Monthly Archives: April 2013

NWSL Week in Review: Concussions Are No Fun

It was 10 minutes into one of the final games of the high school season last fall, and our tall center back – perhaps the biggest key to anything we did in keeping from conceding goals – went up for a lofted ball into our box, something she does a few dozen times a game (in some cases in which we were outclassed, probably more).

She won the ball, per usual, but not cleanly. It caromed straight up in the air and was eventually kicked out of bounds. As I looked toward her, she was rooted in the same spot she headed the ball, blinking her eyes. A teammate went over to her, followed quickly by the referee, who waved me on. While she had never actually been knocked off her feet and could answer any question I threw at her, her pupils were clearly dilated and she said she had a little bit of a headache.

Because we were playing at a large school, the trainer had to be called from the volleyball game at the nearby school, which took about five minutes.

“It doesn’t look too bad, and I’ll leave it up to you, but I wouldn’t put her back in the game.”

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Spirit suffer first loss, 2-1, to Sky Blue

Robyn Gayle has her hands full with Lisa De Vanna, who would assist on the game-winning goal and give the Spirit defense fits all evening

If the Washington Spirit had a mantra going into today’s match, it might well have been “Don’t give up a late goal.” In their inaugural match on the road against Boston, they let one in in second-half stoppage time to turn a win into a draw. Then last week in their home opener they gave up a goal in the 84th minute, and only midfielder Diana Matheson converting a penalty kick shortly thereafter kept that game from being a loss.

In this match, though, they went to the other extreme for untimely goals, getting scored on 90 seconds into the first half and under three minutes into the second. An anemic Spirit offense that has so far managed just two goals from the run of play in 270 minutes was unable to keep up, and Washington fell to Sky Blue, 2-1.
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NWSL – Fantasy Preview – Round Three

(As always, Fantasy NWSL is free to play with great prizes for weekly winners, at nwslfl.com)

It’s been a bit harrowing these opening weeks in fantasy as we’ve tried to figure out what stats are going to be kept and getting a feel for lineups and matchups. Last week was exceptionally tough, with just two games and four teams after the cancellation of Boston and FC Kansas City’s match. It’s full steam ahead this week though, with all eight teams in action and our first double week for WNY and Sky Blue FC.

As a general rule, you’ll probably want to stack your club with as many double gamers as possible, and my rankings below reflect that. Still, you’ll need at least five single gamers to fill out your lineup, with at least one slotting into your starting lineup. The best of the single gamers are probably in midfield for this week, though you could certainly make a case for some players up front.

Let’s just hope for some goals and a clean sheet or two, so the week’s winner can have a total above a paltry sixty-five points…

Ranking the teams for fantasy purposes:

1. WNY Flash
2. Sky Blue FC
3. FC Kansas City
4. Portland
5. Washington
6. Boston
7. Chicago
8. Seattle

Double Gamers

GK

Franch (WNY) – Has looked very, very good in two games thus far despite little in the way of offensive support. Two games at home against beatable opposition is definitely a plus, but you might be a little skittish about where the goals are going to come from if she’s to get win points.

Cameron (SBFC) – Obviously not going to put up numbers in the twenties like she did in club’s first game but still a solid option with two decent matchups in round three. Back-to-back road games not ideal, but has a solid defense in front of her and is a decent bet for at least one clean sheet.
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NWSL – The Peculiar Case of Elizabeth Guess, the Portland Thorns, and Ever Puzzling Roster Rules

I’ll freely admit that this column has taken a turn since I first began mapping it out last night when more questions began to be asked in lieu of the Breakers’ unexpected move of waiving Elizabeth Guess after the former UNC player had assisted on the club’s goal in the opener against Washington. Given what’s about to follow, I certainly didn’t expect Guess to find a new home so easily, but that she did and who she found it with opens up a whole different bag of worms, as you’ll probably see.

Nobody is going to deny that the NWSL has experienced some teething problems early on, from the lack of actual centralized promotion from the league in the run-up to the new season to the often temperamental steams in the opening few weeks, but all of that seems like window dressing in my eyes compared to the often non-sensical and quite possibly inconsistent application of an increasingly draconian set of roster rules. Not that it’s necessarily been an easy go for the league, who’s had to deal with injuries, pregnancies, players starting the season abroad, players not bothering to come stateside to play, and federation interference…and that’s just with allocated players.

Beyond that though, the hoops through which clubs had to jump through to build a roster seemed borderline asinine at times. While things seemed to run relatively smoothly through the rookie draft, piles upon piles of regulation raised more questions as the preseason went along. There was the rather bizarre supplemental draft, where many a club selected players who had no intention of playing, a spectacle no doubt not helped by the league leaving it up to the teams to put together a list of players they were conceivably interested in, instead of freely taking in the names of interested participants only. The end product was something of a fiasco, with Pacific Northwest clubs Portland and Seattle looking sheepish after first round picks Tina Ellertson and Nikki Krzysik both declined to play in the new league. It was far from the only misstep, as many of the league’s clubs saw later round picks also decline to sign with the club. Adding to the oddness, after the first set of preseason cuts, a previously unannounced waiver draft was held. A second waiver draft would not be held after final preseason cuts.

Things would get weirder from there. Just how weird wasn’t exactly clear until the regular season approached, and the puzzling roster policy was only brought into further question by the earlier mentioned waiving of Guess by the Breakers and the revelation that the club wasn’t being allowed to sign a roster replacement for the injured Bianca D’Agostino. Some likely blamed the club for carrying just eighteen players to begin with, the league minimum, when teams could carry up to twenty (or one or two more depending on allocation circumstances).

Which brings me to a rather contentious revelation. Having, at the final roster cut, publicly wondered why, when injuries and international duty would surely make a roster of twenty rather than eighteen more feasible long-term, many clubs would choose to carry just the minimum number of players mandated by the league, a little birdie flew by my inbox and provided some rather eye-opening news. I, like many others, had naturally assumed that after the supplemental draft, clubs were free to sign players as they pleased to fill out their rosters. I was informed that this was not the case.
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NWSL Week in Review: Roses For All in Portland

It was the worst of times, not in the women’s soccer world, but in just about everyone’s world in America last week as sports receded into the background while the nation searched for two terrorists. It’s weeks like this where our games can seem so insignificant, especially when “real life” hits close enough to home that one of the NWSL games has to be postponed because the entire greater Boston metro area was in lockdown and the Breakers could not leave to get to Kansas City.

The last portion of the preceding paragraph would be preposterous just days earlier, but there we were Friday night paralyzed watching as there was at least an ending that saved us more horror. The Breakers, like the rest of Boston, were able to try to get back to some sense of normal on Saturday, although it’s understandable if it takes a little while.

And yet this weekend we were able to see the hope for the NWSL. On Saturday, Washington and Western New York played before an overflow crowd at the Maryland SoccerPlex, which was in remarkable condition (and featured real live grass). A day later, more than 16,000 piled in to Jeld-Wen Field to see Portland and Seattle, and while the number was obviously stupendous, the demographics appeared almost as striking.

We love young players to attend games, as a coach of young girls, I hope this league gives them a chance to have role models and the like, but what struck me Sunday is that – while there was still a family atmosphere – it sounded, well it sounded like a professional soccer match: chants, the din actually following the play, and – yes – roses for the goal scorers.

Well, maybe we don’t see that last one around the world very much.

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Overflow crowd watches Spirit come back late to draw Flash

Canadian international Diana Matheson scored the Spirit's first-ever home goal

The west stands were packed. The east stands were packed. The beer garden was packed. The south hill was packed. All in all, 4,569 fans squeezed themselves into a stadium designed to hold 3,200. And for the future of women’s professional soccer, that was a more important number than anything that transpired on the field.

Happiness over the fan participation was tempered, though, by concern over Abby Wambach, who in the 80th 90th minute took a ball in the face at close range from teammate Brittany Taylor and was in uncertain condition after the match. Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines said after the match she was “not doing too well.”
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