Many of us who were invested in Women’s Professional Soccer rejoiced when the National Women’s Soccer League was announced.
The emotional roller coaster ride of W.P.S., however, left many players wary and skeptical. But as details slowly fall into place, and the N.W.S.L. becomes reality, I have once again become entangled in the excitement, hope, and logistics of this (yet another) try at making women’s professional soccer stick in this country. I firmly believe that it is possible to create a sustainable, and eventually successful, league.
Is the N.W.S.L. going to get it right?
While I support of the league and will do everything I can to help it succeed, I can’t help but be guarded. I think many others feel the same way. My good friend and former teammate, Ella Masar, and I have been hosting#WSoccerChat on Twitter where fans, team representatives and players join us to talk all things women’s soccer, especially N.W.S.L. I find that as I help sort through fact and fiction surrounding the league, answer questions, and respond to fans from all over the country and world, it’s easier because these issues aren’t directly affecting my life, for now.
It is my dream to play professionally in this country, and I intend to. But right now, Sweden is my home. I spent sleepless nights debating whether I should terminate my contract with Kopparbergs/Goteborg and come back to play in the U.S. As the deadline approached, the league still had no name, many of the coaches had not been announced, and national team player allocation was a distant notion. So, I’ve decided to stay in Sweden for this season. It’s been great to watch the details of the new league unfold without a clenched stomach and anxiety over how it will all affect my career. That said, and as a (somewhat) neutral observer, here are my capsule looks at each team.
Boston has always has a strong organization. Lisa Cole took over as head coach after Tony DiCicco stepped aside and has not coached the team in a fully professional environment. It will be interesting to see her make her mark. Kristine Lilly will be assisting, so the team will have a new look.
Chicago Red Stars
Chicago’s allocation could cause some interesting situations during the season. The team has two world-class caliber holding midfielders in Shannon Boxx and Keelin Winters, who will both be expecting to make a home in the middle of the park. Additionally, Leslie Osborne, another holding midfielder and former captain of the Breakers, has signed with Chicago. It will be interesting to see how the club uses these players in the middle of midfield.
I am curious to see how this club will look, both on and off the field. I am unfamiliar with the women’s soccer fan base in Kansas City. They also potentially lack some of the firepower of other teams. The team’s assistant coach said: “Our selections are a long-term approach and a long-term view. We feel like we’re going to have access to the top players as they’re graduating from college — the future stars for the senior national team.”
Portland is the team that everyone is talking about. Not only does it have perhaps the best striking combination in the world, with Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan, it has a solid goalkeeper in Karina LeBlanc. This team will surely draw impressive crowds. No one can argue that the club came out ahead of the game after the allocation. Cindy Parlow Cone will have a colossal task in her professional coaching debut, managing the talent under great pressure and expectation.
Seattle will be another team with a strong fan base and exciting players to watch. I am interested to see how Laura Harvey, former Arsenal Ladies coach, fares in a new country and managing a group of strong personalities. This team certainly has the talent to do well, but it will be a test for Harvey to put all the pieces together.
Sky Blue will certainly have great leadership on the field, with Christie Rampone anchoring the back line. Jim Gabarra is an experienced coach and his teams often play simply and efficiently. It remains to be seen what other players he signs to fill out the roster, as he has built many relationships with players throughout his time in W.P.S and the W.U.S.A., which is reflected in his ability to secure some great free agent signings.
This team will produce an interesting brand of soccer. I am a huge fan of many of the players allocated to Washington. Ashlyn Harris will be great in goal, with Ali Krieger attacking out of the back, Alina Garciamendez providing support and organization in the middle of the back, and Robyn Gayle as more of an enforcer in the back line. I am also excited to see the combination of Lori Lindsey and Diana Matheson in the midfield, and I think they could potentially complement each other well. It will be key for the Spirit to secure a goal scorer or two to ensure success.
Western New York Flash
I’m happy to see Abby Wambach playing back home. I played for Western N.Y. in 2011 and every time Abby came to town, the crowd was unbelievable. The Flash is a dedicated organization with a great fan base. The team will not be stacked as it had been in W.P.S., and there is a lot of pressure on Coach Aaran Lines, after a W-League championship, W.P.S. championship, and then W.P.S.L. Elite championship in consecutive years.
There are still many details left to fall into place. But as things slowly unfold and anticipation builds, I find that the walls of my guarded opinion are crumbling. I’m excited for 2013 and to see the N.W.S.L. keep our dreams alive!