Ah, the end of the year. Those last few days before you start writing the wrong dates on checks for another six months. According to the Worldwide Rules of Blogs, year-end recaps/lists/etc. are mandatory as those last few days of page-a-day calendars across the globe make their way into the trash. Ray Curren kicked off AWK’s year-end coverage yesterday with his piece, “My 2011 On AWK: At Least We’ll Always Have Germany,” and today it’s my turn.
2011 was, despite a few bumps in the road, a pretty awesome year for women’s soccer. There was a World Cup for the ages, where Homare Sawa, Kelly Smith and Abby Wambach cemented their places among the greats of the game and a whole lot of new faces gave us hope for where things are headed. And where our cool little underground spot suddenly became the hottest club in town, for better and maybe a little for worse. There was a pretty damn entertaining WPS season – from the opening whistle back in April to that final PK in August – and the good news that we’ll be getting another season that promises to be, at the very minimum, just as good.
On a personal level, I got to go to the WPS Draft in Baltimore and check out games not only from my usual spot in the Yurcak press box, but also in Boston, Philly and Western NY – p.s., Other States: your self-serve gas is dumb, you don’t know what you’re missing here in Jersey. I got to see a WPS Final live for the first time (and do the ten-hour-plus round-trip drive all in one day, the last hour or two home through a hurricane). Jenna and I started a podcast, then got distracted and accidentally put it on hiatus. I got to write about soccer a whole bunch in a few different places, including here on occasion, and I got to make a small contribution to an awesome project that two people whose work I admire a whole bunch put together – and share in being blown away at the response from all of you. And of course, I got to meet/see again and talk soccer with some pretty great people.
But, enough with the sentimental, reflective stuff. Here’s what I’d like to see for the world of women’s soccer in 2012:
For the Atlanta Beat to be not completely horrible. Jenna and I had many a discussion about how bad the Beat would be before the 2011 season – I thought they’d be bad, Jenna thought they’d be less bad than I thought they’d be. Neither of us thought they’d be as bad as they actually were. The Beat will enter 2012 riding a totally-impressive-in-the-wrong-way 757-minute goalless streak, but have made some pretty impressive-in-the-right-way offseason moves. Christen Press and Nikki Washington in particular bring some offensive hope Atlanta’s way. Just don’t think about the fact that Press’ eight goals in 2011 are more than the seven the entire Atlanta Beat team scored in 2011. Or that Washington has now been associated with as many teams as the Beat have scored goals. Seriously, don’t think about it. Your head might explode. Atlanta will have three picks in the 2012 draft, and with what people who know more than me say is a strong draft class, maybe the Beat have a chance to really build a real team. Then again, if the 2011 draft is any indication, you really never kn— you know what, just don’t screw it up.
For something good to happen for Lori Chalupny. This one shouldn’t need an explanation.
That Cat Whitehill can make it though a season without having to play the part of emergency goalkeeper. Wait. Forget that one. I think I’d miss it if it didn’t happen.
That James Galanis doesn’t declare halfway though the season that he had no plans on his team making the playoffs anyway, so like, whatever. Really, James Galanis, don’t do this again.
That new Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole can give post-game interviews that are at least half as interesting as former Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco. I had no idea what the guy was talking about half the time, but it all seemed really important and insightful.
For Jordan Angeli to get back on the field. After a stellar rookie year in 2010, it kind of sucked to not get to see what she could do with a full pro season under her belt.
That the Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC can play a game that doesn’t require me to write “typical Boston-Sky Blue” in my match report. In other words, I have seen these two teams play each other 800 times. I’m pretty sure 799 of them have been 0-0 draws. Just, like, stop.
For Manon Melis to make it okay for Dutch players and Sky Blue FC to be a thing. Daphne Koster’s tackles were too often an inside-the-18 manifestation of her wild hairdo in 2010. The Boston Breakers scored just 14 seconds into Petra Hogewoning’s defensive debut in 2011. Oranje to orange. Can’t be that hard, can it?
That Sky Blue fans realize they are not at the library. You know how the Prudential Center is called “The Rock?” Maybe you don’t, but I’m telling you, it is. I am thisclose to just referring to Yurcak Field as “The Library.” Did you all eat a Thanksgiving dinner and now have that tryptophan thing or whatever it is happening? I have no idea if this is actually a thing, but people say it’s a thing, and I’m pretty sure it’s the thing that’s happening at Sky Blue games. You should not be cheering louder for the t-shirt toss than for the game. By the way, your books are overdue. Maybe if we just put a book return thing at the gate and then…you know what, nevermind.
That I become less afraid of the way Jim Gabarra really looks at you when he’s answering a question. He’s not stealing my soul. He’s not stealing my soul. He’s not stealing my… I realize now that this is more of a personal problem. Thanks for letting me work through it.
That my favorite player stays with the team she’s been with for the past three seasons. Ah, whatever. Can’t have everything.
That Paul Riley keeps on being Paul Riley. Because that dude is awesome. And very dapper. I would like him to give Pia Sundhage lessons on how to dress for the sidelines. I would like for these lessons to be televised in some kind of “What Not to Wear” type show. I’m already setting my DVR. Your move, The Learning Channel.
That Paul Riley keeps on sneaking the occasional curse word into his post-match comments. And that Paul Riley keeps saying things like this (following a 2010 Sky Blue-Philly game that featured a two hour lightning delay): “Terrible day really all the way around. I think we left Philadelphia at 10 o’clock this morning, it feels like the longest day of my life. I feel like we could’ve gone to Gold Pride in a shorter time and played a game.”
For Tasha Kai to keep on scoring goals in Philadelphia. After watching her through some rough times in NJ, it was nice to see her enjoying the game and scoring some goals again. Now, about Amy Rodriguez… Remember 2010? Do that.
That Jen Buczkowski gets the credit that she deserves.
That Allie Long and Adriana can continue doing what they were doing with Sky Blue FC last season in Western NY. It was really, really fun to watch and not a lot of people got to see it. Western NY had a squirrel pitch invader and animal pitch invaders are right up Allie Long’s alley. I see no reason why this move will not work.
For a defender to win Player of the Week.
That WPS will focus more on an adult and/or not small child-based fan base. I feel like I wrote something about this for AWK once before… And I’m not just saying this because I’m maybe afraid of small children and every time I have to walk down the bleachers at Yurcak to get to the field I’m afraid one’s going to jump out and attack.
That Ted Unkel not be allowed to referee any games with playoff implications. Turns out, he’s not that great at it.
That Nike starts manufacturing sleeveless jerseys for the USWNT, solely so Becky Sauerbrunn doesn’t have to go through the process of rolling her sleeves up just so. And because any USWNT jersey would be an improvement on what is happening now. Are we really still talking about this?
For Kate Markgraf to do color commentary for way more games. She’s incredibly insightful and entertaining. Plus, she described something as “ballsy” on a live television broadcast. What’s not to love?
For Homare Sawa to win the 2011 Ballon d’Or. If you need an explanation for this, I cannot help you.
Also, if I could get some kind of massive raise/strike it rich in some other way that would make me be able to go to Kansas City next month, that would be pretty cool.