Now It’s My Turn – Abby Wambach

It’s no secret that I am an avid fan of Abby Wambach, always have been, always will be. As such I’m over all the bullshit arguments people are making against her decision to sit out NWSL this year and solely play NT.

Let’s list some of the arguments against her decision:
A) Men aren’t able to skip club and just play NT
B) Wambach is being a prima donna
C) Wambach is thumbing her nose at NWSL and doesn’t support the league or having a league in the US.
D) Wambach has left WNY in the lurch with an empty roster spot and another player salary to pay because she was allocated and bankrolled by USSF.
E) Wambach is playing USSF/US Soccer because she’s not in jeopardy of losing her WC roster spot.
I’m sure there are others I’ve missed in the list, but this is a good start.

Now let’s see why I think they are bullshit:
A) In 2010, New Zealand (ironically WNY coach Aaran Lines’ home country) had 2 players play on WC MNT with no club affiliation, Australia had one. And to the extent my search attempts have been successful I haven’t been able to find any FIFA rule that states a player MUST play for a club to be selected to play on their national team. So maybe it’s Lines’ opinion, but that doesn’t make Wambach sitting out it wrong.
B) I have been unable to find an interview with Wambach by any media outlet that paints her as anything but confident and humble, usually giving credit for any personal accomplishments to her teammates, club or country. So saying she feels “entitled” to this consideration is a stretch. My opinion is she’s doing this because she feels she must –  not just because she can. (See E below)
C) Wambach started playing US professional club soccer in 2002 and has played in WUSA, WPS, and NWSL. She has been a public advocate of a US professional league for women and still is. She is one player on one team and her choosing not to play this year will not sink the league. If other players choose to play any place other than NWSL, that is their choice and will be handled by USSF/NWSL on a contractual and individual basis. Players have always had a choice where to play regardless if people think they were coerced into playing in NWSL. Her willingness to still make public appearances for WNY shows she still supports the league and its growth.
D) Lines himself admitted that he had had conversations with Wambach as far back as 2014 about her possibly not playing in 2015, so saying he was blindsided is stretching the truth. He also admits to trying to work a deal with Wambach, which to be honest just because someone offers you a deal and you turn it down doesn’t make you the bad guy. Did Wambach wait until after the draft to confirm it? We’ll have to take Lines word on that, but don’t you think he would have nailed that down before the draft if there was any question at all that she might not play? And as to WNY having to pay the player filling Wambach’s roster spot, rubbish. If you read the roster rules (OK, I concede they change without warning, but I’m using the last ones publicly available) any team that has over the specified allocated limit has to pay part of those player’s salary back to the league to be distributed to the teams that have under the allocated limit of players. So, WNY will be compensated for Wambach’s salary just like for the third allocated player they don’t have. WNY will not suffer in that regard. Being able to give another player a paid roster spot and WNY being able to not have to worry about another NT player being absent are just extra perks of Wambach’s decision.
E) No one player, Wambach or otherwise runs USSF or US Soccer. Does Wambach have some influence and do USSF/US Soccer listen when she speaks? Yes, I would imagine so. Any organization is wise to listen to employees who have “been there, done that”. Is she a marketable commodity? Without a doubt. Are these the reasons she’s been able to take this NWSL season off? I’m not naive enough to think they don’t play a role, but other considerations are in play as well. Wambach has arguably carried the hopes and dreams and marketability of the USWNT for over a decade. Training, playing, being targeted by opposing teams, winning, making appearances, being the face of the team at every dog and pony show for over a decade takes its toll. I think it’s not the least bit unreasonable to grant the request of a player to sit out a club season in support of the national team under those circumstances. Even most Wambach detractors still recognize her value to the team in big tournaments. I don’t agree with the 90 minute games Ellis has had her playing, but that doesn’t lessen her value when on the pitch. That is why she will be on the roster, not because she’s someones favorite or they “owe” her a spot or that she’s some sort of aging charity case, because she brings value that is unique to her.

There is no real way you can compare Wambach’s situation to any male NT player. The experiences of women on the NT and in US professional leagues is so very different it would be like comparing a chair to a pineapple. Since its inception the WNT has served as the women’s club team, leagues being so sporadic, short-lived and unpredictable that the only constant was playing for the NT. That USSF has finally decided to get behind a league as a development pathway for future NT players is commendable (and about time), but by no means provides the level of support the NT does for players. I think we can all agree we want the NWSL to grow and thrive to be the provider of that support, but it’s far from there right now.  This configuration is new and evolving and comparing recent or current male NT players to Wambach in this regard is not even fathomable to me.

Maybe your personal opinion of Wambach is colored black & white by recent events – WC lawsuit, calling out WNY teammates for lack of effort- or older events like MagicJack, but at least be willing to consider that there may just be some grey area in there.

Last season fans were outraged that players “had to” return to the US to play in NWSL and give up getting experience and making better money internationally. Now they’re screaming Wambach could spark an exodus – which is it fans? Do players “owe” NWSL their loyalty, or does that just extend to legends of the game?

Feel free to have at my arguments in the comments, all civil discourse encouraged.

Influence at the Intersection of MLS and NWSL (or how to start a good debate)

It was announced today that Mia Hamm Garciaparra is one of 22 part owners of the “new” LA MLS team Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC).

It didn’t take long for the conversation to begin about why Mia would put her money into MLS and not into NWSL. Let me preface the rest of this by saying no one has come forth to say if Mia is, or has been asked to be, involved in NWSL. So there’s that.

I truly see the arguments on both sides of this, but I definitely do not agree with the side that says she should invest in NWSL because she’s Mia Hamm; because she has money and power, because she – I don’t know, “owes” soccer something?

Mia Hamm has carried the torch for women’s soccer in the U.S.A. and in many parts of the world for over 15 years. She was part of the 1999 World Cup team that started the idea that there could even be a women’s soccer league in the United States. She was one of 20 founding players of WUSA in 2001. Mia Hamm has been influential and has lent her name and likeness and experience to so many things supporting women’s soccer I can’t even begin to list them all.

MLS (and NWSL) in the United States is a business, like any other professional sport. If a prominent retired women’s soccer player wants to put her money anywhere in the sport, it is truly a disservice to criticize where.

Has anyone been able to find out if she has been involved in an NWSL team or a team looking to get into the league? Has anyone asked her to get on board? Maybe she is is involved with LAFC looking to incorporate a women’s team in the future. Maybe she’s sick of all the fan back-biting and wants none of it. The fact is, we don’t know if either of these scenarios, or any others are true. Wouldn’t women’s soccer be better served if someone were to answer these questions before they start the discussion?

I guess my problem with the discussion as it stands is it comes from such a negative perspective. Wouldn’t the sport and it’s fans and leagues be better off by celebrating the fact that an ex-women’s soccer player has ascended to this level in the soccer world and look for ways to leverage that?

I always think there will be questions that need answers, but we should make sure we’re asking the right questions.

If you think the right question was asked, I’d like to see your reasoning in the comment. Let’s talk.

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.

An Open Letter to NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey

Dear Cheryl,

I hope you don’t mind me addressing you as Cheryl, I feel you are as much a fan of the game as anyone and I’m writing one fan to another.

So, Cheryl what’s going on?

I recently became aware of MLS team Houston Dynamo’s interest in joining NWSL.  I was very happy with the initial season of NWSL and thought the decision not to expand in 2014 was a good one. The reasons Mr. Gulati gave were all sound and seemed well thought out. Now it seems that isn’t the case and Houston is giving the impression that if they show good enough numbers NWSL will allow them in for 2014. This concerns me, how about you?

This is troubling on so many levels, but mainly it’s a trust issue for me. After two failed leagues I am totally invested in the success of NWSL. I was ecstatic when USSF announced its formation and supported it with my time and money. I bought season tickets to every team. I traveled to attend games and when I could not, I made sure that someone else was in my seat. I bought merchandise and encouraged everyone I knew to at least give the product a try. I defended short comings and encouraged better efforts, from teams and fellow fans alike. In other words, I bought-in, with words and money and time, I bought-in. And I am certainly not alone.

Now it seems that after convincing me NWSL/USSF finally got it right, it’s all going wrong. Make no mistake, I truly do support the league and that’s why I’m concerned. When so many people, on both sides of the business, invest their energy in something with the expectation that it will be better handled than their last two investments only to see things happening that question whether those expectations will be met, it’s disheartening.

I trust NWSL/USSF to say what they mean and mean what they say. When the president of USSF clearly states “no expansion in 2014”, as a fan I trust that to be true. And I’m sure that future investors trust that also. I know other teams, as well as Houston, have eyes on an expansion team, what message does this push by Houston send to them?

If USSF/NWSL has no intention of allowing Houston in for 2014, they should say so, and the opposite holds true, don’t you think?  Or is USSF/NWSL so interested in getting more MLS involvement that they’ll go back on their own word to get it? And if they were to allow Houston a 2014 team, does that give the green light to other MLS teams that they can also impose their will on NWSL? And to extrapolate that out, what happens when NWSL becomes MLS-Lite and teams decide it’s too much trouble? Does NWSL fold like the first two leagues?

Are you starting to see where I’m coming from, Cheryl? I’m a fan. I love the game and support the league, but this new iteration has very little transparency of late and not enough history to make me feel comfortable with this expansion talk. As a fan, don’t you want to know what the league intends? I understand business and that most negotiations are out of sight, but the ill will this will create with other teams looking to join NWSL just isn’t necessary. As a fan I’ll put up with a lot to be able to have a pro women’s league, but I won’t go quietly when I think the league is heading down a wrong path. I think allowing any team in for the 2104 season is the wrong path. And I have nothing against Houston or expanding there, but I am against unequal treatment which seems to be the case since Houston is an MLS team.

Do you think I’m wrong? I’d like you to change my mind, or at least put it at ease. Right now I’m not feeling very happy with my NWSL, how about you? Help me out here.

Thanks for your time, Cheryl. Hope to hear from you soon.

Always a fan,

Diane

NWSL Allocation Naysayers

Where oh where to start?  January 11th, 2013, a day that started nicely enough, with the promise of national teams player allocation.  Finally, the newly formed NWSL was moving toward actually fielding teams, but for some, the gnashing of teeth started even before the awaited announcement. Who will we get? Who won’t we get? How  will (fill in the blank) diss us? Everyone from USSF to owners, coaches, and players were out to sabotage the teams/league by the allocation process. We won’t mention that the allocation process was not entirely in the hands of any of the above entities, but rather the final decisions were made by a 3rd party. Sure, owners were consulted to see which players/skill sets they were looking for and players were consulted as to where they’d like to play, but neither made that final decision.

And then it happened. The allocations were announced and WoSo social media erupted. You would have thought that NWSL had asked for everyone’s first born, or their iphone. Everyone from Gail in Grise Fiord to Carmen in Chiapas was lamenting the terrible hand they’d been dealt. The wailing drowned out the few and far between who were excited to see what their team could do with the talent they had just freely acquired. I purposely say freely because each team was given national team quality players which they could build a team around, big talents to anchor their efforts going forward. No new league could afford to acquire those players any other way.

The debates that ensued would be almost comical if it wasn’t for the fact that they were about players, real people with real feelings. Some, who decided not to seek their fortune overseas, where arguably they would be able to make more money and be treated better by foreigners than their own country.

This what I have to say to all the allocation naysayer, Shut Up! No really, shut up. You have just been handed thousands of dollars of quality players to build a team around and you’re complaining? Stop living in the past and move on. Pick a player, or a team, or even two and support. Support like a league and the livelihood of thousands of people depend on it. Support like your little sister is one of those kids that wants to play in a pro league when she grows up. Support like an adult that sees a pro women’s soccer league is good for more reasons than it gives you something else to bitch about.

Maybe you’re not in a financial position, or a geographical location, to go to games, but you can support in so many other ways. First and foremost, you can support your chosen teams/players by giving them positive feedback. Don’t just tag the team on twitter when they do something you don’t agree with, tell them when they get it right. And if you do disagree, be civil and respectful. Second, follow them on all social media and share with friends, colleagues, strangers, the passion you have for them.The teams are made up of people who are doing their best to give you what you want, a pro soccer league, help them out. Third, move on. This is not WUSA or WPS. Many feel scorned by the demise of those two leagues and I agree it was painful, but move on. Do your very best to make sure that NWSL does not go that route.

Help build a fan base that is focused on getting the very best product on the field and in the stands. Maybe you don’t have as much influence on the product on the field as we all want, but you can make sure the very best product is in the stands. In this case with teams being primarily in small geographical areas, the stands are the internet. Become a league supporter as well as a team/player supporter. If a team that you don’t necessarily root for is streaming a game, watch. Numbers count folks, not just ticket numbers, but viewer numbers, too. And the same if a game is televised. Even though you may not support a team, if their game gets televised watch it! Remember it’s a league we’re after and every bit of measurable support counts.

I understand it is the very nature of sport to analyze and compare, to pick apart every bit of minutia available, but remember the big picture. The price we may have to pay to get this league off the ground in the first season is to dial back the most negative thoughts we have and keep them for discussion in private. Or better yet, lets try to present them in a positive light, which after all is the very, very best of snark.

P.S. To all you USWNT naysayers: You might want to zip it for a while, too. This is a new year, a new cycle with a new coach. Give the process a chance to play out before you start flogging everything associated with the USWNT, ever. Let the coach and players, present and prospective, show you what they’ve got. Then you can flog away, civilly and respectfully.

C’mon NWSL fans, show us your good side! And GO Boston Breakers!