Featured / WPS

Update: No Riley-led team in Elite Division, Pro Supergroup, Sounders Solo

Philadelphia Independence head coach Paul Riley has decided that he will not field a New York Fury team in the new WPSL Elite Division.

Riley told Big Apple Soccer via email, “Decided not to put NY Fury into Elite part of WPSL. Not enough time to get housing, facilities etc all sorted out.”

Riley is director of football for the Fury, which already has two WPSL teams, when he is not coaching the Independence.

He continued, “Don’t want to bring the Philadelphia experience to NY Fury and then it doesn’t live up to expectations. It takes considerable preparation to do things right and I don’t think there is adequate time to ensure the players get total professionalism from A to Z.”

Riley had said last Friday that he had commitments from former Independence players Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Cheny, Nicole Barnhart and Tina DiMartino to play on a Fury Elite Division team and he seemed confident that he could fill the squad with other Fury players as well as players from Sky Blue FC. Thus, it appears other considerations were at issue. As Jeff Kassouf reports, “Riley said he is not convinced about how beneficial the WPSL Elite League will be, at least not with this little information and this quick of a turnaround. He doesn’t expect much parity in the league and he said top players need more than three-times per week nighttime training sessions, as some WPSL Elite League teams might offer.”

While Riley will not be taking a team into the Elite Division, two teams announced on Wednesday that they will be joining the league. ASA Chesapeake Charge and Aztec MA will join former WPS sides Western New York Flash and Boston Breakers, and WPSL sides Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana in the new league. This leaves two spots to be filled in the proposed eight-team roster.

The Aztecs have been in WPSL for seven years and served as the reserve team for the Boston Breakers when that club was in WPS. The Charge joined the league in 2010 and are run by the Arundel Soccer Association, a twenty-five-year-old organization with over 1500 players.

Women’s Professional Supergroup

The issue of inadequate training time for keeping former WPS players at the peak of fitness, one of the stated purposes of the Elite Division, has given rise to a new Riley-led project, the Women’s Professional Supergroup training program. The program will be open to 28 WPS players on a first-come, first-served basis and will consist of seven to eight days of training, led by Riley and the coaching staff of the Philadelphia Independence, once a month from March through November.

“I always felt the WPS season was too short and if we are to continue to develop the best players in the world we need a nine month training environment plus WPS games,” Riley explained. “My goal eventually is to get enough sponsors that we can help players with travel and food costs. Right now everything is complimentary but travel and food.”

Training sessions will begin at United Sports in Downingtown, the facility used by the Independence, with plans to rotate sessions around the country.

Riley said, “The response from the players has been fantastic and we hope it will create a higher caliber ‘bridge-fix’ for the superstars of WPS before the hopeful return of the league in 2013.”

The key word would seem to be “superstars.” Many women’s professional players must work other jobs to augment the money they earn from playing soccer. While it may be Riley’s goal to secure sponsors to help with travel and food costs, until such help is actually forthcoming these costs represent a major obstacle for many players. It really is a select group of players who, if they do not have to work regular jobs (such as as national team players who receive income from US Soccer), will have the resources to be able to afford to leave jobs if they must work them in order to train for seven or eight days a month, not to mention cover the expense of traveling to various training facilities around the country.

W-League grabs some headlines

For some superstar players, the option remains to sign with other teams, as happened on Tuesday when it was announced that US internationals Hope Solo and Sydney Leroux had signed with the Seattle Sounders Women team, which plays in the USL’s W-League. Solo is from Richmond, Washington and played college soccer for the University of Washington, so the signing represents something of a homecoming for her. Leroux also has Cascadian roots, being born in Vancouver, where she made her debut with the Whitecaps Women in 2005, scoring 11 goals in 11 appearances for the team in 2011 before being selected by Atlanta Beat in the 2012 WPS Draft. On one hand, with the W-League running on a three month schedule from May through July, the signing provides both players an opportunity to stay sharp outside of USWNT training camps ahead of the Olympics in July. On the other hand, with USWNT training camps and the Olympics, the question is just how often will either player actually play for the Sounders in 2012?

According to a report in the Seattle Times, Sounders general manager Amy Carnell said the players will be available for the Sounders as their training with the USWNT team permits. “Carnell said she expected they would play in three exhibition matches and at least three of the Sounders’ seven W-League home games.” Who the exhibition match opponents might be is unknown.

One thing that bears mentioning is that with the signing, Solo, who was a member of the magicJack team in 2011, has ensured that several thousand miles now stand in between herself and any association with magicJack owner Dan Borislow. Soon after the now apparently broken settlement between Borislow and WPS was announced in January, Borislow said that Solo, as well as Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe, would continue to play with magicJack. Solo soon tweeted in response, “@WPSmagicJack I have made no such commitments.”

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