Jul 29, 2010

Two Washington Freedom Futures are W-League Award Finalists

Congratulations to Washington Freedom Futures Coach Win Puffer and defender Gabriela Toulouse on being announced as finalists for the 2010 W-League Honors: W-League Award Finalists - USL - W League

Is it time for Gabarra to Go?

By Chris Wimmer 

The Washington Freedom currently stand in 5th place out of the 7 WPS teams with a record of (4-7-5) following last nights loss to Atlanta.

After taking a 2-1 lead, the Freedom not only allowed Atlanta to even the game but allowed them to steal the win with a come-from-behind victory.

The Freedom roster consists of three current WPS all-stars in Wambach, Whitehill, and Bompastor yet they have been unable to take advantage of this. After finishing the 2009 season (8-7-5) and being one of the final four playoff teams the Freedom is on track to miss the playoffs and could easily end up with the worst record in 2010.

Isn't it fair to say that a change needs to be made? And, like it or not, the accountability for the teams play starts with its head coach, Jim Gabarra. It may be time for team President and General Manager Mark Washo to shake things up in an attempt to salvage the season and show the fans they are committed to having a winning franchise.

The record setting attendance from July 24 is great but you can not count on having Mia Hamm make an appearance at every home game. If you want to build on the 4,809 attendance figure the best way is to WIN!

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Jul 27, 2010

What Was Your Best Youth Soccer Memory?

By Chris Wimmer 

After reading a few of the submissions for the "What the WPS means to me?" writing contest it’s got me thinking back to some of my best memories of youth soccer as a player, then parent and coach.

What was your best memory from your involvement in youth soccer (it can be as a coach, player, parent, or referee)?

I am going to ask this on Twitter and post the responses below in the comments as well. Some of my best memories included:

(Kapiolani Park, site of Rainbow Tournament)
  • traveling to Hawaii as a U-13 player for the Rainbow Tournament 
  • my daughter and her team as player escorts for D.C. United
  • my first ever sleep-away soccer camp at Univ. of California at Irvine
  • watching Mia Hamm run a surprise practice session for my daughters team 
  • getting my first AYSO uniform at age 5 (I wore it around the house all night)

I’m sure to see some similar themes in your experiences but know that there will be others too.

So now it’s over to you. What Was Your Best Youth Soccer Memory?

Jul 26, 2010

Ten Observations from Washington Freedom vs. FC Gold Pride game 7/24

This past Saturday evening my daughter and I were part of the record attendance of 4,809 at the Maryland SoccerPlex to see the Washington Freedom take on Marta and FC Gold Pride.

As fans of the Freedom, the result was not what we had hoped for but it was a very entertaining evening none the less. There was so much action and an unbelievable chain of events that at one point my daughter (who is connected to her "world" via texting) told me that I Twitter too much! The twitter was definitely on overdrive in my attempt to keep the 'followers' up to date on all of the strange events taking place during this much anticipated match up of WPS all-star team captains, Marta and Abby Wambach.

(photo property of: Brad Smith | isiphotos.com)

Without posting the entire nights twitter log this following list is an attempt to compile the top ten observations before, during, and after the match. In all reality the list could most likely be expanded upon in the comments section from those of you in attendance as well, since I most surely was unable to notice every bit of craziness.

  1. Marta is AMAZING! - Without being much of a factor for the entire first half, Marta added 2 goals to her already record setting total of 11. She now has 13 goals with 8 games left to play. (consider the record shattered!)
  2. Abby's touch was OFF - Stats can sometimes be misleading. Abby did have the only goal for the Freedom on the night but anyone in attendance can tell you her touch was off the entire night. Makes you wonder if all the recent National Team play is taking its toll on her.
  3. Mia Hamm can still draw the fans - By simply being at the SoccerPlex, Mia Hamm helps draw 4,809 fans to the SoccerPlex (best attend. this season).
  4. Tiffany Milbrett still has "IT" - Even at the age of 37, Milbrett is still an intimidating task for the oppositions defenders. She had 2 goals along with Marta and gave the Freedom defense fits alll game.
  5. The pre-game Fan Zone area is boring - Sorry, I am a fan of the Freedom and the value is great when attending a game but the Fan Zone area outside the front gates need a face lift. Other than the all female drum group who were great, there is very little to keep fans entertained.
  6. Washington Freedom Defence needs help - Yes the Freedom defenders were tasked with defending the best female player in the world but she was not the only player they had trouble with. Tiffany Milbrett was much to fast for them to mark and they were often out of position during the transitional attack by FC Gold Pride.
  7. Coach Gabarra must be very frustrated - He has been ejected from a game this season and then during the match against FC Gold Pride after using his allotment for subs, the Freedom keeper, Erin McLeod went down with an injury and Coach Gabarra is forced to play a player down and put Cat Whitehill in as the new goalkeeper. (probably the craziest ending to a game this season in the WPS)
  8. Women's Professional Soccer is important - The existence of a professional women's sports team in our area is a great benefit to the female youth fans. There were literally hundreds of young ladies in attendance and lined up waiting to get autographs from some of the biggest names in women's soccer. Marta, Wambach, Milbrett, Whitehill, and plenty more. Great role models for our young ladies.
  9. Mia Hamm can still sell more jerseys than any other player - There had to be at least 100 Mia Hamm jerseys being worn by fans of all ages in attendance. The youngest fan in a #9 Hamm jersey that I noticed was a 5 year old girl. How does she even know who Mia Hamm is, priceless.
  10. Marta, Marta, Marta - How can enough credit be given to Marta? She is the new face of the WPS, Women's Soccer, and FC Gold Pride. After the game Abby Wambach was quoted as saying:
    She (Marta) is the best player in the world. She runs faster than any of us, and she is just as fast when she has the ball. Her ball skills are terrific, and by far the best on the field.
The game had all the drama you could imagine and more. From Mia Hamm making an appearance to the two current most popular players in the league facing off. There was a defender playing as a goalkeeper, and two players on the same team with two goals each. There was record setting attendance, heat, and the best goal scorer the WPS has ever seen adding to her season total.

For all the discussion about whether or not the WPS will survive it is important to point out that this is not a league created to appease those who argue for equality in sports. No, the Women's Professional Soccer league is outstanding entertainment with quality players and the mere existence of the league allows for our daughters and sisters to have the realistic dream of playing in front of thousands of fans and one day trying to be the next Marta. Good luck with that last dream though!

Follow the discussion on twitter:

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Jul 25, 2010

"FIRST 50 Followers" Give-Away contest! (only 16 more followers until a WINNER is announced)

"FIRST 50 Followers" Give-Away contest!

Here is how it will go down, the first 50 people to sign-up as 'followers' to Virginia Online Soccer news will be entered into a drawing to win a FREE pair of the newest WarbyGK gloves, Superior Pro Patriot Adesivo (pictured above) and JUST ADDED! - A free retro soccer T-Shirt from http://www.pothunting.com/ .

Once we have reached our 50th follower, we will randomly pick one lucky winner to win the gloves and T-shirt.

Want to win 2 Free Tickets to see Abby Wambach, Cat Whitehill, and the Washington Freedom?

Best of luck to all our new followers!

Jul 22, 2010

Virginia Online Soccer News Writing Contest: "What the WPS Means to Me?"

Recently my daughter and I attended a WPS game of the Washington Freedom. Before and after the game my daughter was able to meet players from both teams and get their autographs. As I watched from a few rows away I noticed the large numbers of young girls lining up to do the same and I realized how great it is for these young ladies to be able to attend a professional women’s sporting event and have female athletes as their role models. The existence of the WPS also fosters a dream to many of them of one day playing professionally themselves.

In a previous article written for VaSoccerNews by Karen Ruberg, ‘The Influence of WPS on female youth players?, Karen discussed the
need to have female role models involved in the game of soccer throughout all levels of.

Former US Women’s National team member and Professional soccer player, Brandi Chastain even weighed in on the article saying:
It is important that girls and women see examples of themselves in all facets of life; sports, law, education, business, boardrooms, non-profit, family and otherwise because without an example, it is much more difficult to encourage and foster the belief that they too can dream and become whomever they wish. Those are my two cents.

The existence of the WPS is so important especially to youth players and female youth players in particular and who better to explain the value and importance than the players and fans themselves.

So, Virginia Online Soccer News announces a contest to discover the answer to the question: "What the WPS Means to Me?"

Here are the details of the writing contest by VaSoccerNews.com:

1. Title = "What the WPS Means to Me?"
2. Must be 18 yrs. or younger to enter.
3. Submission should be between 250-500 words.
4. Three finalists will be chosen and readers will get to vote to select the Winner.
5. Winning submission will be published on VaSoccerNews.blogspot.com, Washington Freedom website, AllWhiteKit.com, and 90:00 Soccer Magazine.
6. Prize = Winner will receive 2 tickets to a Washington Freedom home game @ Maryland SoccerPlex.
7. Winner will be determined and notified on July 31, 2010.

To enter your submission for consideration click on the button below and good luck!

About Us

The main focus of Virginia Online Soccer News is to provide updates on everything SOCCER in Virginia. From DC United, Washington Freedom, Virginia College Soccer, Virginia High School Soccer, and Virginia ODP.
Virginia Online Soccer News Logo

If it involves Soccer and it takes place in the state of Virginia, we want to cover it!

Follow Virginia Online Soccer News:

Twitter - @VaSoccerNews

Lead Writer for Virginia Online Soccer News

Chris Wimmer:
soccer coach

Soccer Coach, Fan, Husband, and Proud Parent. I write about soccer happenings here in the Northern Virginia area and within the U.S.

  • United States Soccer Federation (USSF) National 'D' License
  • (USSF) ‘E’ License
  • National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Regional Diploma
  • (NSCAA) Regional Goalkeeping Diploma
  • (NSCAA) State Goalkeeping Diploma
  • (NSCAA) Online Learning Certificate
  • International Coaches Association (ICA) Bronze Coaching Certificate
  • Positive Coaching Alliance Double-Goal Coach
  • CPR Certified

Coaching Experience

Current Position:
  • Assistant Coach/Goalkeeper Coach – St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School - Girls Varsity Soccer, Alexandria, VA. (2009 – present)
Previous Positions:
  • Head Coach – Stonewall Jackson High School - Girls Junior Varsity Soccer, Manassas, VA. (2010)
  • Goalkeeper Trainer – Vienna Youth Soccer – Strikers u12 Girls, Vienna, VA. (2010)
  • Head Coach - Northern Virginia Soccer Club - U4, Prince William County, VA. (2010)
  • Volunteer Assistant – Wakefield High School - Girls Varsity Soccer, Arlington, VA. (2009)
  • Trainer – Golden Boot Soccer, Virginia (2009)
  • Head Coach – ASA, South Arlington Soccer U-11 Girls, Arlington, VA. (2008)
  • Assistant Coach – ASA, Crystal City Soccer Team U-7 & U-8, Arlington, VA. (2007)
Playing Experience:
  • Costa Mesa High School, Costa Mesa, CA. (1992-1994)
  • U.S. Air Force – Dyess AFB Men’s Soccer Team, Abilene, TX. (2000)
  • YMCA Men’s League – Various Teams, Yorba Linda, CA. (2002-2004)
  • NVSL – Map Reston Men’s Team, Northern Virginia (2008-2009)



Jul 21, 2010

Goalkeeping: is there a ‘right’ age to start?

This is a guest post written specifically for VaSoccerNews by:
Glenn Robertson
Goalkeeper Coach
Owner academyGK
Inventor of the RESPONSEBALL
Semi-Professional Goalkeeper

I was 12. Our manager, whose son played in goal, moved to another town, left the team and inevitably took his son with him. My friends’ father took over as team manager and at our first ‘training’ session he uttered the immortal words “ok then lads, who fancies going in goal?”

Mine was one of the first mouths to smile and hands to be raised. Having only ever played as a defender and never played in goal I liked the idea and was picked as the new team goalie.

So was this the right way to go about it? Unbeknown to the then new team manager and knowing what I now know, yes I think it was.

There are clearly many myths surrounding youth team goalkeeping. The obvious (outdated) of course is that it is only ever the largest, overweight, tallest, last to be picked, most unpopular, perceived worst outfield or indeed craziest kid who gets ‘stuck’ in goal. This is not and should never be the case.

Is there a right age? Maybe. Should we pick our teams based on there being a right age? No. Do we pick our defenders, our strikers, our midfield players because they are the right age? Of course not, so why already create alienation for the goalkeeper by doing this?

Conversely to finding the right kid at the right age for playing in goal, I think it is more important to give every child on the team the opportunity to experience and understand what it’s like to play as the goalkeeper. There are so many reasons for this, most importantly to provide the whole team with an understanding of what it’s like to be in this unique position.

As we introduce soccer to our younger children – maybe age 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – there is often an enthusiasm to glorify scoring goals. There is also often the unfortunate scenario of forgetting or neglecting the importance – and overwhelming enjoyment, fulfilment and sense of achievement – that can be taken from being a keeper.

In an age of increasing importance and spotlight being placed on the goalkeeper, I believe that no longer should the team be seen as 10 outfield players and 1 goalkeeper. This is soccer…not soccer and goalkeeping. This is why I think it is important for youth team managers and parents to introduce and educate the role of goalkeeper to every player on the team. No more strikers standing with hands on hips, shaking his/her head, pointing the finger and demanding “why did you let that in?”

Many people will be familiar with the sayings “anyone can score a goal but it takes a special person to save them” and “most goalkeepers can play outfield, but hardly any outfielders will feel comfortable in goal”. How many times, especially at the top professional level, have we seen the goalkeeper sent off only to be replaced by a confused, un-coordinated, lost puppy of an outfielder looking like they simply have no idea what they are doing? It’s fine diving around in training and thinking that it’s easy to make saves, but there is so much more to appreciate as a goalkeeper.

This is again why I think it is imperative that we educate our young players, right from age 3, 4, 5 or 6 on the importance of every position.

But when and how do you recognise when and if there is ‘a natural goalkeeper’ amidst the team? I think at anything up to age 10 it is easy to be overcome by trying to pigeon-hole players too early. Evidently enjoyment, coaching and education are fundamental at these ages. If someone looks like they are developing the characteristics, skills and some ability for being the goalkeeper then encourage them all the way, of course. But remember, without being too liberal, next season they might show just as much prowess as a tricky winger or an out and out goal scorer. In athletics is the keen young athlete trained in one event from age 5? In swimming is the young swimmer immediately drilled in one stroke?

Importantly though, the player who shows early signs of ability whilst being enthusiastic for the position should be encouraged. It is also absolutely imperative that young goalkeepers (or players wanting to play goalkeeper) get some additional attention from a specialist goalkeeping coach who will have the additional knowledge and experience to provide extra assistance to the development of the young keeper. This is the only way we can ensure our goalkeepers are given the same quality attention as the outfield players and this will be a valuable contribution to their development.

The message therefore from me is include, encourage and educate.

1. The essence of the team is cohesion between 11 players not 10 players and a goalkeeper and therefore it is imperative to include every player at all times.
2. In the early years of player development we should encourage our players. The goalkeeper, the strikers, the defenders and the midfielders. From a goalkeeping perspective we encourage everyone to have a go not only to experience what it is like but also to find the players who enjoy the position and look like they might develop some ability.
3. As parents, coaches and managers we can influence the team by the education we give them. We can mould their perception and help them to appreciate every position on the team.

I think it is difficult to pin-point ‘a perfect age’ to start looking for ‘the goalkeeper’. We know what children are like, they will love it today, but hate it tomorrow. However, in most cases the goalkeeper will emerge. Goalkeeping is far no longer about standing in between those two posts feeling alienated and picking the ball out of the net. It is amazing, exciting, rewarding, character building and enjoyable. The modern game has developed a need for the goalkeeper to be a much more all round player, as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they are with it in their hands. This is why it is important to introduce the position so early to the whole team.

That said…if at age 8 or 9 you find the perfect combination of ability, enthusiasm, commitment, communication, leadership, dynamism, agility, hand-eye co-ordination, technique and focus…make sure you find a good goalkeeper coach to give them some special attention. In my case, at age 12, many would consider this to be ‘too late’ (especially at some professional clubs these days) but it worked out ok for me. This certainly did not affect my progress, my progression was simply hampered by a lack of dedicated coaching, something that shouldn’t really be the case today. But equally don’t be too disheartened if next season they like the idea of becoming more David Beckham than David James.

There is no doubt that it takes a special somebody to become a goalkeeper. Who else on the team will feel comfortable being the only player running head first towards 20 oncoming outfielders? Who else will love the thrill of throwing themselves onto the end of a strikers boot? Who else will develop the confidence to communicate, show authority and lead the team with one loud voice? Who else on the team will not feel comfortable unless they have spent an hour in training throwing themselves into as much mud as they can find?

It’s a special position. It takes a special individual. It needs special attention. The essence of goalkeeping should be encouraged and educated from an early age. The development of the goalkeeper should be progressed when everything else above has been identified, appreciated and recognised.

To learn more about the RESPONSEBALL™ goalkeeper training tool go to:


Jul 20, 2010

Abby, Marta, and Mia Hamm will all be in one place; at the Maryland SoccerPlex

Washington Freedom Coaches Club - Weekend Highlights
Friday, July 23rd

The Washington Freedom are hosting the upcoming Washington Freedom/Athletes for Hope charity game this Friday at 4:30 p.m at the Maryland SoccerPlex. Freedom Alumni will be playing a 6 v. 6 game against the Montgomery County Police Department to benefit the Sharon Margaux charity.

There will be a Q&A session following the game with the Freedom Alumni as well. This game is open to the public, so come on out for a great cause!

For more infomation about the Sharon Margaux charity please click HERE.

Saturday, July 24th

The Freedom have a big game coming up this weekend---maybe the biggest game all season! Abby, Marta, and Mia Hamm will all be in one place; at the Maryland SoccerPlex! Come and check out 3 of the best women's soccer players, we have plenty of opportunitites for you!

Want to meet Mia Hamm? The Freedom Alumni will be taking pictures with the first 12 groups to sign up prior to the game (50+ tickets sold). The Alumni will also be inducting a new member at halftime.

Abby and Marta come head-to-head once again. So far Marta has come out on top, at the All-Star game as well as their last meeting, FC Gold Pride won the game 3-2. But we think Abby is due for a victory this game!

Please contact Jaclyn Benjamin if you would like to witness one of Freedom's most exciting games this season! Call 240-449-1620 or email jaclyn.benjamin@washingtonfreedom.com.

washington freedom logo
Thanks and GO FREEDOM!

Quick Breakdown
  • Friday, July 23rd
    • 4:30pm Freedom Alumni vs. Montgomery County Police Department charity game
    • Q & A session immediately following.
    • Game is open to the public, but donations are highly encouraged to benefit the Sharon Margaux charity.
  • Saturday, July 24th
    • 5:00pm Freedom Alumni pictur
    • There's just a few spots left so sign up today! (50+ tickets sold)
    • 6:00pm Freedom FANFEST
    • 7:00pm Washington Freedom vs. FC Gold Pride.
    • Abby & Marta come face-to-face again, who will come out on top this time??
Ticket Prices

Youth Soccer discounts apply!!
  • Premier Sideline: $20 (savings of $15)
  • Unreserved Bleacher Lower: $18 (savings of $7)
  • Unreserved Bleacher Upper: $15 (savings of $5)

Jul 19, 2010

Will DC United be able to keep their 2 home grown talented players, Andy Nadar and Bill Hamid?

By Chris Wimmer 

After watching DC United vs. LA Galaxy last night on Fox Soccer Channel and seeing the amazing play of 17 year old Andy Najar against arguably the best team currently in the MLS the LA Galaxy  and hearing Curt Onalfo say that Najar is probably the best player on DC United, I started to worry. By the way,did you see his effort in winning that header for a goal?, he is only 5'7" tall.

Thats right I was worried. My concern is regarding the ability of DC United to keep their very own young talent. United have two young talents in Andy Najar and Bill Hamid. Both from the DC/MD/VA area and both players come directly from within the DC United Acadamy program.

Most teams in any sport would be lucky to have two young talented players on their roster but for those of you who follow MLS you are well aware of how often young talent is taken away by European clubs with much bigger names and payrolls.
(Image property of DC United.com)
andy najar

I just hope the management at DC United can figure out a way to sign both these homegrown talents to long term deals and build a team and a strong local following around them.

The first step might need to be bringing in a Top-Tier coach, i.e. Bob Bradley!

Jul 18, 2010

Majestics Can't Handle Freedom - USL - W League

Last night my daughter and I attended the USL W-League matchup between two local teams, NVSC Majestics and the Washington Freedom Futures.
My daughters club team had a friendly game versus a team that traveled all the way from Williamsburg, VA. They must have really wanted a game since they were willing to brave the 95 South traffic for a 4 p.m. start. Directly following her game we headed over to the Majestics home field, George Hellwig Memorial Park in Mannassas, VA. Since I had never attended a USL W-League game before there was some uncertainty on my part about what to expect with regards to the quality of play and the size of the crowd. Well, I was presently surprised on both fronts. The crowd attendance must have been somewhere between 100-115 people and the talent level of the players was fantastic. Come to find out almost all of the players for both teams play college soccer and most of them at local schools in Virginia and Maryland.

Although this was the last game of the season for the Majestics they will be back in action next summer. Anyone in the Northern Virginia area looking to see some quality Women's soccer should make plans to spend some sunny summer afternoons supporting these local USL W-League teams.

To see the full match report of the Majestics vs. Freedom Futures game from July 17 follow this link:

Jul 15, 2010

Show Your Support: The Washington Freedom’s Bravehearts

Article posted with permission of the Author:

Jenna Pel is a soccer enthusiast based in Houston, Texas
She runs the site: All White Kit, Observing women's football around the globe
You can follow All White Kit on Twitter @jenna_awk

In the third installment of All White Kit’s Show Your Support series, Jim Dougan introduces us to The Bravehearts, the Washington Freedom’s fanatical supporters group. Jim founded the Bravehearts with his friend and fellow DC United supporter Jared Smith after falling in love with the Freedom after a DCU doubleheader last season. He discusses just what got the whole Bravehearts idea cooking, why the SoccerPlex is an ideal place for rabid fan support and why it’s impossible to choose between Sarah Huffman and Erin McLeod.

AWK: What was the inspiration behind the Washington Bravehearts? Did you follow the Freedom in the WUSA days?
JD: First, let me start by saying that we have no truck with Mel Gibson and his craziness, and as exciting and compelling as the “Braveheart” movie is, it’s got some pretty distasteful homophobia that is not something that we endorse, which is also something we’ve had to address with various prospective members. Still, that famous battlefield speech and the “FREEDOM!” shout was something that kept coming up at games last season, so it seemed a natural choice when naming a supporters’ group, and I think most people take it in the spirit in which it’s intended. Plus, we already had Bigg Al the bagpiper, so it was a no-brainer.

On to actually answering your question: I actually never did get out to see the Freedom during the WUSA days, even though I always meant to. I think my interest in soccer had kind of waned during those years (2001-2003), as DC United was pretty abysmal (by their previous high standards in the early days of MLS), and I wasn’t making it out to RFK as regularly as I’d done before or have since. The thought that I had a chance to watch Mia Hamm play on a regular basis and never did haunts me to this day. And when the WUSA folded, I felt like it was ALL MY FAULT. Which is not to say my ticket purchases would have saved the league, but that the ticket purchases of thousands of people like me who really loved soccer but didn’t get off their asses might have saved the league (though I now understand the WUSA business model was pretty flawed).

So when WPS started up, I was bound and determined to support the league as strongly as I could. My co-founder Jared and I have been in the Screaming Eagles supporters’ club for DC United with season tickets for a few years now (and been going to United matches since 1996), so we were introduced to the Freedom during their doubleheaders at RFK. We were impressed enough with what we saw – and especially by the play of Sonia Bompastor – that we bought a ticket pack for the remaining Freedom games out at the Maryland SoccerPlex.

And what we noticed there was a severe lack of atmosphere, where people would cheer louder for the free t-shirt toss than for good play on the field. This was really disturbing to us. Even more disturbing was fans cheering for BOTH TEAMS, which drove us nuts. Was it family and friends of the opposing players? A residual affinity for USWNT players on both sides? Or just a “I’m cheering for the league! Yay! Girl power!” kind of thing? Probably a combination of all three, and as passionate home-team supporters, it drove us NUTS. We set out to fix it. There seemed to be a few loud fans in each section, a few who would give you dirty looks for standing up and being loud, and then the majority who pretty much sat there the whole time. Trying to get quiet people to be loud, or to cheer in a way that they’re not comfortable doing seemed like a thankless task, so we proposed to fix this by putting all the loud fans in one place, and hoped the rest of the fans would eventually catch on.

We ran this by some of the players at various happy hour events (Sarah Huffman, Allie Long, Alex Singer) and they were really enthusiastic. We went to the front office staff, and the rest is history… or history in the making, anyway.

AWK: What is your ultimate aspiration for the group and is the Freedom front office/team supportive of you guys?

JD: Our ultimate aspiration is to bring soccer culture to the SoccerPlex and to have a huge section of loud, singing, drumming, creatively-heckling fans giving inspiration to the Freedom and intimidation to all of their opponents. The SoccerPlex is a lovely place to play soccer compared to some of the other stadiums in WPS (read: real grass, no American Football line markings on the field), but it shouldn’t be a place other teams look forward to playing. They should fear the Freedom, and by extension, us. We know that a lot of MLS players really don’t like coming to RFK and playing in front of the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles, regardless of how strong or weak United happens to be at the time, and we aim to be like that someday.
At the same time, we’re a family friendly group, and know that the Freedom organization is committed to preserving that atmosphere as well. But you don’t have to be unruly and vulgar to be loud and intimidating/inspirational. You just have to be committed and have a strong pair of lungs.
And yes, the Freedom front office has gone out of their way to help us out, dedicating a section of the stadium for us (Section 111! Come join us!), loaning us flags and drums, all kinds of stuff like that. I know that GM Mark Washo someday wants to see us fill several sections with a giant Freedom jersey pulled over us (like at United games) but we’ll just take it one step at a time.
The team has been great, too. I think they know that we’re ultimately doing this for them, and they appreciate that. They’ve started coming over to give us a round of applause after the games, which I know means a lot to our group who work really hard for 90 minutes, even in sometimes ridiculous heat.
AWK: What kind of people make up the Bravehearts?

Jim's bodhran (an Irish drum) is already a bit worn out

JD: We literally have members of all ages (from kids up through middle age), men and women, different races, etc. The one thing we all have in common is that we love the Freedom and like to make a lot of noise for 90 minutes to support them!
AWK: What has been the most memorable Freedom game from the fan’s perspective?

JD: This season, I’d say the Atlanta game on April 18, where we got our first win of the season, 3-1. It was very gratifying, after having lost the home opener to Boston the week before. Another big moment for us was the July 4 game vs. Chicago. Even though we tied it felt like we were getting some momentum in terms of fan support, and also from the team, who gave us a round of applause after the match, which was a great feeling for all of us.

AWK: On the field stuff…what has been your general impression of the team so far?

JP: Which team? The one from late April through the end of May, or the one that’s been playing in June and July? I’m really not sure what the reason is, but I feel like the Freedom have been weirdly inconsistent. Not from game to game, but from month to month, which is weird considering they’ve been playing the same teams multiple times. They’ll have a really strong streak where they’re rolling over everyone, and then a mediocre streak where they’re struggling to score and conceding soft goals. Overall, though, I think they’re a stronger and more cohesive team than last year, and have found a tactical formation that works for them with Huffman and Long as central midfielders. I think we’re going to miss Lisa deVanna down the stretch, though, if we aren’t already missing her.
AWK: I know you’re a big fan but objectively, where would rank the Freedom the other WPS teams in terms of overall quality?

JD: This could vary with the day. I think when things are clicking for the Freedom they can beat anyone, and handily. When they’re not clicking, they can lose to anyone, or drop two ore even three points after blowing a lead to late goals. (Especially vs. Philly, where Lianne Sanderson has scored in injury time in two games. Gahhh.)
AWK: Jim Gabarra’s formations have always seemed to be very effective. But what kind of player could the Freedom use to become even more complete?

JD: With deVanna out for the season, I think the Freedom have yet to find that strike partner for Abby who’s just right. Both Mykjaland and Welsh have looked great at times, and not as great other times. With the Athletica dispersal draft I was wondering what we’d look like with Tarpley or Aluko, but now we know that’s not going to happen. Is Nikki Marshall the answer? The jury’s out on that one until she gets more minutes at forward, and I worry about whether that move disturbs the chemistry of the back line.

I know that the Freedom have the rights to French international Louisa Necib, who I hear is amazing, but I don’t know if or when they’ll be able to get her to WPS, though. That could be pretty exciting if she ever gets here and clicks with the team.

Jim with the hardest working person in WPS.
That would be sarah Huffman, but I’m sure Glory works pretty hard too.

AWK: Who’s more underrated: Erin McLeod or Sarah Huffman?

JD: This is like asking me to choose a favorite child! I feel that both are seriously underrated. I’m going to have to go with McLeod, though, for a couple of reasons: 1) Huffman didn’t play for virtually all of last season, so people have had less time to get familiar with her abilities, while McLeod’s got nearly two full seasons under her belt, and 2) McLeod’s performance can be more easily assessed with statistics, like being second in the league in saves and save percentage, for example. I mean, it’s staring them right there in the face but yet she still polls out of the top 4 GKs in the all-star balloting, which is something that I just can’t comprehend.

With Huffman, or any quality player in that holding midfield role, you really have to watch her play over full games to appreciate what she brings to the table; it’s not stuff that shows up on a stat sheet or makes the highlight reels. Unless she gets punched in the face by Caroline Seger, of course.
AWK: Who has been the Freedom’s most improved player since 2009?

JD: For this I’m going with Allie Long. Not that she played poorly last season, but that she was hampered by an injury (broken toe, I think) and I think she’s really flourished in her new role in central midfield (as evidenced by her recent WNT call-up). Last season she was kind of bounced around to different positions, including forward, and while was really exciting at times – I think she can be terrific attacking the goal – I don’t think she really found a home. Her role paired with Huffman in central mid really plays well to her technical strengths – she really wins a lot of balls even though she’s not as physical a player as Huffman. And she’s still pretty dangerous offensively and has a shot that commands respect, as you can see from her GOOOOLAAAZOOO vs. FCGP a few weeks back.
AWK: And finally, why do you think it’s so important to have organized fan support in WPS?

JD: Echoing my earlier answer, to really take off I think WPS needs to reflect soccer culture. Womens’ soccer is a niche within a niche in the American sporting landscape, and to be viable I think it needs to attract passionate, committed fans who will be there game in and game out. Casual fans who come to the occasional match, or families who make an evening of it now and then are all well and good and all essential parts of the equation, but the league is too young not to require some degree of commitment from its fanbase as well if it wants to survive.

Organized supporters’ groups provide an avenue for that sort of passion and commitment, as well as creating a game-day atmosphere that’s unique to professional soccer. See, with so much youth soccer in the United States, and so many successful high school and college programs, I think it’s fair to say that your average American has been to some kind of soccer match at some level. But many haven’t been to a professional match, and really have no idea about what that experience can be like (when it’s good). To me, seeing college or lower level games is fun, but when you walk into a DC United game, you’re blown away by the fan support and intensity. Everyone that we take to United games, even those that aren’t really into soccer that much, always says “Wow, that was great, I can’t wait to come back!” Often regardless of the outcome of the match. I think that if everyone who attends a Freedom (or other WPS) home game walks out saying the same thing, then the league is going to grow and prosper. I’m encouraged by all of the different interviews with supporters’ groups that you’ve conducted so far, and I look forward to seeing more, and I wish them well even though we hate their teams.

You can find more information about the Bravehearts at http://www.washingtonbravehearts.com/ . You can also follow them on Twitter @DCBravehearts.

Jul 12, 2010

Top 10 Wish List for MLS Designated Players:

This is going to be simple. Now that Thierry Henry is all but suited up for the New York Red Bulls (possibly the worst kept MLS secret), I’ve compiled a short list of non-U.S. players that I think should be on every MLS franchises wish list as possible Designated Players. Remember under the new Designated Player Rule each team is now allotted 2 (possibly 3) DP slots.

thierry henry

The factors included in producing this list were not amazingly complicated: Name recognition, ability to make plays and/or score (Americans love goals), willingness to play in MLS either right now or within a couple years, and finally their ability to draw the crowds, media attention, and possibly some level of respect to the MLS.

As MLS fans have seen from past DP’s name recognition alone like Beckham will not be enough. Even though Beckham sold out stadiums and outsold all other teams jersey sales, he has been considered a bust on the field and has done very little to bring respect to the quality of MLS as a top level sports league in the U.S.

With that in mind, here is the list. Feel free to disagree, argue, laugh, dismiss, or if at all possible AGREE with this list in the “comments” section:
  1. Patrick Vieira (Manchester City)
  2. Andrei Shevchenko (Dynamo Kyiv)
  3. Clarence Seedorf (AC Milan)
  4. Mikael Silvestre (Free Agent)
  5. Michael Owen (Liverpool)
  6. Ronaldinho (AC Milan)
  7. Gilberto Silva (Panathinaikos)
  8. Roberto Carlos (Cornthians)
  9. Guillermo Franco (Free Agent)
  10. David Gray (Manchester Utd.)*

O.K. so #10 on the list is a bit of a joke but Gray is already a beloved man in America so why not?

Jul 8, 2010

Who was the best US Mens National Team Coach?

USSOCCER.com announced Monday, August 30, that Bob Bradley has signed a four-year contract extension to remain the coach of the U.S. men's national soccer team through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Bob Bradley
Following the 2010 World Cup there had been a lot of talk on soccer message boards and around the Internet regarding rumors of Bradley coaching a European team (i.e. Fulham, Aston Villa). There was also plenty "experts" debating wether or not Bradley was the right coach for the USMNT moving forward and was he solely responsible for their performance and the US teams results in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup?

In my opinion Bob Bradley did the best he could have done with a very small talent pool (most soccer fans would agree the US is still having trouble producing international level talent with exception of Goalkeepers). Add to the limited availability of quality players the fact that Oguchi Onyewu, the defenses anchor, was still recovering from his ruptured patellae tendon injury and Charlie Davies did not fully recover from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in October 2009 causing him to not even be selected for the World Cup roster. Bradley was forced to fill his roster with unproven players in Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez. Neither of whom made much of an impact.

Some may say that the coaches that have come before Bradley like Bruce Arena (1998–2006), Steve Sampson (1995–1998), and Bora Milutinović (1991–1995) had even less talent to draw from. I agree that the level of US soccer talent has grown over the last 20 years but so has the rest of the world which means Bob Bradley's teams faced tougher international competition. Bradley led the US team to an excellent performance in the 2009 Confederations Cup with a win over Spain who is playing in the World Cup Final. So I say lets recognize the excellent job done by Bob Bradley (61.8% of poll voters agree) and hope that the US Men's team can continue to develop a deeper and more talented roster for future international competitions so that soccer/football/futbol will finally get some respect here in America.
  • Bradley coached U.S. to First Place in Group C at 2010 FIFA World Cup, Captured 2007 Gold Cup and First Place in CONCACAF Qualifying
  • Holds Career Record of 38-21-8; Led U.S. to First FIFA Tournament in Final at 2009 Confederations Cup


Jul 5, 2010

How the United States can still win a World Cup!

By Chris Wimmer 

Just because the U.S. Men’s team was eliminated doesn’t mean you will have to wait four more years to see America have a chance to win a World Cup. Some of the best female soccer players including: Brazil - Marta (FC Gold Pride) Formiga & Cristiane (Chicago Red Stars), France - Sonia Bompastor (Washington Freedom), Camille Abily (FC Gold Pride), Germany - Shelley Thompson (Atlanta Beat), Japan - Homare Sawa (Washington Freedom), England - Eniola Aluko (Atlanta Beat), and of course many more will be competing in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.

The Women’s National Team is preparing for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup to be played in Germany 2011 (June 26 – July 17). There have been five Women’s World Cup tournaments (China – 1991 & 2007, Sweden - 1995, and U.S.A – 1999 & 2003) with the U.S. winning twice and finishing 3rd their other three appearances. The most recent FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking the Americans held the #1 spot, followed by #2 Germany (host country), and #3 Brazil.

So if you are a fan of U.S. soccer you will be able to cheer on your country again with the realistic expectations of the Women's National team bringing home the trophy for an unprecedented 3rd time. Now if we could just somehow get the women the same level media coverage as the men, even though the women are much more dominant and respected in the international soccer/futbol scene their coverage is minimul at best. Don't forget it was the now famous U.S. Women's National team of the 1990's, led by Hamm, Akers, Chastain, Lilly, and Foudy that caused the explosive growth in youth soccer that has continued to this day all over America.

For those of you soccer fans that feel U.S. soccer is the closest it has ever been to reaching the tipping point and coming out of the shadows of the "three major sports" and joining that group, I agree and hope the women can repeat their quality tournament performances we have grown  to expect.

Jul 2, 2010

News - Thirty local teams kickoff US Youth Region 1 Championships in West Virginia today

VYSA Announces ODP Tryouts

Virginia Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program:

The Olympic Development Program is a US Youth Soccer Program to identify players of the highest caliber which will lead to increased success for the US National Teams. (http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/index.html).

Virginia ODP is divided into four districts – Central, Northern, Southeastern and Western. Each district conducts open tryouts each summer for the 5 participating birth years of both genders for the next seasonal year. For the upcoming seasonal year, the 2010-2011 seasonal year, tryouts will be conducted for the 98, 97, 96, 95, and 94 birth years. The oldest age group this year, the 93 birth year, is still a part of the ODP, but will not participate at the district or state levels, there will be no tryouts. The 1993 age group may participate by invitation only to Region I Camp in July 2011.
Registration for ODP Tryouts is Now Open

Registration for the upcoming ODP tryouts is now open. Players born between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1998 can register for the Olympic Development Program.

Please be sure to register online for the ODP Tryouts at the following link. The fee to register online is $40.00. The fee to register onsite is $60.00.

ODP District Tryouts Registration Link

On-line registration will close 7 days prior to the tryout dates so don’t delay, sign up on-line and save $20.00.

Please check our website, http://www.vysa.com/ , for dates, times and other useful information about the Olympic Development Program.