Tag Archives: Women’s Professional Soccer

Professional women’s soccer on the horizon in Calgary

Foothills WFC first practice - April 16th 2015

Foothills WFC first practice – April 16th 2015

A year ago, I never thought a professional women’s soccer team in our city would be possible. I chalked it up to lack of interest and had basically resigned to the fact that it was just a pipe dream. I looked at other North American cities with envy. Why is a city like Calgary, with a population of a 1.2 million plus and a massive number of registered players, struggling with that next step of soccer?

Things have now changed.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the driving forces behind Calgary Foothills SC. The group is working hard to embark on the goal of bringing professional women’s soccer to Calgary. They are fielding a squad this summer for an exhibition season to prepare for a debut in the W-League for 2016.

The roster consists of players from the ages of 16 to 30. Some have represented Canada at U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cups, while others have completed storied college careers south of the border.

The skill set is nothing short of impressive. I had the opportunity to observe their first practice session and was floored at the talent. It’s inspiring to see the amount of passion going into this project by the players, coaching staff and management. When I left that evening, I realized something special was on the horizon.

It’s going to be an exciting ride.

Follow Foothills WFC on Twitter for the latest on their exhibition season.

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Bright days ahead for Canadian goalkeepers

In a few days, we’ll mark the one year anniversary of the Canadian women’s soccer team winning bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Over the last year, they’ve grown as a unit and while many of the faces from that team remain with the squad, there have been some changes.

Goalkeepers Erin McLeod and Karina LeBlanc are still very much in the fold, with McLeod as the team’s starter and LeBlanc a close second. Both are poised veterans who have been key contributors to the national program, both on and off the field, for the last decade. Currently, they’re playing well south of the border in the inaugural NWSL season with their respective clubs.

Because they’re both in their 30s, some fans are wondering who will follow in their footsteps when they decide to move on from soccer.

With all that said, there are impressive names as you look down the list of keepers coming through the ranks. Canada currently boasts great depth in this position. The timing’s perfect with the U20 Women’s World Cup next summer and the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

Stephanie Labbe / Photo by Canada Soccer

Stephanie Labbe / Photo by Canada Soccer

Stephanie Labbe
After taking a hiatus from the national team in 2012, the Alberta native is now back in the fold. She backed up McLeod in Germany for a friendly this past June and saw her first playing time in over a year when she faced Finland at the Cyprus Cup on March 3rd. At 26, Labbe still has plenty of time to be an important member of the national squad. She’s honing her skills in Sweden right now as the starter for KIF Örebro. Her height is one of her biggest weapons because she does a tremendous job of nabbing high balls on corner kicks and crosses. Right now, Labbe’s in the best position to challenge for the backup spot on the national team. She has the experience and maturity to be a key contributor going forward.

Erin McNulty / Photo by Canada Soccer

Erin McNulty with CanW20 / Photo by Canada Soccer

Erin McNulty
She’s an accomplished youth and college player. After graduating from Florida State, she headed over to Penn State as a graduate student where she was an absolute powerhouse. She backstopped the Nittany Lions to the 2012 Big Ten Championship and was runner-up in the 2012 NCAA National Championship. McNulty spent the last few months as a member of the W-League’s Seattle Sounders. Although they didn’t make the postseason, McNulty played in 11 games, was tied for second in GK wins, had three clean sheets and made the top ten for GAA. She most recently attended an EXCELeration camp in February.

Sabrina D'Angelo / Photo by Canada Soccer

Sabrina D’Angelo / Photo by Canada Soccer

Sabrina D’Angelo 
Her list of accolades over the past few years is exceptional: 2012 Canadian U20 Female Player of the Year, 2012 U20 CONCACAF Championship Team, 2011 Soccer America All-Freshman First Team,  2011 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2011 NSCAA First Team All-South Region and 2010 U17 CONCACAF Championship Team. She had a solid year for South Carolina in 2012, starting 16 of 17 matches. As a junior this fall, she’ll again be the number one goalie for the Gamecocks. On the national team front, she’s at a point in her career where she’ll soon be taking the step to the senior squad after being the starting keeper at the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup.

Kailen Sheridan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Kailen Sheridan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Kailen Sheridan
It’s going to be a big year for the Whitby, Ontario native. She’s headed to Clemson University, where she’ll be a member of the Tigers. This will give her some valuable college experience. That said, Sheridan is no stranger to high pressure situations in goal. She was the starter for Canada at the recent U17 Women’s World Cup, where the red and white reached the quarterfinals. She’s been a member of the youth programs since she was 15. Sheridan’s positioning is one of her strong suits and never shies away from playing the ball. One of her best skills is dealing with the back pass and helping the develop the play from her team’s third. In July, Sheridan traveled to Norway with other U20s for a 12 day camp. She’ll likely be Canada’s starter when the country hosts the U20 Women’s World Cup next summer.

Genevieve Richard / Photo by Canada Soccer

Genevieve Richard / Photo by Canada Soccer

Genevieve Richard
Richard made her mark this year, thanks to exceptional play for the Laval Comets of the W-League. Richard led the league with six shutouts, was second in both GAA at 0.545 and wins with seven and was crowned Goalkeeper of the Year. She also led the Comets to the championship final where they unfortunately fell short, 1-0. Richard was a member of the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup. She spent last year as a backup at the University of Wisconsin and played in six matches. This fall, she’ll have the opportunity to challenge for the Badgers’ starting job.

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Allocation fascination: how the early NWSL rosters came to be

National Women's Soccer League

National Women’s Soccer League

It’s been a fantastic day for women’s soccer in North America. The NWSL released its allocation of 55 national team players to eight clubs and the excitement on the afternoon media call with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and league executive director Cheryl Bailey could be felt through the phone. Although the schedule has yet to be released and a number of details still need to be worked out, things are definitely coming together.

The league and all of the news with it comes at a perfect time: Canada is gearing up to host the Women’s World Cup in 2015. Players from Canada, the US and Mexico can now develop on North American soil. They will also remain close to home and close to their national teammates. Those are two huge bonuses for all three countries.

Putting the early rosters together was no easy task. “We had many, many people who were helping,” Bailey said.

Those involved with the logistics of allocating players were involved on the technical side of things as well. Bailey described the group as a “panel of experts”. The 55 players did have the opportunity to submit a list of cities they would prefer playing in and that was taken into consideration during the selection process.

Obviously, the squads are not complete and all eight rosters will be filled in the near future. “Going forward, we will have the college draft, as well as free agency to make up the subtotal of the teams,” Bailey added. “We believe there will be eight strong teams playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.”

The Western New York Flash were allocated one less player and executives aren’t certain at this point if they will be receive any sort of compensation or extra draft picks. Those details still need to be ironed out.

Thirteen of the selected Canadian players were part of the 2012 Olympic bronze medal-winning team.

Here’s the break down of the 55 player allocation:

Boston Breakers
Sydney Leroux (USA)
Heather Mitts (USA)
Heather O’Reilly (USA)
Adriana Leon (CAN)
Rhian Wilkinson (CAN)

Anisa Guajardo (MEX)
Cecilia Santiago (MEX)

Chicago Red Stars
Shannon Boxx (USA)
Amy LePeilbet (USA)
Keelin Winters (USA)
Erin McLeod (CAN)
Carmelina Moscato (CAN)

Maribel Dominguez (MEX)
Dinora Garza (MEX)

FC Kansas City
Nicole Barnhart (USA)
Lauren Cheney (USA)
Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)
Desiree Scott (CAN)
Lauren Sesselmann (CAN)

Renae Cuellar (MEX)
Marylin Diaz (MEX)

Portland Thorns FC
Rachel Buehler (USA)
Tobin Heath (USA)
Alex Morgan (USA)
Luz Saucedo (MEX)
Marlene Sandoval (MEX)
Karina LeBlanc (CAN)
Christine Sinclair (CAN)

Seattle Reign FC
Megan Rapinoe (USA)
Amy Rodriguez (USA)
Hope Solo (USA)
Kaylyn Kyle (CAN)
Emily Zurrer (CAN)

Jenny Ruiz (MEX)
Teresa Noyola (MEX)

Sky Blue FC
Jill Loyden (USA)
Kelley O’Hara (USA)
Christie Rampone (USA)
Sophie Schmidt (CAN)
Melanie Booth (CAN)

Monica Ocampo (MEX)
Lydia Rangel (MEX)

Washington Spirit
Ashlyn Harris (USA)
Ali Krieger (USA)
Lori Lindsey (USA)
Robin Gayle (CAN)
Diana Matheson (CAN)

Alina Garciamendez (MEX)
Teresa Worbis (MEX)

Western New York Flash
Carli Lloyd (USA)
Abby Wambach (USA)
Bryana McCarthy (CAN)
Jodi-Ann Robinson (CAN)

Veronica Perez (MEX)
Pamela Tajonar (MEX)

At first glance, a lot of storylines already stand out. It’s hard not to look at Portland and peg them an early favorite with world class scorers Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan together on the roster with GK Karina LeBlanc. For WYN, Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach will be a huge draw and that’s perfect for Canadian youngsters Bryana McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson. They’ll learn a lot from the duo.

It’s a Penn State reunion in Chicago for GK Erin McLeod and CB Carmelina Moscato. Seattle’s going to be popular with not only Hope Solo between the pipes, but Canada’s Emily Zurrer and Kaylyn Kyle playing as well.

Rhian Wilkinson will be a veteran presence on the Boston backline. Sky Blue features Melanie Booth and Sophie Schmidt, while Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle will suit up for Washington. In Kansas City, Desiree Scott will be a fan favorite as she patrols the midfield. She’ll be joined on the squad with dependable defender Lauren Sesselmann.

For more information on the NWSL, you can visit their Facebook page.

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Let the girls play: North America needs a pro league

Rumors are swirling about a new professional women’s soccer league in North America. The league would likely have teams in a number of U.S. cities with some squads based out of Canada. The potential is exciting, especially for Canadian players and fans with the Great White North hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup. A new league would be the perfect preview and buildup for such a world-class event.

Most North American players have been on the sidelines since the WPS folded earlier this year. Although Canada’s Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson are currently playing in Norway, the majority of the senior team is waiting. Of course the squad deserved a break after the Olympics considering the physical and emotional highs and lows they experienced, but it’s now late October. You can imagine they’re all ready to hit the pitch again.

A number of the girls have gone the coaching route. Carmelina Moscato is currently an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. Her squad features four Canadian youngsters, including forward Monica Lam-Feist who is having an exceptional year for the Badgers. The team is gearing up for the BIG Ten Tournament and are winners of five straight, including an impressive come from behind victory on Sunday versus Indiana. Desiree Scott is also coaching in her home, Winnipeg, at the University of Manitoba.

Jonelle Filigno and Chelsea Stewart have been busy this fall with their respective college clubs. Thanks to a full schedule of games, they’ll be ready for national squad fitness testing scheduled for December.

So, where does that leave the rest of the players?

These girls shouldn’t be waiting on the sidelines to play. The WPS provided an excellent outlet for players to hone their skills after finishing college or while on break from their national teams. When the Western New York Flash won the WPS title in 2011, they boasted a lineup of some of the world’s best: Christine Sinclair, Marta, Caroline Seger and Alex Morgan. Who wouldn’t want to watch those players on a weekly basis, especially with the chatter about women’s soccer so high right now?

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati spoke this week and mentioned they were in talks with the Canadian Soccer Association about a potential pro league. He, too, reiterated the importance of having teams where players will see steady time on the field. The interest is strong on both sides of the border. Women’s soccer in Canada is as popular as ever, while their American counterparts are equally embracing the sport.

The key will be focusing in on markets where teams can thrive, while having games on ideal days that will bring in decent attendance numbers.

My fingers are crossed and I know the same can be said for thousands of people on this continent. Hopefully this will come to fruition in the next few weeks. Simply put, North America needs professional women’s soccer.

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