By Tim Grainey
We review the unique, creative solution to the WPS-Dan Borislow legal faceoff that threatened the future of the league. We talk to Dan Borislow try to make sense of what it means for fans of the league…and Borislow’s Twitter followers as well. We look at the LA Vikings independent off-season schedule; the team hopes to join WPS in 2013. We also review the first two rounds of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Vancouver B.C.
magicJack rejoins WPS—Sort of
The continuing feud between WPS and magicJack owner Dan Borislow is now legally over, with the two sides concluding a cooperation agreement and ending their court battles. Borislow will continue to field his magicJack team in 2012, again trying to build around such U.S. National Team stars as Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Christie Rampone, who led his team to the semifinal round of the 2011 WPS playoffs. However, magicJack will be an independent team, playing seven-to-eight exhibition matches against WPS sides each year in 2012 and 2013, including a minimum of two a season in their bandbox of a stadium at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. The big question is, will any players really want to play for him? After all, this is the same owner who prevented his players from tweeting during their free time and sent intimidating emails to them. One player famously described her departure from the team last season as akin to, “leaving North Korea.”
It’s clear that WPS was forced into an agreement by Palm Beach County (Florida) Circuit Court Judge Meenu Sasser, who found that the league had not followed their own mediation policies when terminating magicJack’s franchise in late October. Does WPS executives, who at one point Borislow referred to as “infidels,” really expect him to be gentler this time around? Borislow is committed to the women’s game—his daughter is a top youth player—but he does tend to put his name or that of his company above the sport and his players. WPS, the obvious loser in this legal struggle, could find Borislow unbowed and even more difficult to deal with. What happens to WPS’ argument that they had to get rid of him to attract new sponsors and expansion teams? How do they explain the fact that “We kicked him out of the league, but his team has regular matches against our teams,” to prospective owners, some of whom were afraid of working with Borislow?
When Borislow took over the Washington Freedom franchise after the 2010 season, his goal was to have a world-class team on the field, which he certainly was in the process of constructing last year, despite losing most of his starters to Women’s World Cup duty for several weeks. He initially wanted to tour Europe in the late summer and fall of 2011, playing top-club sides like Umea of Sweden or Olympique Lyon of France, but WPS contracts expire at the end of each season, so that idea became problematic. Now, as an independent team, the concept becomes more realistic, However, women’s club teams tours are in its infancy as there is not yet the money in the game to support it. Borislow has the financial wherewithal to do tours abroad, so perhaps he can be a trailblazer in that arena.
Another question for WPS is, will they count the exhibitions against magicJack as part of the regular season standings, since they will be a common opponent for all five teams? There is precedent for such an approach. Veracruz of Mexico came to the U.S. in 1973 and played each of the nine North American Soccer League teams, with the results counting in each team’s regular season record.
Soccer 365 talked to Borislow a day after the agreement with WPS was announced. He said that he is waiting on final contract approval with American and international players, so he was not ready to announce individual signings. He described the settlement with WPS as; “Good for everybody, from my daughter to Abby [Wambach] to the WPS.” After the bad blood between himself and WPS, he was surprisingly upbeat about his future dealings with WPS, saying that: “The greatest healer for many things is ‘time.’” When asked how he saw the women’s game over the next five years, Borislow was less optimistic and focused on the U.S. National Team’s anticipated time preparing for and playing in the 2012 London Olympics, saying that: “I am very concerned. We will be losing the strongest, toughest, hard-working players on the WNT over a short period of time. These leaders will be difficult to replace and maybe impossible. A good women's captain or leader is something to be treasured. Girls and women are just so much nicer than guys and more political. When you find one, they are generally much better than [the] other sex. This sport evolves a lot around the success or our National team. Abby [Wambaugh], Christie [Rampone], Shannon [Boxx] and Hope [Solo] make a great group of leaders….Pia has done a great job with them.”
So Borislow’s Twitters followers can rejoice while WPS officials continue to grind their teeth; “magicDan" is back for 2012.
LA Vikings Play Independent Schedule During The Off Season--The idea of an independent professional team playing exhibitions now has a proponent on the East and the West Coasts. The Los Angeles Vikings, based in suburban Fullerton, are doing a similar approach. After completing their 2011 WPSL season, they created a solid offseason roster, including Western New York Flash 2011 WPS Champions Ali Riley, Brittany Bock and Beverly Goebel; 2011 championship runner-up Philadelphia Independence players Tina DiMartino, Leigh Ann Robinson, and Jen Buczkowski; 2011 WPS rookie of the year Christen Press; and two Americans who star for foreign national teams: Italian Women’s National Team goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli, and defender Marlene Sandoval of Mexico. The Vikings were able to field such a formidable team since WPS players are free agents during the off season. The Vikngs will play in the WPSL in 2012 and are targeting a move into WPS in 2013. After losing to the US National Team by a narrow 1-0 score in a practice game last month, the Vikings then lost two practice matches against Canada over the past several weeks. Other scheduled games this month against Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico fell through for logistic reasons. The Vikings are striving to be ready to join WPS in 2013 if the league is able to add teams on the west coast again. LA Vikings President and Head Coach Robert Kleinberger was optimistic about the future, saying: “There are a lot of people in Southern California that are legitimately interested in having a team out here. The fan base is here.”
CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament Update
The semifinalists are set as Canada and Costa Rica advance from Group A along with the United States and Mexico from Group B. The two knock-out games on Friday, January 27 are vital, as the winners will claim the two London Olympic Games berths for the region. The final round of games on Monday and Tuesday of this week will determine each group's winner and runner-up, to determine Friday’s schedule.
On Sunday, January 22, in Group B, second round games saw the United States defeat Guatemala 13-0 and Mexico blast the Dominican Republic7-0. The U.S. had a second half substitute score five goals for the second consecutive game. Vancouver native Sydney Leroux scored five goals while Abby Wambach scored twice. Wambach now has 129 career goals, one behind Kristine Lilly to take over second place all time in U.S. women’s scoring, behind Mia Hamm. Single tallies came from Lauren Cheney, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez, who had five on Friday night versus the Dominican Republic.
For Mexico, Anisa Guajardo scored a hat trick while Jennifer Ruiz had two. Marilyn Diaz and Rosario Saucedo scored single tallies. Forward Renae Cuellar, who played in the first match against Guatemala, had to return to her university side, the University of Arizona, who federation officials said was told that she would not graduate if she didn’t return to school immediately. Since the University of Arizona Women’s Team finished last season with 1 win, 16 losses and 2 ties, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a soccer-related decision, but why were these academic issues not sorted out ahead of time?
On Saturday, January 21, in the second round of Group A matches, Costa Rica and Canada both booked their semifinal tickets with 2-0 wins, over Haiti and Cuba respectively. Western New York Flash forward Christine Sinclair scored her fifth goal in two tournament games with an early tally from the penalty spot in the 17th minute after midfielder Kaylyn Kyle was fouled in the box. Fellow forward Melissa Tancredi scored the second in the 24th minute. Former Washington Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod recorded the clean sheet. The game attracted 12, 417 fans at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, the largest crowd ever to see the full Women’s National Team in the country. (The U-19 side attracted almost 50,000 in Edmonton for the FIFA U-19 World Cup in 2022). Costa Rica moved past Haiti from two second-half goals from Wendy Acosta.
On the tournament’s opening day on Thursday, January 19, Costa Rica defeated Cuba 2-0 on goals by Saudy Rosales (11th minute) and Wendy Acosta (55th minute). In the nightcap, Canada played fluent, attacking soccer and came away with a 6-0 win over a gallant Haiti. Christine Sinclair scored four goals, (25th, 44th. 55th, 85th minutes) with her final goal coming from the penalty spot, after midfielder Kelly Parker was fouled in the penalty area. Christina Julien (7th minute) and Kelly Parker (90th minute) scored the other two Canadian goals. Sky Blue FC’s new signing for 2012, Karina LeBlanc, had the shutout for the Maple Leafs. Sinclair’s four goal haul leaves here with 124 international goals (fifth all-time in women’s soccer) and was her tenth international hat-trick and fourth sombrero (four goals).
Haiti’s starting goalkeeper Ednie Limage was very impressive in goal. Limage, who plays collegiately in Canada at the University of Moncton in New Brunswick, had to be stretchered off late in the game after colliding with a defender when collecting a high ball.
Group B opened on Friday, January 20 with the favorites, the United States and Mexico, winning easily against the Dominican Republic and Guatemala respectively.
The U.S. overwhelmed the Dominican Republic in a 14-0 win, breaking their all-time scoring record of 12-0, which they did twice during World Cup qualifying in 1991. The U.S. scored their first goal within the first minute through Abby Wambach, who scored a second after 19 minutes. Amy Rodriguez, a second half substitute, scored five times while Heather O’Reilly had a hat trick. Carli Lloyd, Rachel Buehler, Tobin Heath and Lauren Cheney had single tallies. The US outshot the Dominicans 49-3. The downside of the match is that starting defender Ali Krieger suffered torn anterior-cruciate and medial-collateral ligaments in her right knee and most likely will be out for six-to-eight months, missing the Summer Olympic Games.
In the first match of the evening, Mexico defeated Guatemala 5-0 behind three goals form Maribel Dominguez, who played with the Atlanta Beat of the WUSA. Dominguez, the all-time leading scorer for Mexico, now has 70 goals from 91 games. Marylin Diaz and Dinora Garza also scored for Mexico. Guatemala started the game with five teenagers and their oldest player was only 24.
Final U.S. National Team Roster
U.S. National Team Head Coach Pia Sundhage announced her final roster for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament on Monday, January 16. She had brought in 29 players to camp but could only bring twenty to the Vancouver event. One roster surprise was 21-year-old forward Sydney Leroux, who was the first pick in the recent 2012 WPS draft by the Atlanta Beat. She was the lone member going to the tournament who was not with last summer’s World Cup Silver Medalists.
Atlanta Beat led the way with five selections, followed by Western New York Flash with two, while Boston Breakers and Sky Blue had one each. Philadelphia Independence had no players selected for Vancouver. Ali Krieger plays in Germany with FFC Frankfurt while half of the roster are currently “out of contract” with WPS teams.
Nine teams have already qualified for the 12-team Olympic Football Tournament: host Great Britain; Japan and North Korea from Asia; Cameroon and South Africa from Africa; Brazil and Colombia from South America; and Sweden and France from Europe. Oceania and CONCACAF have yet to decide on their entrants.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart (out of contract), Hope Solo (out of contract)
DEFENDERS (7): Rachel Buehler (Atlanta Beat), Ali Krieger (FFC Frankfurt), Amy LePeilbet (Atlanta Beat), Heather Mitts (out of contract), Kelley O’Hara (Atlanta Beat), Christie Rampone (out of contract), Becky Sauerbrunn (Sky Blue FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (out of contract), Tobin Heath (out of contract), Lori Lindsey (Western New York Flash), Carli Lloyd (Atlanta Beat), Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (out of contract), Amy Rodriguez (out of contract)
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (out of contract), Sydney Leroux (Atlanta beat), Alex Morgan (Western New York Flash), Abby Wambach (out of contract)
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