Whither the Washington Freedom?By: phil | March 3rd, 2011
Womenâ€™s Professional Soccer opens its 2011 season in five weeks, with the rostersÂ now set and the TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel in place.Â Although there were several important stories this offseason, the most interesting has to be the fate of the Washington Freedom.Â
WPS officials have long referred to the Freedom as one of the leagueâ€™s flagship franchises.Â The club has existed in the same form and with the same ownership group since the old WUSA days, and numerous womenâ€™s soccer stars have worn the colors, including Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry, and Abby Wambach.Â Throughout the turmoil of 2009 and 2010, the Freedom were one of the leagueâ€™s foundation stones, a source of stability.
This made it all the more confounding when the Hendricks family, the teamâ€™s owners, announced that they wanted to sell their majority stake in the club.Â Although they never explicitly said as much, it was clear that the owners werenâ€™t willing to keep on losing money; there was even a possibility that the club could fold, until the Freedom were purchased by the enigmatic Dan Borislow.
Borislow is, if nothing else, someone who will get people talking.Â His obviously self-edited Wikipedia page describes him as an â€śentrepreneur, inventor, and thoroughbred horse breeder.â€ťÂ He made millions inventing a VOIP phone network, and established a reputation as a brash and antagonistic businessman.Â Iâ€™ll go out on a limb and declare him the only WPS owner to be described as â€śan assholeâ€ť by the chairman of AOL.Â
Borislowâ€™s first move was to rename the team â€śmagicTalk SC / Washington Freedom.â€ťÂ No, that is not a joke.Â He declared that he wanted the team to play â€śsomeâ€ť of its home games in Florida, where he and his family live.Â He made clear his desire to bring Marta onto the roster (sheâ€™s since been signed by the expansion Western New York Flash).Â Basically, DC-area Freedom fans have been in limbo for months, not sure whether they even have a team anymore, although the clubâ€™s moving out of its offices at the Maryland SoccerPlex was definitely not a good sign.
In February, it was announced that the Freedom (or should I be calling them magicTalk? Weâ€™ll wait to see whatâ€™s actually on the uniforms before taking that step) will likely be playing their home games at Florida Atlantic Universityâ€™s soccer field.Â The official line changes every week, but news outlets were told that the club would still play a few games in the DC-Maryland area.Â The clubâ€™s first home game is on Saturday, April 23, and the venue is still listed as â€śTBAâ€ť on the official WPS site.Â Needless to say, several important questions remain unanswered.Â Tune in next week as we follow the ongoing saga of the Freedom and preview the upcoming WPS season.