Women\’s Professional Soccer
We’re only days away now from the WPS kicking off its second season, with the Boston Breakers visiting the Washington Freedom on Saturday, April 10. With the 22-person rosters announced last last week, it’s time to take a look at some new faces on the only team that matters, really: the Boston Breakers.
Boston was lucky enough to have both Alex Scott and Kelly Smith not try (I’m only assuming here) to wiggle out of their contracts after a fairly devastating inaugural season. Boston started off strong, but with little chemistry between the front line and the rest of the squad, there was little impact when it was needed most. First-round draft pick Amy Rodriguez proved to be of a quality not suitable for the words “first-round draft pick,” and coach Tony DiCicco switched in and out so many players up front—Rodriguez and Latham, Rodriguez and Nobis, Latham and Nobis (and the list seriously goes on and on)—that no one had a chance to gel.
But 2010 brings a new look to Boston’s front line. Count e’m—Lauren Cheney, Laura Del Rio, Fabiana, Sarah Walsh, and Tiffany Weimer will hopefully bring that spark that Boston never had in front of the net last year (dear god, please let one of these women bring the spark Boston never had). I like the idea of Lilly and Smith playing pure midfield roles and confidently serving the ball up top to someone who can actually do something with it, like put it in the net and thus collect three points, moving the team or supporting it at the very top. Imagine that, Boston fans!
Boston’s Goal Scorers at a Glance
Here they be:
Lauren Cheney isn’t a new name to supporters of the U.S. women’s national team. She’s young, fast, and can score goals on an international stage. That said, Boston was stoked about another all-star college player from the state of California (Rodriguez was from USC, Cheney from UCLA, however), but she didn’t turn out so well now, did she? I have this feeling, though, one I never had with Rodriguez, that Cheney will make a difference.
Laura Del Rio is the league’s first Spaniard, and the good news is that this isn’t the first time I’ve heard her name. I’ve been trying to dig out an old, old, old (OLD) fifa.com article about her, but alas—no luck. I’m thinking it published around 2003, though, so hey—the girl’s been around, even though the Spanish women’s national team ranks low. Del Rio has spent quality time in Germany playing for FFC Frankfurt (that’s Birgit and German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer’s team, by the way), so she’s been exposed to footie of the high-quality variety. I think she’s a great acquisition, especially if she turns out to be the female Fernando Torres.
Fabiana is healthy—she’s healthy! I don’t know if this is good or bad, but she is Brazilian, which should make her game physical and creative, but as far as I know, she’s not related to Marta, so she may not leave ball-size dents in the asses of opponents. Still, though, it’ll be great to finally get to see exactly what she’s capable of and how she can contribute to this team.
Sarah Walsh and Tiffany Weimer were traded to Boston from St. Louis and the Bay Area, respectively. Sarah Walsh, from what I’ve seen of her, has an aggressive, gritty, non-stop style that would have worked well with Christine Latham, but, alas, with our fiesty Canadian cut from the team, I’ll settle for seeing her paired with Cheney. Weimer impressed the hell out of everyone early last season with ridiculous ball skill and speed, but then she sort of disappeared for a while (injury, maybe?), and then everyone sort of forgot about her. I’m interested to see how she’ll adapt to Boston’s system, but will be surprised as hell if she makes the starting eleven.
The above photo was taken by my friend Aaron at the Puma store in San Francisco last week. He and I are going to cover FC Cash4Gold (with a name like that, you could get MC Hammer in for some publicity – just sayin) for a local site (oh right, this one) and apparently he’s so excited about his newly discovered photo taking prowess, he’s now texting me to ask if we can start covering practices too. Dude, I can’t even pick Danville out on a map.
Oh right, the season starts this weekend. And I’m so *^$&W@)% excited my home team is playing their first game in the middle of the country and this game is neither televised nor available to watch online. Awesome!
Meanwhile, a small section of the twitterverse is having a ball typing insults to the world under the auspice of defending their turf. Yup, go search twitter for #dyt right now and if you have a local team (sorry LA but I supposed you could rep Pali Blues in the meantime?), go ahead and let the insults fly!
p.s. All insults against Sky Blue FC are ace in my book.
p.p.s. Defend Your Turf is also an ad campaign which I guess somewhat cheapens the inspired viral-ness of this whole DYT twitter thing. Oh well.
The gates are officially open for the WPS’s inaugural Fantasy Challenge, and let me just say right now my Boston Fakers are looking like contenders. Erin McLeod, Alex Scott, Amy LePeilbet, Sara Larsson, Keely Dowling (I just couldn’t choose Whitehill, which may bite me in the ass, but I’m ready for it), Solveig Gulbrandsen, Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath, Caroline Seger, Ramona Bachmann, Jessica Langstom, and $2.25 million left to spare? Oh, hells yes.
What surprised me most was that I actually didn’t choose the only German in the league, Atlanta’s Shelley Thompson, and since the Germans, as we all know, are champions of EVERYTHING, maybe I’ll rethink my game early in the season. And with Langstom, Seger, and Larrsson, can I please get a “Hej, Sverige?”
Oh, and if you’re up for a little competition, be sure to join the Offsides official fantasy league, WPS the Offsides. It’s a mindblower, this name, isn’t it?
See you at the top, suckers.
Joining the likes of Karina LeBlanc, Leslie Osborne, and no other than the Golden Girl herself, Marta, PUMA signed Sky Blue FC’s heavily inked forward (count ‘em: TWO sleeves now!) Natasha Kai to its athletic roster. And in true corporate fashion, they’ve even got a promo shot of everyone’s favorite Hawaiian native rocking what may or may not be PUMA gear—not a logo to be found, in true UN-corporate fashion!—but I’m guessing that it is. What stuns me most is that PUMA thinks this photo of Kai will fool millions into believing she can actually execute this move on the field, which, if you’ve ever been witness to her game, you know is both a visual and factual lie. But this is not a new approach for PUMA. The company tried the same thing with Leslie Osborne last year. (Nice bike, by the way, Leslie.)
Small audience and small budget means WPS has to do a pretty good job being inventive when it comes to advertising and publicity. A great example would be the Washington Freedom Fan Bill of Rights which, if I remember correctly, is a direct jab at the Redskins (pointy) football team and various complaints from fans. Or there’s the whole twittering during games which we all know was initially frowned upon by the NBA then coveted quite successfully by WPS just in time for the inaugural game. So on the eve of season two we’ve got the Sky Blue FC General Manager declaring a twitter war against the Sky Blue FC President. There’s even a youtube video.
So watching two middle aged white guys “battling it out” it via the internet is nothing new, and I have to admit, after checking out their twitter feeds, this war is extremely tame. No trash talk and as far as I can tell one prize was awarded so far? Someone got a game ticket. Handy if you live in New Jersey or the surrounding areas. And I’m having a hard time figuring out which side to choose (full disclosure, I’m following both). On one hand, you’ve got the President Thomas Hofstetter whose main advantage here is he’s the #%(%&! owner so he’s signing all the checks. Disadvantage would be his admitted inferiority to Red Stars owner and influential twitter-er Peter Wilt. On the other hand you’ve got GM Gerrard Marrone, who admits he’s a Manchester United fan *shudder* and sports a ginormous flavor savor. Yikes. So far Hofstetter wins – but just by a hair.
Turbo and Ozone! And Kelly! It’s a dance-off!
WPS season two is coming right at ya with more drama than, uh, season one for sure. Let’s review:
There was a draft If you follow college soccer then you know the whole first round was mostly predictable and uneventful. If you don’t follow college soccer then you are asking yourself, who the crap are these people? I would like to remain a member of the second group so I shall plead the ignorance even though I did catch quite a few College Cup games when they were streaming on the internets.
The demise of the La Sol Personally, I’m sick of people telling me LA were the best thing for WPS and this situation is the worst thing for the league. People who actually follow the league know that LA racked up a buttload of debt which was exactly the sort of thing WPS and its grassroots mentality was trying to avoid. And then AEG pulled out prematurely (heh heh) (but seriously, I believe they promised the league two years) leaving Blue Star LLC scrambling for new investors. And one of the members of Blue Star LLC is the actor Anthony LaPaglia whose bread & butter, some sort of cop drama called Without A Trace, got canceled last year. So if you really think about it, the fact that all of us stopped watching Without A Trace directly led to the demise of the LA Sol. YOU ONLY HAVE YOURSELVES TO BLAME.
Then there was the dispersal draft And not quite all of those LA Sol players went bye bye and are now playing for the remaining teams. Or at least they are gunning for a coveted spot with the remaining teams. This will only serve to make said remaining teams even better cause that was some quality talent right there that went poof.
So what does it all mean? It means WPS is still limping along and pushing their way up that giant hill of relevancy in the world of professional sports. And as for me, I dissolved my stupid attempt to run my own business and took a full-time job with a – now former – client (said former client will soon be a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor fyi) leaving me with heaps of time to do all the fun stuff I’ve missed over the past few months. The fun stuff being me writing about women’s soccer. Yeah, I can’t believe I just wrote that too. I’ve promised Dave one post a weekend on the USWNT over at World Cup Blog and I’ll soon be attempting more serious “journalism” for a local site in the Bay Area (details to come). And I’ll be here sporadically, posting somewhat relevant nonsense and completely unprofessional prose, while at the same time finding any excuse to segue into pop culture references and random geek talk. You have been warned.
I believe this is now the 2ist win for North Carolina. Jessica McDonald scored the lone goal in the 3rd minute (picture above) and then it was a flurry of food poisoning, offsides calls, and an O’Hara double yellow that cost Stanford their perfect record for the season. Perhaps the biggest upset was the flurry of “patting ourselves on the back” & “we’re just happy to be here” quotes the ncaa twitter account posted all weekend long from the losing coaches. It’s times like these when I desperately wish for another Tony DiCiccio “we lost and I’m mad as hell” outburst. I’m glad there was a big ncaa women’s weekend. I’m glad folks like Whitney Engen can get all publicly excited about continuing their careers in WPS, but I think the Women’s Sports Blog says it best with their description of the game:
2009 soccer championship tying goal disallowed on offside, compounded by being forced to endure the obsequiousness sweepstakes that is media coverage of that creep Anson Dorrance and his insufferable, Yankees-like program. Cat Whitehill inexplicably kissed enough UCLA butt that I knew to keep the sound off when she was actually commentating on her own team.
This event came in at #2 of their “Seven Suicidal Sports Moments.” Cool, I’m glad I missed this game.
Next up, the WPS draft where a significant chunk of the College Cup final players will be drafted into various WPS teams and will hopefully NOT migrate into obscurity on the bench or substitution status while the European and Brazilian signings outperform our American so-called post-college stars. Bring it.
You have to admit, WPS seems to be doing something right since their first official offseason is bringing in a few more big-name internationals. Today, the Red Stars announced they signed England & Arsenal midfielder Katie Chapman. The good news for Chicagoans is that coach Emma has been coaching her for years and knows her really really well. The bad news though is I suspect the money that brought in Chapman may have been the money they intended to use to bring back Cristiane. And from the press release, I gather Chapman will likely slide right into the position Cristiane held (when she wasn’t injured) last season. Here’s a very fit Cristiane (with Marta) helping Santos FC win last night’s Brazilian league finals:
(so, where will she go?)
In other news, Atlanta announced they will build a 8,300 seat stadium. They are also saying it will be the first soccer specific stadium in the world for a women’s team. Is that true? For some reason, I remember reading somewhere there was at least one in Europe. But I’m too swamped with work to go research it so congrats Atlanta on being first with that.
Is it a new signing? Or is it a Gap ad?
Swedish striker Jessica Landstrom signed with Sky Blue FC for the 2010 season. She’s leaving Damallsvenskan winners Linköpings FC (according to her incredibly out of date Wikipedia page, she was Frida Ostberg’s replacement when Ostberg joined the Red Stars. Total synergy.) and before this blog gets bombarded with borderline inappropriate comments about her physical appearance, I’d like to inform all the men of the world that she is off your market. This bit of information does mean that the potential 2010 Sky Blue offensive Kai-Landstrom lineup will be the only out and proud lineup in WPS so far (that I know of). So congrats to Sky Blue for the singing and congrats to gays and lesbians everywhere – you just gained a teeny tiny bit more exposure in the athletic world.
I apologize to every one of you, even the creepy guy on the right.
So surprise surprise England won their game against Turkey on Thursday but the qualification rounds resume in March meaning I misread the Guardian article or it contained misinformation. Whoops. Moving on…
Not containing misinformation is an excellent interview with player & assistant manager of Stratford Town (a not quite Premiere League club), Esther Slater on her thoughts about the upcoming FA Superleague. And she gets down to business for sure:
Personally I don’t think the super league will make much difference to the profile of women’s football. The pyramid system that is already in place works well enough and I can’t see how changing the structure is going to help raise the profile. I think maybe in the beginning it may create a bit of interest, but I can’t see it lasting.
Well it’s supposedly open for any club to apply for. However with the money they are talking about (paying top four players an annual salary of £20-30k and matching the £70k the FA are going to give each club per year for the first two years) I cant see how they will get any teams other than those who are fully affiliated with large men’s clubs raising the funds. Therefore the gap between top and bottom will be bigger than ever.
So while the senior England team continues to move up the world ranks, there may be lingering questions whether this new “super structure” the FA wants (perhaps more to dazzle top players away from WPS?) will hurt a player development system that appears to be working already.
And speaking of working already, the NCAA College Cup has been showcasing some amazing talent who will all pretty much be the first round picks in the upcoming WPS draft. I’m not really going out on a limb here when I say the final will be Stanford and UNC. Tonight UCLA play Portland for the last open semi-final spot. Then it’s onto the semis… which are (I believe) televised. Look out for:
Tobin Heath @ UNC. People who are smarter than me predict she’ll be the #1 draft pick overall (congrats Atlanta).
Kelley O’Hara @ Stanford. I missed last night’s game unforch. She scored a brace in Stanford’s 3-1 win over Boston College. Homegirl’s been scoring hella goals and got called up to December’s senior national team training camp.
Casey Nogueira @ UNC. She’ll also be in December’s nats training camp. Her hat trick on Friday pushed UNC to the semis. And she’s a really great dancer…
Also of note, this year’s competition is having record attendance rates which ideally would be a fantastic thing for WPS to figure out how to translate for their 2010 season.