The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for September 21, 2020

Big Trouble in SLC: clean house? — Plus links and A-Rod talks after loss to the Thorns

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Big Trouble in SLC

So I was all excited to be at the Thorns’ match yesterday, my first live NWSL action in nearly a year. The smoke had cleared out of Portland and it was a beautiful day. But then …

Wait, what did I just hear?

On the Twitch stream of the game, it was announced that Amy LePeilbet was coaching the Royals, and Craig Harrington and assistant Louis Lancaster were on a leave of absence.

No formal announcement from the team was made, just an email reply confirming the move.

And suddenly my relaxing day of watching soccer became way busier.

Some thoughts about this: It would have seemed a lot less suspect if the team had announced the move formally. I also found it kind of bush league to have Amy Rodriguez explain that she’d been asked not to comment on the matter afterward. More from Amy below.

Look, I adore the media relations team for the Royals and Real Salt Lake. They’ve been great to me in the past, completely accommodating with player requests, including great access to RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando in his last season.

But apparently media relations is the least of Utah Soccer Holdings’ concerns.

Meg Linehan for The Athletic says Harrington made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to the staff. Meg has been all over the story. Respect.

Alex Vejar for the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the NWSL would not comment on the personnel matters, but added “certainly expect everyone associated with the NWSL to live up to the standards and values that make our league so special. We are working with our colleagues in Utah to ensure we’re aware of all relevant updates.”

I wrote about the whole Utah debacle here for AP, trying to tie the whole series of events together.

What I didn’t reference in my story, and frankly I wish I had, was that the scandals date back to last year: RSL coach Mike Petke was dismissed from the team because he directed homophobic slurs at a game official at a Leagues Cup match.

I went back and looked at the statement the team made when they fired Petke.

“We hold all of our coaches, players, executives and staff to the highest standards of professionalism. As an organization, it is vital that everyone, particularly our leadership, reflects and embodies our core values and the values of our community, treating all people with respect, civility and professionalism. Moreover, throughout our 15-year history, we have championed diversity, acceptance and inclusion throughout our organization, our stadiums and our community. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously.”

Um. Apparently not.

Obviously, there’s a problem in Utah that hasn’t just cropped up in the past month. The sale is the first move toward change. I’ve spoken to a source within MLS who says there are a number of interested parties interested in buying the whole package. MLS is adamant that it prefers to sell the teams collectively, and not piece them off. Which is good.

After the sale, the organization really needs to clean house and start over. Way too many scandals, and these are just the ones we know about.

Made for an interesting Sunday. Hopefully the amazing play of rookie Sophia Smith does not go overlooked. Gonna break that out in a story later this week.

On to the links.


(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! apeterson@ap.

Sandra Herrera with a nice feature on Sophia Smith for CBS Sports.

Graham Hays wrote about how the Pride hope Alex Morgan returns in time for the start of the 2021 NWSL season. Hays had another excellent story on how the ACC is playing while many college soccer teams aren’t.

Seth Vertelney of spoke to Midge Purce about the fight for racial justice.

I am not sure what this UK outlet is, but NewsChain has a story on Debinha.

Grant Wahl spoke to Sky Blue GM Alyse LaHue for his podcast.

Meg Linehan and Michael Cox created a handy guide to the FA Women’s Super League for The Athletic.

This week’s WTF story, courtesy of the Telegraph, on how the Matildas’ away jerseys are only available in men’s sizes.

I wrote about the delightful Kikuko Okajima, a businesswomen from Baltimore who is leading the launch of Japan’s WE League.

Alex Scott tells the Telegraph that the FA WSL is now the best league in the world.

Really nice story here from The Equalizer’s John Halloran on Royals rookie Kate Del Fava. Also for the Equalizer, Neil Morris has a good feature on North Carolina’s Rylee Baisden.

Ellen White praised Phil Neville as coach of England’s women, while the team waits to learn whether he’ll take them to Tokyo 2021. From Suzanne Wrack for the Guardian.

Also for the Guardian, Eni Aluko makes the valid point that the WSL shouldn’t be a `holiday league.’

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Yes, thank you Yael.—%20NWSLPA%20(@nwsl_players)%20a%20href=

Five at The IX: Utah’s Amy Rodriguez, postgame

Here are Amy Rodriguez’s comments after Sunday’s loss to the Thorns.

Question: If you could fill us in about what has happened over the past week in terms of the coaching change, when you guys found out and what the team has been like since your press conference with Craig two weeks ago?

Rodriguez: Yeah, we look a little different today for sure. I actually am really happy about soccer, but right now the club has told me that I’m not in a position to comment about the staff at this time.

Question: Obviously, a tough result on the field today. What do you think is goal No. 1 in terms of moving into the next game for the fall series?

Rodriguez: Right now we’re a pretty collective unit. We’ve been through a lot this week. And I will say that we’ve had to lean on each other a lot. And with Amy LePeilbet leading our ship right now, we’re going to look to her as far as the next step. I am very happy that we have three games under our belt still. So, the first of four and, you know, sometimes you have to work out the kinks. We do have a lot of improvement and tweaks to make, which we’ll go back to do in the locker room and the video rooms and on the pitch.

Question: It’s been a while since you guys played in the Challenge Cup, how do you get into a position to start playing soccer again? ( I think this was the gist of the question, I had trouble hearing it)

Rodriguez: I absolutely love playing with this group. We’ve got a club that wants to play with pride. We’ve got a lot of talented girls on our roster, but we’ve got to make sure that we make it click out on the field, and in today’s game we missed the mark a little bit. We hate walking away losing 3-0, credit to the Thorns three for putting out a really good side and and playing well and making the most of their opportunities. I personally will go back and evaluate my play knowing that I need to make the most of my opportunities. But I am really excited to continue with this club and play in these next three games coming up. We’ll make some tweaks but we’re a collective unit that will keep pushing.

Question: Amy if I may ask about the statement that you guys put out this morning? I don’t want to assume anything about the reasoning behind that statement.

Rodriguez: Well, I think as a unit we wanted to make sure that our voice was unified and heard. We had been discussing about putting a statement out together as one over the last few weeks. A lot of changes, a lot of occurrences happening right now with our club. We just feel it was necessary to state our values and to discuss the direction in which we want to see the club going in. I’m really proud of this group. I’m proud of all the members of this team. And collectively, we wanted to put out that statement just before playing as it was obviously heavy on on our minds and on our shoulders. And I’m very proud of this team for doing so.

Question: Obviously things were moving quickly, what did Amy talk to you about before the game as things were developing. ?

Rodriguez: Things happened pretty quickly recently. Obviously Amy coming in, we felt very comfortable with her. She’s been an assistant for a while now. She just stressed to us that she was proud of us, regardless. We were going to fight in the game. We were going to fight for each other. We knew not everything was gonna be perfect. Coming this game, there was a lot of weight on our shoulders and on this club in general. So we just really wanted to go out there and play and kind of release that set of issues and our feelings that we’ve been experiencing. But she was proud of us regardless. Wanted us to play with that same passion, play as a unit, work hard. We tried to do that today, but I think from a just a play standpoint, we just didn’t get there and unfortunately didn’t get the win against Portland.

Question: What does it say about the strength of your locker room and the character of the players? And what did you think about Sophia Smith of the Thorns.

Rodriquez: First and foremost, the character of this team is second to none. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of weight on our shoulders right now, because it’s been going through a lot of changes recently. But the fact that we show up every day, we work hard, we put our boots on and we give this club everything we absolutely have, speaks volumes. Very proud of each individual on this team and as a collective unit, really proud that we can come together every day at work and go out there and play our hearts out. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result, which is so frustrating. But we will go back to the drawing board, work on the details so that we can put out a good performance and result in the next games. And to comment on Sofia out there, I was excited to see her debut, excited to see her play in this league. I know as a young forward what it’s like to go against some of the big names in the big defenses. And I’ll definitely be watching. She actually scored a phenomenal goal today for them. Unfortunately it wasn’t for my team, but excited to see her continue and what success she can bring.

Question: This is the fourth game out where the team hasn’t scored any goals. What do you see as kind of an issue there? What do you need to do to improve that.

Rodriguez: Well, I think it’s fair to say that the Challenge Cup, that was a different style play. In the fall series we’re obviously kind of trying a new direction, new tactics. So I wouldn’t say that there’s a scoreless pattern. Unfortunately, today we can any in the net but we did create a lot of chances. I call it knocking on the door. You’ve just got to walk through it. So I’m excited for the next three games coming up. And I have the utmost confidence that we will get our name back on that scoreboard.

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By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson