August 3, 2007
It appears that the rumored San Jose franchise that was going to be a part of the re-launch of the WUSA isn't going to happen.
And that is leading Women's Soccer Initiative, Inc. to move to Plan B for it's 8th and final franchise.
The Rochester Rhinos are kicking the tires and apparently are in the running with groups from Kansas City and Atlanta. If it truly down to these three markets and Kansas City doesn't get the final franchise, it will mean that two of the four cities participating in this weekend's W-League playoffs at PAETEC Park will be in the new women's pro league in 2008.
The Washington Freedom, Abby Wambach's previous club, is the #1 seed for this weekend's playoffs and they have already been awarded a franchise in the new league.
The big question for the Rhinos ownership is can they make pro women's soccer work and if they think that they can, how do they come up with the money to make it happen?
The feasability of the team is being linked heavily to the potential of having Abby Wambach as the star of the team. However, the Washington Freedom and the LA franchise would both be draws for the US Women's National Team star. Washington is her former club and LA is where she currently lives as the USWNT is based out of the Home Depot Center in suburban LA. And you have to believe that the five other franchises in the league would all love to have Wambach on her team, so it's unlikely that the league would guarantee Wambach to any team.
In the end, the decision has to be made based on whether they think they can make money running a women's pro team that is anchored by 2 to 3 USWNT stars, along with any foreign stars that they could attract. For instance, could they survive with Hope Solo in net, Natasha Kai up top, and 2 or 3 foreign stars sprinkled in for good measure?
If the answer to that question is no, then I don't see the risk being worth it.
Personally, I think they could make it work if they have the right financing and they have a solid marketing team that is well financed. But, those things have been lacking of late with the Rhinos, so I don't know if you could expect that to be available to a new women's team.
Now if they could attract some new owner/operators for the team that bring in some of their own sponsors to make things work.............
W-League Championship weekend kicks off tonight at 5:30pm
The Seattle Sounders and Atlanta Silverbacks will face off in the first W-League Semifinal at 5:30 and the Rhinos will take on the #1 seed Washington Freedom, featuring Rochester native Casey Zimny, at 8pm at PAETEC Park.
This weekend's action will feature eight players with full national team caps to their credit, including Christie Welsh who has scored 20 goals in her US Women's National Team career. There will also be eight other players that have represented their country on the youth level, including Zminy who has seen action with the US U-21 team.
On paper, it would appear that it would be a major upset if the Freedom were to lose this weekend. Washington was the #2 seed entering the playoffs with a 12-1-1 regular season record. But, they were able to knock off the #1 seed Ottawa with Ottawa hosting the Eastern Conference Championship.
Seattle will rely on Michelle French to control the midfield and leading scorer Lyndsey Patterson up top. Atlanta will have the services of All-W-League goalkeeper Melanie Wilson to try and put the breaks on the Sounders attack and will feature All-Central conference midfielder Tara Minnax and the potent forward duo of Christine Latham, who was also an All-Conference selection, and Sarah Steinmann.
In the second semifinal, the Rhinos will have their hands full with a Freedom squad that features dangerous and experienced players up and down the roster. Up top, the Freedom have Welsh and Ali Andrzejeski who's 13 regular season goals was second in the W-League. The Freedom also have Kele Golebiowski up top. Golebiowski is a former Australian national team player who was a member of the 2003 WUSA Championship Washington Freedom.
In the midfield, Washington is led by another member of that 2003 Freedom squad in Lori Lindsey. Lindsey's 8 assists in the regular season was also 2nd in the W-League.
And Zimny is the third member of this year's Freedom team that was also on the 2003 championship team.
The Rhinos are led by leading scorer and team MVP Gretchen Miller up top, Rachel Kruze and Jacquie Lacek in the midfield, ALex Sahlen and Courtney MacVie on defense, and Joy McKenzie in goal.
Other news and notes:
- Steven Goff at the Washington Post sits down with Freddy Adu for a Q&A as he gets ready for his European adventure. And what's up with Freddy traveling to Portugal without his boots? Shouldn't a pro soccer player never leave home without his cleats?
- The Houston Chronicle and Chicago Tribune both have stories about how the early returns on Blanco in Chicago are nothing but positive. It's too bad Dave Sarachan didn't get a chance to coach this roster.
- There are all sort of "Will he or won't he" articles ahead of the LA-Toronto game on Sunday. The Toronto Star focuses on the home team, The Toronto Sun focuses on how Becks differs from his peers in MLS, Fox Soccer's Jamie Trecker talks about how the ankle injury is threatening the Beckham hype, Michael Lewis has his latest "Surviving Beckham" entry, and Bloomberg.com talks about how the Beckham allure could help MLS attract two new investors.
I can't wait to see what happens once Beckham can actually play. The only question then is if the wait is too long, will anyone be around to cover it?
- The California Victory visit the Carolina RailHawks in tonight's Fox Soccer Channel USL Game of the Week. The RailHawks are guaranteeing a victory tonight. I wonder what California thinks of this promotion that will give every fan in attendance a free ticket to the US Open Cup Quarterfinal versus Richmond should the home team not win?
- Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Carla Overbeck will be taking part in the US Soccer Hall of Fame game between the Washington Freedom and Connecticut of the WPSL. The short ride to Oneonta might be worth it to see these three USWNT legends lace up the boots one more time.
- The Colorado Rapids have replaced Roberto Brown with Daniel Osorno, formerly of Atlas in Mexico. It will be interesting to see if this move works out for the Rapids that have struggled mightily this season.
- Manchester United has signed a 9 year old based off of a YouTube video. I wonder if SI will have this as one of their signs of the apocolypse soon?
- MLS Underground is saying that US U-20 defender Tony Beltran is on trial with the German 2nd Division team in K-Town. Let the debate about whether good young American players moving abroad is good for US soccer continue...........
- Apparently there is a little news about a possible new stadium for the Revs. It's amazing to me that a couple of the best run teams on the field in MLS, New England and DC United, still don't have solid plans for their own stadiums.
- If you want a taste of the good old days, may I suggest heading out to Grace & Truth Sports Park in Greece at 6:30pm tonight to see Doug Miller and the Midtimers take on Mike Kirmse and the Webster Americans in an RDSL Over-30 Premier League game.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.