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Independence Matters

If you think the Union have a tough time breaking into the mind of the typical Philly sports fans, how tough a time do you think the Independence have? How tough a time do you think the Independence have breaking in to the mind of the typical Philly soccer fan? We introduce a roundup of news and notes about the Independence, the other expansion soccer team in Philadelphia. The one that went to the league championship in its first year. We’re calling it Independence Matters. Because they do.

On the USWNT

As we described in a post last week, the Independence roster features more than a few players who are important components of the US National Team. And when the USWNT won the Algarve Cup on Wednesday for an unprecedented eighth consecutive time, several of those players made important contributions, both in the final and on the road to victory.

New goalkeeper signing Nicole Barnhart played the full 90 every match for the US. Lori Lindsey was a strong off-the-bench player, appearing in every game except the final. Amy Rodriguez and new signing Megan Rapinoe played in every match except for the one against Finland. The US had already qualified for the final, and the team cruised to an dominant 4—0 win. In everymatch they played in, Rodriguez and Rapinoe proved decisive.

In the first match against Japan, Rodriguez scored the first goal of the campaign. Rapinoe scored the second in the 2–1 victory. Against Norway, Rodriguez assisted the first goal, Rapinoe the second in that 2–0 win. Against Iceland in the final, Rodriguez assisted the first goal. Iceland then scored two goals in two minutes to take the lead. In first half stoppage time, Rapinoe assisted the equalizer. The US went on to win the match 4–2.

When the US plays in the Women’s World Cup in June, expect Independence players to play leading roles in the USWNT’s campaign for victory. If Union players were currently making a similar impact on the USMNT, we would all be freaking out.

Coach Paul Riley named Philly Soccer News’ Person of the Year

In the Philly Soccer Page 2010 Awards, we named Paul Riley the Coach of the Year. It was an easy choice—Riley had early been named Coach of the Year by WPS. This week, Riley was further honored as the Philly Soccer News Person of the Year.

The Charlotte Moran Award, named after the former Executive Director of Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer, honors the person who has done the most to promote soccer within the Philadelphia area over the past year. Last year’s winner was Union CEO Nick Sackiewicz.

The press release announcing the award states that Riley was chosen “for his success with the Independence as an expansion franchise last season, and his ability to interact with the fans and the media.” The team’s success in their first year in WPS is undeniable. Fighting back from a late season slump in form, the Independence recorded a dramatic win against Washington Freedom,(now known as magicTalk SC—sigh) to advance to the semifinals where they defeated Boston, something they had not been able to do in the regular season. The two extra time wins, a transcontinental flight and a final on less than two days rest proved too much as FC Gold Pride easily won the championship. Still, the season was an undeniable success.

Colonial Hyundai sponsors the Independence. (Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Independence)

Riley and the Independence do a terrific job with youth soccer in the Philadelphia area, as evidenced by their participation in the recent 2011 Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s (EPYS) 25th Annual Coaches Workshop and Exhibit Show at United Sports in Downingtown. Not only does the organization recognize the importance of participating in such events, everyone in the organization seems to really enjoy participating. As far as interacting with the media goes, just listen to the Philly Soccer Show podcast KYW and the PSP did with Riley in October of 2010 to get a sense of just how smart and funny a guy Riley is.

The hard work of finding local sponsors

In a news roundup last week, the PSP linked to an article in the Philadelphia Business Journal in which Independence owner David Halstead talked about the lack of support for women’s sports from local companies who eagerly support men’s professional sports. The same could be said for getting local soccer fans to turn out for Independence matches who would otherwise eagerly attend Union matches. While I watched just about every Independence match that was broadcast last year, for example, I never once bought a ticket and attended a game, much to my regret.

Despite the difficulties, the Independence has enjoyed considerable success in finding local sponsors for the team in 2011. Joining returning shirt sponsor Premier Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine this year are a number of local and regional companies, including Sheraton Great Valley Hotel, ANRO Print and Digital Solutions, Staybridge Suites, Nightmare Graphics, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Parisi Speed School, US Coachways, MedCo Sports Medicine, and Colonial Hyundai.

All of these companies ought to be applauded for supporting women’s professional soccer in Philadelphia. And if you can thank any of them by throwing a little business their way, that would be a good thing too.

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