Well, this is a mild surprise. The Western New York Flash just dispatched a press release stating the team has acquired Marta. You know the one. The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year. WPS’ MVP and leading goal scorer in 2009 and 2010. The apple of Dan Borislow’s eye. Yeah, her.
The Flash has gotten really good at releasing really awesome bits of news in well, a flash. But this is something else. The acquisition of Marta – particularly given the mortality rate of the WPS teams she’s previously suited up for – shows just how seriously the team is approaching the 2011 season. Owner Joe Sahlen and co. clearly believe that there is still a worthwhile reason to pour money into this league. That’s particularly noteworthy, given how many investors took their money and ran for the hills in recent months. It’s also worth pointing out that such confidence is being exhibited by an expansion team, one that has yet to endure the trials and tribulations of a league that had been bludgeoned to within mere inches of its life just three months ago.
This also ensures that the world’s best player will remain stateside this year. You can’t have the best league in the world without having the best player in the world ply her trade in it. If there’s a year that WPS can get any mileage off that “best league in the world” title, it’s this year: a World Cup year. If Marta lights up the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup like she did in 2007, having her in this country – even if it’s in Rochester, New York of all places – could prove to be a real boon for WPS.
Moreover, the signing means that a WPS team was willing to assume the third year of Marta’s contract. In 2009, Marta signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Sol. After the team folded, she was still on the hook for the remaining two years of that contract which, sources say, the league then shouldered.
The longer Marta remained without a home in WPS, the more the league was made to look quite silly for consummating such a costly long-term arrangement. Perhaps a foreign team (and she and her agent have been talking about returning to the Damallsvenskan a lot lately) would not have been so loathe to sign her if the team had not been forced to buy out her contract with WPS.
The exact amount of that contract varies upon the person you talk to. PUMA is reportedly responsible for a supplemental part of Marta’s wages. The percentage amount isn’t clear, but it must be substantial to broach the $500,000 number The Equalizer is reporting.
From what All White Kit understands, the league/team is accountable for an amount that is not totally outrageous, and is probably befitting of the best player in the world. However, it’s a rate that is probably definitely too exorbitant for a few foreign clubs and the bulk of WPS teams to bear. Excluding the Flash apparently.
Two weeks ago, a source in Sweden suggested that Damallsvenskan clubs weren’t interested in assuming Marta’s third year, instead opting to sit back and wait until she became a legitimate free agent in 2012. The source indicated that they foresaw the commencement of a bidding war for 2012 and beyond, starting at a substantially lower rate than her present deal.
That might be a tangential point now, but it is perhaps illustrious of the lengths Western New York were willing to go to land the best player in the world.
The celerity of the announcement and the discretion that surrounded it leads one to believe this was something that materialized quite quickly. There was absolutely no indication the team was poised to make such a signing, neither from the outside, nor the inside.
A lot of bad things have surfaced without warning over the course of WPS’ brief history. Getting blindsided by good news is a rarity for followers of this league, and may it continue.
One also has to wonder what Dan Borislow is thinking right about now. Just this past Saturday he was apparently still set on bringing Marta to the Maryland SoccerPlex or to South Florida or wherever. So much for that legendary team. So much for trying to attract Brazilians in the South Florida market all in the name of Marta. He’ll just have to suffice with the likes of Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Lindsay Tarpley, Ella Masar, Becky Sauerbrunn, maybe Shannon Boxx, and the best selection of collegiate players culled by any team in the 2011 WPS Draft. (P.S. if he is still hell-bent on signing a potential crossover Latina player, why not try seeing what Maribel Dominguez is up to?)
In terms of what Marta will bring to the team, well, how about a WPS Championship appearance for starters. The Los Angeles Sol was thwarted by upstarts Sky Blue FC in 2009 but FC Gold Pride’s demolition job of the Philadelphia Independence in September was pure class. The team already had arguably the best squad in the league prior to tonight’s announcement with seven FC Gold Pride refugees. The addition of Marta almost makes it unfair. That forward line is going to consist of Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan, and Marta. My God.
And to think that just 18 months ago, the Buffalo Flash was coming off a decent first season in the second-division W-League. The team played its games at Orchard Park High School in Orchard Park, New York, 15 miles south-east of Buffalo.
That team just became one of the best in the world.