FC Gold Pride
Wanna know why Kelly Lindsey resigned as coach of Sky Blue FC? Yeah, so do I.
But her reasoning doesn’t much matter, unless of course SBFC continues its weird coaching carousel season by dropping out of the playoff picture after losing to FC Gold Pride this coming Wednesday. Who first suggested FCGP could play spoiler? That’s right, it was me.
FCGP couldn’t stop LA from clinching the regular-season championship, although they played almost well enough to delay the party two weeks ago. They remain powerless to halt the Boston Breakers’ post-season aspirations, although Tony DiCicco seems like maybe he can stop it. And St. Louis was probably going to clinch second, even though FCGP did salvage a tie against them last week.
But Washington! Yes, FCGP delayed the Freedom’s playoff party with a come-from-behind victory last Saturday. Abby Wambach’s side could have clinched a spot last week, since Boston lost too, but ….. well, no.
And now, Sky Blue. After the aforementioned tumultuous bye-week, SBFC stands ready to finish fifth, one place out of the playoff picture. SBFC actually has two games remaining, one more than both Boston (2 pts ahead) and Washington (3 pts). But if SBFC lose to the league’s last-placed team on Wednesday, they would have to beat Washington on Saturday (and still hope for the tie-breaker against the Freedom if Boston beats LA on Sunday).
Oh, and in really big news … Sunday’s meaningless game against St. Louis may not be that meaningless after all. If the Chicago Red Stars lose in their final game on Wednesday against Athletica, The Pride could actually escape the league’s basement with a win and a tie over their last two games.
OK, that’s not really big news (and still darn close to meaningless), but I don’t think anyone else has pointed that out, so there’s that.
Hey! Remember that whole “Must Win Sunday” thing? yeah … that didn’t work out too well.
After losing three “Must Win Sundays” in a row (hosting Athetica, traveling to Chicago, and hosting Boston) … now it’s time for FCGP to play spoiler!
First, let’s dispense with the mathematics professors who would like to espouse that FCGP still have an 11% chance of making the playoffs. No, they do not. From the WPS “Playoff Factoid” updated daily:
FC Gold Pride won’t be officially eliminated if they lose to Los Angeles on Thursday but if they lose and Washington wins, the Pride will be officially eliminated. If Washington ties or loses to Chicago, FC Gold Pride would need to defeat Saint Louis to keep their playoff hopes alive.
They are currently 10 points out of playoff position (with five games to play), and could be mathematically eliminated as early as Sunday.
It’s a shame that they won’t make the playoffs. But someone has to miss out on the post-season playoff party, and it might as well be the the team that hasn’t won a game since that glorious road victory on May 16.
So, let’s look on the bright side!
They can keep some other teams from making the playoffs … and they could possibly avoid the ultimate humiliation of letting the Los Angeles Sol sweep their four games (netting all 12 points available) and clinching the WPS regular-season championship right here on our pitch on Thursday.
Here’s how FCGP can leave their mark on the 2009 Inaugural Season, starting from the top of today’s WPS Table:
- As mentioned, they can beat the LA Sol on Thursday. The Sol only need one more point to clinch, so beating them would serve no practical purpose, other than delaying the inevitable coronation of the league’s beloved Los Angeles franchise, who hosted the historic Inaugural Game, has the historic shut-out streak, the historic first best goal differential, owns the historic best player in the world, got the first pick in the historic first international draft (although history will reflect they didn’t actually “pick” first), and and will be the historic regular season champion.
- Having given Boston three points last Sunday, it’s hard to see how FCGP can spoil the Breakers’ playoff hopes. In fact, the only way they can impact the Breakers would be by losing to the teams chasing Boston for the second seed. So, I guess you can’t rule that out completely.
- Saint Louis Athletica. So FCGP could win in St. Louis on Sunday on national television. It’s their last appearance on TV this season (having been screwed out of the August 9 slot in favor of Boston versus LA), so they might as well make it count. Plus by beating St. Louis, they could at least drop Lori Chalupny’s team a notch or two.
… and speaking of Chalupny, did anyone notice that she’s back practicing with her team, even though all of the other US Womens National Team call-ups are getting ready for their game against Canada? Her grandfather died this week, so she left the USWNT to be with her family … and to practice with her team. Um, is that how you would grieve?
The Pride wrap up their Cursed Inaugural Season against St. Louis on August 9. The last game of the season might mean something to St. Louis, in which case we can crush their hopes of … something. Check back.
- Win the final battle of the non-geographical FC-monikered teams, against Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on Wednesday, August 4. You probably weren’t planning on skipping work to catch the team’s last road game, but if you do – to follow it live on Twitter at 4:00 pm – you can cheer for SBFC to lose and tighten the race with the Washington Freedom.
- Deny the Washington Freedom a playoff bid. Here’s where it gets fun. The Pride host the Freedom on August 1 (a rare Saturday matinee in the Bay Area). The last time DC was here, the Pride was hosting Abby Wambach’s WPS coming-out party, losing on the last play of the game on that week’s questionable call by a referee. It would be nice to turn the tables.
- Disrupt the Red Stars’ Last Stand. As American Soccer News points out, this Sunday brings high drama to Toyota Park, where the Chicago Red Stars have to beat the Washington Freedom to hold out any hope of catching that fourth playoff spot. It’s unlikely the Pride can actually play a role in Chicago’s demise, but if the Red Stars hang in there, the Pride can ruin their efforts by losing to SBFC and the Freedom if necessary. See! We can play spoiler no matter what!
- FC Gold Pride … Make the playoffs? …. Well, there’s always next year! … Actually one thing FCGP can do in their remaining three home games is exorcise the demons from Buck Shaw Stadium. The lovely pitch on the campus of Santa Clara University is home to the last place team in WPS and the second-worst in MLS, and needs a dramatic dose of offense to make the place exciting again. Score some goals!
Side Note: The Pride could back away from the historic precipice before even playing on Thursday. If St. Louis fails to beat Sky Blue FC on Wednesday, the Sol can back into (or technically, “clinch”) the championship on Wednesday.
If the 1878 fans who bothered to show up for the Independence Day match featuring Boston at Sky Blue FC are any indication, no one is paying much attention to WPS over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and they certainly aren’t reading this article. But I persevere.
OK, it’s “Must Win Sunday” for the proud lady Lions. And next week, too … and pretty much every Sunday for the rest of the season … since they’re probably not going to win their one remaining Thursday night game (LA Sol, Thursday 7/23) …
After playing only two games over the last four weeks, the FC Gold Pride returns to regular weekly action this Sunday — and finds itself in a must-win game.
They were close to the bottom of the WPS Table before the long stretch, and everyone else has since passed them by. Today, they are in last place, with only 12 points after 12 games.
Essentially, FCGP needs to keep pace with SBFC, who beat Boston and now hold down fifth place with 15 points in 13 games. In other words, SBFC played their own “Must Win” game, and won.
The Chicago Red Stars are the idle WPS side this week, and stand in sixth place with 14 points in 14 games. And yes, they won their ‘Must Win” game last weekend, defeating the Washington Freedom last week, climbing out of the cellar while FCGP watched from their vacation. They even had to come from behind to do it.
An FCGP victory on Sunday against St. Louis Athletica would only guarantee them a one-week reprieve from the WPS cellar. The Pride plays in Chicago next weekend, in what both teams will see as another “Must Win” game, with the winner closing the cellar door on the loser.
See you next week, for another edition of … “Must Win Sunday!”
Hi. My name is David. And I am an FC Gold Pride fan … with a massive case of Red Stars Envy.
I want my team to be the Chicago Red Stars. And, I’m not really talking about the team on the pitch. I am mostly happy with the players that wear the Gold & Black. On the field, the teams are mostly the equal of each other. Following the teams’ draw on Sunday, one point separates the teams in the WPS Standings:
- Pride: 3-5-2, 11 points in 10 games
- CRS: 2-3-4, 10 points in nine games
Besides, if I wanted football excellence, I’d be jealous of the LA Sol.
The CRS Experience
No, I am mostly jealous of the fans of the Chicago Red Stars … it starts with the best team name and the best jerseys, and it pretty much goes from there. Not to mention that they get to wear stars on their jersey without ever having competed for a championship.
The Red Stars have a cool 20,000 seat stadium in which to play, that they appear to share happily with their hometown MLS side. Through five games, they’ve averaged 4590 fans.
The Pride’s Buck Shaw Stadium has a reduced capacity of 6280, and is also shared with the SJ Earthquakes, who despite their woeful record, continue to draw twice the crowd the Pride does. The Pride’s five-game average is 4309, which has had the benefit of a visit from Marta, who hasn’t been to Chicago yet.
Three of the five Pride home games have had smaller crowds than the Red Stars smallest crowd of the season (which was 3664 against Sky Blue FC, against whom FCGP drew a paltry 2533)
Sure, CRS had a five-game homestand they used to build that energy … and the Pride are about to enter a four-week period with only two games (except for road games at Boston 6/17 and at Los Angeles 6/21, they are idle until a July 5 home game against St. Louis. But that’s just part of the karma problem I’m having.
Road Trips & TV
In another twist of fate, the Red Stars have a reasonably close geographical rival, who isn’t the LA Sol. And they have a well-organized Supporters Group called the Local 134. These two things aligned nicely for the CRS inaugural game in which the team sent a bus load of fans to St. Louis. That’s a five hour drive! … Who’s going to LA with me in two weeks? … thought so.
The Red Stars also have a real life “pub bus” for fans.
Oh, and TV! The Red Stars fans get all the television love. Pride fans? not so much. With the exception of the bussed-in fans who saw the inaugural game in person, fans in Chicago have been able to watch every other game on TV or the Internet. Between regional cable deals, Spanish-only webcasts, and a serious dose of Fox Soccer Channel, 14 of the 20 CRS games will be viewable from couches all over Chicagoland.
While CRS fans get all of that screen-time, FCGP fans get to watch their team only six times, and two of those are courtesy of the local CRS arrangements mentioned above. The Pride actually got dumped from FSC as the August 9 Game of the Week, which will now feature the Breakers and LA Sol epic rivalry.
And it didn’t help that FCGP management passed up a chance to have this past Sunday’s game broadcast live in the Bay Area. The game was live on Comcast SportsNet in Chicago (and in many other regions across the country) – but not here. The team probably thought that a local broadcast would eat into their ticket sales. Maybe we will get to find out how many new fans The Pride will get from tape-delayed TV broadcasts of the game showing this week, but it’s hard to argue the gate could have been much lower than 2956.
Local Ownership Group
Don’t get me wrong. Any local owner willing to drop major dollars on a money-losing venture like Womens Pro Soccer is worthy of significant worship. If I had millions to drop on a professional soccer team full of role models for my daughters, I’d give them away by buying a team too. So, I love the NeSmith Family.
But it’s hard to compete with CRS team co-investor and CEO Peter Wilt, who by all measure is the coolest owner in WPS, with cross-country soccer jaunts and pleasure trips he thoroughly documents on Twitter.
And it doesn’t hurt that I met him on Sunday, and had a great discussion about soccer. And Alaska.
So … now what? I was going to go to LA for the Pride’s game on June 21 … but I think I’m going to Chicago for July 12 instead. Shall we all get on the bus together?
Apparently, the people in charge of the Japanese Soccer program don’t read this here soccerblog.
Because even though Eriko Arakawa has been playing soccer in the United States for a few months — all without catching the swine flu — the Asian powerhouse has canceled appearances scheduled for next week in the US and Canada. Cuz they don’t wanna get sick.
Filling the void left by the Fraidy Cats, Canada and the United States womens teams will instead play each other on Monday, May 25, in Toronto. And this probably isn’t going to work out too well for the Proud FCGP Lions.
On the one hand, Rachel Buehler won’t have to play in four games over eight days that the earlier schedule might have required. On the other hand, I don’t see how national team call-ups Buehler, Nicole Barnhart, and Christine Sinclair are going to play Sunday, May 24, against the LA Sol (4:00 pm PDT kickoff) and still be in Toronto for the 4:00 pm PDT kickoff on Monday.
So while FCGP is practically giving away tickets to the big match-up against Los Angeles, it seems like they’ll be without a key offensive weapon and their best defensive players (which may not be saying too much) for the match.
And back-up goalie Meagan McCray is out of commission with a month-long shoulder injury, that leaves Allison Whitworth on real back-up duty without a backup herself if Barnhart is called up. Oh, and someone named Marta will not be on national team duty that weekend.
There’s an old joke that California — unlike the rest of the nation — has two seasons: the Rainy Season and the Fire Season.
For the FCGP, the Golden State’s weather rained out last week’s attendance for the match-up with Sky Blue FC… seriously, it was raining versus the blue sky team … talk about truth in advertising! badam-bump!
The core of the problem is that the economy sucks. In a letter late last week, the team’s General manager admitted as much:
Dear Pride Season Ticket Holder,
As the Inaugural season is underway, and we move on to our May 24th game, FC Gold Pride has embarked on making several changes to our ticket pricing and stadium configuration. As a business, we cannot ignore the state of the national and local economy and recognize that we are all making decisions on where to spend our entertainment dollars. The Pride does not want the price of a ticket to be the barrier that keeps fans from experiencing Women’s Professional Soccer.
In order to try to reach more soccer fans, our overall average ticket price is being reduced by 25%. In addition, several sections in the stands will be closed. We will change the stadium from a 10,500 seat facility to a 5,680 seat facility. This number is not only more in line with our business plan, but will also allow us to create a more intimate environment. Our hope is to create a real home field advantage where our players will be able to feel, and feed off of the energy of our fans. …
See you in the Stands, Ilisa Kessler, General Manager [Editor: Pretty Please!?]
At least the team is being honest. The more svelte version of the stadium map even admits that the old sections still exist. Although you can’t sit in them anymore. The SF Weekly’s Snitch political blog even congratulates the team on its forthrightness:
With unusual forthrightness — in the sporting world it’s still de rigeur to claim you resigned to spend more time with your family after leading the team to a 1-15 season — the announcement from Gold Pride general manager Ilisa Kessler admitted they were charging too damn much for tickets. …
Before it takes them to task on the section shaving thing:
So, the fact of the matter is, there were far more empty seats than filled ones — and, when you willingly forfeit the opportunity to sell thousands of seats and place a tarp over them, that speaks volumes — and not about how much you respect the intimacy of your fans’ experience. Teams — including the Oakland Athletics — tarp over large swaths of seats because, quite simply, they can’t sell them. The demand is not there. And row upon row and section upon section of empty seats are an open wound, a festering sore that gives everyone watching the games in person or on television the impression that this is a small-time, rinky-dink endeavor. That’s why you tarp over whole sections.
It’s hard not to see this as a bad thing. Unless you weren’t willing to pay to see the best soccer available live in this country, which apparently you were not. So now the team is practically giving tickets away.
Four Tickets — Four Brazilians — $49
I mean seriously, the LA Sol is coming to town for the next home game on May 24, and you’d think the three-time FIFA Player of the Year would be enough draw. Then again, it’ll be Memorial Day Weekend. And the game will be on national television.
So in addition to cutting prices and lopping whole sections off the map, the team is adding special promotions like crazy:
- Milking the aforementioned “Samba Queen” promo angle, with four endline tickets for $49, plus an on-field picture with a Brazilian player or four – Erika, Formiga, Adriane, and Marta scheduled to appear.
- Local High School sales tie-ins with the ‘Save Our Sports‘ ticket proceeds donations to San Jose’s East Side Union high School District. Frankly — aside from giving away the money they desperately need — the district has gotten more publicity out of its threat to cut sports than the Pride have gotten for playing sports.
- Each displaced Season Ticket holder was offered additional free season tickets to go with the ones they, um, paid for. Although between you and me, I worry about this one … I mean I want to be an ambassador for the team, but what happens if all of the extra seats they are saving for me are empty too?
- Did I mention the Samba Queens?
So officially, my own Season Ticket seats are no longer in “Section D” … a seat I personally chose because I wouldn’t have the glare from the setting sun in my eyes. Plus I figured I’d get to see the starting lineups better with the TV cameras at my back too.
Now you can find me in Section 104, holding my hand over my eyes and smiling for the cameras. Please join me. Pretty please.
OK, I’ve been gone for a while. Sort of. While I haven’t exactly been here, I have been actively reporting on the FC Gold Pride (or make that @fcGoldPride, in Twitter-speak). But someone recently observed that I’ve been a bit absent here. **
But I am back, and I’m here to rail on the fans. Not the super-committed ones who follow me on Twitter and offer awesome gameday insight into the team’s performance. No, I’m angry at all the fans who didn’t show up yesterday at Buck Shaw Stadium. **
The team reported attendance of 2533 at yesterday’s game was a season low (declining from an inaugural crowd of 6500). Other teams have seen attendance declines from their first games, but not anything quite this large. For comparison, the Washington Freedom welcomed 5149 yesterday.
So where were all of the people?
Lame Excuse #1: Sky Blue Who? Sunday’s match was 1-0 victory over the visiting Sky Blue FC, who are possibly from New Jersey. Or maybe even New York. Who knows? Which was certainly partly to blame for the empty seats. The two other FCGP games featured better-known players, like Abby Wambach. And Brazilian soccer savior Marta was one of the more than 8000 in attendance in Boston this past Friday.
But the lack of a marquee match-up shouldn’t be an excuse. The two previous home games have featured lots of offensively-minded soccer, with 10 goals scored in two matches. Yesterday’s game — although low-scoring — featured a missed penalty kick, five balls knocked off the woodwork, and All-World goaltending from Nicole Barnhart.
Lame Excuse #2: My Daughter is Going to Melt. Inherent in the family-friendly approach the team takes with local soccer community is a certain less-than committed fan base. It was unseasonably cold and wet in the Bay Area this week, almost certainly scaring off families who didn’t want to get wet. Never mind that it never rained during the match, and there is plenty of room in Buck Shaw Stadium to spread out your umbrella and poncho without ruining anyones site-line anyway. It was definitely raining on Saturday, but the SJ Earthquakes still drew more than 10,000 for their losing effort against Chivas USA.
Lame Excuse #3: Sunday was Tres De Mayo, the nearest weekend observation of Tuesday’s Mexican Cinco de Mayor celebration. This probably had a small impact, since neither team has a player with significant ties to the local Hispanic community, and the holiday is a big deal in the South Bay. Even the free tickets the team gives to local charities couldn’t bring in the young girls, as the Bay Area Womens Sports Initiative admitted it couldn’t muster enough girls from the local (and largely Latina) schools it serves.
And even the annual parade in downtown San Jose was less-attended than usual. The local SJ Mercury News covered both the soccer game and the parade, only speculating on why the parade route wasn’t as crowded as years past. … which leads us to …
Lame Excuse #4: Swine Flu Will Kill You. No, that now seems to be unlikely. But with Santa Clara County government officials closing schools willy-nilly, sanctioning the media-induced panic, it’s possible a few people skipped the large outdoor public gathering.
But no matter why you skipped the game, you missed a fun day. No rain — a bit of sun even. Great soccer with awesome athletes who happen to be women. A great scoring line, with a well-coached win. And no one got sick.
Be there on Sunday, May 24. Please.
** That would be my wife. She didn’t bring the girls to yesterday’s game either, although probably not due to any of the lame excuses mentioned above. Her parents were in town — callously unaware of the Pride’s home schedule — and she wanted to visit with them. Cool with me, ‘cept she was also the one who mentioned to me this morning that I hadn’t updated this blog in a while. Whatever.
She’s the pot; I’m the kettle.
And the big question on everyone’s mind: “Will Brandi Chastain play?”
Seriously? Well, yes. Despite there being 20 other players eligible for the start (at least 10 of them who will definitely be on the pitch), all the big previews are about Chastain. Plus a little about Tiffeny Millbrett.
So, will she start? I don’t know. Let’s make an uninformed, wild-ass guess together:
Let’s start with the math, with 21 players on the opening day roster: You figure the “FC Fab Five” internationals will probably all start (Christine Sinclair up front, with Eriko Arakawa right next to her, Formiga and Adriane next to each other in midfield, in front of the vaguely defensive Erika).
National team players Leslie Osborne (M), Rachel Buehler (D), and Nicole Barnhart (GK) start, too. That’s eight.
Toss out the two other goalkeepers (Allison Whitworth and Meagan McCray) and “developmental players” – game eligible, but unlikely? – Marisa Abegg and Lindsay Massengale, and that leaves Brandi up against Carrie Dew (D), Kristen Graczyk (M/F), Leigh Ann Robinson (M), Tiffany Weimer (F), Kandace Wilson (F), and Tiffeny Milbrett (F). … for three remaining starting positions, all of them defensive in nature. Maybe.
Actually, as one of the major goal-scorers of the preseason, Millbrett’s a better bet to start ahead of Chastain, but I am still not sure who is going to play defense on this team.
Astute fans will note that there are only five defenders listed on the roster, and Chastain isn’t one of them (although two of the defenare “developmental defenders”). As near as I can figure out, this team isn’t actually interested in playing much defense in front of Barnhart anyway, so maybe Coach Albertin Montoya pencils Chastain in as an attacking defender, or something like that.
So … No, I don’t think she starts, and the rest of the sports media have been backing away from any guarantees of Chastain starting along with me.
But let’s be honest: she definitely will play. WPS rules allow for four substitutions each game anyway, so she will sub in before the inaugural crowd heads home … because no one wants Monday’s headlines to read something like “Boston Breaks Chastain-less Pride.”
… oh, and as far as the actual game goes … Both teams are loaded with offensive talent, including old-school US Womens National Team experience (assuming they all play, of course). My prediction: 4-4 Tie.
And, no I couldn’t find the official WPS tie procedure, but who wouldn’t like to see some 1999-style penalty kicks to settle the whole thing?
Aspiring Goalkeepers get ready!
I have it on good authority that the FC Gold Pride are about to do something totally unique in the American soccer landscape:
HAVIN’ A BALL
FC Gold Pride is the only team in the US to allow fans to keep game balls that enter the stands during the match (this excludes on-field seating and warm-ups, sorry). If a ball that leaves the field of play ends up in your hands, it’s yours to keep.
That would be a pretty impressive souvenir, assuming you can out-muscle all of those other fans diving head-first like Hope Solo into a crowd, hoping to spike the ball clear to your awaiting siblings.
Before you dismiss this entirely out-of-hand … I asked straight-up if this was an April Fool’s Day joke being played on an innocent blogger, and was told straight-up that it was not.
… so maybe I’ll be bringing some goalie gloves to the Buck!
See you Sunday.
Local soccer clubs and community newspapers across the country are gearing up for Sunday’s FC Gold Pride premiere with some crack reporting and celebrating.
Speaking of Kimberly Yokers … let’s start with the collegiate captain at Cal, who most recently has been a trainer at Sutton Soccer in Alameda. The training facility celebrated Yokers’ new professional soccer career in a recent email to participants:
Did you know that Sutton Soccer’s very own trainer Kim Yokers not only tried out for the new Women’s Professional Soccer league, but due to her skills and hard work she made the roster for our local team the FC Gold Pride? We are so proud of her and her terrific accomplishment. We think her time at Sutton Soccer made a difference in why she is on the team. All those terrific touches on the ball every week had to help.
Since you have trained at our facility you have probably met Kim and know what a terrific person she is to have training your soccer players. BUT most of you have never seen her play. She is so tough and skilled on the pitch.
And the FC Gold Pride agree! So we are letting everyone of our fans know that this Sunday April 5th is opening day for the FC Gold Pride. They open their season at Buck Shaw stadium in Santa Clara ( a terrific soccer venue as you are close to the action) against the Boston Breakers at 3pm.
We hope you will come out and cheer on the new women’s pro soccer team and give a shout out to our very own Kim Yokers as she dons her team kit for this opening day.
Go Kim and go FC Gold Pride!
And a little further away – like Idaho! – folks are also celebrating the ascension of Lindsay Massengale to the professional soccer ranks. The well-known Idaho State Journal reports that Lindsay Massengale isn’t moving back to Idaho anytime soon:
When Idaho State soccer coach Allison Gibson helped her assistant Lindsay Massengale load up her truck before heading out to California’s Bay Area for a Women’s Professional Soccer preseason camp, Gibson noticed Massengale appeared to be packing for a permanent move.
“‘I’m not coming back,’” Gibson recalled Massengale saying. “‘I love the team, but I’m making it.’”
The former all-ACC player at Clemson University lived up to that promise.
She earned a spot with the first-year league’s FC Gold Pride, which will play their home games at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
There’s also a cute story on the University’s Athletics webpage touting Massengale’s addition to the “highly acclaimed” FC Gold Pride. Apparently it doesn’t take much to earn some acclaim in Idaho.