Category Archives: Original Commentary

In Sendai, A Revolution–of some sort–Is Televised

Japan has this eerily consistent habit of making observers feel as though they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in, if not Wonderland, then at least a pretty good knock-off of it. To American eyes, accustomed as they are to unforeseen snafus and unmet expectations, everything in Japan just seems to work. Consider: everything–for better or for worse–occurs exactly on time; lost wallets get returned untouched nine times out of ten; convenience stores not only sell food you’d actually want to ingest, but just about anything else you could conceivably want; and no matter where you go, there are friendly, vocal, vending machines to offer you hot coffee in a can. Any long term resident can tell you that the feeling fades as you discover the maddening inconsistencies and staunch resistance to change that hamstring this society in more than a few places. But even then, Japan keeps coming up with new ways to keep your jaw scraping asphalt.

As the daylight faded over Sendai this past Sunday, Yurtec Stadium  served up a doozy for followers of the women’s game. We know, by now, that captivating World Cups can give us a dream summer. But a scene like this, in 46 degree weather on a Sunday night, for a glorified friendly?

Photographers Perched at the Tunnel

This is to say nothing of the journalists encircling the pitch, the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces marching band warming up near the bench, or the souvenir stands emptied of the newly-released Nadeshiko Japan scarves by half-time. The fitting cap on the evening, of course, were the over 15,000 spectators–many of whom had begun lining up hours before the gates even opened–singing, screaming, and chanting “Mi-Ya-Ma, Mi-Ya-Ma” before each corner. In fact, save for a complete sell-out and Dan Borislow being shipped over freight class to take a Miyama free kick to the groin, few dreams weren’t at least fleetingly glimpsed on Sunday.

Maybe it’s only mildly surprising that the Nadeshiko’s first domestic match in ten months would be on such a grand stage. Since Frankfurt, Sawa and her teammates have become permanent fixtures on those fabled, diabolical Japanese game shows, graced convenience stores nation-wide with their endorsement of prepackaged deli foods, and hosted numerous clinics for displaced kids throughout the quake-stricken Tohoku area. Rural newspapers now have a small column devoted to covering Nadeshiko League results, and Miyama’s smiling face is sometimes the one to inform you “You’re Watching NHK” before the nightly news.  The Nadeshiko’s stature here is currently pegged at “Rock Star”, and the team is getting the treatment fans have long felt their own country’s stars deserve. Yet again, and in a manner few countries can manage, things in Japan seem to work exactly the way they should.

It’s easy to fantasize that if Rachel Buehler’s foot had extended just a few inches further, or Shannon Boxx had sent her spot kick a few degrees more toward the post, the above photograph could have been taken in Seattle rather than Sendai. After all, we’ve assumed the existence of a magic, missing ingredient for so long that the World Cup naturally becomes the “what-if” of the moment. But if Japan is women’s soccer’s soup du jour, its secret sauce may not be easily copied.

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Exposed At The Back: The US WNT Outside Back Problem — Part 2

This post is the second part of an article originally posted on October 14, 2010. If you missed Part 1, you can view it here.

There were several bubble players during this period who received call-ups to the national team but weren’t of good enough quality to truly cement themselves a spot. The most puzzling of which was Heather Mitts. Heather Mitts was a solid defender for the Philadelphia Charge, who were one of the most talented teams in WUSA in its first two seasons. The performance of Philly’s best defenders, Jenny Benson and Heather Mitts, earned them call-ups in national team camp. Jenny Benson, however, was a central defender and had no hope of cracking the central pairing of Kate Markgraf and Joy Fawcett. Mitts, as we all know, was mediocre at the international level , yet kept mysteriously getting called back into camp. She, understandably, did not make the cut for the 2003 Women’s World Cup, getting displaced by Danielle Slaton. Which brings me to my next bubble player. Danielle Slaton was an outside defender, sometimes midfielder, who was the number 1 pick in the 2002 WUSA draft. She lead the Carolina Courage from a last place finish in 2001 to a championship in 2002, although I suspect Birgit Prinz had more to do with this than she did. Danielle was successful on the WNT and likely to earn herself a place in the next generation, but developed knee problems late in 2003 and fizzled out of the WNT player pool somewhere in 2004. The most interesting of all the bubble players who never stuck under April’s tenure was Amy LePeilbet. The WPS two-time defender of the year earned a few caps but never found herself a consistent spot on the team.

It can be seen from this point here that the US was riding a train of defender development established by Tony DiCicco, who brought in and established 3 of the 4 starting defenders in the starting line-up in the 2003 World Cup. The fourth of which played alongside coach Heinrichs and had remained on the national team since then. Even after the injury of Brandi Chastain, Heinrichs only had one viable replacement in Cat Whitehill, who was the single defensive player developed in the first three years of her tenure.

The year in which everything began to unravel was 2004. After a disappointing 3rd place finish in the WWC the year before, the overall play of the WNT actually got seemingly worse. The team had been coasting on the backbone of players that were selected and developed under Heinrich’s predecessors. Of the players on the 2004 Olympic roster that Heinrichs brought in herself, Cat Whitehill and Heather Mitts were the only defenders. Shannon Boxx, a defensive midfielder, played in the WUSA for three full seasons before Heinrichs literally handed her a roster spot despite Boxx having absolutely no international experience. Other players included Abby Wambach, whom I’ll discuss on another day, Angela Hucles, and Kristin Luckenbill. (Yes. Luckenbill over Solo. Think about that for a minute.) Some time just before the 2004 Olympics, Brandi snuck off with a journalist and gave an extremely candid interview in which she, on behalf of the team, blasted Heinrichs. The interview detailed a lot of discerning details behind the scenes, such as how Heinrichs was uncommunicative, stubborn, and unreasonable. Brandi’s interview was of course picked up by the mainstream media. So, when Brandi was “suddenly” benched in favor of Heather Mitts and the US team struggled in group play, the media went after April. (Gosh, Brandi, you are a smart cookie.) Despite winning the gold medal, the retirement of Hamm, Foudy and Fawcett in combination with a firestorm of criticism and bad press, Heinrichs was pressured to resign in early 2005.

Greg Ryan was named the interim successor of the team and apparently because he can win the Algarve Cup (like it’s that hard when you win it every year) the USSF deemed him fit to build a team to win the World Cup in 2007. (I’ll give you all a chance to stop and giggle here.) Among the first things on his to do list? Ostracize and force out the remaining 1999ers on which the team’s success of the last 5 years was based upon. Nowhere during that time were defenders, midfielders, or forwards sufficiently developed to replace the players he cast off. I am of course talking about the magical disappearance of Brandi Chastain, whom he blatantly told he would not invite to another training camp as soon as his butt hit his sparkly new office chair. (Which, if you want my two cents, Brandi’s caliber as a player had sufficiently begun to wane. This wasn’t a traumatic loss to the team.) This also included the forcing out of Shannon MacMillan (at the expense of blatant favoritism and overall trickery) and Tiffeny Milbrett, who had combined for almost 100 international goals in the previous five years. This is where things get dicey.

With the retirement of Fawcett and the baby-making of Rampone and Markgraf, Ryan had no choice but to move Whitehill to center back where she would remain. Since Rampone and Markgraf alternated their maternity leaves, either one or the other filled in at the central defender spot. Suddenly, Ryan was left with no experienced outside defenders. Instead of pulling from the youth programs and throwing them out there to develop, he relied upon the efforts of Heather Mitts. For the fourth spot, we saw the conversion of Lori Chalupny and Tina Ellertson to outside back. Ellertson, much like Chastain, was a successful forward in college. However, Chastain is probably the most tactically gifted player in the history of the WNT, using her intelligence and skill set to make the transition. Ellertson was fast, which was the cause of her being converted to defender. Similar to Brandi Chastain, Lori Chalupny was the best left footed player around not named Kristine Lilly, which is what landed her at outside back.

The inherent problem with Ryan’s defender choices lies in his style of play. By this point in time the three strikers with the most goals in the past five years had either retired (Hamm, MacMillan) or been plain out ignored (Milbrett). To compensate for this problem, Ryan had discovered that Abby is tall, big, and heads really well. He had also discovered that Cat Whitehill has a special gift in bouncing the ball off of Abby’s head into the goal. Thus forming the entire offensive strategy of the US WNT: bounce the ball off of Abby’s head. There was no need for skilled, tactical experts on the defensive line to build an efficient attack. Ellertson could run really fast and take the ball away. Mitts was sufficient and therefore not replaced.

All of Ryan’s decision making exploded in his face, as we’re all aware, in the 2007 World Cup. Looking at Ryan’s roster for the 2007, specifically his defenders, this shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to anyone. Defenders included Cat Whitehill, Christie Rampone, Kate Markgraf, Tina Ellertson, Marian Dalmy who was and still is internationally inexperienced, and Stephanie Cox who is solid in WPS but is not the best, either now or then. Dalmy earned her first cap in 2007. Cox rose through the ranks of the US youth program and earned her first cap under Ryan in 2005. Seemingly, she is the one defender that he brought in and developed during his tenure. Ryan’s laziness in developing or even looking at better options for central defenders to fill the gap left in 2005 caught up with him. For example, Amy LePeilbet would have been a much better choice for central defender than Cat Whitehill, who should have remained outside. But the reign of Ryan is littered with poor decisions and a severe lack of forward thinking. This stunted the growth and development of the defense of the United States.

Fast forward through the past two years in which Pia won a gold medal with a squad that was missing the two key elements of Ryan’s offense: Whitehill’s leg and Abby’s head. The team was forced to play intelligent attacking soccer and came up with the win, although they had their struggles. The team continued to develop this way and players that formerly coasted, such as Angela Hucles and even Abby Wambach stepped up their game and have become more complete players under Pia. It seems that Pia also recognizes this crack in the WNT line-up. What else would explain her decision to call in 11 defenders to training camp this past May?** She’s actively searching for someone to fill that outside back spot.

For the reasons explicitly outlined above, Pia doesn’t really have much to choose from. Let’s look at the American outside backs from this past WPS season, shall we? Cox, Mitts, Markgraf, Rampone, Dalmy, Schnur, Spilger, Wilson, Whitehill. I’m also including Bock because of her success at outside back in LA last year even though she can really be utilized anywhere. WPS aside, we also have Ali Krieger. Cox is inconsistent, Mitts is not good, Markgraf is now retired, Rampone is a central back now, Dalmy isn’t good enough, Schnur isn’t good enough, Wilson is untested, and Whitehill has been disappointing since her ACL tear. To clafiy: when I say not good enough I mean sufficient for your WPS team but not sufficient to break down the crafty German offense. Who might be good enough? Krieger, definitely, for her time spent playing in Germany; and Spilger, whose courage and gritty defending would be a breath of fresh air in the back line for the US. I’m also not opposed to looking at and developing players at the college level. Getting players like this on rosters for the next year is an important step in looking ahead to 2014.

**Written before the recent friendlies versus China and the release of the WWCQ roster, it’s still apparent that Pia is looking for defenders. Sauerbrunn’s inclusion, while expected here at AWK, came as a bit of a stunner to a few people. Pia’s tendency to go against her instinct and play it safe with her line-ups explains the forced incorporation of Rampone in the previous friendlies prior to qualifying, as well as the inclusion of Heather Mitts. I would expect to see Rampone in the starting line-up in group play, trying to get her as many minutes as possible before the US meets a true challenge.

Exposed At The Back: The US WNT Outside Back Problem — Part 1

As the 2011 Women’s World Cup nears ever closer, the growing concern over the chances of the U.S. Women’s National Team winning the cup increases proportionally. This concern is not at all eased with the continuing success of a seemingly unstoppable German side, who is undoubtedly determined to hoist the trophy once again and reclaim their number one ranking from a country who is coasting on the coattails of what used to be.

It should seem that after the summer of 1999 with a heightened interest of women’s soccer and inspiration for little girls that the next ten years to follow would produce a tremendous number of skilled, creative players to fill the void left by the inevitable retirement of that summer’s heroes. One of the biggest problems with the squad right now, arguably, is that these younger girls have had little to no opportunity to shine. The coaching of the WNT in the last ten years has undoubtedly been horrendous. The reign of April Heinrichs from January 18, 2000 to February 15, 2005 did irreparable damage to the development of the dynasty. This was not at all helped by her successor and former stooge, Greg Ryan. Greg Ryan literally made no innovative or intelligent decision of his own, choosing instead, to follow the game plan set out by Heinrichs and, rumors say, obey the instruction of then WNT ring-leaders, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach. Solo-gate and the 2007 Women’s World Cup imploded in Ryan’s face, resulting in his removal in less than a month after the conclusion of the USA’s second consecutive 3rd-place finish.

The era of Pia, one of rebuilding amongst the broken rubble of the eight years past, began in early 2008. Her efforts have been valiant and successful, but not good enough. However, the root of the WNT’s problems lie in those crucial eight years after the controversial hiring of April Heinrichs to the controversy surrounding the firing of Greg Ryan. The poor coaching decisions, which were heavily biased and nonsensical, severely affected the development of players for the future of the squad leaving us where we are now.

As the WNT continues to win Algarve Cups and an endless string of meaningless friendlies like there’s no tomorrow, any criticism one makes seems nitpicky and fruitless. But, quite simply, it’s not enough to win watered down tournaments and meaningless friendlies against watered down opponents. There are small cracks in the infrastructure of the squad which need to be patched. The first of these cracks, which I intend to expose, is the subsequent underdevelopment of the outside back because, quite frankly, we don’t have any nor have we had any for quite some time. This is unacceptable. To understand the problem we have to go back to the root of all that is evil. Yes, the beginning of the Reign of Ape.

In the early 2000’s the depth of the back line was fairly sufficient. The US WNT was rich in players who could not only play this position, but who could play this position well. Players such as Joy Fawcett, Christie Rampone, Cat Whitehill, Jena Kluegel, and Brandi Chastain all saw significant playing time at the outside back position in the years spanning from 1999 to 2002. Joy Fawcett, despite her age and experience, was more useful to the USA as an outside back than as a central defender. Her work rate, clean tackling, and offensive prowess made her a perfect candidate for an outside defender for the WNT for about a decade. After the retirement of Carla Overbeck, however, her speed, clean tackles, and expertise were needed centrally to organize the USA’s defense. The constant shifting, however, of the USA defense meant that Joy Fawcett had no permanent home in the back line. Regardless, she was such an asset to the team that her presence was far more significant than her placement.

Christie Rampone flittered in and out of USA’s starting line-up in the 90’s, ultimately earning her place a sub in the 1999 World Cup. However the retirement of Carla Overbeck left a big gap in USA’s back line, and Pearcie never looked back. Rampone was essential the US backline as she was able to make penetrating runs along the outside to get forward into the US WNT’s infamous multi-layered attack in which defenses would be penetrated in waves by the onslaught of forwards, midfielders, and defenders.  Rampone’s spot on crosses and speed to get up and back made her crucial for this position for years.

Brandi Chastain first made her appearance on the US WNT as a bench player in the 1991 World Cup. She was a highly celebrated striker in college who had been called it to play second fiddle to the infamous “Triple-Edged Sword” that was the US front line. (The sword was made up of April Heinrichs, Michelle Akers, and Carin Jennings-Gabarra. Yes, wife of Jim.) Despite the retirement of Heinrichs in the early 90’s and Akers brief hiatus in which she was stricken with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, Brandi was never called upon to fill the gap left by these players. This gap was instead filled by Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett, both of whom graduated from college tied with 103 career goals, which was then the NCAA Record. (This was later broken by future WNT forward, Danielle Fotopoulos with 118 goals, who still holds the record.) Brandi’s relationship with Anson Dorrance was legendary as she hated the man, which was likely why she never became USA’s number 1 striker. This is all relevant because after missing the 1995 Women’s World Cup, Tony DiCicco abandoned Dorrance’s game plan and formulated one of his own. He chose to revamp the entire line-up and called upon Brandi to fill the left center back position. The availability of left footed players not named Kristine Lilly was not great, cementing Brandi’s position as the USA’s left center back for the remainder of her career. She spent some time at center back, but her willingness to attack and patience to make simple yet smart passes cemented her starting position on the roster until the 2003 World Cup.

Cue the founding of the WUSA and we have the emergence of our last two defenders. Jena Kluegel and Cat Whitehill were both standouts at UNC who benefitted the most from the development of the WUSA. When the league started in 2001 all of the founding players remained with their clubs teams in lieu of participating in the Algarve Cup so that they could focus on building the league. The roster for this tournament is littered with names I’m sure you are familiar with. No one on the roster was over the age of 21, Kluegel was considered one of the “veterans” of the team along with a young Hope Solo, who each had 5 and 4 caps each, respectively.** Kluegel was a center back in this tournament, where Whitehill was an outside back. By the end of the year with the national team at full strength, Kluegel came off the bench to spend time at outside defense, where the remainder of her time on the field with the WNT was spent. However, thanks to friends of mine who take public transportation and scoop USA Today journalists, it was unveiled that Heinrichs, despite Kluegel’s solid performances on the field for the grand U-S of A, decided she “didn’t like her” and Kluegel stopped getting invitations to training camp. Cat Whitehill then made her move, filling in for Kluegel as the go-to young player on the outside for the US. Christie Rampone tore her ACL in late 2001, which allowed more playing time for both Kluegel and Whitehill. When Rampone returned to full strength and Jena discarded, Cat, who played almost 1,200 minutes in 2002, became Heinrichs’s best option off the bench.  This development was crucial as Cat earned her spot as a full starter on the team when Brandi went down with a foot injury in the first game of the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

Originally written as one piece, this commentary has been split into two parts. The second part will be posted tomorrow.

**Side note: Saved on my hard drive are Jena’s journal entries from this tournament  in which she chronicles a hilarious run in between her and former SBFC striker/Riptide Public Enemy #2 Patrizia Panico. Let me know if you’d like to see them.

Self-Conscious Fandom and Supporting Women's Soccer In The United States

This weekend I came across an article regarding women’s soccer in this country and how its existence could possibly hinder the growth of the men’s game in this country. I’m not that great paraphrasing so here, in the author’s own words:

 

“Do I admire the courage and skill of the women in the WPS, and for those who play for our National Team? Absolutely.

But do I think the league can be a success? Wait, do I even want the league to be a success? Not really. In fact, there have been moments where I just wish it would go away.”

 

Essentially the author goes on to say that he’ll only consider supporting WPS and the United States Women’s National Team when MLS  begins to thrive. But until then, never mind the womenfolk.

 

Now, I’m sure the author is quite nice in real life. I’m sure he was not being disingenuous when he invoked his daughter and how he mentioned that he wanted her to be anything she wanted to be. Hence, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t intend to come off as a flaming sexist in his presentation of an ultimately baseless argument.

And to those who are reading this with an X chromosome without a Y chromosome: never mind that burning sensation in your gut right now. His argument actually isn’t sexist. But even if you believe this, that’s not what ultimately does his thesis in.

 

I truly don’t mind his decision to not support WPS. Take a look at 2010’s attendance figures so far. Few people seem to anyway. His apathy towards the league is likely tantamount to my apathy towards MLS. I don’t much care for the league and its goofy idiosyncrasies. I support the Houston Dynamo because I park my car at Robertson Stadium and pass by it during my walk to class every weekday. Sometimes I even cross paths with Pat Onstad. It’s easy, it’s convenient and I’m a fan of the sport on principle. But do I care about MLS and its growth in this country? Not really. Obviously my lack of enthusiasm for MLS is not rooted in sexism.

The same can likely be said for the author and his own lack of enthusiasm for WPS. We each have our reasons for not being too enthusiastic about MLS and WPS respectively. And neither has to do with sexism.

But the point that irks me about the piece is the apparent notion that MLS is not thriving and women’s soccer is somehow at fault for this.

 

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What Would A FIFA Women's Club World Cup Look Like?

 (Update: Are things further along than previously thought? Thanks Domen)
 
 
 

            

 

           FC Barcelona was brilliant last season. Not only was their play absolutely sublime, they won every competition they entered. That’s a seemingly impossible task that no one’s ever come close to sniffing before. They were La Liga Champions, European Champions, Spanish Cup Champions, Spanish Super Cup winners and UEFA Super Cup champions . And they were World Champions. Wait, world champions? As in New York Yankee-style World Champions?

        No, not quite.

        The FIFA Club World Cup is an annual cup competition that determines the best club team in the world. It takes the champions from each of the world’s regional club tournaments (the UEFA Champions League, the CONCACAF Champions League, South America’s Copa Libertadores etc.) and throws them into one competition every December. Over the years the name, location and format has changed but the prize remains: be the World Champion.

            So could we ever see this in women’s soccer? Could we ever see FC Gold Pride take on Turbine Potsdam? Or Arsenal against Santos FC?

            Like in the Women’s U.S. Open Cup post, I’ve featured a possbile format and a list of pro’s and con’s.

(Note: Unlike with the Women’s U.S. Open Cup, I don’t think that the market is quite ready for a competition like at this in present day. The women’s game needs to continue to grow like it has been in recent years before this becomes a practical endeavour. But I’m excited for the day it comes to fruition.)

 

Format:

             The competition would take place annually every January and would be hosted by a different international city every year (preferably a warm one). Why January? It would be a nice curtain raiser for the new year’s international women’s football calendar. But more pragmatically, a lot of the major women’s leagues around the world are either in their offseason or on a Winter break (WPS, the Scandinavian leagues, Russia’s Supreme League, the Brazilian Paulista, etc.). There are also no major international competitions scheduled in January save for friendlies. It seems like it would be the least complicated time of the year.

             The tournament I’ve sketched out would only feature three rounds and thus three games for the Champion at most. It would have to be a brief tournament with just eight teams, perhaps one to weeks at most. WPS will be busy with its Draft and will be beginning player camps and other major European leagues will be in their respective domestic competitions.

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What's the Difference Between Parity and Mediocrity, and Other Sprawling Thoughts On What Really Makes A Champion

       

         A cursory glance over WPS’ current league standings reveals just how competitive this league is. Just five points separate 1st and 7th place. Every team is stocked with both homegrown and international talent. Any team can be beaten on its day (perhaps the Beat in particular). Every team looks primed for the playoffs. It makes predicting WPS matches as futile as predicting, well, a soccer match. A professional sports league must have parity amongst all its teams because it keeps its fans interested. There’s constantly something to report on when every team is at an equal competitive level. This is all a good thing, right.

             Or is it?

             With WPS’ hyperactive competitive balance, some things that are sacred to sports fandom could be lost. Like the upset and the underdog and the Cinderella. Sky Blue FC was last year’s Cinderella, not only because they rose from extraordinary circumstances to streak through the playoffs but because they beat Goliath.

                 At this stage, there doesn’t seem to be a Goliath. There isn’t that one dominant team that is feared league-wide. It’s quite early, but there probably isn’t going to be another Los Angeles Sol in spite of Albertin Montoya’s loftiest ambitions. So why is this a problem? If seemingly good teams continue to fall to seemingly weaker competition and seemingly weak teams continue to kill off seemingly good teams, then is there really any difference between a good team and a bad team? And where’s the surprise? Without Goliath, there’s no stage for that fantastic upset, that glorious moment of giant-killing when the league’s Super Club (as Alexi Lalas would affectionately say) is vanquished by the basement-dwellers. If every team is on equal footing, doesn’t that kind of mean that every team is merely average?

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Original Commentary: What Would A Women's U.S. Open Cup Look Like?

        

   Portsmouth’s shock 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup Final this weekend got me wondering about the whole idea of an open cup competition and if we could ever adopt one for women’s soccer in the States.

                 Measly little Portsmouth who can’t win a game in the Premier League and who can’t even afford to pay its groundskeeper defeated a quality side like Spurs, who are angling for a Champions League spot. It was a wonderful upset anyway you spin it. Never mind that this is exactly how Portsmouth got into the financial mess they’re in now. Irony be damned.

             I love the FA Cup just as I love NCAA March Madness. To be honest, I really have no interest in basketball and the last major event I can recall happening to my hometown team the Houston Rockets was Yao Ming getting injured. And that was like two years ago. But I’ll always have room in my heart for the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament.  

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Original Commentary: Why The 89ers Are the Future of the WNT

 by Jenna Pel. 4/5/2010.

                                                    

Hamm.  Foudy.  Chastain. Fawcett.

          A little over a decade ago, these were much more than names. In a sense, they were couriers of women’s athletics as a whole. The first generation of the U.S. Women’s National Team achieved fame and commercial success historically only reserved for male athletes. Few female athletes have done it before, perhaps none have done it since. For several years they transcended the soccer fields they played on. They were dependable pitch women and the architects of a professional women’s league and (it can’t be said enough) role models for millions of young girls. This one included.

            The legacy that these foremothers have left us with is well-documented. Despite the collapse of WUSA in 2003, the cultural and sporting impact that the 99ers made cannot be overstated. At the school I work at, I once asked one of my soccer-loving, third-grade students who her favorite female soccer player was. Her answer: Mia Hamm. This despite being born one year after the WNT hoisted the Women’s World Cup in the Rose Bowl. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t mention Abby Wambach or Hope Solo or Heather O’Reilly but regardless, her curt answer reminded me that the legacy of the 99ers lives on. The WPS logo does bear a striking resemblance to Mia Hamm’s likeness, after all.

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