The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, Jan. 14, 2019

How do you Solve a problem like Sky Blue? Tierna goes pro and links galore.

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By: Annie Peterson, AP Women's Soccer
Twitter: @AnnieMPeterson
 
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How do you solve a problem like Sky Blue? Tierna goes Pro and links galore.

First off, some of you may notice a difference in this week’s IX Soccer Monday. That’s because we’re moving to a new platform, Substack. It should be a little more reader friendly. Oh, and there might be some other changes coming soon. Stay tuned!

Second, thanks for your feedback. Keep it coming. I love your suggestions and I’m hoping to get to some of them in future Soccer Mondays. as always, it’s apeterson@ap.org. If I don’t respond, reach out on Twitter because sometimes the firewall keeps mail from getting to me.

Third: BREAKING as of this afternoon, Jonathan Tannenwald says Amanada Duffy has been promoted to president of the NWSL. The title seems to basically mean she’s the commissioner. Which makes sense. But why not just call her that? I’m confused. (Programming note: when you see something underlined like that, it’s a link. So check out Jonathan’s story!)

Fourth: A little breaking more news from this morning, Marc Skinner was *officially named head coach of the Orlando Pride this morning. His appointment follows that of Eric Ustruck, recently named the team’s GM.

These two stories converge: The league is facing questions about diversity and representation, amplified by with Skinner’s appointment. It was also getting pressure for the long drought without a commissioner.

But since the draft I’ve had Sky Blue on my mind, and this is a piece of the puzzle, too.

We’ve known about the problems there since last July when The Equalizer broke the story about ice baths in garbage cans, eating at gas stations and apartments with broken windows covered with cardboard. We’ve known since Sam Kerr started speaking out. We’ve known since the team finished 1-17-6 last season. We’ve known since Cloud 9 pleaded for change. We’ve known since New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy penned a letter promising that things would get better.

An on-field and off-field mess.

So what’s being done about it?

Duffy did not appear to say much to ally fears about the future of franchise during the NWSL draft last week.

“There are steps that are being taken, and we have worked with the Sky Blue ownership group in identifying what we want to see and the timeline, and the timeline that we want to see those. We’ll continue to work with the Sky Blue ownership to make sure that moves in the right direction,” she said. But she offered no specifics.

The team made some promising picks in the draft but there’s already indications that the No. 2 overall pick, Hailie Mace out of UCLA, will play in Europe instead. The No. 6 overall pick, Julia Ashley, told reporters: “I’ve been talking to my agent about possibly France, Sweden or Germany. I’m not sure yet, but it’s definitely an option.”

So I can’t help wondering if the was more clarity at the top of the NWSL, namely an actual commissioner, would that make a difference? Nothing against Duffy, she seems to care about the league and she’s smart. But is the NWSL’s leadership holding Sky Blue accountable? How about the league’s other eight owners? And what role is the U.S. Soccer Federation taking in this situation? All of these entities have an interest in the NWSL’s success, so is anything, anything at all, being done? There don’t seem to be many concrete answers, just lip service. Even folks I’ve talked to off the record are short on specifics.

Sky Blue general manager Tony Novo promised at the draft that he’d have good news in a month’s time. So hopefully there will be clarity then. Perhaps clarity will come in the future from Duffy when she speaks from the rule of president.

That said, I can’t help but remember that the Boston Breakers announced they were folding just two weeks after last year’s draft.

This Week in Women's Soccer

Lots of stuff happening with the draft and Jonathan Tannenwald has been on a tear lately. Here’s his story on what’s going on with Sky Blue.

Stephanie Yang for The Athletic soccer on the NWSL draft. Excellent, as usual.

Steven Goff on the Washington Spirits big first round in the NWSL draft.

Graham Hays with his draft take for ESPNW.

Oh, and I wrote about the draft too for The AP.

Check out THE BEST Women’s World Cup preview show from The Equalizer.

Goal.com handicaps the field: Who will win the World Cup?

Interesting tidbit here on Fox Sports and its partnership with Twitter ahead of the World Cup. They’re going to stream programming live.

I have some questions about why this game was abandoned because of an injury. I’m not sure how serious it appeared to be at the time, but it’s the second time Man U’s women have ended a game because of an injury, noted in this article by the BBC. Perhaps I’m wrong but that seems unusual. PS: Charlotte Kerr had bruised ribs, and here’s to hoping she has a speedy recovery.

Ashley Scoby with a good write-up on the French federation’s World Cup presentation at the United Soccer Coaches meeting. Hint: There’s gonna be lots of Americans at the final.

Excellent column here from the Telegraph’s Katie Whyatt. It’s behind a paywall, but you can sign up for a free 30-day trial. She’s good, BTW. Gonna be honest, I’m fascinated with how women’s soccer plays over in Europe. Katie helps provide a window. Oh, and while we’re at it, the Telegraph has been looking at the twists and turns behind Lucy Ward’s discrimination case against Leeds United.

Tweet of the Week!

Five at The IX: Tierna Davidson



OK, I know. Two straight IX’s with Tierna Davidson. But she’s pretty newsy right now: She’s US Soccer’s Young Player of the Year, the NWSL’s top draft pick and a World Cup hopeful. She spoke on a conference call with reporters from Portugal. (Note: questions are paraphrased, as usual.)

What went into your decision?

Tierna: There were a couple of factors and of course numerous conversations, but I would say the biggest factor was putting me in the best position to develop as a soccer player in these coming months before the world cup, and then beyond, looking at the very busy U.S. women’s national team schedule between now and the end of 2020. Obviously there’s room to grow in every part of my game and I think that just elevating my game to the next level with the elite competition in the NWSL was the best way to go for me.

When did it become clear that the World Cup was a reasonable goal to chase?

Tierna: I think that it definitely became a more concrete idea when I was playing in the Tournament of Nations because that was where I was getting in some good minutes against some more difficult teams after the She Believes Cup, and I think that really helped me grow with the team, and kind of gel with the players a little bit more and spend some extended time with them. I began to think this really could be a possibility for next summer. I could really be with them for the months of June and July and compete with them for the world title.

Did national team players from the Red Stars give you insight into the team?

Tierna: They definitely helped me with y decision. They gave me a lot of good advice, kind of the inner workings of the team, what the team culture was like, the personalities of the players on the team. They really helped me kind of take a first-person look into the team without actually being there, which was incredibly helpful. So they’ve definitely welcomed me and I already feel part of the team.

Do you feel the staff will help you make the jump from college to the the pros?

Tierna: Absolutely. I know Rory’s really focused on the development of each individual player and he puts a lot of time and effort into it. So I look forward to developing and fine-tuning my game in Chicago.

Do you think you would have left early if it wasn’t a World Cup year?

Tierna: I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to speculate. Obvioulsy putting myself into an entirely different situation, I think it definitley would have altered the options I was looking at. I don’t know if I could say for sure either way if it would have completely changed my decision. But it definitely would have been an important factor to think about.

How are you feeling recovery-wise, and do you intend to someday finish your degree at Stanford?

Tierna: So to answer your first question, my return to play is going really well. Being able to jump right back in it at this high level of play, I couldn’t ask for anything better. The support stat that we have here, the trainers and the doctors, have really helped me with all the soreness and the tweaks and everything to make sure I’m 100 percent every time I step on the field. So that’s really great to have, that support. As for the second question, in terms of returning to Stanford, I do fully intent to return to finish my degree. That’s something that both me and my family value, finishing that education. And whether that means months or years down the line, I will finish my degree at some point.

What has been your experience and what have you seen of the player’s union, and what does it mean to have that kind of advocacy group?

Tierna: It’s of course really important to have the players’ voices heard and interact with the league as much as possible, so it’s fantastic to have that association to give us that bridge of communication.