Apologies for writing about last week’s NWSL panel at the NSCAA convention nearly a week after it happened, but it’s tough to get any work done when the local schools decline to open and give your kids some place to go during the day.
In any case — the big issues have been covered. First: The coaches say it’s difficult for them to compete salary-wise with Champions League teams. That doesn’t apply to the players in the allocation pool, but it would apply to anyone on the outside. Players who pass up higher pay to come over here are doing so for the competition — tough games each week instead of 10-0 routs over the Sindelfingens and Toulouses of the world.
The other big issue is the schedule. Everyone’s dreading a five-month stretch with 24 games. The basic problem is international loans. The season can’t start too much earlier — the Algarve and Cyprus Cups already take away international players during preseason. And it can’t go later because teams would have to return their international loanees by early September. So as long as women’s soccer players are doing the WNBA thing and playing year-round in two different countries to make ends meet, this is reality.
But the discussion turned up another thread worth following: Is the league’s style of play too athletic, too frenetic, too fast?
Chicago’s Rory Dames was the one raising the question. “We need to slow the game down, make it about technique as well as athleticism,” Dames said.
Dames saw the clash in international styles first-hand through the German players on the Red Stars last season. They saw a lot of “pointless running” on the field in NWSL play, he said. That echoes a few comments Washington’s Conny Pohlers made in her too-brief time in the league.
Over the course of a 24-game, five-month season, teams would be well advised to work smarter, not harder. But how do you teach that to players who come out of college soccer, where they run hard and then get breaks to catch their breath?
One of many things to watch in the next season. Can’t wait.
Other quick notes from the NWSL panel:
– Washington coach Mark Parsons had a curious comment about challenges in coaching. He said a team might have an accomplished player who’ll do anything it takes in practice along side a player who has done nothing at this level but “demands the world.” Read into that what you will.
– Boston’s Tom Durkin said the Breakers are looking toward an ECNL (elite youth) presence as part of a full-fledged club with a consistent curriculum. Could be interesting.
– Yes, at least one other coach teased Seattle’s Laura Harvey about her active wheeling and dealing in the offseason. She smiled like the Cheshire cat.