The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, March 8, 2021
Happy IWD! Lots of quick notes, leaders emerge at Racing Louisville — Lots of links — a conversation with UP's Michelle French and Tiffeny Milbrett — Stay for a fun Clive Charles story!
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A couple of more notes to start this week.
First of all, welcome to all the new NWSL Media Association members. We’re glad to have you! So cool that there’s so many inductees. Shows there is indeed mad growth in women’s soccer.
Second, I want to hype an event that I’m going to be part of: Next week the Washington Spirit is sponsoring a forum that seeks to build on the women’s relationship between the United States and Japan.
Speakers include the Spirit’s Kumi Yokoyama and Saori Takarada, as well as Kikuko Okajima, chair of Japan’s WE (Women’s Empowerment) League. If y’all remember, I wrote about Kiku for both The IX and the Associated Press. Here’s my AP story. I found it fascinating that Kiku was launching the new WE League from her home in Baltimore. You can register for the event here. We’ll be talking about it more next week with a special The IX interview.
This week, I’m happy to report, there are no controversies with U.S. Soccer or the USWNT. All’s quiet. Which is a pretty good thing. All the players are back with their clubs.
And on that front, there is a bit of breaking news. The Challenge Cup schedule was announced this morning. It all starts on April 9 with a game between the Chicago Red Stars and Houston Dash at BBVA stadium. The tournament will consist of 21 total games and conclude with a title match on May 8.
The leagues 10 teams teams are split into East and West divisions: Racing Louisville, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, the Washington Spirit and Sky Blue in the East. The Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Kansas City, OL Reign and Portland Thorns are in the West. Each team will play four group games.
NWSL SOCCER IS BACK! Couldn’t be more excited.
So in this The IX, I wanted to take a bit of a quick look at Racing Louisville because, obviously, they’re the NKOTB.
The obvious: Doubting we’ll see either Christen Press or Tobin Heath play for Racing this year. It’s more likely they’re a pair of nice bargaining chips for the future. Hello Angel City FC?
Reporters recently talked to coach Christy Holly, Emily Fox and rookie Emina Ekic and it became clear that goalkeeper Michelle Betos has become a solid leader on the team, along with Yuki Nagasato. Both are 33 with considerable experience. I mean, Betos has even scored.
Not bad to have those two setting the tone.
“Our two experienced players in Yuki and Michelle Betos, when we get to practice they’re the first ones on with their cleats, they’re the ones out warming up, and it’s great for them to set an example and and lead the way for the younger players. I think overall, we looked at our average age and I believe it was 23.4 years old. I think that’s phenomenal. I think it’s so exciting that we can have such a big influence in these young players. They’re so hungry for success. They’re so hungry to learn,” Holly said.
Emina said Betos has helped usher her into her first professional team.
“I know on the first day Michelle really helped me out, showed me where to go and kind of how things work — even though the program is like we’re establishing it, so there’s not really set like this is where we go to do this ot this. But she was still leading the way, helping show players where to go and whether it’s like bringing your journal to meetings or stuff like that. On the field Savannah McCaskill and Lauren (Milliet), they’ve been really helpful in the middle,” Ekic said.
Fox said that she’s learned a lot from playing behind Yuki, and added:
“With Michelle, I can give you so many examples. But for example, yesterday she brought the team together, gave a talk, just kind of said, how will we really need to support each other but also get after it. And so I think both of them really complement each other and showing the variety of leadership, our team experience. So, yes, They’re amazing players and leaders on the team.”
It will be fun to watch Racing this season. I believe they have a solid foundation. And I’m really looking forward to watching McCaskill with her new team.
On to the links!
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Meg Linehan with The Athletic has a nice feature on Angel City this morning.
Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel and Chloe Kim have started a new media project, Togethxr. Here’s the website, and the hype video. I like what they’ve done so far, and I see promise here. (Editor’s note: Jessica Robertson is involved, so you can be sure it will be great.)
Annie Costabile writes for the Chicago Sun Times about the excitement over the Red Stars’ new investors.
Khalida Popal tells her story to The Telegraph for International Women’s Day.
For International Women’s day, the Guardian spoke to four top players about the future of women’s football.
ESPN’s Kathleen McNamee provided us with a handy Champions League preview.
Katie Whyatt looks at Chelsea’s defining moment this season, in the Athletic.
Sandra Herrera looks at Catarina Macario’s Champions League start, and more for CBS Sports. Sandra’s following this here, too.
Goal.com takes a look at Lavelle and Mewis in the Champions League.
FIFA.com looks at women’s football in Saudi Arabia. Like I’ve said before, the social media/content team for FIFA is doing a nice job with these features.
Arsenal’s Kim Little hopes the infusion of cash doesn’t take away the game’s authenticity for FourFourTwo. Interesting take here.
Hope Solo takes on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for beIN Sports.
Front Row Soccer with a brief on the lone NWSL COVID case.
Stephanie Yang for All for XI runs down the NWSL’s preseason rosters.
A-Rod settling in at Kansas City, from the Kansas City Star.
BBC story on Lewes FC paying its women equally to the men’s team.
Interesting article on how female coaches would help advance the men’s game.
TWEET OF THE WEEK!
OMG YOU GUYS! IT’S HERE!
I know what I’m doing this afternoon at the gym.
Today at The IX: University of Portland head coach Michelle French and new volunteer assistant coach Tiffeny Milbrett
I don’t know if ya’ll remember a story I had a while back on Tiffeny Milbrett joining the coaching staff at the University of Portland as a volunteer. She’ll be working with coach Michelle French, who also played for the national team. I spoke to both of them recently, and here’s some excerpts:
Annie: So how did this happen?
Michelle: I don’t know, where do you start? But the whole thing of her actually coming and working at UP, we started to have some conversations — I mean we were just talking in general — over the summer about how she was doing and just chatting. And she started to ask questions about UP and said `If I were to ever come back to Portland, what could that potentially look like to be involved with the program? Is there an opportunity? What would that look like? And that conversation kind of evolved over probably all six to nine months, something along those lines. And it ended up that she did come back and we continued talking as she started to figure out and navigate that she would be coming back. We had multiple conversations about what this could look like for her, how deep of a dive is she going to do into the program, how much involvement will she have, what’s the commitment.
For us, obviously it’s a no brainer to have her come back. That’s not just from the perspective of `Oh she went to school here, that would be so cool.’ I mean that’s kind of a given. Her career as a player speaks for itself. But it’s one thing when someone all of a sudden stops playing and they’re like, ‘I want to start coaching, can I have an opportunity?’ But for Tiff, she has been in coaching for a very long time now, so she has those experiences, she has that understanding. She’s not just a player that wants to coach because there’s nothing else to do, she’s passionate about it. I think it’s really cool for me, being her friend and then for UP, as far as being her alma mater, for her to come back and be a part of something that she really essentially put the first foundation stones, if you will, for the program. It’s awesome.
Tiff: Personally, I contacted Frenchie to kind of get her advice. I just was at a point where I felt like I wanted to start exploring the other layers of the game, other than just youth club soccer. It’s been great, last 11 years, I’ve learned so much. Obviously it’s given me a complete platform to to really build the other hat, which is coaching, which is completely different than being a player. Basically the biggest question I had, with her having been in with the US programs and been in club as well, but also the last three years that in the university system, was what is that next layer for a coach in this country?
She was somebody that I just contacted because I was, with COVID, evaluating so many things. Personally I just I wanted different challenges. And man if I could start to, to learn some of those with the University of Portland, it was almost a kind of a match made in a dream, basically. So that’s really where it started.
Annie: Tiffeny, what do you think you can offer the team?
Tiffeny: Yelling. (Laughs) I think the biggest thing is, I know through the years, people have asked, `Being an ex-player, can we get your story? What did it take?’ I think I can offer — I like to call it like the reality check of things, in a good way, but sometimes the reality is the sobering piece of it. What Frenchy and I talked about is we have what we feel are some good candidates to go pro. Ultimately not everybody is going to go pro, but now that’s a big prospect, with both of us having experience in that.
And then when you’re recruiting, ultimately and hopefully you’re bringing in players in that have potential for your country’s representation, whether that’s in the youth program, the U-20s, U-23s or the full team, ultimately we’ve been there.
Being a head coach these last 11 years, I appreciate being an assistant, because I can say different things, I can focus on some different aspects of it. I can be probably can be a little bit more real at times.
Obviously I’ve never worked with Frenchie in this capacity, still figuring it out. The biggest thing that’s the no brainer is the experience and the reality of really what it takes. And, ultimately, help grow players, I mean, they’re in a great little place where they’re not a youth player but they’re not pro yet. How you can really continue to help grow and mold a player in this stage. They’re still big sponges and capable of real growth in the game. So X’s and O’s, the awareness of the game, the savvy. These things are still a huge part of what I consider a responsibility at this age, as well.
Annie: Did you guys ever play together?
Tiff: Not at UP. I’m five years older than Frenchie. I would come back and train and be, you know, kick her butt when she was in school. But yeah, definitely, played against her as pros. National team we went to the Olympics together. We trained together.
Michelle: So my, my recruiting trip, Tiff was a senior. That’s the first time that I met her, on my recruiting trip, and then I came in as a freshman and she had just finished. But as she said, she was still kind of training and around.
Tiff: Didn’t want to graduate. (Laughs)
Michelle: It was probably Clive. No one wanted to leave Clive.
Annie: Do you have a favorite memory about Clive?
Michelle: I always remember like it’s etched in my brain, a story about Clive because he would have this thing and I don’t know when it started but I remember, we’d go to the field, this happened every year in kind of preseason time, and we get there and he would pick the what I later learned was he picked the most gullible freshmen. So the most gullible freshmen for my class, thankfully wasn’t me, but it was my roommate. So what he did, he was like, `I’ll race you for $100.’ She’s like, `Oh, absolutely. I’m in.’ So he put two cones down and he’s like, `it’s 50 yards, we’re doing a 50 yard sprint.’ So he just does is like silly little stretches, ready to go. And my roommate is just like `Oh my god I’m about to get $100. This is Clive, he’s old, I can do this.’ So he’s in his stance ready to go, like so serious, and everyone’s like lining the 50. One of the coaches did the five second countdown and she just takes off sprinting takes us sprinting and of course Clive does like one step. She turns around and Clive says, ‘I told you I would race you for $100. I never said I was gonna win.’