Archive for February, 2012

Atta’Girl Maura Gladys: Taking A Bite Of The Big Apple

TSG congratulates the Marta of women’s writing (our very own) Maura Gladys on taking a role at MLS in NY.

US Women’s Soccer & Where The Narrative Should Lie….

Neil Blackmon turns last week’s narrative from the failed WPS to the USWNT

Quite a past week for women’s soccer in this country.

The morning after one of the most dominating qualifying performances, for any international tournament, in the history of the sport, the already-on-life-support WPS cancels the 2012 season.

The final decision on the 2012 season was made by the WPS governing board, but not really.

Dan Borislow’s civil lawsuit seeking an injunction against the WPS for its (Borislow’s words) “threatened action to immediately terminate his Florida franchise at the conclusion of the 2011 season” was both the impetuts and the death knell.

From a legal perspective, the costs of that litigation to this point alone were steep for a league already in financial dire straits—but the prospect of continued litigation pushed things over the top, according to league officials. As such, while the US Women’s National Team was putting on a clinic of hurricane-like dominance in Canada, one that began to answer many of the post-World Cup Final “Questions” about the sustainability of USWNT dominance; the WPS, facing more hearings in court, was quietly meeting to drop the hammer on the WPS 2012 campaign.

Without being too legally technical—the ruling by a Florida judge appears to follow the letter of the law: the manner in which the WPS took action against Borislow was, in fact, not compliant with its own bylaws and mediation procedures.

Borislow was (is), by all accounts a dreadful owner.

If you saw the understaffed and ill-equipped training facilities his MagicJack side trained on in Palm Beach County, or the stadium they played in–as I’ve  witnessed–you could understand why.

But it was more than that.

The WPS sets floor requirements for operations by each of its franchises within the league bylaws. According to league officials and the respondent complaint in the civil lawsuit, Borislow’s club was not up to floor requirements in several areas: player treatment (training, medical bills and media access), payroll deadlines, facility guidelines and owner-team communication.

This is all dreadful stuff—especially given Borislow’s background in horse racing— it appears he treated his franchise, and his players, like they were race animals. Then again, given his lengthy disputes with the IRS—this isn’t necessarily someone who has a reputation for playing by the rules or respecting institutions.

The problem for the WPS was its response to these concerns.

Contractually, it was a violation of its mandated mediation guidelines to take or even feign preemptive legal action to terminate the franchise. Mediation must come first, and in failing to address these concerns according to its own bylaws, the league violated its contractual obligations to Borislow. The problem, of course, is the costs of the litigation that ensued because of the WPS breach forced the governing body’s hand—so while in the view of an outside observer it would appear Borislow committed the wrong and should be the villain in the story—the WPS was forced to cancel the 2012 season in order to keep fighting in court.

The players become victims of the league’s trust as well. The league is tentatively scheduled to begin play again in 2013—but no one paying attention should be holding their breath. We’ve heard for well over a decade now that a women’s professional league would finally latch on, have continuous operations and succeed.  It simply hasn’t happened.

U-20 members in 2008...last week, the talk should have been about the maturation of these two (Leroux, Morgan)

What’s worse? The collapse of the league has overshadowed a more worthwhile discussion–one on the performance of this Olympic Qualifying version of the USWNT and what that dominating performance says about the state of the women’s game in this country. This isn’t to say the success of a professional league stateside and the state of the women’s game in American aren’t connected—to suggest that would be naïve.

It is that the success of the women’s national team has and should, in the near future, continue to occur regardless of whether a professional league is ultimately successful.

The state, and culture, of the women’s game in America is strong, professional league or no—and views to the contrary are placing too many eggs in one basket. In fact, I’d argue they are making a causal link between US Women’s National team success and pro league success that simply shouldn’t exist: it should never be, and is unfair to make it be, the burden of the women on the USWNT to “save” the professional league in this country.

WPS or no—is the state of women’s soccer in America still strong? In my view, that discussion brings us back to the central questions that lingered after the American loss to Japan in Frankfurt last summer. In the aftermath of that loss, there were a number of critics who suggested that the US Women’s National team, and the US Women’s program in general, had a great deal of work to do if they were to retain their place among the world’s elite. These folks made (and make) a couple of central arguments.

First, they suggest that the American “style” of play is too reliant on athleticism and physicality to maintain its competitive excellence. Other countries play more technical, attractive football and eventually their infrastructure will catch up. Second, they suggest that without a sustainable professional league stateside, the Americans can’t slow the closing of the gap.

Granted, it was just a qualifying tournament—but thirty eight goals to zero later, it is safe to say the rumors of the death of US Women’s soccer have been greatly exaggerated. And its apple pie American fitting that an old Mark Twain one liner best sums up the state of at the very least, the national team, after completing what was perhaps the most dominant qualifying performance for an international tournament in the history of their sport.

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The Weekend: Your Live Commentary

The Super Bowl weekend gets off to a flying start with….Wigan vs. Everton.

Enjoy the rest of the matches….especially the Serie A ones:

Rodallega is still at Wigan and Timmy'll have to make a few saves on him early Saturday...

Serie A: Oh How We’ve Missed You!

Editor’s Note: This piece filed last week by Eric Giardini. The editors at TSG idiotically missed it floating in inbox ether…

Pirlo, the LL Cool J of Serie A...Reader's choice: "Don't Call It Comeback" or "Doing it and doing it and doing it...well."

If there is any weekend to pick-up your Serie A match watching, this is the one.

Four reasons:

Roma (vs.)

Inter

Milan (vs.)

Napoli

If it had been Lazio vs. Juventus or Juventues vs. Udinese–one set of pinstripers in first, another in third, didn’t see that coming–then it would have been the six of the top seven in action versus one another.

Need a primer for the weekend? Let’s review.

More like thumbs down...for Udinese...

Last week’s matches saw the Italian league reach its halfway point. That is, for all clubs but Roma and Catania which have 25 minutes remaining in their match from January 14 when it was called in the 65th minute due to a flooded, unplayable field. After 19 rounds, the “Winter Champion” is Juventus who holds a slim one-point lead over defending champions AC Milan at the top of the table. While not a direct indicator of who will lift the trophy in May, each of the past seven leaders at the midway point has gone on to win the league.

However, this season’s race isn’t just about the two most successful clubs in Italy battling down to the wire. Surprising Udinese sits in the final Champions League spot – only three points back from Juventus. Udinese, whose manager Francesco Guidolin’s stated goal prior to the season was to avoid relegation after losing key man Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, has the Fruili-based club in position to qualify for the Champions League for the second consecutive year. This is in large part due to the prolific goal scoring of Antonio Di Natale. Di Natale is in prime position to not only win his third straight Capocannoniere for being the league’s leading scorer, but he must surely be in the back of Azzurri manager Ceseare Prandelli’s mind for EURO 2012.

Coaching carousel

The coaching carousel that occurs every season in Italy is as inevitable as the changing of the seasons. This season has been no different in that 9 of 20 clubs in Serie A have under gone a coaching change. Expect a few more before the season’s over.

  • Inter- Gian Piero Gasperini: Out; Claudio Ranieri: In
  • Bologna- Pierpaolo Bisoli: Out; Stefano Pioli: In
  • Cesena- Marco Giampaolo: Out; Daniele Arrigoni: In
  • Fiorentina- Siniša Mihajlović: Out; Delio Rossi: In
  • Cagliari- Massimo Ficcadenti: Out; Davide Ballardini: In
  • Lecce- Eusebio Di Francesco: Out; Serse Cosmi: In
  • Palermo- Devis Mangia: Out; Bortolo Mutti: In
  • Genoa- Alberto Malesani: Out; Pasquale Marino: In
  • Parma- Franco Colomba: Out; Roberto Donadoni: In

Surprises, Positive and Negative

There have been two big surprises in the first half of the season, with two clubs in particular shining through the first 19 matches. As mentioned earlier, Udinese has been punching a bit above their weight in their current third place standing. A big reason for their success has been their unbeaten record at home (9-1-0), joining table-toppers Juventus as the only club to remain unbeaten at home.

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Wednesday: Terry Tweets & Philly Polls

Just a quick round-up this morning:

Terry will go to the Euros...

• Shambolic! RT @RobHarrisUK BREAKING: England captain Terry not to stand trial on charge of racially abusing opponent until after Euro 2012.

The skinny: John Terry’s legal trial regarding his alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand postponed to the week of July 9th….or after Euros 2012. Wow. What to feel about your country’s legal system if you’re English?

Also, with England’s FA act independent of court ruling or does this give them an out.

• Sebu Le Toux had a statistical hand in just under 50% of the Union’s goals in 2010. What’s the move for the Union here?

The skinny: While the undercurrent making the rounds in the media is that Sebu Le Toux was a distraction for the Union. Is that just a smokescreen for a spat with Coach Piotr Nowak or does it smack of deeper troubles off the Walt Whitman?

Le Toux controlled the messaging on Wednesday morning suggesting that he was at worse a model Union player. Big things for management to answer for here. And we ask…..

Le Toux, blindsided...

• Find it exceedingly odd neither @AbbyWambach or @hopesolo commented on WPS. Being a sport’s ambassador means commenting in good *& bad times

The skinny: Abby Wambach joined Twitter during the height of the USWNT World Cup theatrics. She thanked her fans for showering her with applause, goaded on all to support the team and then turned around and pushed the WPS.

She is weirdly devoid of any public statement now 48 hours after the WPS announcement as is hope Solo who danced her way into nearly 20 million living rooms through ABC after the tourney.

Wambach is the current spokeswoman for women’s soccer in the US. Speak up please.

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