What happened to the Washington Spirit?

I spent several weeks reporting this piece tracing the club’s trajectory from “30 seconds from the title” to “who’s starting for this club?” and “what happened to the youth clubs?”

I did not pick the word “downfall” in the headline, which immediately made me think of Meme Hitler screaming about the Krieger trade.

Source: So close, and yet so far: the curious downfall of the Washington Spirit | Football | The Guardian

U.S. women’s soccer: Always look on the bright side of life

Sure, they lost 3-0. But they learned a lot, and the crowds keep coming out to see them even when they’re not seeing a bunch of celebrities crushing some hapless, unfunded national team just happy to be staying in a nice hotel.

Go ahead and rip me on Twitter. I won’t be responding. At least until Easter, when all bets are off.

My analysis, quotes and words of comfort from what’s probably my last appearance in the RFK pressbox …

Source: USA women suffer worst defeat in a decade as France win SheBelieves Cup | Football | The Guardian

About this story: How this weekend could shape US Soccer’s long-term future

Reminder: I’m off Twitter for a while aside from automated stuff like this. And the next one. And the next one. So if you want to chat with me about this story, why not chat here?

And this one has a bit of a back story, anyway. I’ve been working on this for months. One reason it took so much time is the staggering number of documents I read — financial reports, transcripts from annual general meetings (“Alabama … here … Alaska … here … OK, now the adult associations … Alabama … Alabama … Alaska … here …”) and so on.

Another reason might surprise you: A lot of people weren’t interested in talking. But I didn’t sense that they felt intimidated. They simply didn’t know anything.

I’m grateful that they admitted it. They’re not the Twitter pundits who think they have all the answers on reforming U.S. Soccer but have never even peeked at any of the information the federation puts online. A couple of people had nothing to add to this story but were looking forward to seeing it published.

So there’s a “put up or shut up” element to this story. Sure. If you really want to see some new people in charge, speak up now and over the next four years, because a lot of people may soon be term-limited off the board.

But I also hope it gives people a bit of a peek behind the curtain. Sure, anyone can read the same documents I did and maybe even talk to some of the same people I did, but it takes some time. If you understand U.S. Soccer a little better after reading this, I’ve done my job.

And if you have anything to add now, please do.

It’s an exciting time for soccer. The sport’s profile in this country has completely changed in the past 15 years. So what’s next?

Story: How this weekend could shape US Soccer’s long-term future | Football | The Guardian

U.S. women and 60 Minutes: What we still don’t know

Yes, Carli Lloyd actually said the women’s team deserves to be paid more than the men.

We still don’t know what that means.

So my Guardian piece on the matter covers some familiar ground. But we do have some news, and it’s probably not good. This labor dispute has no signs of progress. The next round of talks has been delayed, and we don’t know why. The EEOC doesn’t seem to be close to issuing any sort of guidance.

The women are willing to talk about the issues. But only on their terms.

A few other thoughts:

  • I’m not comfortable calling the women’s soccer team the greatest team in women’s sports history. Not when the USA had to catch up to other countries in basketball and is now overwhelmingly No. 1 in a sense that the women’s soccer team never was.
  • The piece wasn’t bad, especially given its generalist audience, but some of the editing made little sense. Rich Nichols made a point about the similarities (or differences?) between the U.S. soccer dispute and the NBA/WNBA, and the context of his point wasn’t at all clear. Hope Solo made a point about the men getting paid “win or lose” — in the context of U.S. women’s salaries that are paid, you guessed, win or lose. (Or sit out entirely.)
  • The points raised on travel are misleading if not outright false. The men travel business class when they’re flying to camp from their European club teams and on a charter when they’re going some place like San Pedro Sula. They’ve sometimes been in coach in other situations, though I don’t know how recently. The women’s Memorandum of Understanding says flights over three hours are business class or charter. If USSF is violating that deal, then that’s a point worth mentioning. (That said, the sides are trying to negotiate what happens in the future.)
  • We still don’t know how any of this affects the NWSL. Some people who chatted with me say it’s not fair to expect the U.S. women’s deal to have any NWSL ramifications. Maybe it’s not. But if U.S. Soccer is going to continue subsidizing salaries for its players in the NWSL, then it’ll be difficult to write a labor deal that doesn’t address that fact.

Here’s the story, which has a surprising number of comments considering that the U.S. soccer community has been preoccupied with the Klinsmann matter: The USA women’s national team are demanding equal pay. Is it realistic? | Football | The Guardian

It’s time to introduce a two-legged MLS Cup – with a twist | Sport | The Guardian

The single final is insufficient, and the two-leg final doesn’t reward the higher-seeded team for their regular-season performance. So why not combine the two?

Source: It’s time to introduce a two-legged MLS Cup – with a twist | Sport | The Guardian

Stats work against Cubs (and all regular-season wonders)

The Cubs had the best record in MLB this year, and enter the NL Championship Series as favorites – but history shows such a record is usually a kiss of death.

Story includes references to Spinal Tap and the Washington Spirit.

Source: Is this finally the Chicago Cubs’ year? Sadly, the stats suggest not | Sport | The Guardian

Carli Lloyd strikes another blow against USWNT’s old image

Carli Lloyd says she “doesn’t do drama.” And yet that’s her entire book. Indeed, it’s much of her career, and she devotes a lot of ink here toward rehashing the various reasons she has long played with a chip on her shoulder.

So, like prior books by Hope Solo and Abby Wambach, When Nobody Was Watching presents a more complicated — and more realistic — view of the athletes who sacrifice so much of themselves in pursuit of excellence.

Source: Carli Lloyd’s memoir explodes myth that US women’s soccer is all fun and friends | Football | The Guardian

Spirit dropped the ball, then Rapinoe dropped it again

My complex reaction to a wild night in which Spirit owner Bill Lynch tried to quiet Megan Rapinoe’s protests but wound up amplifying them — and then Rapinoe made horrible use of that platform.

Source: Washington Spirit gave Megan Rapinoe fans by stopping her anthem protest | Football | The Guardian