Professionalism Off The Pitch

“Let the product on the pitch speak for the league.”

You hear that often from supporters of women’s pro WoSo. And it’s true, the product on the pitch speaks volumes about the league. It says that the league is full of professional players who display the finer points of skill and technical ability in an increasingly more tactical style of play. But for the league to prosper and take it’s rightful place among all sports leagues it has to be professional off the pitch as well.

This weekend saw the beginning of the fourth season of NWSL. A landmark among women’s professional WoSo leagues in the USA. No previous league made it to opening day of season 4. It was an opportunity for the league to really step up and blow its own horn across the country in every member city, whether that team was playing at home or not. But it did not. For various reasons given there was no TV game, just streams that really weren’t any better than last year, and in one case worse. There were no sell outs, not one of the 5 venues managed that feat. Some came closer than others, but no cookie for any team. One team* had their home season opener at a venue that isn’t even their home field. Washington Spirit gave a nod to leagues past and the history being made of a season 4 by having pro WoSo vet and former NT player Briana Scurry do their first kick. Other teams did nothing..and I mean literally nothing to recognize the accomplishment. There was some MSM buzz, but not much, and some blog buzz, maybe a little more, but for the most part even some new fans didn’t know the significance of the start to the 2016 season.

On top of that, the few nods to this being anything special fell embarrassingly flat. The 2-time NWSL champions FC Kansas City were given their rings in a pre-game ceremony and in all pride tweeted a photo of the new rings only to have fans bring the glaring typo of NWSL as NSWL on the rings to their attention. The league in what I’m sure was meant to be a clever play on words debuted a new slogan of sorts that really fell flat before bouncing around the internet as a sort of Malaprop. STRONG HER – FAST HER – FURT HER debuted the new NWSL buzzword “furt”. And in what I’m sure was meant to be a grand gesture, NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush flew to Houston to announce that this year’s championship final would be in the worst kept secret location of Houston on October 9th. On top of the league’s less than stellar presentations some of the teams had their own faux pas, such as wrong team names in graphics, OTT homer commentators with wrong facts, and glitchy streams.

These are just a few of the things that stuck out for me this past weekend and are indicative of less professionalism off the pitch than the teams, the fans and the sport deserve. It doesn’t take money to do what Washington did with Scurry. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to read the proof in the case of the rings. Someone with a good eye (and literally all that was needed was one good eye) could have caught the typos in graphics and whoever came up with the Strong – Fast – Furt slogan should go back to school or let a friend read your copy. It all smacks of laziness, or a careless attitude, neither marks of a professional.

I know the league and teams tend to focus on the big picture when resources are stretched and to a degree that’s understandable. What needs to be realized is that the small things that go wrong off the pitch can derail all the hard work done to make the players and the product on the pitch be as professional as possible. One glaring example is the post FOX Soccer did about the rings typo. That single post undid a lot of hard work by everyone involved with the NWSL to be taken seriously as a league. It will be the introduction to the league for many people and one that won’t make them want to know more. I don’t think FOX Soccer demonstrated their stated “commitment” to the league with that post, but the damage is done.

If this all seems a bit nit-picky to you, think about the saying “the devil’s in the details”. In the case of trying to attract and keep serious supporters of women’s soccer all it might take is a culmination of overlooked details for current supporters to say enough and new supporters to say not enough.

I’ll continue to try to hold the league and its teams to a high standard on and off the pitch. If you have anything to furt her the conversation, let me hear it in the comments.

*Disclaimer: I was at the FCKC v WNYF game in Children’s Mercy Park.

2016 – Season 4

April 16, 2016 – A day that will forever be a part of WoSo history in the USA. The start of the fourth season of a women’s professional soccer league has come and gone..and it was good.

The very first game was between the Washington Spirit and the Boston Breakers at the Maryland SoccerPlex. While there were some stream glitches and it wasn’t sold out, it did feature a first-kick by women’s pro WoSo and NT veteran Briana Scurry, a Joanna Lohman bicycle kick game-winning goal, the debut of Boston’s new manager, Matt Beard, from across the pond, and Jim Gabarra’s return to Maryland. The Spirit defeated the Breakers 1-0.

The second game of NWSL opening day saw the 3rd year Houston Dash dispatch the veteran Chicago Red Stars in what might be called surprising fashion as many have pegged Chicago to figure prominently in the playoffs. Houston’s draft picks showed up to play with both Rachel Daly and Janine Beckie scoring along with vet Carli Lloyd. Chicago never really got their attack in gear only able to generate one goal from Christen Press. The Dash defeated the Red Stars 3-1.

The other second game, sharing starting time with Houston v Chicago, was league champions FC Kansas City hosting Western New York Flash. The game was played at Children’s Mercy Park, home to Sporting KC of MLS fame. The now infamously misspelled “NSWL” championship rings were given to players prior to kickoff. The game also featured two uncharacteristically less than stellar games from KC’s  NTers, Sauerbrunn and O’Reilly. While Broon’s handball led to the game-winning PK taken by WNY’s Sam Mewis, she also failed to win anything in the air and was struggling to keep up when often stranded by her teammates in the 3-5-2 formation employed, O’Reilly was hellbent on making an impact often to the detriment of her decision making, not to mention being owned by WNY’s Jaelene Hinkle most of the game. HAO had the opportunity to make it all right when a stoppage time PK was earned by FCKC, but she hit it off the post and that was the game. Western NY looked solid and pressured KC in an unfamiliar tactical formation. The Flash certainly earned their 1-0 win over the Blues.

On Sunday the opening weekend’s first game was Seattle Reign FC welcoming Sky Blue FC to their fortress, having not lost a game at home, ever. The game was a bit of back and forth with Tasha Kai celebrating her return to pro WoSo with the SBFC opening goal. Seattle doesn’t often have to come from behind but they did with a Merritt Mathias goal to even the score. Sky Blue wasn’t having it though when preseason invitee Kelly Conheeney used a little backheel to put a Taylor Lytle chip into the net. That sealed the Reign’s fate and Sky Blue handed them their very first defeat at Memorial Stadium with a final 0-1 score.

In many fan’s mind the final game of the opening weekend, Portland Thorns FC hosting Orlando Pride, was the one to watch. There’s not much the talk leading up to this game left out; two MLS-owned teams, one veteran one expansion upstart, former star player returning to face her old team and fans, NT players on display, much touted atmosphere, new coach for the Thorns, wily Scot at the helm for the Pride. It delivered on all fronts. The stream was exceptional as always, even if the commentators skew heavily in favor of the home team, and the crowd was big and loud giving PTFC the boost they expect. The Pride struck first with the opening goal coming from former Thorn and current Matilda, Steph Catley on a right side free kick. The Thorns quickly realized the Pride were there to play and picked up their game scoring two goals that would see them take home the win. The first was from Dagny Brynjarsdottir on a Tobin Heath assist and the second was from Lindsey Horan again on a Tobin Heath assist. Heath played as we would all like to see her perform for the USWNT, maybe it was the captain’s armband that spurred her performance. As it turned out former Thorn Alex Morgan didn’t figure much in this game with only a few chances that went unfinished. The Thorns took this one with a final score of 2-1.

All-in-all a very good start to the league’s historic 4th year. The product on the field is as good, and I might say better than it’s ever been. Despite some glaring miscues – the misspelled championship rings being one, the NWSL “furt“her graphic being another – the intent to be better is there, it’s the execution that suffers.

Oh, almost forgot that the site of this year’s NWSL final was announced as Houston on October 9th. It was such a non-announcement that it’s easy for anyone to forget. Once again, it’s in the execution, folks.

Hope everyone is able to get to a game this year or buy a ticket to your favorite team even if you can’t attend. It’s all about getting more money in the game at this point. The pieces are coming together they just need more dollars to get them to slide into place.

US Soccer, Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen

 

Change “fetch” to “One Nation. One Team.” and you have US Soccer.

Don’t get me wrong, I support our national teams, both of them. But to be honest not at the same level. US Soccer and I share that.
US Soccer is trying so hard to make #1N1T a thing. It is not a thing, it is a lame way to make people think the support for both teams is somehow equal. And while I think support should be equal, I don’t think 1N1T means what US Soccer wants it to mean.
Saying “One Nation. One Team.” doesn’t make anything equal, and US Soccer unwittingly is just pointing out the disparity in treatment between the men’s national team and the women’s national team.

We are One Nation, that is not in dispute by anyone in this respect, but we are not One Team. Not One Team in funding, or CBA, or marketing, or sales, or a myriad of other areas. We are also not One Team in the things that each national team needs in the way of support.
So at some level I am OK with not being One Team, I am almost happy that we are not truly One Team. In so many ways the women’s national team (and by my own opinion, women’s soccer in general) needs to be their own team. This does not mean that I think the women’s national team shouldn’t be afforded resources equal to the men’s team from funding to field surfaces and everything between, it means that the women’s team needs to be allowed to be heralded and supported by fans and the nation as it’s own unique entity, the same as should be afforded to the men’s national team.

By allowing teams to be unique entities under a One Nation banner each would be able to get the support & resources needed from US Soccer without the manufactured fan engagement 1N1T tries to force and fan engagement would be organic and long lasting. “One Nation. One Team.” just feels so false and self-serving to US Soccer that many, many fans don’t buy in and are resentful when they are force-fed the concept that feels disingenuous at its very roots. IF US Soccer really felt the national teams were One Team, the teams would have all the same resources available. I don’t think equal means identical, I think equal means what works best for each team. Each team program should decide what is best for their team – from development to t-shirt sales – within the US Soccer framework. That’s not to say that each program can’t share resources, just that they should fit with the team’s identity and speak to their fan base as well as to their standing on soccer’s world stage. Standards are not something that should be up for debate, both teams should have the highest standards, but other things are certainly able to be different.

US Soccer and it’s marketers have to embrace the different wants and needs of the teams and the fans and speak to that. They also have to understand the difference between wanting equality and wanting to celebrate your team as a unique entity. It’s one thing to want the same playing surfaces and another to want to be able to purchase a jersey in the cut and style that let’s a fan represent their team in a way that is both comfortable and appropriate to them. It is one thing to want a commensurate slice of the funding pie and another to be recognized in advertising as distinctly different. Equal and unique are not mutually exclusive.

In some instances using One Nation, One Team as a slogan works well, like the Olympic Games where bringing together many different sports, competing together at the same time, under one umbrella unites the nation as they oppose other nations. US Soccer has been trying to force 1N1T on the US fan since World Cup 2014 in Brazil, a men’s tournament where they opposed the world. A single nation, supporting a single team. In that context it worked well. But US Soccer is not One Team, it is two distinct teams at very different places in the world of soccer. To lump them together, under a slogan that serves neither when used together, is a disservice to both.

In some circles it’s unpopular to say that men and women are different in any way, but they are. Whether by nature or nurture, we see the world differently, we interact with the world differently and those differences aren’t a bad thing, just a different thing.

 

 

Dele Alli, Stephanie Roche – and the fragile English male ego?

It is not enough to just document ideas, they have to be refuted like @DasGherkin’s done. What has been bred in can be bred out.

Here is blog

There was much social media glee about Dele Alli’s goal for Tottenham today.

@DasGherkin noted its similarity to another famous goal – one nominated for last year’s Puskas award.

The responses she received – mostly from English men, it has to be said – were appalling but perhaps not surprising to those steeped in the culture and history of English football.

Football in England has historically been perceived as for men. Men play it. Men watch it. The women who have played it have been written out of history (there are multiple histories of the English game with a gigantic gap during the World War One years, when women’s teams drew tens of thousands to grounds); the women who have watched it have been written…

View original post 954 more words

To the Pros We Go!

UPDATE: (01/20/2016) It appears that Mallory Pugh is not going straight to the pros from high school. It was reported today That Pugh has decided not to go pro and will attend UCLA as she had originally intended instead. I think this is a very good thing, but I don’t think it should end the debate on players going pro straight from high school. All of my original concerns are still in play, just on hold until USSF or NWSL finds their next exceptional teenager. Personally, I would like to see the league address a minimum age requirement or at the very least put some sort of mechanism in place to assure that no undue influence is exerted on a teenage player and that they are afforded some way to attend college if they wish during/after playing. Maybe that could be as simple as having a portion of the player’s salary going directly into a college trust fund. As I said, I’m happy Pugh will attend college first, what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

 

Today, January 15, 2016, was the NWSL College Draft. Over 145 players declared their eligibility and desire to be drafted by an NWSL team (the final tally was more than the published 145 because NWSL said there was an updated list, although fans weren’t privileged to it). Not among those players was forward Lindsay Horan, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and currently of Portland Thorns (PTFC). Horan had chosen in 2012 to forego playing in college in the US and instead accepted a contract with French professional side, PSG. This was an unprecedented move for an American female soccer player and raised more than a few eyebrows and questions about what it meant for American women’s soccer. Horan was of exceptional ability for a player of her age and experience and had always set her sights on playing in Europe. The top French side, Olympic Lyon had expressed an interest in her while she was still in high school, but her family decided it was best for her to finish first. When she did finish, Lyon didn’t have room for her on their already stacked roster and a deal was struck with PSG instead. The deal was for a reported six-figures over the three years and had some provision for her to continue her college while playing in France. Horan headed to France where she played well for PSG, very well in fact, and also represented the USA on the U20 team. Through talks and negotiations none of us lay people will ever be privy to, Horan decided to return to the US. Some say it was so she could meet “criteria” for being selected to the USWNT, some say it was because it was just time. Some say it was back door negotiations between US Soccer, NWSL and PTFC to get her to marquee in Portland. There is probably some bit of truth in all the scenarios, but like I said, we will probably never know how much. The damage to the US college system that produces 99.9% of all US pro players was minuscule, if measurable at all. Three years went by and not another player bypassed the college ranks to go pro, in the US or abroad. Maybe until today.

You can sing the praises of any of the selected draftees from today, but I think it’s safe to say that none are in a position to contribute to an NWSL team at the level Horan can the day she steps onto the pitch for the first time in Portland colors. She is that good, and they are not. That alone makes her leaving for a pro contract in France not seem so important. The players she was peers with in 2012 are not as good as she was then and they aren’t as good now. And in my opinion, going pro, in France or anywhere else wouldn’t have changed that significantly. Which brings me to the news about another player forgoing college.

It has been reported by Soccerwire.com and repeated across twitter that 17 year old Mallory Pugh, of Mountain Vista high school, youth club side Real Colorado, US U20’s and now training with the full USWNT, will be signed by US Soccer and “allocated” to PTFC. This is a little hazy because NWSL changed their allocation rules significantly just prior to the 2016 College Draft. I say hazy because to me it’s not clear that a player has to actually be signed by a team or US Soccer to be listed as a USI. They just have to have the potential to be subsidized at some point in the future. For the sake of argument though, we’ll go with her being signed. If she is indeed signed and receives a salary she will give up her NCAA eligibility and won’t be able to play at college level if her pro career doesn’t pan out for any reason. (NCAA have made exceptions, but I can’t think this choice would qualify). She would be the first female soccer player to forego college to turn pro in a domestic soccer league and folks, I think that sets a very, very bad precedent, for US Soccer, the NWSL, the NCAA and women’s development in general.

As recently as July of 2015 Pugh was quoted as saying she just hoped to do well at UCLA, her declared college. That was just 6 months ago, not much time for a drastic shift in focus that will affect the rest of your soccer career and by extension, life. It makes me wonder, who influenced her thinking in those 6 months..and how..and why. While very poised and soccer savvy she is still just shy of 18 and probably dependent on advice and guidance from people she trusts and respects. Who is speaking to those people? And what can they have said to convince those trusted and respected sources that foregoing her education in search of glory on the soccer field is the way to go?

Nothing happens in a vacuum and I’m sure this is no different so I’m going to try to see if I can figure out how each of the entities involved benefits, or doesn’t,  from Pugh turning pro now.

US Soccer and the USWNT

– Is Pugh a dual national and is threatening to play for another country? Not as far as anything I can find. She’s born and bred US of A and not going anywhere.
-Will not signing Pugh to a NT contract in any way affect her ability to play for the full NT now or in the future? No. The NT has a history of college players playing with the full NT.
-Will Pugh refuse to play for the full NT if asked if she isn’t signed to a contract? I would highly doubt that, and if that was the case I’d be very disappointed if US Soccer let themselves be manipulated by a player that way.
-Is there any offer on the table from any international team trying to get Pugh to play outside the US? Not than anyone has mentioned or even intimated.
-Is there any reason, at all, that US Soccer should feel compelled to sign Pugh? No.

NWSL

– Does Pugh foregoing college and playing in Portland (or anywhere) benefit NWSL? Pugh isn’t a household word, in NT play or elsewhere, so the benefit of having her give up her eligibility to play in NWSL is of no real tangible benefit, monetarily or prestige-wise.
-Does NWSL suffer if Pugh foregoes college to play internationally? Possibly. It could be seen by domestic players that they are more highly valued if they develop overseas rather than through the current college system. I think sentiment is already trending that way as more players pursue playing overseas as a means to develop after college. That is a perception problem NWSL could manage without allowing this maneuver.
-Is there any reason NWSL should not allow Pugh to be signed by a team without going through the current development path? Where do I start? Allowing this signing by Portland (or any team) sends a very wrong message. It sends a message that education is not valued. It sends a message that this is an acceptable path to the pros for any player who is valued by the NT and can persuade a team to sign them. This sends a message that a player in such a situation can dictate where they go, without benefit of proving themselves at a high level. This sends a message that if you have the right team pedigree you can get whatever you want. I do not believe that if Pugh wanted to go to Portland, but NWSL said no this deal would happen. This sends a message that the NWSL will bend over backwards to kiss their own ass, something no league wants to be known for. This sends a message that an unproven player is valued more than any other player in the league just because someone sees potential in them. This sends a message that NWSL doesn’t care about the other 160 odd players they employ.

NCAA

-Does NCAA benefit from Pugh foregoing eligibility to play professionally in NWSL? No. There is no benefit to NCAA, none. In fact this harms the NCAA pathway to the pros in several ways. Up until today, the NCAA was the way to the pros. Players from all over the world have played for college teams in the US on their way to developing into a pro. Players have realized that an education is just as important as any skill they may acquire on the playing field when preparing for life. Title IX afforded players better conditions and more scholarships to be able to pursue that path to the pros. Now, players may seek to circumvent that path diluting the college product. With the advent of a USSF supported women’s academy, this could be a double blow to the college programs.

Women’s Development in General

-Does Pugh going directly from high school/youth club-foregoing college-to pro harm women’s development in the US? It certainly could. Up until today the overwhelming majority of players who enter the domestic pro ranks ( and more than a few international pro ranks) pass through the college system. They play for their high school teams and most also play for some level of club side, getting their education and keeping up their grades in order to be selected by the best college programs, where they will develop their soccer skills but also gain a world class education. Most women’s college programs have a very high graduation rate, meaning these players are equipped for more than playing soccer once they graduate. College allows them the time to grow. They gain size, emotional maturity and social skills. Their development is not only on the field.
-Does Pugh going directly from high school/youth club-foregoing college-to pro help women’s development in the US? No. Development prior to the pro ranks doesn’t happen if there is no vehicle between high school and the pros for it to take place. USSF wanting to create a women’s academy, similar to the men’s academy might be a place for it to happen for a select few, but it’s not a reality yet. Even if it comes to fruition, if it is modeled after the men’s academy the results and opinions about its effectiveness in developing players is mixed. Removing a viable path to the pros, or allowing it to be circumvented does nothing to help development of women players.

Mallory Pugh is a special talent and not one that comes along every day, but the precedent being set by US Soccer and in turn by the NWSL can pave the way for some nefarious dealings in the future. Having a path for future subsidized players to enter the league and be more evenly distributed upon entry is a good thing. Allowing a player to bypass the development system is not.  Some may argue that it will only be a select few who are as gifted as Horan and Pugh who will bypass the system, but that number could easily grow depending on who is in charge of the USWNT and its player pool and if a percentage of salary is allowed to be paid instead of the whole salary as is now the case. The scenario could easily be envisioned where a player foregoes college, is signed by US Soccer and is subsidized to the league and she doesn’t play up to potential and loses her subsidy the following year, or the year after. In this case she would have forfeited her NCAA eligibility and not made the pros..and now what? Do we make new roster rules or contract rules or player pool rules to cover this? And where does that new rule making stop? Does she make enough in that year or two years to pay for a 1st class education? Not in today’s world she doesn’t. Some of you may not put a high price on education, or maybe you just think that players beware. Maybe you think this is all no ones business but the player and the league, but you’d be wrong. Teams and leagues are only as accountable as they think we will make them be. If we let them think this is OK going forward, we will be to blame for that player who hangs her future on a subsidy and a contract and ends up with neither when things don’t work in her favor.

Worrying about what happens to players in regard to how they are treated on the business side is no different than caring what happens to them on the field. Existing players need better salaries and conditions before the league needs to find a way to get another subsidized player on their roster. Existing non-subsidized players at least need to be afforded the respect of not watching player after player be given preferential treatment in where they play or if and where they’re traded. Yes, it’s a business, but one made up of people, people who give everything to pursue a dream and just ask for fairness and consideration in return.

Women’s soccer in the US needs a lot of things to make it better, bypassing the college system to turn pro isn’t one of them.

As always, let me hear your side in the comments..

Leroux to FC Kansas City

UPDATE: (01/25/2016)

Sydney Leroux-Dwyer and Dom Dwyer just announced that they are expecting a baby, due in September. I am happy for them as I would be for any couple who wants a baby. I am also more upset about the trade than I was when it was first announced. Don’t get me wrong, I understand people get pregnant all the time, I also understand that it’s a small percentage who get pregnant when they are trying not to get pregnant. I’m sure my bias against Leroux at club level feeds into this increased upset I feel. But let me ask you, if you were a player who already has a reputation for not being happy where you are and always wanting to change clubs for personal reasons, wouldn’t you make damn sure you were taking all possible steps not to screw up this latest trade? Not to disadvantage a club that by its own admission had been working to get you where you wanted to be for a year? Excuses can be made that mistakes happen, but maybe the biggest mistake was FC Kansas City having trust in Leroux to do just that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leroux to FC Kansas City. 5 of the ugliest words I’ve seen today. Just the image it conjures is distasteful to me.

I am not a fan of Sydney Leroux Dwyer at club level. I think she acts like an entitled brat and has not performed for any club she’s been with on the level of diva status she thinks she deserves.  That’s not to say she’s a bad player, or person in general and you could argue that she’s shined a little brighter on the national stage, but not of late.

A little club background; Leroux was allocated to Boston in NWSL’s first year, 2013. She played well, but Boston being Boston, that wasn’t enough. In 2014 she expressed a desire to be traded to Seattle “to be closer to my family in the Pacific Northwest” and the Reign obliged. Her play in Seattle didn’t reach the level it had in Boston as both her goals and assists diminished by half over 2013 even though her playing time increased. In 2015 after asking if she could again be traded, this time to FCKC, to be closer to her new husband, the Reign obliged her with another trade – not to FCKC, but to WNY Flash. This is not what she had asked for nor expected and she was “mad“. And her play in WNY was even lesser quality, and quantity, than it had been in Seattle. Leroux only played in 3 games for WNY and decided to have foot surgery when she returned from the World Cup ( she appeared in 4 of 7 games and recorded 1 assist). All in all not a stellar club career.

Which brings us to today. FC Kansas City announced that they had acquired Leroux by way of a trade with the Dash and the WNY Flash. Now, I’m a big FCKC fan and a bigger Vlatko fan, but this trade just smacks of pandering, both to Leroux and her entitled attitude and to a lesser extent to some possible connection between the MLS club Sporting KC where her husband plays and FC Kansas City. In general I am not a supporter of female players being given a pass because they want to play closer to their husbands, not for Morgan, not for Leroux and not even for a married same sex couple like the McLeods. I do think the negotiations are markedly different in a same sex situation since both players would have to benefit the club, not just the lonely spouse. To those of you who identify as feminists, I do not see how you could support this move on the spousal grounds at all. A male player. rightly or wrongly, who publicly campaigned to play closer to his spouse would be drawn and quartered in the public arena, but Leroux gets -I am happy that she got to play close to her husband, though – comments, like it’s OK because she’s a woman and that’s what women should get and it’s only NWSL and that makes it OK, too. Bullshit.

Yes, I called bullshit. No player, male or female should be traded or valued any differently because of their marital status or lack thereof. Nothing different should be expected or afforded to a person in a business environment based on their marital status. Period. I don’t for one minute think that FCKC would have traded for Leroux had her husband not been employed by Sporting KC. And I do not think for one minute that FCKC would have considered Leroux if she had not made a public plea to be traded to FCKC. I don’t think that Leroux fits the system Vlatko has instituted and I don’t think that’s even a thinly-veiled explanation. I have no idea why or what the FCKC organization hopes to gain by this move, but I’m not happy about it.

I’m not a fan and not even Leroux playing for FCKC will make me one. I will continue to cheer for and support FC Kansas City, but I won’t be a fan of Sydney Leroux Dwyer as a club player until she demonstrates on and off the field that she can be a team player and a loyal team player. What happens if she and her husband split or he gets traded? Will she still be happy and excited to play for FCKC, to represent the city and its fans on the field? Or will she want to move on to the next place that fits conveniently in her life? Or will she stay in FCKC and give a half-assed performance in hopes to force a trade? Or will she just whine publicly until someone gives in?

If you think I’m off base, tell me in the comments.

Post Script: I am a fan of Leroux as a NT player, her demeanor as a small fish in a big pond on the NT doesn’t allow her the latitude people give her as a big fish in a small pond at club level.

 

New Year..Same Old Song

Happy 2016, Everyone!

If you follow the USWNT and you follow me you know I have some strong opinions on how they conduct business. For instance, I was a supporter of Ellis and I was an advocate for letting her do things her way when it came to selecting the WC 2015 roster. That opinion wasn’t popular with many USWNT fans, but I stood behind it and defended it. And now I have another opinion that isn’t popular with many USWNT fans, I think that if the USWNT players are asked/required to play in the NWSL in order to be on the team, it’s a reasonable request by an employer.

I know, I know..we’ve been down this road before (see blog title). The same was asked/required of players before WC selection.

PSG announced today that Lindsay Horan had terminated her contract with them to play in the NWSL, “to join a franchise in her homeland to meet the criteria to represent her country.” Many USWNT fans are up-in-arms over this, like it’s some sort of revelation that players are being asked/required to play domestically in order to be considered for selection. USSF president Sunil Gulati said as much back in 2014.

It’s extraordinarily important for several reasons. It was actually part of our contractual agreement with the women’s national team that they would play in this league,” he said. “That’s important for the league, to have the best players playing in it. For Tom it makes the scheduling a lot easier – he met with them last week. And so the reason we made it a requirement that they’re here is for the league, but also because next year especially is because once we get into (World Cup) qualifying in the fall and beyond, then the schedule and everything will have to be fit around not just our program, but the Canadian program and the Mexican program as well.”  – Equalizer Soccer

Like it or not, the reality is that US Soccer employs the NT players. Playing for the NT is their job. NWSL is not able to sustain them in the same way that some European leagues can sustain their players. If US Soccer signs the check, they get to dictate the terms of employment. The leagues and big teams in Germany and France and Sweden are mostly able to pay the NT players enough that they don’t need to travel far from home to play. Even if European players wanted to play in NWSL many European national teams have intimated that they wanted their players close to home during the WC year..and I’m guessing that also carries over to this Olympic year.

It’s also partly logistics that dictates where a player laces up their boots prior to a WC or Olympic roster selection. While video and jets make observation of players possible, it’s not optimum for evaluation, as anyone who has watched video or flown across more than a few time zones will tell you. That doesn’t even factor in the costs and time spent of air travel..

There are also those pesky little FIFA dates & player contracts to take into consideration. Teams are not obligated to release players on non-FIFA dates to fly across the globe for a camp and a look.

Do I think it’s the best way to do it? In a perfect world, no. We do not live in a perfect WoSo world. We do not live in a world where our NT players can make their living playing in a domestic league, and not in most foreign leagues either. The hard realness of it all is that if we want to have a team as successful as ours is, we have to accept that for a while it means players don’t get to play where they want and still be in prime consideration for selection to the NT. We have to accept that until the NWSL is able to allow players to make a living that US Soccer will be calling the NT shots. We have to accept that USSF, US Soccer and the coaching staff are not the bad guys here. There is no bad guy. What there is is a situation that all parties are working through until it gets better.

As a fan I am most passionate about the game when I see the players play with joy and freedom and fearlessness. I would love for every player to play professionally, if they desire, in a situation that allows them all of these things AND allows them to make a living while they do it. And as a fan I am acutely aware that the women’s game around the globe is nowhere near that realization. We are fortunate in the US to have some of the best conditions for players to develop and realize their dreams, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way or even the best way for every player.

In many, many countries players have no domestic option to play and if they want to pursue a dream they have to leave their home country to do it. So while it seems harsh to many that US Soccer is making demands of their players, it’s far from the worst thing that could happen to them.

When Rio is over and done and the 2016 NWSL season is over I’d put my money on more than a few NT players making a move to play overseas. And I think that international players will also be making moves to sign in the NWSL. For two years everyone will be happy because players will be free to move about..and then comes WC 2019. Hopefully by that time the NWSL will have grown enough that it will need minimal support from US Soccer and the players will have negotiated a good CBA that allows them some freedom of movement. And if not, we will be singing this song again…