Chaos abounds, for both the NWSL and me

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, September 13, 2021

Sorry I was absent last week, even though NWSL drama wasn’t. I’m in the process of a lot of life-changing stuff right now. I sold my house (while I was in Tokyo, which was interesting) and Brian and I moved in (Together!) to a rental house for two months while our condo is renovated. Goodbye popcorn ceilings! But it’s been quite an adventure consolidating two households, figuring out what we’re gonna need for two months and throwing the rest in storage. Brian has the patience of a saint.

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Turns out, however, that while I was dealing with my own chaos the NWSL was dealing with some chaos of its own.

A recap:

Washington Spirit coach Richie Burke was re-assigned to the team’s front office, citing health concerns, then suspended shortly thereafter while an investigation is conducted into player abuse. Molly Hensley-Clancy broke the story in the Washington Post.

The Spirit hired former D.C. United coach Ben Olsen as president, a move that left some around NWSL scratching their heads because Olsen has no connection to women’s soccer. Lindsay Barenz leaves the team. And then there’s the weird harassment claim against owner Y. Michele Kang. Meg Linehan and Steph Yang detail the timeline here for The Athletic.

And that doesn’t even include the NWSL’s COVID-19 outbreak: First the game against the Portland Thorns was postposed after four players tested positive. Then the team was required to forfeit this weekend’s game against OL Reign for breaking virus protocols.

The Thorns were left wondering where their 3 points were. I mean, when Christine Sinclair speaks out, there’s an issue.

But wait, there’s more! Racing Louisville fired coach Christy Holly for “cause.” Hmmmmmm.

Then there was the debacle with the NWSL championship game time. OK, I get it, TV means everything. And on a personal level I’m happy to have it here in Portland! But still. 9 a.m. Yikes.

Several players voiced their disappointment, including Jess McDonald.

Even Laura Harvey complained on Twitter, writing: “9am kick off!!! Please please please change that. It’s not ok for any team! Showcase our amazing league and athletes the way they deserve.”

There was also the Olivia Moultrie lawsuit, the Abby Dahlkemper trade or loan or whatever that was. The in-season announcement that Freya Coombe was going to Angel City. Then jumping the gun on Christen Press’ signing before it was actually signed.

It just feels like this season has been a series of big missteps for the NWSL.

Maybe it’s growing pains. Maybe it’s a result of the media taking a harder look — and rightfully so — at the league in year nine.

But it seems like there were enough red flags with both Burke and Holly that perhaps hiring them could have been considered a bit more.

And the NWSL could have asked whether a 9 a.m. start time was in the players’ best interests.


Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone asks the men’s and women’s national teams to agree to equalize FIFA prize money. From my AP colleague Ron Blum.

England coach Sarina Wiegman is against holding the World Cup every two years. Really, this is a fantastically bad idea.

Jill Ellis has been appointed by FIFA to help guide women’s soccer, from my AP colleague Rob Harris.

Tobin Heath goes to Arsenal.

The Washington Post on the Spirit’s forfeit.

Annie Costabile with the Chicago Sun-Times looks at the early Championship game time.

Michael Lewis of Front Row Soccer also delved into the NWSL scheduling debacle.

Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes about Carli Lloyd playing her final match for Gotham at Subaru Park.

The Athletic tag-teamed the interview with Ben Olsen.

Press opts out of the USWNT friendlies against Paraguay, from Sandra Herrera at CBS Sports.

Press is taking a break from soccer to focus on her mental health.

Dan Lauletta with The Equalizer asks why the NWSL is so hard to love.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf addresses the Championship venue problem

Wonderful profile here of Vivianne Miedema from Suzanne Wrack for The Guardian.

The WE League kicks off in Japan. Here’s a great season preview from Dan Orlowitz of the Japan Times.

Nadia Nadim talked to CNN about her journey out of Afghanistan.

New Zealand’s Wellington Phoenix joins the W-League.

Saudi Arabia is launching a women’s soccer league.

Five at The IX: Kelli Hubly talks after the Thorns’ win Sunday

Kelli Hubly spoke after the Thorns’ victory over the Courage yesterday. The win was Portland’s first in North Carolina and snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak for the Courage. It was Portland’s 10th clean sheet of the season, one shy of the team record. Also, Steph Yang asked her about the frustration over the Spirit situation, and the team wanting 3 points.

Question: This is the second time in three meetings with the Courage, going back to the Challenge Cup, that you guys have kept a clean sheet and won 1-0. What is it about North Carolina that that gets you going and putting in these performances.

Hubly: We definitely see in North Carolina as one of our biggest games of the season, sometimes more than the Reign at times just because they’ve always won previous years and we won previous years so I think every time we play them we know we have to come out super strong.

Question: It seems like there’s some frustration that was expressed on Twitter asking for three points in the wake of the Spirit forfeiting to the Reign and I just wondering how you guys feel and is that sense of frustration accurate?

Hubly: Yeah, we definitely are. We definitely want our three points so we’re hoping that the league will give us our three points.

Question: Meghan Klingenberg talked yesterday about how important was for the team to not be caught in transition, knowing that not growing and does that pretty well and is very fast. So can you talk a little bit about the job you did today to avoid that?

Hubly: They definitely are, they have really fast forwards, and they’re really good on the counter. So we were definitely talking, like dropping early, being sight on, making sure that we’re close enough to the players that they’re not going to get a free run on us. That’s been like a main thing every time we play them. So even though we do that every game, we do it way more in this game just because of how fast and dangerous their forwards are.

Question: A lot of times when you think about the Thorns you think about a really high- powered kind of dynamic offense, but how important is it for you as a defender and for the defense as a whole to kind of compete with that?

Hubly: I definitely think our attack starts with us, so it’s important for us to be on the ball and be brave, because in both cases we like to play out of it. We start play, so as much as they’re important, we’re important, and to like lock teams in so they can’t get out. Then if we have the ball then honestly the other team won’t get as many looks. So it’s really important for us to have like a good defensive showing so that we can have good offensive showing.

Question: This was your 10th clean sheet of the season, I believe that Thorns record is 11 and the NWSL record is 12 Was this something that you guys set out to do at the beginning of the season, or is it something that you’re looking at now and trying to achieve?

Hubly: Definitely, we had set goals in the beginning of the year, and it was win everything. And then we had smaller goals like clean sheets, goals, all these different things. So clean sheets is really, really important to us. Honestly I forgot what number we were at so it’s good to know that we’re getting there but it is important every game. Each game we want to clean sheet, each game we don’t want anyone , so it is something we do strive for.

Question: Your teammate Angela Salem reach more than 10,000 minutes in the league. So can you talk a little bit about the job she’s doing this season for you guys?

Hubly: Ange is a monster, she’s so great. She wins like all her tackles, I don’t know how she does it. And she gets beat up in games and she still is going and going and going. So I think she is very important for us, she’s a key player in our defense and pout fielding. I know whenever I get the ball I know I can always find Ange and she’ll find a way to get out of things, so she’s truly a super special player for us.

Question: Given that the frustration that you guys have expressed in a pretty public medium, is that maybe like an overall growing sense of frustration with the league or feeling that you guys can’t communicate through other channels or is it just really about this one thing?

Hubly: I definitely think it’s more of this one thing, for us. I think we were all just like super confused when the Reign was awarded three points and the game hadn’t happened and ours happened last week. So we were just confused why it was taking so long to give us the three points because I think it was worse for us than it was for the Reign because they kind of knew this was going on, and for us it was like a game-day decision. So I think I was just like `OK, you’re going to give them three points but where’s ours?’ So it definitely was frustration just for this instance for us right now.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson