NWSL 2013 – Analysis In 10 Parts PART 6/7/8 Portland Thorns/FC Kansas City/Boston Breakers

A combined Sixth, Seventh and Eighth in a series of 10 posts analyzing NWSL 2013 from my viewpoint.

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I apologize for this mish-mash of an analysis. The league hijacked my train of thought with their expansion stuff and I lost interest in finishing, but a loyal reader persuaded me to tie up the loose ends, so here it is.

Pre-season, Season Tickets, and Fan Engagement:

Of course Portland got all the buzz with the great allocations and being backed by MLS Portland Timbers. I personally was buzzed to get a team within driving distance (9 hours isn’t driving distance for all, but I love to drive), the FC Kansas City Blues. And no surprise, the stable stalwarts of women’s pro soccer and my “team till I die” the Boston Breakers were right in the middle of it all, just the way we like it!
I purchased 2 $165 Touchline Reserved tickets and went in 50/50 on 2 $99 GA tickets that were donated for Portland Thorns. I did not attend any games, but managed to give away most of my tickets. I had no problem with the purchase or the donation. Pretty streamlined process.
I purchased 2 $180 Elite tickets for FC Kansas City and I have to say their sales staff was helpful, funny and understanding.
The first tickets I purchased were for my Boston Breakers. Quick, easy, efficient, like so much of the organization. 2 $180 Regular Season tickets. I also was unable to attend any games and gave away most of my tickets, some through the organization and some online.

Fan engagement for all 3 teams was OK. I honestly had little interest in the Thorns, so I admit to being lax when it came to paying attention to their engagement on Twitter or Facebook.  FCKC got more of my attention and I thought they did an OK job of keeping fans informed, if not engaged, on both Twitter and Facebook.  Breakers had a little more experience, but didn’t really take advantage of it. Their Twitter and Facebook paled in comparison to some team member’s updates.

Web Site and Web Stream:

Portland had a good web site, no surprise there. Thorns also win stream hands down, no discussion. Not only was their stream exceptional, their commentary team of Ang & Ann (Angela Harrison and Ann Schatz) were informative and hysterical, in the best way. Never a dull moment in that broadcast booth.
FC Kansas City had a web site I enjoyed visiting. This is something they don’t need to change. On the other hand, the Blues could use some work on their stream. Most were watchable and I didn’t need to mute the commentary, that’s always a plus.
Boston is stuck somewhere in the last decade with their web site. And my dear sweet Boston, what can I say? They had a pay-per-view stream that was anything but watchable on occasion. As a loyal fan I purchased every stream in the hopes that as the season went on they’d get better, not the way it turned out. After a few games I could not justify the purchase to my peers..at any price. $4.99 wasn’t bad (I could have done without the $1.39 fee on top of it), if the stream was good.

Kits and Venue:

Kits..how about those kits! said no one. Ho-hum, cookie-cutter kits, just different colors.

Venues are another story, though. No one can argue about the venue and atmosphere at Jeld-Wen..no one, don’t even try. Jeld-Wen IS soccer. Winner: Portland.
FCKC made Shawnee Mission North High School their home, later to be called Verizon Field because of their awesome sponsorship. A typical high school venue in typical high school condition, nothing great, but adequate. I did attend several games and was not disappointed with the atmosphere. Their supporters group, the KC Blue Crew, was small but dedicated. Tailgating was permitted with alcohol restrictions, as in none allowed, so that put a damper on things. I’m not a lush, but every tailgate could use a beer.
I did not attend any games at Dilboy Stadium outside Boston, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for analysis. The real sticking point with many people seemed to be the physical location of the field. I drove over 500 miles to get to KC’s field, so I might not be the right person to talk to about that.

Final Observations:

Portland Thorns: At first glance Portland seemed like the dream team, they had it all; players, venue, supporters, but to me they didn’t put it together on the field for much of the season. They played well in the playoffs and took the Championship, but I still was not impressed by the overall product on the field. In 2014 I hope they reward the supporters with the same passion on the field as they display in the stands.

FC Kansas City: The product on the field was fun to watch and the team developed some great players along the way. The fact they fizzled at the end broke my heart, but they engendered passion in me for their game. I’d like to see them build on all the things they did OK during this year; better fan engagement online and a better stream for starters.

Boston Breakers: I love ya, Breakers, but you’ve got to step up your game. Boston needs something to make them stand out. I thought they got lost in the shuffle last season and I’d like to see them do something flashy. They’ve got a solid team, good sponsors, now they need a wow factor. Maybe a stream that’s better than most or a web site that’s less ho-hum. I really don’t know, but they need something.

I’ve tried to do this from a perspective that I don’t know all the changes that have happened for the 2014 season, yet. Hard to do, but I tried.

Next installment, PART 9, will focus on NWSL, the league.

As always, if you’d like to give your two cents, hit me up in the comments.

What Is Your Best?

Had another contentious encounter on twitter today, this time it was about what makes a league “the best”.

Best is defined by American Heritage Dictionary as:

Surpassing all others in excellence, achievement, or quality; most excellent.

So, what does make a league the best?
It really made me think. First I started to list all the things I thought would make the best league, but then I realized I was creating “the ideal”, which to me is not the same. To me, the best is comparing what exists and picking the one that surpasses all others, but surpasses them in what ways?

Does money spent make a league the best? If individual teams in a league are allowed to spend whatever they like, and that results in one or two or even 3 top teams and the rest (maybe as many as 9) of the teams are meh at best, does that make that league the best? I think, no.

Could it be venue? Uniforms? Media? Social interaction? Again, I think, no. All of those things surely go into a team that fans like, but does it make them the best? No.

What about a coach? Do the best coaches make a league the best? Coaches, like money spent, doesn’t always translate into the best teams. So once again, I must say no.

Surely it must be the players. If you have the best players in your league, you must have the best league, right? Unfortunately that also doesn’t translate into the best teams. Again, no.

I started to see a pattern in my thoughts, it always came down to the best teams. All of the things a team needs; money, support, coaches, players have to come together to create the best teams. That has to be it. The best league has to have the best teams! Nope. A single league having all the best teams is a tournament, not a league.

So, seriously, what would make the best league, to me? Pretty simple when I really thought it through. Parity. Sounds simple, right? Every team able to compete on fairly equal footing with every other team in the league. Few, if any blowouts. Lots of close games. Down to the wire playoffs. And every team has a good chance to be there in the end. No teams written off before the season even starts.

Every league has it’s problems. Some are cash poor. Some treat players horribly. Some are operated as an afterthought or a tax loss write-off. Some are successful and continue to operate year after year. Some understand it is as much about the passion of the fans and the life long desires of the players as it is about anything else. Some lose the plot.

But the best leagues; the best leagues put it all together and give us the best effort at making all the components work together to put a quality product on the pitch, at every game, all season long.

And that’s my best, what’s yours?

Yes, I Don’t Agree With You..Sometimes

I don’t know when agreeing with someone on twitter became a requirement of use, so since I missed the memo, I’ll continue to tweet my opinion. And NEWS FLASH! It may not agree with yours. – Diane

Recently two topics came up in NWSL that I’ve gotten a LOT of push back on:

  1. Houston expansion
  2. FCKC change of venue

HOUSTON EXPANSION.

You can try (and have tried) to convince me expansion to HOUSTON in 2014 is a good thing. I have no doubt HOUSTON will be a good market. My issue is, and always will be, with timing, lack of transparency and USSF going back on their word and what message that sends to future expansion teams and sponsors. It is my opinion. It may not be yours, but I’m OK with that.

FCKC CHANGE OF VENUE

Most NWSL teams will benefit from a change of venue. Boston Breakers upgrading to Harvard is a good example. Better access, onsite parking and more seats being just a few of the benefits. Notice I said “upgrade”?

I do not see FCKC’s move as such an upgrade. I have read the story on their site and although it seems like a very nice facility it isn’t necessarily an upgrade in my eyes. The most glaring thing to me is the loss of many seats. FCKC average attendance varies a little depending on who you read, but I feel comfortable with about 4300 per home game. UMKC WILL (does not currently) seat 3200. My math says that is 1100 fewer than average, not even taking into account the highest drawing games. Six home games is 6600 tickets. What team in their right mind would give up 6600 tickets? If this revenue is being replaced or increased they sure as hell haven’t said where or how. Until they do, I think it’s not the right move.

And what about those 1100 fans per game who will no longer get the “enhanced game day experience”? How are they being rewarded for being there from day one? “Oops! We really appreciated you in 2013, but it’s 2014 and we don’t think we need you so much this year. Good luck and we’ll hope to see you in maybe 2016 when we really do upgrade. Buh-bye, now. Oh, one more thing, we might have a live stream of the game you can watch, maybe. Or we might even be on TV for a game or 2, if you’re lucky and get that channel, so don’t get distracted by the thousand other things vying for your attention, because we’ll be right here and we’ll call you when we need you again.”

Also, in relation to both topics, please don’t argue it’s all about money with Houston Dash expansion and then say money isn’t important with FCKC change of venue. Money is ALWAYS important

I’m not crazy or unreasonable. I listen to everyone’s opinion. I read soccer media. I follow teams and players and owners and pundits. I form my own opinions and Yes, I don’t agree with you..sometimes.

If you’d like to discuss these 2 topics in the comments, I’d be glad to hear your side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Award for Vanity

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

I am sure if you follow soccer, however casually, you will have come across this name. Or maybe you know him as “Ibra” or just “Zlatan”. It really doesn’t matter because none of them describe the sexist asshat he revealed himself to be today.

Read this article from ‘the guardian’ US edition: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/dec/26/zlatan-ibrahimovic-branded-boring-sad-womens-football-remarks?CMP=twt_gu
I’ll wait…

Lovely stance for Sweden Men’s National Team Captain to take in regards to his counterparts on the Sweden Women’s National Team, right?
Probably never crossed his mind to say something tactful and still get his point across that men’s and women’s teams are not on the same footing, financially or in terms of exposure. It probably never crossed his mind because why should it? Does it benefit him in the least to throw the women’s game a bone? Absolutely not. His contemporaries (many, but not all) share his views. He’s just saying what they think and are smart enough not to say. Does it make it right ? Absolutely not. Will Sweden’s governing body make him apologize? I doubt it. Should Sweden’s WNT coach have to defend the skill, dedication and sacrifice her players make? No.

Everyone knows the men’s and women’s game do not share the same popularity or pay scale. They do not share the same fan base or longevity, the same support or exposure.

What Ibrahimovic seems to forget or fails to recognize is that all the things Anders Svensson has done to realize his 143 caps for country, Therese Sjogran has done to realize her 187 caps.  And all with less pay, support or exposure than Svensson. What Ibrahimovic doesn’t want to concede is that while he has achieved much in his career, he has had distinct advantages over players he has been asked about, like Lotta Schelin.
Are they on par if they go head to head, certainly not, and I seriously doubt the interviewer meant the question that way. But are they on par in their respective teams? I think most would agree, yes. They are both talented players who represent their countries in a successful manner, although one with much more grace.

My point, I guess, is not to point out the inequities, we all know them by now. My point is that even though he is a self-centered, sexist, asshat, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be made to see how destructive his comments are, that he shouldn’t be made to apologize, that he shouldn’t have to relinquish his leadership role until he’s had some time to re-think his words. He is absolutely entitled to think whatever he likes, but if he is to be the face and leader of the Sweden MNT, he owes the Sweden WNT an apology and to make amends. He owes it to them and to the sport he represents.

The Night Before A WoSo Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, at least in my house.
Not a creature was stirring, ’cause my cat ate the mouse.
The stockings were hung up by thumbtacks with care,
Hoping that something would show up in there.
The feline was curled up all snug in his bed,
While visions of wingless birds danced in his head.
And me in my flannel, getting ready to nap,
Had just settled down with a tasty nightcap.

When out on the street there arose such commotion,
I rolled off the couch like Baywatch in slow-motion.
I flew to the window in a Western New York Flash,
Tripped over the carpet and cursed the damned Houston Dash.
The moon shining down on the now week old snow
Showed it plowed into piles with nowhere to go.
When what to my nearsighted eyes should appear,
But a red Chevrolet filled with eight Seattle Reign dears.
With a Kim Little driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment she chauffeured St. Nick.

More rapid than game tweets his red Chevy came,
He whistled and shouted and called dears by name:
Now, Fishlock! Now, Deines! Now, Pinoe and Keirsten!
On, Stephanie! On, Sydney! On, Dani and Lauren!
To the top of the box! Set up in the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away with the ball!
Like free kicks into the wind, the Chevy did fly,
Like Carli Lloyd shots it took to the sky,
So up to the housetop the entourage flew,
Like Lisa De Vanna when she plays with Sky Blue.

And then in a twinkling, I heard loud beeping horns
The little red Chevy had run over Portland Thorns.
As I was shaking my head and turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in swag from his foot to his head,
Must be a Washington Spirit fan ’cause it was all in red.
A bundle of balls he had flung on his back,
He looked like a Kansas City staffer just opening his pack.

Like Chicago Red Stars, his eyes-how they twinkled!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose he did wrinkle.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
A shiny new whistle he held tight in his teeth,
Always at the ready if he ran into Tobin Heath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That would even make Mittsy a little bit jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Made me think of Gulati and all that I dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
(Kind of like Cheryl Bailey) then he turned with a jerk;
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his Chevy, to his dears blew his whistle,
And away they all flew like at training dismissal.
But I heard him exclaim, as he covered the acres,
“Merry Christmas to all, and my favs, Boston Breakers!”

*My apologies to Clement Moore.
This is what too much time and more than a little Christmas cheer will do to a person.
Please enjoy this in the spirit intended.
Merry Christmas to one and all!

NSFW WoSo Rant

NWSL (owners/admins), you suck. That’s right, I said it, you suck.

I’m so pissed right now I really can’t see straight. What the fuck is wrong with you? After one year you think you’re in a position to expand? I don’t care how much you lust after MLS money, in the end it just makes you their whore.

After spending thousands and thousands of dollars to support the first year, hundreds of hours and countless social media interactions defending all the inadequate things you gave us, you give me this..expansion in Houston in 2014.

Yes, I take it personally. I was 44 when WUSA debuted, 52 for WPS and 56 for NWSL. I’ve lived through this shit before, but you had the opportunity to do it differently, smarter, more cost effective, slower with more purpose. And like the others you’re just all about the Wham, Bam, thank you Ma’am. No one needs this expansion now. No one.

This better be a picture perfect NWSL season. Soccer venues, no multi-purpose optical illusion fields, or fields that don’t allow alcohol, or tailgating. Double attendance for you slackers. A great product on the field, not some mediocre shit you blame on everything under the sun except that your coach or players just aren’t good enough. Uniforms that don’t look like you found them on some bargain rack and they gave you a deal if you took them all off their hands. Fantastic websites and social media that tells us everything we want to know before we know we want to know it. Quality fucking streams that you can actually watch, not pay per view streams that aren’t worth the bandwidth it takes to try to watch them. Commentators that have seen a women’s game and might know some of the players without a cheat sheet..the list goes on. Fucking perfect, that’s what you owe us now. I’ve lost my patience waiting for you to get it right.

Nothing less will get my support. And if you think I’m alone in this, think again.

And if by some odd twist of fate this Houston expansion turns out not to be in 2014, I don’t apologize. You can’t treat me like shit by not saying a word and think you get a pass.

If you were a girlfriend I would have kicked your ass to the curb when you started talking to Houston for 2014.