Category Archives: Saint Louis Athletica

Dispersing SLA Players According To Others' Needs

Tomorrow the Saint Louis Athletica players become free agents. The players won’t be drafted away, rather they’ll be sold to the highest bidder. I’m not saying this order of events will unfold, merely that this would be how each WPS team’s lingering needs would be met.

In a perfect world the Atlanta Beat would be granted VIP access to the SLA fire sale and FC Gold Pride would be at the very end of the queue.

But after all, this is a world that has seen the Saint Louis Athletica die at the hands of two sketchy brothers who couldn’t even operate a Subway and Papa John’s franchise over in the UK without being embezzled. That is not a joke. This is also a world where in which someone at the AC St. Louis front office thought it would be a grand idea to offer heartbroken SLA fans discounted AC Saint Louis tickets for the rest of the season. Yeah, because funding the very organization that helped take down your club makes everything better. Right.

Anyways, on to the dispersing:

 

Eniola Aluko – Chicago Red Stars  – Many people have suggested that the league’s top goal scorer ought to head to either Atlanta or Boston. But in your author’s likely erroneous mind, Chicago could do the most with Eni’s assets. Atlanta’s problem is distribution. The Beat needs that player in the midfield who can dictate the run of play (any guesses who that could be, hint hint), not a striker. Boston has Lauren Cheney, Kelly Smith and two other forwards who should score. It would just be unfair for them to have another striker for DiCicco to ruin. Chicago, on the other hand, has a very young strike force and a midfield that loves to create and get forward. Their problem is finishing which Aluko can do probably better than anyone. Imagine her getting the final pass from the likes of Cristiane, Rapinoe or Carney. And the stylish, trick-laden Nogueira would find her strike foil in the clinical Aluko.

Shannon Boxx – Atlanta Beat – You cannot build a team around the likes of Angie Kerr, McCall Zerboni, Johanna Rasmussen, Mami Yamaguchi, Sophia Mundy and the unproven Tobin Heath and expect it to do well against the  of other WPS teams. Atlanta’s midfield has been invisible this season. Thus, it’s critical for the Beat to pick up perhaps the best midfielder in like, the free world duh. Someone who has the leadership and experience to help solidify the midfield and feed passes into Bachmann’s wonderfully talented feet.

Hope Solo – Atlanta Beat Honestly, the goalkeeping in this league has been pretty outstanding all year long. But Atlanta has the additional problem of having two #2’s and having zero #1’s. Allison Whitworth and Brett Maron are just fine as back-ups but as starters? Despite Solo’s rocky year (she actually leads the league in most goals conceded!), that kind of world-class pedigree will only augment a pretty strong back four that includes Hope’s old pal McNeill and Robinson.

Lori Chalupny – Boston Breakers Boston’s midfield has also been fairly unproductive this season. Since the full back positions are pretty much solidified with Scott and Cox, look to Lori to perhaps man Lilly’s opposite flank and join in the attack with Smith, Cheney, etc. Boston should take advantage of Chalupny’s toughness, versatility and creativity.

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Shannon Boxx; It's Not Your Fault

Nor is it yours, Aya Miyama.

 

So WPS lost its coolest team crest today. Jeff Cooper and St. Louis Soccer United apparently had one available lifejacket left on its sinking ship. And they chose to give it to A.C. St. Louis.

Perhaps you may think that Cooper’s decision stinks of straight-up sexism. A highly-competitive women’s franchise that could boast having some of the brightest talent in the world was sacrificed for a struggling Division 2 men’s team in its second month of existence that also reportedly costs three times as much to operate as its sister club.

Or maybe it’s just business. Perhaps Cooper figures that men’s soccer – even second-division men’s soccer – simply has a higher chance of success in this country than women’s soccer does. And besides, was Jeff Cooper really ever in it for the love of the women’s game anyway? Wasn’t getting an MLS franchise in soccer’s native city Cooper’s endgame all along?

Or is it simply a case of losing your promised source of income. And then having nowhere to go.

 

All three are reasonable theories as to why we’ll likely never get to see this collection of players don their green kits in Fenton, Missouri again. Or see that girl with the green mohawk on FSC. At the moment, my heart aches too much for the players, the fans and the league officials to even venture a guess. Whichever it is, the Saint Louis Athletica were the victims of politics and misfortune that had emanated from the top down. 

There is no positive spin to this. WPS likely know this, which is why they haven’t manufactured one yet either.  No good can come from having two franchises fold within five months.  Particularly its marquee name in the offseason and its only Midwestern resident in mid-season (I know, not counting Chicago). To those that doubt women’s soccer’s viability as a product, this is just further confirmation that they may be on to something. To casual fans that have just given the league a chance, two successful franchises going under might just reek too much of illegitimacy. To those who didn’t care in the first place, well.

 

But for the many people that do care about the success and sustainability of this league and this sport, we still have seven other teams to root for (or root against). There is still a place for some of the world’s most extraordinary and charismatic athletes to play week in, week out. We still have a league.

WPS has been structured to survive hits like this. If one house is judged to be condemned, it won’t foul up the entire neighborhood.  And to be honest, from everything that’s come out about St. Louis this week it appears like this was an isolated situation that was rigged from the top. It was an organization that obviously gave its men’s team precedence. It was also financed by two brothers that apparently had some funny money. (Can we get a Fit and Proper Person’s Test perhaps?) Fortunately, there is no other organization in WPS that remotely resembles that.

The loss of a quality team, the loss of a franchise in the Midwest, the loss of a team for the Laclede’s Army to support and the loss of the daily routine for 22 players is truly lamentable. But looking at this roster again and considering the upcoming feeding frenzy that will inevitably occur after June 1, I can think of just one thing:

There are going to be seven frighteningly good WPS teams in 2010.

 

P.S.

Supporters of American soccer often cop an inferiority complex to those people/organizations/things that may warrant more commercial interest, popularity or media coverage. Don’t let this apply to women’s soccer too. We’re lucky to have what we have. There’s no need to complain about people who don’t recognize that fact too. Give them something worth writing about. No one’s entitled.

Taking the Official Press Release Line By Line (Updated With Official Clarification)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (May 27, 2010) – The Saint Louis Athletica in Women’s Professional Soccer are shutting down their franchise as a funding crisis has left the team without the necessary funds to operate for the 2010 WPS Season (A last resort, obviously). The Athletica players will be available as free agents to other WPS teams as of Tuesday, June 1. (No Dispersal Draft. The teams that can afford the best will get the best. The affect on team’s roster/international slots is currently being reviewed by the league)

 

Just two weeks ago, the league learned of a cash flow shortage at St. Louis Soccer United – which includes the owner of the Saint Louis Athletica and a St. Louis men’s team – that threatened the remainders of both teams’ seasons (So a week before Richard Farley initially reported on it on The Equalizer). After a thorough and extensive review of the situation together with interested parties, which involved the League covering the funding shortfall for the Athletica’s last two player payrolls, the Athletica have folded their franchise (With no bond set-up like in the NASL, WPS had to foot the bill for player payrolls. Actually there was a bond set-up and it was used for payroll as well as for other expenses. Could see how that would start to get impractical. Also, there were interested parties?). WPS will re-make the remaining schedule for the 2010 WPS season as a seven-team league – the same number that took part during the WPS Inaugural Season (An odd number is always headache-inducing for the schedulers, but it can be done).

 

“It’s incredibly difficult to lose a team in mid-season like this,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “We looked at a few options as a league together with our Board and U.S. Soccer, but the operational hurdles and finances just didn’t work out (Presumably taking over the team just wasn’t going to add up). In the face of a severe funding gap in St. Louis, the local ownership group is shutting down the team at this point.” (WPS’ hands were tied. Also, can you think of another professional sports league where a team has folded mid-season?)

 

The rest of the 2010 WPS Schedule without Saint Louis Athletica will be revised and released next week (Fair enough). The previously completed six league games against Saint Louis will count in the standings and the Athletica will not play in this weekend’s previously scheduled game (Don’t get this one at all. The word from the league is that “previous games were a matter of record and will remain in the standings”. A matter of record? How will this affect standings at the end of the season as every team was not given a chance to play the Athletica this season. The league’s position is that yes, the games did happen and they aren’t going to change history)

 

“This is a setback, but it’s one individual franchise and the loss of a team is an unfortunate reality of pro sports,” said Antonucci (Granted, but this makes two retracted teams in five months. One was the marquee franchise and the other occurred mid-season, as has been mentioned). “We’ll continue to have great games and an exciting season for our fans. The solid foundation that we built in 2009 is there. We have the same number of teams that we had last year during a successful first season. We’ll get through this stronger and keep moving the league and business forward (Back to square one).”

 

Saint Louis Athletica players will still be eligible for the 2010 WPS All-Star Game presented by the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve if they are rostered on another WPS team by Friday, June 11 (But will they represent SLA? Probably not, right? They will represent their new team). As of June 1, Athletica players are no longer under club contracts and can sign with any team as free agents (Let the bidding wars begin).

The St. Louis Situation: How It Happened In 5 Oversimplified Steps

@hopesolo Awww, so nice being in the US uniform again…in SO many ways! 🙂 4:05 AM May 23rd via txt

 

You’ve probably heard by now that professional soccer in St. Louis has been afflicted with some pretty nasty stuff recently.  Last Friday Richard Farley reported that A.C. Saint Louis – Saint Louis Athletica’s brother club currently playing in the NASL Conference of the USSF D2 Pro League – was experiencing major financial difficulties and there was a real threat that both teams would not be able to finish out the 2010 season. Yay for citizen journalism but boo for this entire scary situation. Here’s how we got here:

 

5.) Jeff Cooper Dreams the Dream. For several years now, Jeff Cooper has been considered a visionary in the landscape of American soccer. Under his brainchild St. Louis Soccer United, he aimed to create the template for which other U.S.-based professional soccer teams would follow in the future. One that would involve an MLS team, a women’s team, a soccer-specific stadium, and a full youth structure all under one umbrella. St. Louis were considered contenders to be selected for MLS expansion in 2011 but were not able to meet the required $40 million expansion fee. This occurred right around the kick-off of the inaugural 2009 WPS season which featured the Saint Louis Athletica, one of the six original WPS clubs announced all the way back in 2006. Here’s where things start to get interesting: Around October of 2009, Nike wanted to offload its ownership of the United Soccer Leagues, then the only second division men’s soccer league in North America. Cooper and his ownership group felt they had been successful in negotiations to purchase USL. However, the league was sold to NuRock Soccer Holdings instead at the ’11th hour’. Cooper and his backers were upset. In November of 2009, a few discontented USL owners (who went under the moniker TOA, the Team Owner’s Association) announced their intention to break away from the USL and form their own league called the North American Soccer League. In the meantime, with realistic prospects for an MLS team dashed Cooper devoted his efforts into creating a second-division men’s side that would help lead the fledgling NASL. It was christened A.C. St. Louis and would be led by Claude Anelka, Nicolas’ brother. Cooper coaxed more USL sides to jump the fence, hop on his bandwagon, and insert other misplaced idioms here. People got angry. Lawsuits were filed. USSF was angry. More lawsuits were filed. Finally, the USSF decided to sanction neither the USL nor the NASL for the 2010 season, instead combining the two into the nebulous-sounding USSF D2 Pro League. 

*Just a note: I’ve been personally assured that the conflict will have ao affect on St. Louis Scott Gallagher Elite, the WPSL side that has a partnership with the Athletica. Credit its full youth structure. Perhaps at least one of Cooper’s ambitions has been realized. 

 

4.) Then Cooper Wakes Up to the Reality. (This won’t be nearly as long, I promise.) If what has been reported is to be believed by various sources, the two English investors of A.C. St. Louis have hit financial hardship and haven’t paid their share to the team for awhile. Thus Jeff Cooper’s ownership group lost a considerable amount of its funding. Additionally, according to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat the cost of operating Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park has compounded the financial difficulties for both A.C. St. Louis and the Saint Louis Athletica. With the original backers of Cooper’s project gone and with players to pay, team expenditures to fund and a stadium (and its expansive facilities) to operate, the dire nature of the financial reality becomes clearer. Brian Quarstad of InsideMinnesotaSoccer.com also reported last Saturday that Cooper is no longer acting as owner of A.C.SL or the Athletica.

 

3.) Meanwhile, SLA Aren’t Exactly Packing In the Fans. Perhaps it should now be mentioned that if ever there was a team in WPS that least needed an organizational crisis like this, you’ve probably found it. The Athletica recorded the lowest attendance figure of the 2010 season two weeks ago as just 2,346 people turned up to Anhueser-Busch Soccer Park. The Athletica also have the lowest average of attendance of 3,027 in four home games. This is a 21% decrease from 2009’s home attendance average. Mother Nature certainly hasn’t cooperated either. Things have been said about the quality of the Athletica’s front office and its ability to attract new fans. Regardless, this organizational distraction is probably the last thing the club needs right now.

 

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WTF Is Up With SLA?

Perhaps all that grey weather during Athletica’s home games was an omen.

Per Richard Farley’s post on The Equalizer, things might not be looking so bright for soccer in St. Louis. The Athletica haven’t exactly been packing in the fans in Anhueser-Busch Soccer Park and Jeff Cooper’s new NASL team A.C. St. Louis haven’t fared much better so far.

Hearing phrases like “Athletic Club of St. Louis, the group that operates the Athletica, is almost out of money” and “the Athletica’s future still appears tied to the future of the club’s NASL  arm” are serious causes for concern. I’m praying it doesn’t come to this but how will WPS cope with the loss of two teams in just five months? 

Judging by the language in Richard’s post, it appears like the situation is so dire that there is a risk that the 2010 season won’t even be completed by either team. Who knows just what has accounted for the huge short fall of cash in Jeff Cooper’s ownership group. There is a real possibility that the Athletica (and A.C. St. Louis) will be no more unless Jeff Cooper miraculosuly stumbles upon some bags of cash or a new ownership group comes riding in on a white horse. 

What are your thoughts on this? There was something recently on Twitter about starting a fundraiser for the club, although I’m sure it was mostly said in jest. Either way I’ve got a check addressed to Mr. Cooper if it comes down to that…

Athletica/Breakers Reaction, Player Ratings

It was a fairly drab, frustrating, messy and gloomy affair. And not only does that apply for Fenton, Missouri’s weather tonight but also for the respective offenses of both Saint Louis and Boston.

There were some bright spots in the match though, including some killer chances that were expertly squandered by both Hope Solo and Ashley Phillips (who is looking like one hell of a goalkeeper). There were also some good performances from unlikely candidates (Kacey Moore, Carolyn Blank, Gina DiMartino) and some disappointing performances from big names (Eniola Aluko, Lauren Cheney, Shannon Boxx for some stretches).

If anything the match proves how overwhelming Saint Louis’ midfield can be. Boston’s forward line and midfield looked limp at times but its defensive unit held up strong. Both teams alternated in who seemed to be more dominant throughout the match. Eniola Aluko was ultimately frustrated by the likes of LePielbet and Kacey, just as Lauren Cheney was neutralized by Kendall Fletcher and (a seemingly shove-happy) Tina Ellertson.

The water-logged pitch was more active and effective in the match than many of the players which is kind of a shame because if the ball was rolling properly and if there wasn’t a moat outside the six-yard box, we probably could have seen what these two teams could really do. Regardless, a 1-1 draw was probably just.  

Side note: What do you think the over/under is for chances that Tony DiCicco will receive some kind of fine for the comments he will inevitably make against referee Felisha Mariscal (if he hasn’t already)?

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Previewing the 2010 Saint Louis Athletica

             If you want to find an unlikely comeback story, look no further than the 2009 Saint Louis Athletica. The Athletica were the only WPS team to not have earned any points after two matches, remained winless until the fifth match and lost Daniela, their best player at the time, to a season-ending injury. Just to pile it on, the team were at the bottom of the standings during the duration of April and May.

              But what was probably most frustrating to Coach Jorge Barcellos was that Saint Louis was actually a good side. Soccer can be a pretty capricious sport sometimes and it seemed as if the Athletica were destined to finish last, despite having talent like Hope Solo, Lori Chalupny and English striker Eniola Aluko, who would find her scoring boots soon enough.

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