems like if each team is an individual entity operating within the league, they should have some say.  Same for merchandise.  If you go to the Shop WPS site you can pick from an Atlanta Beat t-Shirt, an FC Gold Pride t-shirt, and a Boston Breakers t-shirt that are all the same, just different team names/colors.  The Washington Freedom have Glory, so why not slap that guy on a shirt?  It’s something that only Freedom supporters would have – a shirt with Glory and then say, FC Gold Pride makes no sense.  Remember that whole thing about Sky Blue wearing orange?  Why not embrace that?  [See Fig. 1.1]  Think Liverpool and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or Devils fan’s chanting “Marty’s Better” or “Rangers suck!” no matter the opponent or Mr. Met and his giant baseball head.  Celebrate your team.  So, WPS, over the winter, break up into groups and decide: when people think of [team name], they think of_____.  And don’t say “good soccer,” that’s cheating.

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