Category Archives: Boston Breakers

Spirit start off NWSL’s season 4 with 1-0 win over Breakers

With all the offensive weapons at their disposal, how would you expect the Washington Spirit to score their first goal of 2016? Crystal Dunn on a steal and a breakaway? Christine Nairn from distance? Katie Stengel? Estefania Banini? No, it was Joanna Lohman – at 33 the oldest player on the team – in the 3rd minute on a bicycle kick. “It was honestly a dream come true,” said Lohman after the game. “Hands down the best goal I’ve ever scored. I can officially retire now.”

Washington managed to make the lone tally hold up against a rebuilding Boston Breakers team, not that the latter didn’t have their chances despite an official scoreline of just 2 shots on goal.
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WPSL Elite: Sometimes Journey More Important Than Destination

The plan to come to Chicago for a July vacation was made well before the WPSL Elite schedule came out, or even before the decision was made to cover the league at all this summer (which I thank AWK for, it’s been fun).
I knew I would basically miss a weekend of games, but when I saw July 7: Boston at New England, I had a sneaking suspicion it may be bad game to be absent for.
Of course, we know what happened next. Paul Riley had said all season that one “amateur” team would beat a “pro” team before the 2012 campaign concluded, and the Mutiny did so in spectacular fashion, scoring twice in stoppage time to give them a win over their intrastate rival Breakers, 2-1.
New England does not have the best team in WPSL Elite (as their 31 goals conceded in 11 matches can attest to), but they may be the most interesting thing to come out of this makeshift domestic women’s soccer season, at least on the East coast.
The Mutiny have a marketable star in youngster Morgan Andrews, one of the best attacking talents in Kate Howarth, and recently added to that with veteran Tiffany Weimer who – for my money, at least – was one of the most entertaining players in WPS (this side of Marta) when she played with FC Gold Pride just a couple of years ago.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, New England is only 4-5-2, and although it has a fairly favorable schedule to close, finishing above .500 will be difficult. But, even in competitive athletics, sometimes it’s not about the destination, but the journey to get there.
With goals galore, upsets of more heralded teams, and just entertaining soccer, the Mutiny journey has been a lot of fun.

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WPSL Elite: Boston Stops New England Behind Jones, Simon; Howarth Impresses In Defeat

The teams line up before kickoff on a brutally hot evening at Dilboy Stadium.

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – The record will show that the Boston Breakers defeated the New England Mutiny 4-2 Wednesday night, a result that brought us one step closer to what you have to figure is the inevitable: the four “professional” teams battling it out for the inaugural WPSL Elite title in Rochester at the end of July.

But – as I’ve occasionally pointed out to my teams over the years – sometimes life is about the journey not the destination, and on an oppressive New England night outside of Boston, there was plenty to take notice of outside the final scoreline.

Even in a losing effort, New England striker Kate Howarth continues to shine. On a team full of local talent, Howarth – a Michigan native who will be heading into her senior year at Miami in the fall – decided a summer in New England would benefit her. And, at least among people who are paying attention to WPSL Elite, she has. Statistically, she leads the Mutiny with five goals, but she’s probably been better than that, giving a Breakers’ veteran backline all kinds of fits Wednesday night before scoring a striker’s goal in the 59th minute.

For a player who suffered a somewhat gruesome leg break less than two years ago, Howarth definitely doesn’t take anything for granted and it shows in her play, which has drawn rave reviews from her opponents as well.

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Breakers Forced To Forfeit WNY Win; WPSL Elite Standings Shaken Up

In what just turns out to be an unfortunate case for everyone involved, the Boston Breakers were forced to forfeit what was a 3-2 win over Western New York on May 26.

The new score is 3-0 in favor of the Flash and puts them in much, much better position to qualify for the playoffs, which they will host in late July. WNY jumps from 14 to 17 points, and had a good chance to make it anyway, especially with the form they have shown of late, but the Mutiny was only four points behind the Flash with a game in hand, and will host the final WPS champions Sunday afternoon in East Longmeadow, Mass.

Word leaked Monday via the WPSL Elite website, which mysteriously changed the Breakers win to a WNY 3-0 win, 3-0 being the official score of any forfeited game, with the standings changed accordingly.

Putting the pieces together, it was the first game for rookie Melissa Henderson, who joined the Breakers earlier in the week after graduating from Notre Dame. It still remains unclear why Henderson’s appearance caused the Breakers to forfeit. The WPSL and Breakers are expected to issue a release Tuesday morning.

Boston actually falls behind the Flash in the standings, now sitting on 15 points in third, two behind WNY and three behind league-leading Chicago.

New York is still fourth with 13 points, but opened the season with a 5-1 win at New England. The rematch is on Long Island on July 3.

Henderson was the second overall pick in last winter’s WPS draft by Sky Blue FC, but was signed by Boston when the league was suspended and subsequently signed by the Breakers. She was a first-team All-American at Notre Dame in 2010 and third-team last season, scoring 70 goals in her Fighting Irish career, good for fourth in school history.

It’s also unfortunate statistically for Katie Schoepfer, who had a hat trick in the contest.

UPDATE: Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer reported via Twitter that WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli said Henderson had not been cleared prior to the game in question.

UPDATE (9:30 a.m. Tuesday): Here is the Breakers’ statement. Kind of feel for the team after that, and how did Russia get involved? We’re headed to tomorrow’s Breakers-Mutiny game, so we’ll try to find out.

 

 

WPSL Elite: Breakers Open With Sell-Out On Day WPS Breathes Its Last

The teams line up at sunny Dilboy Stadium before the Breakers-FC Indiana game last week.

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Officially, the plug was pulled on Women’s Professional Soccer last Friday, and while its certified demise led some that were out of the loop to shed a tear or two over its death, most of us that saw it in its vegetative state the last few months were able to say our goodbyes long ago.

And so, on the very day, the old league was put out of its misery, there were plenty of smiles from the people who used to be a big part of it. The Boston Breakers hosted FC Indiana in their home opener in the newly formed WPSL Elite before a sell-out crowd at Dilboy Stadium, and it seemed like – for everyone involved – the pressure was off.

Yes, it was great that 2,312 paying customers showed up to watch, but the number didn’t really matter, unlike last year, where that number seemed to be everything. There was a decent amount of media present, but there was no lamenting that the major media outlets weren’t there with cameras and beat reporters. In short, it seems that in WPSL Elite thus far, everyone is free to be themselves, which is refreshing.

If there was a problem evident with the WPSL Elite Friday night, it might be finding good competition for the clearly talented teams at the top of the pyramid. Much has been made about FC Indiana and the wonderful work Shek Borkowski has done in Haiti in a short time, but his almost exclusively Haitian outfit was outclassed from the opening kickoff.

Borkowski came out in a 3-4-3 hybrid, but Indiana gave Boston plenty of space to start their attack. And anyone who has watched Cat Whitehill over the years knows that if you give her time and space anywhere within a 40-yard radius of your goal, she’s going to take aim. You could almost see Whitehill’s eyes light up from the press box as her first shot just minutes in forced an uncomfortable save out of Indiana keeper Geralda Saintilus, who would be more than a little busy in this match. In the ninth minute, Saintilus got a hand to another Whitehill missile to push it off the crossbar, but Katie Schoepfer was there for an easy tap-in.

To Indiana’s credit, they came back two minutes later to tie the game. Sophia Batard, probably Indiana’s best player, got the ball on a counter and slipped in Nadia Libertin and the game was even.

But that would be Indiana’s only shot of the first half, and Kyah Simon’s brace before halftime pretty much sealed Indiana’s fate. The visitors’ shape in defense was much better in the second half, and they conceded only once after the break, when Simon found fellow Aussie international Tameka Butt in the 57th minute, making the final 4-1.

It is the additions of the Aussies that might push Boston to the favorite role in WPSL Elite this summer. Simon, particularly, did just about as she pleased Friday night, and her workrate will make her a handful for anyone in this league to stop. She doesn’t turn 21 until next month, and has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world. She signed with the Breakers when the WPS was still alive back in January, and there was some question whether she and Butt would still come over when the league collapsed, but there was little doubt in her mind.

“I think any opportunity to go overseas was definitely in the cards,” Simon said. “What better place to come than America? I’d definitely prefer rather to be here rather than in Denmark or in Sweden where the weather is cold, but definitely going overseas was an easy choice at all stages. Hopefully, I might be back here next year, too.”

I’m assuming if you’re here, you know most of Simon’s remarkable story, but if you haven’t seen “No Apologies” and you’re a women’s soccer fan, it’s definitely worth your time.

Boston, like New York, has a veteran core that starts down the spine with Whitehill and Taryn Hemmings in the middle, joined by Leslie Osborne and Mary Frances Monroe playing holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 for coach Lisa Cole. Cole made an interesting sub late in the game when Kristi Lefebvre replaced Monroe, significant because both are Division I head coaches in the same conference, Monroe now running Albany, while Lefebvre is at Vermont (both are always former UConn standouts, although they played at different times). Both are splitting time between their job and the Breakers this summer, meaning they probably won’t be available for every road game, but will be a big veteran boost to the squad nonetheless.

Butt tucked in behind a front three of Simon, Schoepfer, and Jess Luscinski, who picked up an assist. The Breakers should also get Melissa Henderson in uniform at some point this summer. Courtney Jones – formerly of UNC – and Julie King round out the backline, and you start to understand why the Breakers are the likely league favorites.

“We’ve played a different lineup in all three games,” Cole said. “We’re still missing three of our U-23s today, they’re all starters, so it will change in and out throughout the season.”

It’s been nearly 12 years since Whitehill made her full debut for the U.S. national team, so she has certainly earned the right to speak about the state of women’s soccer these days. And she, like many players, just seemed happy Friday that the WPS ordeal of the last few months can finally be put to a semi-permanent rest.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of blocks to go down, then you have to keep building it up to keep making it stronger,” Whitehill said. “We keep learning from our mistakes from each one. This is an awesome opportunity for so many young women, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Hopefully this season will be a good, relaxing start:

Elsewhere in WPSL Elite:

SATURDAY

NEW ENGLAND 4:2 CHESAPEAKE

Kevin had a good recap on this game and included our conversation with Chesapeake coach Albert Oni, which had some good responses on joining WPSL Elite.

Oni’s squad didn’t roll over for the Mutiny, trailing 3-1 at halftime, they were the better side in the second half, and nearly equalized on a couple of occasions. And while no one is ever happy to lose a game, I left impressed by the Charge, who had a goal scorer – Shannon Collins (a phenomenal left-footed curling strike from a good distance out) – and the player that impressed me most – Riley Barger – that were both high schoolers. You knew it was a young team when you saw some of them giddy after the game about the opportunity to grab some free pizza, and a couple of voices yelling, “Mom, get my bag.” The juxtaposition of a team like that against the likes of the veteran Breakers and Paul Riley’s New York Fury should be interesting.

Incidentally, the Charge played without Christine Nairn – their most accomplished player – whom Oni said had to take care of some things at Penn State.

New England was without Morgan Andrews – at her high school prom – and has had trouble getting a full roster together, seemingly more so than other squads. They also faced a scheduling dilemma with another game at Philadelphia 24 hours later. But three points is three points, I guess.

Another beautiful night at East Longmeadow High as the Mutiny and Charge squared off.

Random cool fact of the night: Jenny Maurer – who scored the opening goal from long range – not only played her high school soccer on the East Longmeadow High field where the Mutiny plays, but is now the varsity coach there. So at least we know she knows how to get to the games, which is nice.

WESTERN NY 0:1 NEW YORK

The Flash can take plenty of positives out of this one, but it was Brittany Taylor’s goal off a corner kick early in the second half that gave the Fury three points and kept them perfect in the early season. The Flash, though, showed that they will probably be a factor in the league before all is said and done, although you have to think the Fury will keep getting better as well.

SUNDAY

CHICAGO 2:0 INDIANA

As expected, the Red Stars dominated possession in their opener, but had more trouble than expected breaking Indiana down, eventually getting goals from Julianne Stich and a Lauren Fowlkes penalty kick to get the result.

Other than the new uniforms (I like them), Lori Chalupny continues to be a factor in whatever league she plays in, taking the field without headgear and dominating. Tough to get a read on the Red Stars after just one game, we’ll have to wait until they play one of the top teams to get a genuine read on whether they’ll be a factor in the title race.

PHILADELPHIA 2:2 NEW ENGLAND

Like Chesapeake the day before, the Fever proved to be feisty and – according to reports – could have won the game at the end a couple of times. Tiya Gallegos has scored in all three Mutiny games and her brace here gives her four on the young season, a nice problem for Tony Horta to have. Unfortunately, his defense – in flux for various reasons – has now conceded nine times in three matches – and that’s going to have to be sorted out quickly if they want to make a playoff push.

As much as it was disappointing for New England to struggle this weekend, it is probably good for the league, which feared that Chesapeake and Philadelphia may struggle to be competitive. Neither has played one of the “big clubs”, but it’s a good (and entertaining) start.

New York hosts Boston on Wednesday in a marquee league matchup, as the league should finally start to stabilize with schedules and rosters soon.

The scene outside Dilboy Stadium before last Friday's game.

Breakers-Sky Blue postgame sound-notes

Some postgame quotes after Sunday’s 2-0 victory for Boston over Sky Blue FC, that sees the Breakers, despite a 5-9-4 regular season record, qualify for the postseason.

Boston will travel to Boca Raton, Fla. for the game against magicJack Wednesday night.

It was confirmed after the game that Lauren Cheney’s goal 14 seconds into the game was the fastest in WPS history, breaking Christine Sinclair’s record that stood for a year.

And as you’ll hear, it wasn’t a complete accident.

Cheney’s goals were her second and third of the season, but she had only played in eight matches before Sunday’s game.

Sky Blue FC coach Jim Gabarra was pretty honest and direct about his team’s performance and the decision not to start Casey Nogueira and put Petra Hogewoning in her place. Obviously, it didn’t work, but hindsight can be 20-20.

Jim Gabarra

Tony DiCicco was finally happy to have a (almost, still no Kelly Smith) full team to put on the field and explained Lauren Cheney’s opening goal.

Tony DiCicco

Lauren Cheney says her ankle is now fine and it was an inspired performance by someone who probably could have taken the rest of the season off after the World Cup injury and no one could have complained.

Lauren Cheney

Meghan Klingenberg, who waited patiently for the media a month ago when I was here, only to get pre-empted by Alex Morgan and others, is just happy to be playing somewhere. I also teased “Kling” (that’s what Cheney calls her, so good enough) about “Winning Isn’t Everything”, a documentary on North Carolina women’s soccer that I show to my high school team every year that prominently features Klingenberg, then a freshman. She had a great match tonight.

Meghan Klingenberg

Finally, Leslie Osborne, who played her holding midfield spot as well as anyone can today, at least in the first half. Strange that she slipped in something about this being possibly “the end”. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean the league is in more trouble than we think (and most of us think it’s in some degree of trouble, obviously).

Leslie Osborne

Thanks for joining us. And we might see you in Philadelphia at some point.

 

 

Breaking Ground In Boston and Building for 2011

Now that the WPS offseason is upon us, All White Kit will be checking in on each team over the next few months to get an assessment of offseason happenings. First up is the Boston Breakers. Breakers General Manager Andy Crossley took time to discuss what it is about the city that makes the team so unique to players and fans alike and offers status updates on some of the team’s key players.

 

Forming an identity is tough. Some would argue that WPS is still trying to forge one, what with its revolving door of teams seemingly constantly in motion. Establishing a WPS club on such shaky ground has proven to be a pretty daunting task.

Attracting a bevy of faithful, enthusiastic fans whilst tending to a quality soccer team that’s as well-stocked with talented, charismatic players as it is well-coached is a tricky proposition. Having a smart front office that demonstrates patience in its personnel as well the know-how to keep fans streaming through the turnstiles is even trickier. If you can check off all of those boxes you have more than a soccer club. You have a community.

The Boston Breakers have arguably taken the biggest strides of any WPS club towards developing a true community.

The team led the league in attendance last year, and by quite a distance. Boston was the only WPS team to have broken the 50,000 total fan threshold and holds the unique distinction of being the only team to have actually increased its attendance average from 2009.

On the field, the Breakers staged a second half turnaround that beggared belief. Prior to July 4th, the team experienced a 10-game winless skid. After July 4th, the Breakers dropped points on just five of 13 occasions. It was a comprehensive effort from head coach Tony DiCicco and down to each player. The improved record was good enough to earn the team a second place finish and a berth in the Super Semifinal, in which they were defeated handily by the Philadelphia Independence.

A return trip to the playoffs as well as continued support from the Breakers’ passionate supporters is chief among the team’s offseason concerns. Strengthening the squad and retaining key players are also priorities for the next four months.

The Breakers have worked on the former by adding the likes of Rachel Buehler, Kelley O’Hara and Nikki Washington to its squad.

Breakers General Manager Andy Crossley postulates why Boston is such an attractive destination for blue chip players, despite the turf field.

“We are in the city. We’re right on the border of Cambridge and Boston,” Crossley explains, “A player like Lauren Cheney can walk or ride her bike to practice every day. She can get anywhere she wants in Cambridge or Boston on public transportation”.

The accessibility of Harvard Stadium has also produced residual benefits for the team’s fans as well, many of whom have been Breakers supporters when the team played in the WUSA, WPS’ erstwhile predecessor. (Incidentally, two of three women currently in contention for FIFA Coach of the Year have connections to the Breakers; USWNT coach Pia Sundhage took charge of the team in its final season while Germany U-20’s coach Maren Meinert was one of the few German players to appear in the WUSA).

“The last couple of games the [WUSA] Breakers had there were like eight or nine thousand fans having a great time and local sponsors were attached and poof, it was gone and they were just dumbfounded. So I think we had a head start in that people were ready to jump back on board. People who had season tickets from 2001 or 2002 because they had a 12 year-old daughter and now that young woman was in college or was gone, those people have come back too.”

Crossley continues, “When you go to a game up here you see people wear a Breakers shirt that doesn’t look quite right. When you look closely you’ll see it’s like a Kate Sobrero shirt or a Maren Meinert shirt and they’ve had this stuff in their closet for eight or nine years and it’s come back out.”

Sobrero – who may be better known to more recent women’s soccer fans as Kate Markgraf – and Meinert were Breakers staples, much in the way that Kelly Smith, Kristine Lilly, Alex Scott, and Amy LePeilbet are today. Players like Leslie Osborne, Jordan Angeli, Lauren Cheney, Lindsay Tarpley, and Kasey Moore endeared themselves to Breakers fans last season. Now it’s a matter of keeping those players in Boston.

The impending kickoff of England’s FA Women’s Super League could pose the biggest threat to the preservation of Breakers’ English corps of Smith and Scott. It looks as if at least one part of the duo will be back next season. Crossley says, “Alex Scott just agreed to terms and as far as I’m concerned, she’s going to be a Boston Breaker in 2011.”

The issue of retaining Smith is more opaque, however. It’s no secret that the league has been forced to undergo widespread cutbacks this offseason and player salaries are among expenses being trimmed.

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Kelley O’Hara, Nikki Washington Set to Join the Boston Breakers

The Boston Breakers continues to be one of the most active teams in WPS this offseason. The team shored up its back four after agreeing to contract terms with Rachel Buehler and Kasey Moore last week.

Now the Breakers have bolstered its attack. The team is set to announce the signings of former FC Gold Pride player Kelley O’Hara and former Chicago Red Star Nikki Washington.

O’Hara and Washington will be joining Lauren Cheney at the forward position. The addition of the two players means that the Boston Breakers will feature three of the top five picks from the 2010 WPS Draft.

O’Hara was one of WPS’ most precocious rookies last season, scoring six goals and four assists in 18 games, 16 of which she started. The former Stanford Cardinal was a key component in FC Gold Pride’s title run last season.

 Breakers General Manager Andy Crossley tells All White Kit there is a calculated risk involved in taking O’Hara, who is among the WPS players on the cusp of the United States Women’s National Team. That will likely be a running theme league-wide this offseason as teams continue to systematically build their rosters in a World Cup year. (Lindsay Tarpley’s name also belongs in that conversation). O’Hara earned her first USWNT caps in the series of friendlies against Mexico in March. She also appeared in the Sweden friendly July 17 and traveled with the team for the China friendlies in October.

The Boston Breakers will be Nikki Washington’s fifth WPS club in just under one year. Washington was drafted 5th overall by the Los Angeles Sol, acquired by Sky Blue FC in the Dispersal Draft, dealt to the Saint Louis Athletica and signed by the Chicago Red Stars as a free agent. The ex-Tar Heel spent most of the season nursing injuries and gained match fitness towards the end of the season, appearing in five total games for Chicago.

Boston Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco has high praise for Washington.

“Nikki Washington is an excellent addition to the Breakers. She is a 1v1 ‘take-on” artist who can break down defenses single handedly with her speed and trickery. She is also a very good player who sees the game and defends as well as she attacks. She is a solid leader and served as one of my captains when we won the 2008 U20 World Cup in Chile. I think the Breaker fans will love what Nikki brings to the team and to the field.”

The Breakers’ 2010 season was concluded in the Super Semifinal when the team lost 2-1 to the Philadelphia Independence. After a turgid start, Boston experienced a tremendous midseason turnaround and finished the regular season in second place. The team looks to improve upon that record. The addition of two young, promising forwards adds depth and strength to an already solid squad.

An Interview with Monica Gonzalez, Part 2: Life as a Footballer and Beyond

In part 1 of this interview series, you found out about Monica’s ventures in establishing Gonzo Soccer and Leadership Academy, the importance of generous people and organizations in sustaining and growing a program, and how Gonzo Soccer players have benefited from their experiences.

In the final installment of our conversation with Monica, we learn more about her career as a footballer and how life has been following her retirement from the international and professional game. As a versatile player who helped lead the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish to three NCAA final four appearances; the 11th overall pick in the 2002 WUSA draft by the Boston Breakers; and a key player for the Mexican Women’s National Team since its inception, with World Cup and Olympic experience, and who wore the captain’s armband from 2003 to 2007, all of these experiences came to impact her life both personally and professionally.

A special thanks to Monica for taking the time to talk to AWK, and Alyse LaHue for helping to make this interview possible!

All White Kit: Your soccer career has taken you to many places around the world. Let’s start from the beginning: what did the sport mean to you while growing up and how did all of this come to be? What were some of your most memorable moments?
Monica Gonzalez:
Growing up, I was just competitive and a perfectionist… I was never the best, but I always wanted to be and kept trying to work hard. I remember the day I found out that you could go to college for free with a scholarship I made that my goal, because I thought it would be the best way to thank my parents for everything they gave me growing up. I was always very inspired growing up…and every time I went to a summer camp or an ODP training or a USWNT game, it just kept that inspiration going.

Not until I got to the Boston Breakers and was forced to go to appearances, speaking engagements and community events did I realize how good it felt to be a role model and to have the power to impact others in the community. Those things are a must for the pro teams, but before that, I really didn’t care for it much. I became involved with the [Women’s Sports Foundation] because I wanted to go to a golf tournament, and while there, I listened to women like Tuti Scott and Billie Jean King speak and became motivated to use my position as a pro-athlete and a Mexican National team player to help out in the Hispanic community. These events and the camaraderie of it all has become my favorite part.

AWK: Elaborating on your versatility as a player both collegiately and internationally: at Notre Dame you started off as a forward and moved on to become a stalwart in the defence as an outside back then as a centre back. While you were mainly a sweeper for the Mexican National Team, you also played pretty much every field position for them. What went through your mind when called upon to fill these different roles? Did it have an impact on your confidence?
MG:
I first got moved back to defense at Notre Dame because Randy recruited some awesome freshmen that were fast, and I felt like my position was being threatened so I moved back to defense in practice during preseason to try to make them look bad. Then I got stuck there. I really like outside back because I would just go forward unmarked and do a scissor move every time and then pass or cross.

With Mexico, I ended up playing everywhere else mostly because I got bored with center back and I was frustrated with our midfielder’s lack of initiative to score, so I tried to take matters into my own hands. I convinced Leo to put me there and in hindsight, I was mistaken. I should have just stuck to what I did best and trusted in my teammates, but everything in life that doesn’t go your way ends up being a lesson learned, right?

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An Interview with Monica Gonzalez, Part 1: Gonzo Soccer and Leadership Academy

I’m certainly not the first person to point this out, but athletes can and will make differences in the lives of others, especially the young people who come to look up to them.

The former captain of the Mexican Women’s National Team, University of Notre Dame defender, and 11th overall selection by the Boston Breakers of the WUSA in 2002, Monica Gonzalez, went to Chicago with the intention of playing professional soccer, and by chance ended up establishing a soccer academy for underprivileged Latina girls. In addition to coaching young girls in the beautiful game, the staff of Gonzo Soccer are also teaching important life skills, providing academic support, and exposing their players to a myriad of opportunities that will hopefully allow them to take on their future with confidence and aspire for more in life.

Monica was kind enough to share her story in establishing Gonzo Soccer and she tells us more about the important people who make the academy possible.

A special thanks to Monica for taking the time to talk to AWK, and Alyse LaHue for helping to make this interview possible!

All White Kit: Describe Gonzo Soccer and what it offers. What do you hope to achieve with such programs and why do you think it is important to have these types of personal, athletic and academic support systems available/accessible?
Monica Gonzalez:
Well, first of all, these programs are important because the statistics for obesity, drug and alcohol use, pregnancies, and gang/domestic violence for Latina girls in America are going the wrong way. Secondly, they are important because these girls have just as much potential as students and as athletes as anyone else, so it’s important to have women from all walks of life educated and in the social and economic mainstream. It’s how America remains genuinely diverse.

Gonzo Soccer is an after-school program that offers soccer training, life-skills and leadership lessons, and academic assistance. What separates our after-school program from any other is the fact that our coaches all played soccer in college and many played professionally, so our girls are not only being trained by the area’s top coaches, they are being influenced on a regular basis by wonderful role models who know how to transmit the guidance and life lessons that sports participation offers. Each session we also either do a writing lesson, or a life-skills lesson, much of it similar to GoGirlGo [edit: GoGirlGo link], but with a touch of sport psychology in there as well. We also take field trips to Red Stars games, and through a sponsorship with Ringling Bros, were invited to sit front row at Disney on Ice.

AWK: How did the journey of establishing Gonzo Soccer begin?
MG:
By accident.  I had just moved to Chicago to try to play pro soccer and needed work in the meantime, so I went into the Hispanic community to try to put on a clinic. When the clinic was over, the girls began to ask when the next one was, and the owner of ChiTown Futbol [edit: ChiTown Futbol link] told me that people were asking him as well, so I spoke with him and he graciously said, “Use the field. I love what you are doing for these girls”. So, it turned into an every Monday affair. And little by little I started to add on the life-skills and other components. Girls of any socioeconomic background in any part of any country need to learn core values of teamwork, discipline, etc. and I already had experience with many of the ways the Women’s Sports Foundation [edit: Women’s Sports Foundation link] impacts young women through sport, so I just let it take on a life of its own.

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