FC Gold Pride folds, WPS now regional league

i-9b903fab84ab4a5363af217d14f87fe6-20080117_wps_medium.jpgThat means there is no chance of resurrecting the Sol in Southern California.

More details after the AP story:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The defending champion FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer have folded after two years of operation.

The Bay Area team says it is disbanding because of slow ticket sales and costly cross-country travel. Its players become free agents Wednesday.

WPS chief executive Anne-Marie Eileraas says it is “disappointing” the club “did not find the level of support it aimed for in its market.”

The league will have six teams next season in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia,
Washington and Western New York. A Chicago franchise is seeking investors and hopes to join the league for 2011. The deadline is Dec. 15.

A group of investors I had heard second hand were being headed up by former Sol Coach Abner Rogers – he didn’t return a call today – and trying to relocate FC Gold Pride to Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton were apparently unsuccessful in putting a deal together.

That’s not surprising given the state of the financial market, although the strategy was one way of avoiding an expansion fee, I suppose.

But it means WPS is little more than a 21st century version of the old six-team NHL – a Northeast league, with the exception of Atlanta.

“It doesn’t mean we’re abandoning that market,” said WPS spokesman Rob Penner of Southern California.

But it also means that for logistical reasons the Sol won’t return unless there’s at least one other West Coast team because of the traveling involved.

And don’t hold your breath for that to happen.

Abner called. He’s due to talk with the investors who were attempting to bring the Gold Pride/Sol to the OC later this week.

However, it doesn’t look good after the folding of the Gold Pride.

The WPS has significantly scaled back operations. It’s giving all the signs of an organization on life support complete with disconnected telephone lines.

The Sol isn’t a priority. Survival is.

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Hopes fade for WPS expansion team in Southern California in 2011

i-9b903fab84ab4a5363af217d14f87fe6-20080117_wps_medium.jpgWhen the Los Angeles Sol folded in January, Women’s Professional Soccer officials immediately voiced hope a new team would play in the region in 2011.

But despite discussions with “multiple groups” the league has held this year, no firm financial commitment has been forthcoming.

The most recent discussions have been with an unnamed group to locate a team in Orange County, – Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium is said to be a potential home ground for any franchise – but time is running out.

And the WPS has established a self-imposed deadline of getting new ownership in place within the next month or abandoning the effort until the following year.

“We should know in the next month whether that timing is feasible, and if it doesn’t work out, we will target 2012,” said league spokesman Robert Penner. “We have not completely shut the door yet on 2011 as we could still finish the season and have an expansion draft in October if the diligence process moved quickly.

“In summary, we’re giving it one more month until we shift focus to 2012 expansion.”

Still, that doesn’t sound particularly optimistic.

If discussions haven’t gone anywhere for the last seven or eight months, there’s little reason to believe things are likely to change significantly over the next 30 days and that professional women’s soccer will return to the area next year.

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WPS’ Athletica shuts down, Torrance’s Boxx on second team to fold in consecutive seasons

i-9b903fab84ab4a5363af217d14f87fe6-20080117_wps_medium.jpgIs USWNT holding midfielder Shannon Boxx the kiss of death for WPS teams?

Women’s Professional Soccer announced today that St. Louis Athetica is shutting down immediately after losing its major financial backer, following in the footsteps of the LA Sol, which folded at the end of last season for the same reason.

Boxx (as well as Japanese midfielder Aya Miyama and Tina DiMartino) ended up at Athletica in the Sol dispersal draft; this time around she’ll become a free agent along with her now ex-teammates.

“It’s incredibly difficult to lose a team in mid-season like this,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “We looked at a few options as a league together with our Board and U.S. Soccer, but the operational hurdles and finances just didn’t work out. In the face of a severe funding gap in St. Louis, the local ownership group is shutting down the team at this point.”

Two WPS teams down, seven to go?

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Thursday Kicks: WPS Announces Home Openers & More

Except for the Sol and expansion Atlanta Beat, that is.

Women’s Professional Soccer play begins April 10, two weeks later than the start of the inaugural season in hopes of warmer weather and to avoid playing on the Easter weekend.

The opening game on Fox Soccer Channel’s WPS Sunday package will start at 3 p.m. April 11 with the 2009 WPS Champion Sky Blue FC (NJ/NY) hosting the Chicago Red Stars.

Info on the Sol home opener will be announced “soon,” league officials said; the full WPS schedule will be released in February.


*England’s Everton has said the loan deal for the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan is all but done. And I don’t care what Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena says about no permanent transfer for Donovan away from the club: if Donovan is a massive success with Everton – or at the World Cup – he’s gone. And probably will have more negotiating power to boot because of his improved MLS contract.

Added LD on Facebook today:

Long day yesterday but very exciting! I’m so grateful that I get to choose the direction of my career and, more importantly, my life. Thanks to all of you for supporting me and I’m looking forward to a great year next year…how many players get the chance to play for 3 incredible teams in the same year?!?

*Jesse Marsch’s return to Chivas USA may depend on whether he’s hired as coach of the Chicago Fire.

*And could Ramon Morales head to Chivas USA from the mother ship?

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Sol’s Marta World Player of the Year Candidate


FIFA announced the finalists earlier today.

Three of the five women finalists play in MLS – the others are Kelly Smith (Boston Breakers) and Cristiane (Chicago Red Stars).

From the WPS press release:

Cristiane, BRA/Chicago Red Stars – The only player in WPS to notch a hat trick this season, her incredible long-range strike against FC Gold Pride in mid-July was one of the goals of the year this season in WPS. Finished with seven goals, fourth-best in WPS.

Marta, BRA/Sol – Winner of the 2009 Michelle Akers Player of the Year Award as the league MVP, Marta notched 10 goals and 3 assists to lead the Los Angeles Sol to the WPS Regular Season title and a spot in the WPS Championship game.

Kelly Smith, ENG/Boston Breakers – Tallied six goals in just 15 games in WPS this year to lead the Boston Breakers early charge to start the season as one of the best teams in WPS and winning WPS Player of the Month honors for April. Finished among the top five in WPS in goals and was a consistent threat in the offensive third with her dangerous left foot.

The other two finalists come from 2009 European Champions, Germany: Inka Grings and Birgit Prinz. Both Marta and Prinz have won the award three times and each is looking to win for the record fourth-time. The winner will be announced at the FIFA World Player Gala scheduled for December 21 in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Sol Win WPS Player, Coach of the Year Awards

Not many surprises here.

The WPS awards were handed out Saturday night ahead of Sunday’s WPS All-Star game in St. Louis.

The six award winners:

*Golden Boot Award – Marta (Sol)
*Defender of the Year – Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers)
*Coach of the Year – Abner Rogers (Sol)
*Goalkeeper of the Year – Hope Solo (Saint Louis Athletica)
*Sportswoman of the Year – Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC)
* Player of the Year Award – Marta (Sol)


“Each player in the league has it as their goal to try for an award like this,” said Marta on being named WPS MVP. “It’s very special to be a pioneer in this league in the first season. It’s been a great year and I look forward to many good years to come.”

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WPS Championship Final

Sol 0 Sky Blue FC 1

A team that barely got into the playoffs has just beaten the dominant team of the regular season.

i-0beaa49b4a6f3e3430d45d5844788bc6-marta.jpgIt was that sort of day for the Sol and Marta (AP Photo).

The Sol never got their attack in sync today; frankly there was more urgency in the line outside the women’s restroom at half time.

FC Sky Blue outplayed them in virtually every facet of the game, especially with a defense marshaled by central defender Jen Buczkowski alongside player-coach Christie Rampone.

Torrance’s Shannon Boxx perhaps had the best Sol chance of the second half with a rasping 72nd minute shot that required a diving save from Sky Blue goalkeeper Jenni Branham.

Marta couldn’t even hit the target from a stoppage time free kick and the league’s highest-paid player surely should have done better than that.

Does this make Christie Rampone Coach of the Year, despite her short tenure? (Yes)
Was the straight red the deciding factor or the generally lethargic air around the Sol? (No and yes)

The Sol will literally leave this game with nothing; there are no medals for the losing team.

MVP was Sky Blue’s Heather O’Reilly

Attendance: 7,218.

More later

i-059fa5d1e36a8dcbf04daddc2ac3dad1-bluesskies.jpgIt was blue skies for Sky Blue FC after beating the Sol at Home Depot Center.


Here’s Sol Coach Abner Rogers on his team’s performance:

“They started it off very well, they got the upper hand, we gave them too much space. … Had we got a goal I think we would have gone on and won the game.”

Here’s Rogers on the straight red card in the first half:

“I didn’t feel it was a red card, it was a poor decision. … Stephanie Cox was a covering player, it wasn’t a last defender (call) and there wasn’t a blatant tackle. It was a clumsy tackle and it was a questionable yellow.”

Key stat: The shots were 9-1 in favor of Sky Blue FC in the first half and 7-3 in favor of the Sol in the second.

BTW, referee Kari Seitz said in a written response to questions after the game that Allison Falk’s red card had nothing to do with whether she intended to foul Natasha Kai or not. Instead she took into consideration the distance between the foul and the goal, the likelihood of Kai keeping the ball had she not been challenged, “the location and number of defenders” and the fact Kai was “denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.”

I’m not sure that clears much up.

Here’s Sky Blue player-coach Christie Rampone (sporting a 4-1 record at the helm after taking over July 29) on whether she wants to keep the job next season:

“I still want to play the game. I’m retiring as coach for now until I’m done playing.”

Here’s MVP Heather O’Reilly on the end to the season and the unexpected success of the team:

“It’s very surreal. I don’t think its sunk in. … The irony of the entire story was just incredible.”

Here’s Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc on the absence of Camille Abily:

“Camille is a fantastic player, she creates a lot. Obviously we miss her and I’d be lying if I told you we didn’t … It could have been the same result. it could have been better.”

Finally, here’s Rogers’ illuminating response on why the Sol lost:

“We lost the game because we didn’t score any goals – that’s the bottom line.”

Remember, you read it here first.

Psst: Wanna party with the WPS champions? Well, don’t tell anyone you read this here, but I’m told they will be celebrating at Hennessey’s on Pier Plaza in Hermosa Beach.

Updated: BTW, a Home Depot Center staff member I know really well showed me a pic he took from the camera on his cell phone of the blackboard in the Sky Blue locker room after the team had left (I should have had him e-mail it to me). It read: “Shit outta luck.”

Which pretty much summed up the the Sol’s day.

Updated: here’s a complete game story from the victor’s perspective.

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Half Time: WPS Championship

Sol 0 Sky Blue FC 1

It’s a well-deserved lead for the underdogs against a flat Sol. Coach Abner Rogers removed midfielder McCall Zerboni for defender Sharolta Nonen after the straight red, but the Sol will need to do more than that to come from behind. Which team had the most rest coming into this game anyway?

To call the Sol one-dimensional at this point would be an understatement. Sky Blue FC has had the better of the attacks and that seems strange to say against a team that was so dominant going forward in the regular season.

The consensus up here: the Sol badly miss midfielder and second leading goalscorer Camille Abily, who is back in Europe playing for France.

And remember, the team that scores first in WPS invariably wins.

BTW, I’ve been designated the pool reporter up here and will ask referee Kari Seitz what that extremely questionable red card was all about. I’ll try to phrase it tactfully. (Supposedly it was because Kai was denied a “goal scoring chance,” BTW).

Key stat: Sky Blue has nine shots on goal, the Sol just one.

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Saturday Soccer: WPS Championship Gameday

The Women’s Professional Soccer championship is on at 1 p.m. on Prime. Alternatively, wander over to Carson and catch the game for $20.

It’s a giggling global game for the Sol.

Game preview.

The Sky Blue perspective.

Saturday rerun: My column from earlier in the week.

It’s unusually muggy today in the South Bay.

I’ll blog from the game.

Sol XI: Karina LeBlanc, Stephanie Cox, Brittany Bock, Allison Falk, Manya Makoski, Aya Miyama, Aly Wagner, Shannon Boxx, McCall Zerboni, Marta, Han Duan.

Sky Blue FC: Jenni Branam, Keely Dowling, Jen Buczkowski, Christie Rampone, Meghan Schnur, Yael Averbuch, Francielle, Heather O’Reilly, Natasha Kai, Rosana.

Expect the Sol to come out fast.

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Tuesday’s Column: Sol Hope to Restore their Shine in WPS Finale

The WPS Championship game is Saturday at Home Depot Center.

It’s the subject of today’s column.

Call 877-4-SOL-TIX for more info.

BTW, Marta, midfielder McCall Zerboni and defenders Johanna Frisk and Sharolta Nonen will hold a clinic for several youth clubs and sign autographs for fans at the Puma store on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The Sol also tweeted this morning that several Sol players will be signing autographs beginning at 2 p.m. at El Segundo’s Whole Foods Market.

And here’s more from a Sky Blue FC perspective.

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