Monthly Archives: May 2010

Charlie Naimo Named Red Stars Technical Advisor

 

The Chicago Red Stars have announced that Charlie Naimo will serve as Technical Advisor of the team. This task includes player recommendations and negotiations and continued assistance with the search for a new head coach.

Additionally, Marcia McDermott has also been named team President. According to the press release, McDermott has been acting as President for several months but now she has the official title. Peter Wilt was previously team President. 

Having Charlie Naimo in your corner can only bring good things to an organization. He was the General Manager of the Los Angeles Sol and has amassed a 65-3 regular season record in the past five seasons with the W-League’s Pali Blues whom he will continue to serve as President and head coach for.

Now all Chicago needs is a certain Brazilian coach and a certain English striker. Both of whom are suddenly unemployed. Whatdya know. And if it doesn’t work out with that certain Brazilian coach I’m sure Charlie still has Abner Rogers’ phone number in his iPhone.

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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5 Things Learned In WPS Week 7

5.) WPS Players Are Tough, Example #593

Cue another week in which we see Kelley O’Hara have another solid showing despite the injured foot, Kristine Lilly play through the pain of a sore back, ‘tasha Kai making an appearance while having a heavily-bandaged thigh, Sonia Bompastor’s awesome headwrap and Abby Wambach continuing to play (and score) in spite of a broken nose. And then there’s Sarah Huffman. Forget Becky Sauerbrunn, the Washington Freedom’s real iron woman is Huffman.  The fiesty holding midfielder who stands at 5’4 got most of the brunt of Philadelphia’s frustration yeterday. ‘Getting outplayed in midfield? Let’s try to hurt Sarah Huffman!’ Except the 26 year-old (who had to miss all of her last season due to a knee injury) wasn’t having any of it. Knocks to the knee, subtle takedowns when the ref wasn’t looking and an egregious hand to the face was not going to deter her. All hail Sarah Huffman!

 

4.) What Do You Get With Two Teams That Can’t Score?A Goalless Draw.

To be fair that characterization is a little unfair. According to various match reports, the match between SBFC and Boston featured end-to-end action and a few solid goal-scoring opportunities. But again both sides showed they often have difficulty finishing, particularly Boston who has still not won a game since Week One. KB was her normal extraordinary self, saving two shots in quick succession in the latter stages of the game. (What do you mean you didn’t include her in your All-Star ballot!?!?) This is also just the second goalless draw in WPS, and the first since Week One. As the saying goes, a goalless draw is like a day without sunshine. Except it was apparently quite nice in Piscataway so nevermind.

 

3.) Chicago Could Be A Great Team

If they just believe they are. Chicago seemed to have all the best chances and all the iniative Friday night against league-leaders FC Gold Pride. This victory could be dubbed the biggest upset of the season so far, and all credit goes to Marcia McDermott and the Red Stars players for showing they still have a ton to prove. I’ve harped on Chicago all year for lacking self-belief. Sometimes when the goals dry up so does your confidence. Maybe it was an top-down thing with Hayes, who knows. Regardless, it’s nice to see Chicago show some signs of life.

P.S. Chicago also has a lot of hockey fans apparently. Perhaps a few (or 2,000+) Red Stars fans went to the Wachovia Center instead to watch the Blackhawks defeat the Flyers 6-5. The Red Stars host Atlanta June 6 and the Blackhawks will be in Philadelphia for a possible Game 6 so hopefully we don’t see such a huge drop-off again.

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Matildas Win 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup

 

The Australian Women’s National Team has claimed their first-ever Asian Cup after defeating defending champions North Korea 5-4 on penalties.

A cagey 90 minutes of regular time saw the Aussies strike first courtesy of a Sam Kerr goal in the 18′. The 16 year-old also scored a decisive goal in the Semifinal against Japan. Jo Yun-mi equalized in the 72′ off of a Song Jong-sun pass.

Rain began to fall in Chengdu, China and penalties were assured. Yu Song-mi missed what would be the tying penalty, thus giving the Matildas the victory.

Jo Yun-Mi is tied for having the most goals in the tournament with three, and was also voted the Most Valuable Player.

Australia’s victory ends the dominance of North Korea and China. North Korea have won three of the last four editions while China won the previous eight. Australia has been in the AFC since 2006. This is their best finish since being runners-up in the 2006 tournament.

The Anorak: Analzying Week 7 Attendance

With an average attendance of 3,675, this weekend was the second least-attended weekend in WPS of the 2010 season. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Memorial Day weekend or that the Chicago Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup, but the Red Stars saw a deep decline of 39% in attendance from their last home game. Washington and SBFC performed on average with 3,762 and 3,418 respectively.

 

Here are the rest of the numbers:

 

Average Attendances of 2010 season:

Boston 5,249 (3)

Atlanta 5,180 (2)

Washington 4,577 (5)

Chicago 4,455 (4)

Philadelphia 3,989 (3)

SBFC 3,885 (3)

FCGP 3,304 (3)

Saint Louis 3,027 (4)

 

Because the folding of SLA has forced a reworking of the WPS schedule, it’s unclear as to who will be playing next week exactly. I’m assuming the Chi/ATL game that will be televised on FSC will remain the same though. Hopefully we can see another big crowd on hand at Toyota Park.

Washington Freedom/Philadelphia Independence Reaction, Player Ratings

The Washington Freedom are the consensus #2 team in WPS after their very convincing 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Independence. The Freedom bossed every aspect of the match…besides the camo kits that they apparently borrowed from the local ODP U9 Boys team. Oh well, so long as they get that check I guess.

Anyways, the Independence consistently tried to beat them with the wide game. They attempted to exploit Washington’s very narrow 4-2-2-2 formation by keeping it on the flanks before serving it into the final third centrally. But Washington’ defense remained too compact and too solid to be tricked by this. That and Philadelphia’s unnervingly worrying lack of cohesion in the final third did them in.

Jenn Hildreth is 100% right in saying that Amy Rodriguez is really only as good as the player who delivers her the perfect pass. Without the right through-ball or cross to her feet, Rodriguez’ limited abilities become pretty obvious.

Note to Paul Riley: Frida Magnusdottir is not the right strike partner for Rodriguez. More on this down below, but Magnusdottir is the kind of player who appears to be a hyperactive busy body but her work actually amounts to very little. Lianne Sanderson seems to have the physical size, vision and technical ability to be able to feed Rodriguez with the service she needs. The ‘Magnusdottir As A Central Striker’ experiment failed tonight.

 

GK Valerie Henderson 7 Did just fine with a few solid saves, but lacks the presence required to be an elite goalkeeper in this league. Also seemed a little hesitant in a clearance or two.

D Heather Mitts 6 (Subbed for Sanderson 68’) Had a strong showing in the very early moments as she made a deep run but then went very quiet. Washington doesn’t really play on the flanks so she wasn’t tested too much defensively, but I wish she had ventured forth a little more.

D Allison Falk 6 Didn’t have a great game today by her typically high standards. She got caught out chasing Rebecca Moros on Washington’s first goal but then made up for it by supplying the cross into Sanderson’s feet for the second goal.

D Sara Larsson 6 Used her physical size well against Wambach and Welsh but again got caught out often.

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Chicago Supplies Some Much-Needed Good Vibes

If ever there was a match that the Chicago Red Stars were not supposed to win it was probably this one.

 

Observe:

Previously disjointed, psychologically frail and impotent, Chicago was second to bottom. The team had scored just three goals in six matches. They hadn’t found the back of the net in 225 minutes, or five halves if you like division. It was also a team that had been known to fold like a lawnchair at the first sign of adversity. Oh right, and it was a side that had fired its coach just one week prior. With no immediate heir in place General Manager Marcia McDermott took the reins, despite not having coached since the WUSA days.  

Their opponents? FC Gold Pride, the class of WPS. FCGP had not lost a match since Week One. Much of their roster would probably resemble a World All-Star XI. And their depth of attacking talent might not be something this league will see rehashed in a long time.

 

Maybe this parity thing really does exist.

Chicago emerged from the match proper victors after Swedish international Kosovare Asllani tapped in her first WPS goal off of a Marian Dalmy cross. FC Gold Pride were not able to voice a rebuttal. The Red Stars picked up their second win of the season with the 1-0 victory.

Chicago’s defense successfully muted FC Gold Pride’s studded attack for long stretches of the match. And they were able to create real chances for themselves in the final third. Granted, just one was put away but sometimes it only takes one.

The Red Stars knew they had something to prove. They knew that they would not be favored to win, or even draw. They knew that Plan A had not worked for them. They knew that this was prime time to turn around their season in hopes of starting anew. By all indications, every Red Star player bought what McDermott was selling.

Credit to Emma Hayes who seemed genuinely magnanimous and maybe a little wistful on Twitter as the result went final. “I knew the goals would come,” she typed, “it was just a matter of time.”

If ever there was a time for a genuine giant-killing courtesy of a team that had yet to find its groove, it’s probably right now. After the week’s sad dramatics with the Saint Louis Athletica and a goalless draw in New Jersey an hour prior, Chicago provided WPS with the hope-laden on-the-field story  it badly needed.

Let’s hope they continue to write it.

3 Questions For WPS Week 7

Sorry for the delay/extremely appreviated version that will follow. It just kind of feels like the day after a friend’s funeral with the whole SLA thing. Weird.

 

3.) Will Boston Feel Rejuvanated?

Maybe the bye week could have helped a Boston team that is seriously underperforming. Having been winless since the first week is not what should be expected of a team with this coach and this talent. Or is it? I’m beginning to revise my once lofty impressions of DiCicco and Cheney. Meanwhile, the Breakers visit a Sky Blue FC team that showed some real fight in Fenton two weeks ago. Considering they will be the last WPS team to play on that patch, will the ghost of the Anhueser Busch Soccer Park haunt Sky Blue? Also, look for some big names to return in creamsicle. That should help.

 

2.) How Many Goals Will Chicago Lose By?

Oof, I hate to be a pessimist but sometimes I can’t help it. FCGP will still be missing some key players but they have shown that  they can still a mess with half of their squad. Chicago will be trying to bounce back after the dismissal of one Emma Hayes led by the stewardship of one Marcia McDermott, current GM and one-time coach of the Carolina Courage. Neither tapers over the fact that one of these teams is pretty bad while the other is pretty good. FC Gold Pride for the big win in front of a big Chicago crowd.

 

1.)  Is Philadelphia Really That Good?

My gut, my heart and my brain lead towards a ‘yes’. And that’s often a huge warning sign. Washington has seemed to have finally clicked as a team. Philadelphia has been clicked. But how will their defense cope with the five-women-in-one-woman woman that is Abby Wambach? And can Sarah Huffman and Allie Long successfully silence Lori Lindsey? If Philadelphia can get by Washington, then they are the consensus second best team in the league. And the consensus best story in the league so far.

 

Yay for the sustainability and commercial viability of women playing soccer for money in this country. Whooooooooo.

Notables For the Day Tobin Heath Turns 22

Happy birthday Tobs.

 

First a few official clarifications on some items in a previous post regarding Saint Louis:

1.) WPS did indeed have a bond in place for Saint Louis and it was used to make player payroll as well as for other expenses.

2.) The Athletica games will stand because they did indeed happen and WPS is not going to go back and change history.

 3.) Ex-Athletica players will represent their new teams in the All-Star Game.

 

WPS:

 

 

  • American Soccer Minute is back with Week 7 predictions. It’ll only take a minute.

 

  • There are still three WPS matches that will be played this weekend, thankfully. Here’s a roster report:

ATL: Bye. Fabiana and Kristine Lilly are questionable for Boston while Sarah Walsh continues to be away on international duty. Kelsey Davis is on U-23 duty and is the only player unavailable for Chicago. Candace Chapman, Solveig Gulbrandsen and Kelley O’Hare questionable while Camille Abily remains out with an ankle injury. Karina LeBlanc is on international duty and will not be available for Philadelphia. No sign of ‘tasha Kai, Christie Rampone or  Meghan Schnur on the roster report so could we see an appearance from them? Lisa de Vanna broke her leg while on international duty for Australia. Homare Sawa is also on ID and Brittany Bock continues to be questionable for the Freedom.

 

  • Shek Borkowski has rubbished reports that he will succeed Emma Hayes in Chicago. He will stand by his contract with Russian side Zvezda-2005.

 

  • GM Marcia McDermott will step in as caretaker manager as such for Chicago’s game against Washington this weekend.

 

 

 

2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup

  • The SLA story kinda put this at the back burner, but Australia defeated Japan 1-0 and North Korea defeated China 1-0 in the Semifinals. Each team will meet in the Final tomorrow. Kate Gill scored in first half injury time to give the Matildas the edge. Kim Kyong-Hwa scored in the 109′ to give North Korea the win over the host country. They will also try to defend their title.

 

  • Japan and China will now meet in the Third Place Match to determine which nation gets the final AFC berth for the 2011 WWC.

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Things Aren't All Bad, Folks

Julie Logan shares her thoughts on the folding of Saint Louis and what it means for the future of WPS.

 

A few weeks ago I was in Costco and a guy stopped me to ask about the WPS bag I had on (yes, I sport a WPS bag occasionally when I wanna just sling it and go). He knew about the league (I was shocked) and asked what I felt about it having folded.
 
Um. Yah, no. I spent a few minutes setting this sports journalist, who was currently giving out free food at Costco, an update:

League is good, L.A. team is caput.
 
Now I gotta go back and tell this poor flirty kid that oopsie, two teams burnt out in the first two years. At least I can add that it’s actually due to shoddy owners making annoyingly stereotypical decisions.
 
Two teams down in 5 months. Well, shit. Not a good sign. Right?
 
Eh not so great, but not so bad. WPS is not like a couple of mountaineers, each team is held at arm’s length so if one goes down it doesn’t pull the rest with ‘em. Two going down is not great, but …
 
They survived Year 1 in the midst of a terrible recession, maybe the worst in American history.
 
They expanded in Year 2; plus two teams, minus two teams, evens out.
 
They – theoretically - are going to expand into Year 3. At least they have rumors floating. Given this second folding, they probably are feeling a lot of pressure to get some positive PR going and get new franchises up. Or revive lost ones with new owner (hint hint: LOS ANGELES).
 
I get the feeling that everything the WPS head office could be doing to get the league thriving, they are doing. So I have hope. Change takes a while and that’s exactly what the WPS is doing: changing women’s professional sports.
 
Sounds ridiculous. But the league is attempting to prove that women’s pro athletics can be a viable business.
 
The true measure of a successful business is not how it acts at the height of a bubble, but how it survives the sharp dive and slow climb after the bubble pops.

 Small and Mighty. Say it with me. Small and mighty.

 

Julie Logan is a faithful supporter of women’s soccer. During her last year as a Film student at USC she produced Are You On the Ball, a webseries that followed the Los Angeles Sol throughout its inaugural season. She is currently in London, getting paid for doing awesome things. You can check in on her at http://areyouontheball.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @areyouontheball.