NWSL Week 2: It Gets Real

Hello one and all, back to the great world of the WOSO fandom!

Week 2 of play started with the dreaded injury report. A list of all of the players that will likely be out for the week, due to an injury sustained in the last week or before the season started. The list isn’t very long, due to it only being the second week of the season. But will likely get longer as play intensifies and more players are called for national team duties.

Of the players on the injury report, there were two that stood out to me, because they had the ability affect the game the most.

tumblr_o5reg3i3QH1r3gzs5o1_500
The tackle which lead to Hinkle’s injury

From the Western New York Flash, Jaelene Hinkle (pictured to the right) was out due to a toe fracture. Nothing all that uncommon with a contact sport like soccer. This fraction was a direct result from a clumsy collision from USWNT teammate and FCKC midfielder Heather O’Riley, making it unique in nature. *It was later stated by the coach that the injury was from Hinkle stubbing her toe at home. But I’m going to use this gif anyway.

For the Houston Dash and United States National team player, Morgan Brian was listed as questionable. Brian was still recovering from a strained hamstring that has been bothering her for the past couple of weeks. This is the same injury that caused her to leave the most recent USWNT camp early, and caused her to sit out of week one of play. If Brian was to play this week she wouldn’t be a 90 minute player where her skill would be needed in terms to beat what is showing to be a very strong Orlando Pride team.

The week two game line up was filled with a few rivalries and many exciting games, including the very advertised home opening game for the Orlando Pride. The games were as follows:

On Saturday 4/23/16    

Chicago Red Stars vs. Western New York Flash

Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash

FC Kansas City vs. Portland Thorns

On Sunday 4/24/16

Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit

Boston Breakers vs. Seattle Reign

First up was a game between two teams who had something to prove after sloppy play the week before. The Chicago Red Stars took on the Western New York Flash  on a new and improved home field. After years of playing on a college field, the Red Stars took to their new field with the same ferocity that the  have held for the past few years. In the past, Chicago has been a very dominant team with very aggressive (and yes sometimes dirty) play.

tumblr_o65i4py1hx1rvtmx4o1_r1_500
Offensive symphony of CRS 

With names like Julie Johnston, Sofia Huerta, and in the past Melissa Tancredi, there has been a strong offensive and defensive presence within the team. After their embarrassing showing against Houston the previous week ,  it was vital that they showed that they could not be trampled over. For Western New York, it was important that they show they can control a game. Both of the teams succeeded, in a sense. Western New York held their own and had a pretty strong offense. Chicago was stronger and dominated  most of the game. Their few attacking chances left Casey Short of Chicago with the only goal of the game.

Player who made this place their home: Julie Johnston (8) is a rock. Her defending is world class and it shows in her fearless plays. She stands out on the field and can clearly take on the hardest of offence with grace and the occasional foul mouth.

Game ended Chicgo Red Stars 1 and Western New York 0

Next we have the slaughtering that was the game between the Orlando Pride vs. the Houston Dash. There was a lot of hype and pressure surrounding this game. It was Orlando’s first home game and they were attempting to break a massive record of having the most attendees at a women’s professional game in the United States. By George did they do it. With 23,403 people in attendance and a sea of purple, Orlando had broken a new record. Orlando also needed to prove that they could hold their own in the league, and hold their own they did. tumblr_o685bkcLYX1ubhu4ko1_1280In this fan’s untrained eyes, it looked like a slaughtering. Houston held themselves together until the injury of Carli Lloyd in the 10th minute. Injuries often can shake a team, but when it happens to the best player in the women’s game? A team can fall apart after that. Alex Morgan spent a while appearing as the only offensive player for the Pride, until the second half when the flood gates opened for the pride.

tumblr_o6498r6idN1rweeyvo2_500
Andressa’s Goal for the Dash

Underdog Moment of the Game: Andressa’s  goal for the Dash in the 75th minute. In a moment where the game looked to be entirely toward the Pride, Andressa gave the Dash some futile hope.

tumblr_o655qxR46H1u1yt27o1_500
Ashlyn Harris save

Moment that took my breath away: Ashlyn Harris came in with a huge save in the first half that is nothing aside from world class. When the shot happened, I nearly lost my breath watching her diving save.

 

Game ended Orlando 3- Dash 1

The last game of the night was between FCKC and the Portland Thorns. FCKC was sloppy at best the week before, with only a few moments of power that stood out. While the Portland Thorns, on the other hand had proved to be a power house of the season. This week, FCKC showed the entire country (can I be optimistic enough to say world?) why they were the season champions last year. It was nice to see a give-and-take between the defense and offence and a team. It looked as though they had been working and training together. With this unity, FCKC was able to score a goal in the first half. Unfortunately for them, the Thorns also appeared to be playing in harmony. The defining moment was during the second half, where FCKC player Shea Groom received her second yellow of the night. Those who are new to soccer need to learn a little math lesson: yellow card + yellow card = red card. Red card = leaving the game and the team playing one player down for the rest of the game. Which is exactly what happened for FCKC. On this advantage, the Thorns were able to score an equalizer.

Flipping my hair moments: I have been telling anyone who would listen for literal years

tumblr_o649ktnI0w1qfmtfyo1_400
Horan Goal 

how fantastic of a player Lindsey Horan (PTFC) is and how much she will change the game in the States.After playing for the past three years with PSG in France, the WOSO fans were excited to hear that she was bringing her seasoned international talent back to the states.  Horan’s goal on a set piece was something that will for sure be noticed by everyone and will start to make a difference in international play. With her stature and her grit she will be able to help bring any team into the winners circle.

Game ended FCKC 1- PTFC 1

After an exciting Saturday night, Sunday would open between a self declared rivalry game between the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC. It appeared that many followers of the league were confused by this new rivalry, but I went along with it anyway. The national team players were out and proud this game and ready to defend their club teams. Both goals for the Spirit came from national team players, Krieger for the United States and Matheson for Canada. The Spirit defense lacked something to be desired and let in a goal from Sky Blue. At the end of the day, they are the only team who has won two games as of now.

krieger gif
The moment that almost killed me

The moment that made me almost die: in full disclosure, this is not the safest thing to do, so do as I say and not as I do. I had the game playing on my phone while I was driving five hours between my two homes as I call them. When Ali Kreiger scored the goal on what was intended to be a cross, that was damn near enough to make me crash my car onto a guard rail.

Game ended Washington 2-SBFC 1

Ending the week was the drama that was Boston Breakers vs. Seattle. I used the word slaughter earlier in this post, so let me think of another adjective that will describe how drastic the game was between these two players. Annihilation is a good word to use. Seattle showed that their loss against Sky Blue last week was nothing but a fluke. They were back and ready to party.  Seattle showed that they were the team to beat, and will never be the team that they were in 2013 sitting pretty at the bottom of the table. The game proved to be pretty exciting, even with the beat down that Seattle served. Including several shots from the Breakers and a few awkward defense moments where weaknesses were shown from the Reign.

Players who deserve better: Kristie Mewis (breakers) was clearly frustrated with the game,

mewie
Pretty much a metaphor for Boston’s Game

and it showed in her play in the second half, she worked her way up and down the field and had a solid breakaway that wasn’t strong enough to score. Keelin Winters is another solid player, who has held strong for the Reign for as long as they have been the team. Both players continue to play their hearts out every week, despite getting the snub from the USWNT.

Game ended Boston 0- Seattle 3

Overall the week was showing fans that it is a new season. Which teams are ready to play, and which teams will continue to be forgotten. The Washington Spirit has gotten lucky the past two weeks to have secured wins both times. They hope to continue their streak in the next week against WNYF. Consistency has not been the friend of many of the other teams in the league including SBFC and the Seattle Reign. Week three could be the true turning point for these two teams and many others as game play steps up.

fishlockWhen play starts to increase and teams start to come together and play together, injuries tend to plauge the field. The scariest injury both for fans to watch and for players to endure by far is any knee injury. This week, three players were made victim of a rough tackle, fall, or misstep that lead to what looked like a very scary twist of a knee that could
have lasting damages for the rest of the season. Carli Lloyd of the Houston Dash, after reeking havoc over teams internationally during last summer’s World Cup, is widely considered one of the most diverse and best players in the game. Watching her go down after a mistep with her knee turned the wrong way was a sight that my lil heart almost couldn’t take. She was diagnosed with an MCL sprain and will not need surgery. Jess
Fishlock for the Seattle Reign was the victim of a tackle gone wrong resulting in a tibia fracture. While Portland’s Kat Williamson took an awkward step and fell without any tackle or contact at all. All three players were taken off the field and appeared to be in a lot of pain. This is sadly a chronic plague on the field of players who suffer knee injuries. Though these will not be the last, here’s to hoping that they are not as severe as these were.
peanut butterThe exciting goal this week leads me to my player of the week. Ali Kriegegross waterr (D, 11, Washington Spirit) at 31 years old has proved to be one of the best defenders in the world
both on the international stage and the club stage. The first two seasons of the NWSL, Ali Krieger all but carried the Washington Spirit defensively and attempted to be the captain that could do it all. This week has been very Krieger filled both with her amazing goal and her various endorsements that have come about this week alone (because who doesn’t like peanut butter and coconut water?). Krieger played all but 10 minutes this past World Cup (why she was subbed out, I
will never understand) and has jokingly been refferred to as part of the “department of defense” for the USWNT. She will make an impact this upcoming Olympic season and is currently in the race for a starting position in the starting 11 leading up to Rio.

This weeks tweet of the week is:

tweet1tweet2

All teams come back to action this Friday! You can catch me cursing at my wifi router when a game will stall and avoiding all friends and opportunities of socialization in order to watch, read, and write about soccer.

Catch ya later

-SJ

NWSL Historic 4th season: Week 1

After the hype of the 2015 WWC, I thought that my excitement for soccer had reached it’s top. M y mind was a constant replay of the Carli Lloyd goal (you know which one. And if you don’t, have you been asleep for the past 10 months?). Here it is any way , because I could watch this on loop for the rest of my life. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know if my little heart could take much more excitement. Could soccer still excite me? Will my feelings for WOSO  completely plateau from now on? My answer was unknown until I watched the Washington Spirit vs. Boston Breakers game last Saturday.

The first week of the “Historic Fourth season of the NWSL” *exaggerated announcer voice* featured all ten teams. For the past two season there have only been nine teams in the league with one team having a bye week every week. With an uneven number of teams, one team had to sit a week out while the other eight fought for bragging rights and a spot at the top of the table. I, for one, enjoy seeing each team with the opportunity to play every week now. The following teams faced one another for the first time this season.

On Saturday Night:

Washington Spirit vs. Boston Breakers

Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars

FC Kansas City vs. Western New York

On Sunday:

Seattle Reign vs. Sky Blue FC

Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride

Just typing out all of those names and all the games that happened over the course of the weekend, mixed on top with the amount of people who either attended or streamed the games makes me a little teary at the growth of the game. I remember during the first season I told one of my fellow followers of the league that I was going to watch every game, and she doubted me. Many games are streamed at the exact same time, or with extreme overlapping which makes it hard at times. With hard work, perseverance, and fully believing in myself, I somehow, made it through the struggle of watching 8-ish hours of live-ish soccer in a week. This season, I make a similar vow. Both to keep updating this here blog. Also because I am truly interested in noticing the different vibes, environments, and overall feel that surrounds each team and the games that they play.

So far this week, I made it through every game. I will give you the following thoughts and highlights on each of them. I plan to try and give a semi objective thought process for each of the game but: a sports fan will as, a sports fan does. I have feelings. I have players who deserve better. I have teams that could’ve had it all. Or that could just be residual feelings of the past seasons, who knows where this season will take us.

First up, we have the Washington Spirit vs. the Boston Breakers. All of the fans were greeted with their favorite thing about the NWSL, a blurry screen and lack of a picture after the streaming time was supposed to start. It was as though the soft frustrated groan of dedicated fans was heard in the winds throughout the entire country, when 6:00 CST hit and there was nothing on the screen. I had my hot little hands on my phone ready to tweet my feelings away, when the picture came back and the game was on.

tumblr_o5r4ijDDWv1qfmtfyo2_500.gif
Joanna Lohman bicycle kick

When the game started I barely had time to settle myself down before I heard the muffled clatter of what was a goal announcement. Three minutes in and Joanna Lohman (15) of the Washington Spirit scored a goal with a freaking bicycle kick, of all things, to kick the game off. Anyone, who was a fan of the Washington Spirit the first few seasons, who how important the opening games can be. All released a collective breath when this happened. The Breakers fans, on the other hand, were probably just as confused and frustrated as the players on the team were. The game was a pretty well fit match. The Spirit, who have fully embraced their attacking players, did a phenomenal job of pushing the ball forward and gave the Breakers defense something to really think about. The Breakers, on the other hand had a bit of a time moving forward and gave newly acquired Spirit Keeper, Stephanie Labbe (1) only one a few chances to shine.

Players this game who made me go “huh” in a good way: Julie King (8) of the Breakers. Any player that can hold their own against Crystal Dunn (19) who is one of the strongest young offenders in the game, is a true stand out.Paired well with her other defenders, Julie made the well developed Spirit offence think a bit differently about how they would play the game.

End score Spirit 1 Boston 0 

Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars: I’m not going to lie, when the this game came on before the Spirit and Breakers game was over, I had both going on at the same time. I’m not saying I have a preference, but I’m from Texas. Instantly, on the screen I was reminded me why I enjoy watching Dash’s online streams in the past seasons. The level of quality with this stream compared to others is significant, as well as the broadcasting, and the level of enthusiasm from the announcers and the fans at the stadium. It was a really nice change from the out-of-focus camera on the Spirit field.

This game started as a hot mess between both teams. Which really is expected right at the beginning of a season since teams don’t know each other well: they’re getting used to the feel and the changing of rosters and the newness of this roster was very evident right at kick off. Christen Press for the Red Stars, or as I always call her, in my mind, whenever I see her CP23 decided to take things into her own hands and show Houston how it’s done by scoring very quickly.For any fan of the Dash, for any of the seasons they have been affiliated, nightmares came to mind of past seasons at the bottom of the table and consecutive losses. The Dash players apparently felt the same fire under them, because this was the only chance the Red Stars ever got the whole game.  The rest of the game,

tumblr_o5rbmksIob1uabwwoo1_400
Alyssa Naeher with a save against the Houston Dash

Alyssa Naeher (1) for Boston took a beating behind goal. It looked as though nothing had changed for her in the past year, when she played for the Breakers in their disastrous season last year.She had three shots go past her and made many more impressive saves. Overall, the game was the most entertaining of the night, and highlighted a few very important players and strengths and weaknesses for each team.

Players that made me clutch my pearls: Rachel Daly of the Houston Dash. Just her. Who she is. How she played. Everything. Not only was her game amazing, but she made her professional debut a splash and made it clear that she wasn’t on the pitch to make friends.

The game ended Houston 3 and Chicago 1 

The FCKC vs. WNYF game came on at the same time as the Dash and Red Stars game. So, as any true fan, I attempted to have my eyes on both games at once. But to be honest, this game was so boring my attention was almost completely directed towards the other game.

Every person knew that this season was going to be hard for FCKC. They lost a lot players through retirements, trades, and baby-making in the off season, including Lauren Cheney and Amy Rodriguez. Which made this season opener unsurprising that they did not play well, but still shocking that as defending champions they played so poorly. As defending champs, it’s almost always expected for a team to just completely blow it out of the water first game in. It was more like a slow explosion. New York held their own, which

tumblr_o5reg3i3QH1r3gzs5o1_500
Heather O’Riley’s tackle against Jaelene Hinkle 

is always surprising with the lack of household names on their roster and given the loss of a certain soccer legend in the off season (Abby Wambach, tough she was gone last season as well). New management in hand, New York proved to be the leader on the field, even with the score ending in a draw.
Player who made me sigh in relief: Nichole Barnhart (18)  played her heart (haha) out for FCKC. Without her goal tending, the WNY score would’ve been much higher and FCKC’s confidence much lower.

Ending score was a 0-1 FCKC. 

On Sunday, the Seattle Reign and Sky Blue FC opened their seasons in Seattle. Seattle has been known to put on a good show, they have the home support, the flashy highlighter kits with the strange ombre on the shorts, and they have big names both locally, through the draft and on the national stage. Seattle entered this game with recognition and as a fan favorite and were the favorite to win by far.  By this game, you would not have had any idea that this was the team who has been the regular season champs for the past two seasons in a row. Seattle’s game presence was very similar to that Rihanna song where all they did was “work work work work work” for a few coordinated spurts and the rest of it couldn’t really be understood by anyone. Sky Blue, on the other hand, showed that they are still relevant and dominated the game by taking advantage of a very sloppy Seattle defense.

tumblr_o5sww0namy1ubo0geo1_500
Natasha Kai header with Kelley O’hara assist

Players who will always have my heart: Kelley O’Hara (19) of SBFC had her Wheaties that morning and wanted the world to know that she was here and ready to play some futbol. She is the most versatile player on the field and her comfort with quick transitions and her ability to be all over the field shows, The older she gets, the more controlled of a player she is, as well as a leader on the team. Her presence was surely noted by everyone.

The game ended Reign 1 to SBFC 2 

The week ended with the highest attended game held in Portland, between the Thorns and the Orlando Pride. This game had everything that any sort of fan, old or new, could’ve wanted. Big names, aggressive play, and the first goal in franchise history was noted for the Pride, as well as an amazing come back for the Thorns. Right out of the gate, the Pride noted that they were not a team to be taken advantage of, nor were they green in any way. Their offence was well matched for the well seasoned Portland defense and even though their match was a loss, it surely should not feel like one for the amount of wins they had in this game. Each team put up a huge fight and played until the very last second, with all the heart they could’ve put on that field. It was clear that both teams are serious this season and ready to make some history.

tumblr_o5t5f3uo4L1snlgxgo1_540
Steph Catley’s amazing free kick against the Portland Thorns

Players that made me spill my beer: Let’s talk about Steph Catley (7) of the Pride. She made that free kick. You know the one. She made both her personal presence, as well as that of the team known straight off.

The game ended Portland 2 and Orlando 1. 

Overall there is one player that I feel the need to talk about in this weeks Player Highlight.

tumblr_o5xobxF1lm1v48i4bo1_540
Natasha Kai with Sky Blue FC

Let’s talk about Natasha Kai (32, F, SBFC), like, all the time. I, like anyone else, was disappointed when Tasha fell off the radar after the folding of the WPS and disappearance off of the USWNT. Whatever reasons they were, I held my breath for years at the idea that maybe one day Tasha Kai would come back to the wonderful world of soccer. Hoping she  would bring all of the sass and personality both to her play and to the team dynamics. When she was listed among the possible players for the Spirit in 2013, I was constantly biting my nails, for a year, waiting for her to make her return to soccer. Her goal, on Sunday, was an indication that soccer missed Kai just as much as I had. Her header sent electric chills throughout the game and made it clear that she is ready to take on this season her her team SBFC by storm.

Tweet of the week: Since I’m already on the topic of Tasha Kai, lets talk about these tweets.

tumblr_o5uzf6mISd1v2y6m4o1_540tumblr_o5uzf6mISd1v2y6m4o2_540tumblr_o5uzf6mISd1v2y6m4o3_540tumblr_o5uzf6mISd1v2y6m4o4_250tumblr_o5uzf6mISd1v2y6m4o5_1280

Well, week 2 of play starts today and if it was anything like this past week, we are in for quite a show

I’ll be back!

-SJ

P.S. I was late with posting this because sometimes life is really hard and being a full time soccer fan on top of a real life is a lot of responsibility. I will write my Week 2 notes and have them up later this week!

*I take no credit for any pictures or gif’s that are used in this blog. Everything that is used was found on various social media sites.

 

 

The NWSL: For Dummies and Super Fans

 

To understand the current situation and depth  of women’s soccer in this country, it is very important that you understand the past of the professional leagues in the United States.To get through this post, you will need to know approximately 9,000 acronyms, so here is the low down for you.


USWNT- United States Women’s National Team

WOSO- Women’s Soccer

99ers- The group of women who won the 1999 Women’s World Cup

FC: Football club

WUSA: Women’s United Soccer Association

WPS: Women’s Professional Soccer

NWSL: National Women’s Soccer League

MLS: Major League Soccer (the men’s league)

FCKC: FC Kansas City

PTFC: Portland Thorns FC

SBFC: Sky Blue FC

WNYF: Western New York Flash

USSF: U.S. Soccer Federation- the people who own and make the rules for the USWNT


Many moons ago in 1999, a group of women, who are now warmly referred to as the 99ers, conquered the Women’s World Cup giving us our first real image of female success on the world soccer stage. If you knew someone who lived  near a television in 1999,  you surely heard about Brandi Chastain and her victorious penalty kick resulting in a sports bra clad celebration. According to the documentary Dare to Dream, which surrounds the 99ers and their rise to fame (it’s available on YouTube in all it’s parts, I laughed, I cried, I became a super fan), after this win the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) felt good. They saw how successful women’s soccer could be on their own turf and saw the support that they had garnered. With this, the idea of the first women’s professional league in the United States was created.

474px-Women's_United_Soccer_Association_logo.svgThe Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) was the brainchild that came to be it’s own grownup soccer league. All of the big names in soccer from the last Women’s World Cup were featured and paced evenly around the teams. The league hoped to capitalize on the national hype that was women’s soccer after the last world cup and the Super Bowl esque excitement surrounding the final. The idea was: get some great players, put them in some great cities, and have them play the great sport as God intended.

That’s not quite how it worked out, the idea was in the right place. The league was 8 teams that were all sponsored by the big name cable companies (Cox, TimeWarner, Comcast etc) who somehow decided to give their money without requiring an 8 hour phone call through their customer service line.  A college draft was created. A few local tv channels picked up a game here or there and the league was off. In the right eyes this was the perfect equation for success, but the hype was not as long lasting as the USWNT and USSF had hoped. People were not spending money to come out to the games, and the games that were televised were not reaching the audience that had been targeted.  The league lasted 3 seasons, with each season bringing less excitement and revenue than the season before. The further the team was away from the ’99 WWC, the less the country appeared to care about the sport or the success of the team. With interest at a low, players making close to nothing, and sponsorships running dry the league suspended after the third seasons. This left many a player without a place to play outside of college or the national team.

The same old song and dance happened again after the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Olympics. Once again, interest in women’s soccer was at an all time high in the States. As always the American mindset was to find a way to capitalize off of the renewed interest, okay and maybe also for the love of the game. And like magic, league number two was created.

Women's_Professional_Soccer_logoWomen’s Professional Soccer (WPS) opened it’s fields in the spring of 2009 with the promise of a new and successful professional league, with people coming to games and turning and profit and everything. That didn’t quite happen. There was a pretty impressive draft with the up and coming recently graduated college players including many now well known national team players. And like before, the current national team players were divided up between the teams. But the league fell prone to a case of expansionitis. Expansionitis is a made up word, defined by  me, as: a league that grew too much too quickly and didn’t have funds to support it. The teams soon buckled under the financial instability. There were several legal battles over who owned what and the league fell in its third season in 2012. This is a strong hint that the third season for a league is considered the breaking point.

Soon after the WPS closed its doors in 2012, many of the supporters of the game, including players and coaches , realized that the interest for the game was still there. The problem with the WPS was not the lack of fan support in theory, but more the the lack of fan support creating revenue. This lead to an immediate discussion with all important parties, the USSF, league administrators and coaches about the creation of another league soon after the 2012 Olympics.

205px-NWSL_logo.svgThis league was going to be different from any of the other leagues up to this point. With clenched smiles and open wallets the United States Soccer Federation, The Canadian Soccer Association, and Mexican Football Federation all banned together and came to an agreement. This means, all of the organizations that are in charge of the national teams for their country, somehow all came to an agreement as monumental as North America Free Trade Agreement (check your 10th grade history text books to fact check). Players from the U.S, Canadian, and Mexican national teams would be allocated equally among the teams in the league, giving preference to home town and college team, and their salaries would be paid by none other than their national federation. This was monumental at the time, because the federations were fully in the game now and many teams could afford to pay more players possibly more money because the salaries of the national team players was already taken care of. Eight teams were created throughout the United States. Players from around North America packed their bags and moved to their new temporary location and a college draft was held and the first season of the National Women’s Soccer Leage (NWSL) was soon on it’s way.

First we have the OT’s (The original teams) who were the first to steak their claim in the game. (I would put this in order of my favorite to least favorite, but apparently that’s not the kind of opinion free blogging that the world is looking for so instead you get listed alphabetically.)

  • Boston Breakers*- housed in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago Red Stars*- from Chicago, Illinois
  • FC Kansas City- from Kansas City, Missouri
  • Portland Thorns+ – making their way in Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle Reign FC- reigning from Seattle, Washington (haha)
  • Sky Blue FC*- from Piscataway, New Jersey
  • Washington Spirit- Boyds, Maryland (basically Washington D.C. though lets be real)
  • Western New York Flash*- in Rochester, New York

All teams marked with an (*)  were an established team before the creation of the NWSL  and competed in the WPS. The Portland Thorns, the only team that is indicated with an (+), was the only team that was financially and emotionally supported by their male counterpart in the Major League Soccer (MLS or the men’s professional league in North America). Okay, I’m kidding about the emotional support. With the support of the men’s team there was now a built in fan base that many of the teams didn’t have. Other teams relied on support from national team, college  or regional fans.

Accessibility of the league to fans was clearly an important component to all the interested parties, and was made a major priority. For the first time all of the games would be live streamed on various media services, giving anyone with an internet device the ability to watch a professional women’s soccer game live. It was established that the teams would stream all of their games live on YouTube, with the exception of the Boston Breakers, who went by way of a media company and charged for the online streaming of the games.  In the seasons after, every team was on the same page and all games have been streamed on YouTube with the championship games and a few regular season games shown on major sports networks. This was huge to soccer fans new and seasoned alike, and this isn’t just coming from the girl who was happy she now had the ability to watch live soccer on her phone for hours at a time. This showed that accessibility was important and gave the teams a chance to establish a fan base outside of the direct region, which had never fully be established in the leagues before.

On April 13, 2013 the world (or at least everyone important in my world) gathered around their internet devices and watched the inaugural game of the NWSL between FC Kansas City and the Portland Thorns. The game ended in a 1-1 draw and had all of the exciting factors of a new league, a first goal, a first yellow card and a first ever draw in this shiny new league. This was only the start to what would come to be a very exciting season filled with ups and downs for each team. Unless you were a Spirit or a Reign fan during this season, where many records of “greatest defeats” were broken by the two teams and their season was mostly just filled with downs (it’s fine, they got better later).  Each season, by the end of the regular season, the teams with the highest points based off of, winning, loosing, tie and goal differential would compete for the championship. Like I said, this clearly wasn’t the Spirit or the Reign this season. The championship winners that year were the Portland Thorns, while the regular season winners with the most points were Western New York Flash.

Though the season was a hit with soccer fans and regional fans alike, many issues were noted with the first season. Though the YouTube streaming was better than no streaming, there were many connection issues and missed streams. The Boston Breakers had several issues with their paid service where their paying fans were unable to view the game even after paying the fee. (I know one fan, in particular, who might still holding a grudge). Many of the teams were playing on either turf fields or less than desirable fields, including high school stadiums. On top of it all, many teams did not have a stellar fan turn out, though not due to a lack of trying. Portland topped all games with their fan base, but other teams struggled to top the excitement that was the 2012 Olympics and pull fans into their stands.

The next year, in 2014, a new expansion team was established. Any team who had known about the WPS and their explosion with expansion teams, instantly felt a chill in their veins at the concept of an expansion team so soon in the creation of this league and had nightmares of expansionists. The Houston Dash out of Houston, Texas was announced on December 12, 2013 with plans to be the 9th team in the league. The Dash had a secret weapon that 7 of the other teams in the NWSL did not: the support of their men’s adjacent team. The Houston Dynamo had given the Dash their field to use during games and many of the supporters for the men’s team were happy to extend over to the women’s team. Much like Portland this built in fan base would be seen as useful for selling tickets and peaking excitement.

The second season was not rocked with the addition of a new expansion team like many had feared would be a symptom of expansionitis. Similar issues from the season before persisted, spotty streaming, low ticket sales (with the exception of a few games in a few cities), and low player wages. FCKC won the championship this year while Seattle Reign held the title of regular season championships. Though Houston was excited at the prospect of bringing in new fans into this new area, they too struggled with ticket sales and establishing a solid back line, leading them to place very low fat the end of the season.

If you remember from above, the third season proves to be crucial in all of the previous leagues, showing a true “make it or break it” point. The third season mirrored the one before. Same issues, different year. But something magical happened: the Women’s World Cup made soccer more than relevant again to the rest of America that didn’t already know about this league. Now, people all over the country cared about the players, welcomed their names in as popular references, and wanted to support the local teams that were in their area. The players during the WWC were given a face and a name and a region to associate with, leaving many a layperson to give their support to the girls going for gold, be that the U.S or any of the other countries with players vetted in the NWSL. This did nothing but drive the NWSL support. Gone were the days of high school fields, now every team had an established fan base, support group and a home. Weirdly enough, even with the new hype and mixed up teams with players away for the WWC, the results were exactly the same as the year before, FCKC with the championship and Seattle Reign with the regular season win.

Before the 2015 season, there were more and more rumors surrounding expansion teams. Cities with MLS teams were hearing the rumors and invited to participate in interest surveys. The hype surrounded Twitter, Tumblr, FaceBook and the like, while everyone was awaiting the possible announcement of a new team. Everyone knew it was Orlando before it was officially announced from player and internet whispers. Yet still, the whole soccer world held their breath on October 20, 2015 when the Orlando Pride was welcomed into the league with open arms and baited breath. Again, Orlando was backed by their male counterpart which held the hope to bring in major viewership and support for the next season.

tumblr_nwurteuhhz1ty49f8o1_1280As of last weekend, the NWSL is currently in their 4th season, breaking what had been known as the “three season curse”.  But why should people care about this? Isn’t this just another season for another sport with some teams and some balls and some kicking? No. This season is historic, and that’s not just the word from one overexcited fan, it’s a fact.

No other league has made it this far without spontaneously combusting: bringing hundreds of players, coaches, and support staff down with them. Now there is no longer a question about turning a profit.But now there is a question of how profitable the NWSL is actually going to be. Now there are college players all over the country who have hope for a career after graduation without the constant fear of a being drafted and their future plans collapsing from under them with the folding of a league. This season is already promising to be historic for more than just existing. Ticket sales for the Orlando Pride are above anything that has ever been seen rumoring 30,000 tickets are sold for their home opener. Team rivalries are firmly established. Each team has a loyal support group.

Many factors for the future of the NWSL have yet to be decided. But like I said in my first post, big things are coming for WOSO in many shapes in forms. The word is out, there is a buzz afloat and over 11,000 people were tuned in to watch the game between the Orlando Pride and Portland Thorns where the stadium was already packed. People care. The game is growing, and I know I’m a bit biased, but everyone should get involved now.

Next post will be my review of week 1 play, and how the season is already shaping up. There will be laughter, tears, and rodents of unusual size.

-SJ

 

 

 

Another soccer blog?

Welcome one and all to the next step into my foray into blogging, but this time surrounding something that I am truly passionate about: all things Women’s Soccer. When I say all things, please know that I mostly mean all things National Women’s Soccer League and U.S. Women’s National Team.

This blog is intended to be stripped down, something that even those who don’t know a corner kick from a penalty kick can follow, and at the same time provide insight into the current U.S. women’s league and team for all of the inquiring minds.

I know what question you’re asking: Why Ali, do we need a blog like this and why are you devoting your time to telling the internet about all things WOSO related?

To that I give you a few simple answers. Women’s soccer is making waves in a big way. If you ask anyone, most people can tell you something about the most recent Women’s World Cup or even the upcoming Olympics. They can probably mutter a few things to you about Hope Solo or Mia Hamm and probably if they thought hard enough can muster a thought about the current equal pay dispute. Even so, clearly it is not a household discussion or an every day thought for most people. With the amount of coverage the women’s team is currently getting, they are about to explode onto the scene in unforeseeable ways and could very well be making their way into becoming every day run of the mill celebrities and conversation starters.

My other answer would be, this is my passion. I care about this sport. I care about the growth of this sport. I care to an absurd level that the world has as much knowledge as possible about the blood sweat and tears that these players are putting into the game now in order to grow the game for the women of the future.

I end this with a few promises about what this blog will offer:

  • Weekly NWSL updates: game coverage, teams to look out for, spill your beer moments and the ultimate growth of the league.
  • USWNT highlights, updates and goings on: leading up to the Olympics look forward to updates about the current roster, injuries, group of death anxiety and youngins on the rise.
  • Player profiles, college players on the rise, rookies before all of the hope is beaten out of them and old favorites.
  • Growth of the game: how WOSO is growing in the U.S. and beyond.

Thanks for indulging me, encouraging me and above all giving me a platform to express all of my soccer related thoughts.

Until next time,

Soccer Junkie out.