You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

This past week the WPS announced they are discontinuing the Los Angeles Sol franchise. This is sad news for Sol fans and for WPS fans a like. The news should not be taken lightly but should also not be seen as ominous by the WPS, its teams, or its fans. Instead it should be chalked up to a lesson learned.

What this means for the WPS:

In light of this the WPS will have a net growth for the 2010 season of plus one with the additions of the Beat and the Independence minus the Sol. Because of the full strength of the league, the 19 Sol players will be dispersed amongst the eight teams remaining. The WPS is building a solid brand campaign ‘See Extraordinary’ around its unique, diverse, and talented players. And with the loss of the Sol the WPS is set to be a stronger league. It will continue to set and achieve realistic goals and build and grow so that they may once again have a franchise in the Los Angeles market.

What this means for the teams:

The Sol was considered by many to be the most successful team of the 2009 season. They had the highest attendance, they were regular season champions, they were a high scoring team, and lost the championship game by a 1-0 margin. If you are looking at just the on-field measurements, the Sol was the most successful team. By fiscal measurements they were not. The other teams in the league will benefit from this and succeed if they are fiscally responsible as well as having a viable product. Teams should continue their focus on building sponsorship, season tickets, and their fan communities.

What this means for the fans:

For Sol fans, continue your support of the league and keep the support alive for a Los Angeles franchise in future. And when the time is right that new franchise will thrive. For all other fans it is a reminder that the league is new and that the teams do benefit from the fan community. So start or continue to run your mouth about your team, players, and game experience to everyone you know and meet. Bring family and friends to a game so they may experience the greatness of it all.

At the end of the day, the 2010 season will play out like any other with teams, players, and fans a like looking to bring home a championship. The WPS may have lost the Sol but it surely isn’t soulless.

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Since the end of the draft I have come across many stories covering a player’s draft day experience and one player’s very unique story. I like to categorize these stories as ‘feel good draft day stories’ because of the joy, excitement, humbleness, gratitude, and comradery found in them.

The first ‘feel good draft day story’ I came across was Ali Riley’s account of her day and moments leading to the announcement of her selection by FC Gold Pride. In the third paragraph you were able to sense the joy and excitement, the humbleness and gratitude, and the comradery. She logs-on to twitter right from the start to follow the draft and she sees Tobin, Lauren, and Kelley go in that order as the top three selections. And as she watches the next six selections go by, she gets a text from college teammate Kelley O’Hara “get readyyyyy”. Ali then gets selected 10th overall by FC Gold pride and with moments is on the phone with Kelley, Tobin, and Lauren shrieking with joy.

The next ‘feel good draft day story’ accounts Becky Edwards day of the draft. Becky’s day started similar to Ali’s, with her waking up early and logging-on to twitter to follow the draft. Becky was rooming with another potential draftee Kaley Fountain for the u23 USWNT training camp. The two wait in anticipation to see their names tweeted in the hotel, the first round has ended, and FC Gold pride is selecting first in the second round. And Becky has to wait no longer as her selection by FC Gold Pride gets tweeted, both players screamed with joy and excitement. Now they would wait for Kaley selection and eight selections later Kaley was chosen by none other than FC Gold Pride as the 2oth overall pick. Not only are they roommates and good friends they will be teammates.

The last ‘feel good draft day story’ I will mention is unique from those I mentioned before and those of all the other draftees selected. It is the story of Danielle Collins which tells a special message. Before draft day and up until her selection as the 62nd overall pick by the Philadelphia Independence Danielle (best known around the office as Dani) worked in the front office for the team. Dani was injured last fall before last year’s draft and decided to take a job for the Independence after graduation. She continued to play and work on her game while handling her responsibilities in the office. It was at this year’s open tryouts for the Independence where Dani got the respect she deserved as a player. After reading about Dani’s story I could only feel good.

These are only a few of the many more ‘feel good draft day stories’ to be told.

The partnership between the WPS and Puma may be describe in one word ‘Wow’. I say this after seeing the unveiling party for the new kits this season.

There couldn’t be a better pairing of a sports league and athletic wear company anywhere in the world. The partnership started at the beginning of the inaugural season and has continued to the present. The uniqueness and greatness of the partnership was on display at the kits unveiling party last year when players modeled their teams uniforms. This is something that is almost unheard of in the sports and fashion worlds. It was a high risk taken by both the WPS and Puma that paid off with a high reward. The kits were well designed and had the players match ready and fashionable for inaugural season.

The partnership continued to grow throughout the inaugural season and got taken to a new level for this year’s kits unveiling party. What the WPS and Puma have recognized is that the players are the draw for fans and consumers. And they promoted this during this year’s kits unveiling party by having the players show their extraordinary personalities and uniqueness. You may see for yourself by watching the highlight video of the party and checking out photos from the runway. Another tweak this year from last year was having the veterans model the home kits and the rookies model the away kits. A brilliant idea, a great way for the two groups to get to know each other and for the fans to see this side of the players.

Not only was the modeling of the kits brought up a level, so was the design of the new kits. The players will be working hard on the pitch while looking great. Three kits immediately caught my eye and they are the Atlanta Beat, the Boston Breakers, and the Philadelphia Independence. See which kits are your favorites.

The draft has come and gone and I am still basking in the glory of that day. And I have the WPS and my favorite team the Boston Breakers to thank for this. What a job they did tweeting the up-to-the-minute status of the draft as each team made their selections. The highlight tweet for me on the day was moments after Tonya Antonucci uttered the words “The Atlanta Beat select Tobin Heath” as the #1 pick overall. The WPS tweeted a video capturing this monumental announcement of her selection, the scene in the draft room, and the presenting of her new team scarf. The next great moment of the day is when the Breakers tweeted their selection of Lauren Cheney as the #2 overall pick and then the pictures of her Breakers team scarf presentation. The day continued like this with the tweeting of real time draft statuses, first round selection pictures, and behind the scene pictures. My hats off to the WPS they really made me feel as though I was there in the room and for this the WPS is a big winner on the day!

Three teams made significant progress in the draft and are big winners.

The Atlanta Beat with the #1 pick got a player and a leader who they could build a franchise around. Tobin Heath with her outstanding technical game is labelled to be one of the greatest. Her potential will have the Beat stepping on the pitch next season with confidence.

The Boston Breakers had the makings of a great team last season and took a big hit this off-season with losses in free agency, retirement, and the expansion draft. The losses of Heather Mitts, Sue Weber, and Candace Chapman left an impenetrable defensive wall needing patching. The wall is once again impenetrable thanks to the selection of Alyssa Naeher (minding net spelling Allison Lipsher), Jordan Angeli, and Katherine Reynolds. With the #2 pick Lauren Cheney they filled a significant gap in scoring.

The Los Angeles Sol: what could the regular season champ need to be better? Well, your answer is the replacement of the league’s second leading goal scorer Camille Abily who was traded to FC Gold Pride. They recovered through the draft by selecting three top prospects at the forward position Nikki Washington, Casey Nogueira, and Kiersten Dallstream.

This year’s draftees held as a collective group looks to be the most talented a group that will come out of college for quite some time, so there were no big losers but only big winners and winners.

It is less than 12 hours away and I am unable to contain my excitement.

But for the true soccer geeks the excitement starts tonight with the unveiling of the new match ball for the WPS. And the excitement doesn’t end there because not only will the WPS hold their draft in Philadelphia tomorrow but they will also be unveiling the new team uniforms. It is Christmas in January-what will Kelly Smith, Amy LePeilbet, Kristine Lilly, Leslie Osborne, Alex Scott, and this year’s #2 pick wear next season? How will Heather Mitts and Amy Rodriguez look in their new uniforms for the Philadelphia Independence? Well with a little patience we will find out soon enough.

Now for the more pressing business of the draft. The Breakers have the #2 pick in the draft and with the unprecedented number of high-caliber players available they are sure to get someone who could have an immediate impact on the team. Being a UNC Tar Heel fan I have two fan favorites which I would love to see wearing those new Breaker uniforms next season, Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira. But this however is unlikely (not impossible). For my predictions I went with logic instead of with the heart. Without further ado here are my first round predictions for the 2010 WPS draft:

1. Atlanta Beat–Tobin Heath
2. Boston Breakers–Lauren Cheney
3. FC Gold Pride–Kelley O’Hara
4. Chicago Red Stars–Casey Nogueira
5. Los Angeles Sol–Whitney Engen
6. Sky Blue FC–Brittany Taylor
7. Washington Freedom–Kelly Henderson
8. Los Angeles Sol–Ali Riley
9. Los Angeles Sol–Nikki Washington
10. FC Gold Pride–Kaley Fountain
11. Boston Breakers–Nikki Marshall

You may follow the draft as I will be through the WPS twitter feed starting at 10 am on January 15th.

Wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. I will tell you since the major sports media hasn’t, won’t, and probably will not.

On January 15th the WPS will hold it’s second draft in Philadelphia. The pool of players coming out of the college this year are some of the most talented the league has seen, lead by Tobin Heath. The UNC senior is believed to be “the next Marta”-a player of the highest caliber. She lead the Tar Heels to three national championships in four years and to their unprecedented 20th national championship. Tobin is joined by fellow UNC seniors Casey Nogueira, Nikki Washington, Whitney Engen, Ashlyn Harris, and Kristi Eveland who are also expected to make a splash in the draft. This is just one team-other remarkably talented players are leaving the NCAA and entering the draft. They include:

  • Lauren Cheney, UCLA
  • Kelly O’Hara, Stanford
  • Brittany Taylor, UConn
  • Kelly Henderson, BC
  • Ali Riley, Stanford
  • Kaley Fountain, Wake Forest
  • Nikki Marshall, Colorado

A lot of these players will make immediate impact for their teams and are the future of WPS. The League has done superb job spreading the word through mock draft contests, a series of ‘getting to know’ the draftees articles, and the experts’ analysis. Other traditional venues of sports media aren’t even coming close to this. Search ESPN, CBS Sports, or Fox Sports websites for ‘WPS draft’ and your return results are nil. Fox Soccer Channel which broadcasts WPS games is hosting a show on the eve of the draft but information about the show isn’t found anywhere on their website. I know about this through the efforts of the WPS.

I am excited about this year’s draft and it’s outcome, to see which teams draft which players. Of course I am most excited to see who the Breakers will draft with the #2 and #11 picks in the first round. I will be following the action through the most reliable media sources the Breakers’ and WPS twitter feeds.

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