“She’s not a puppy midfielder. She’s a puppy forward.”

Back when we started working on this Cross-Conference project, we tossed around the idea of a podcast. I am much more of a textually-oriented person, but my partner here has radio experience and I am always up for learning new media. So we have finally gotten this part of the project together.

Our first run with the podcast has been a learning experience. The final cut was our third time recording. We went from 20 minutes in our first try to 50 in our third (which was then edited down, fortunately). We would like to apologize for first time mistakes and the background noise. When you don’t have a decent internet connection at home, you go where you can for that, even if it’s not the best place to be recording.

In this episode, we expand on our draft thoughts, the USWNT and Algarve, and recent USWNT veterans. The national team commentary is dated now, as this was recorded on Saturday. Can’t wait to improve in the next run!

[Editing to add that we would appreciate feedback. We are already talking about what we need to change and smooth out, but we can stand outside input.]

The smaller the story, the more it means.

Since writing my research proposal last semester, I have been meaning to get my hands on some writing by Georgakopoulou regarding “small stories” or narratives. Last year was perfect for looking at the construction and ownership of narratives in women’s soccer. I could go on at length at how angry ESPN’s approach to college soccer made me, but that is too easy and unproductive. A more fascinating and educational analysis would look at Cal Berkeley, but that takes me tangentially to the WPS, which I think can take a lot of credit for pushing the diversity of narratives across various levels of the sport.

I remind myself that, as a responsible academic, I still need to question the filters and PR at work here. Choices are always being made, and agendas are always at work. But sometimes, it’s important to be positive, to look at and encourage (and celebrate) the progress. In feminist/action research, you acknowledge that you are approaching your studies with a bias and intent. It’s a balancing act. I don’t claim that this blog is anything so formal as those labels, but I do acknowledge that I know I have bias and intent. I do try to balance.

I also get really, really excited sometimes and put off the “hard” questions so I can just enjoy media that brings out the fangirl in me.  Nearly a week later, Pitch Invasion’s article on Kelsey Davis still does this for me. This is partly because I really, really like Kelsey Davis–even though she transferred from UCLA to a team that rivals mine, then was drafted by Chicago (again, not my team). I genuinely enjoy what this athlete brings to the sport, both on the field and off. But this entry is not an encomium of Davis.

So the other reason I am so excited over this article is that, to me, it pings on my narrative radar. These are not canned responses and this article is not canned writing–both of which smack of filtering and outside control. There are different threads in this piece: Kelsey Davis, Davis as a student, Davis as a daughter, Davis as a person, Davis as a developing athlete, Andrew Guest, Guest as a fan of soccer, Guest as an academic, Guest as a person. This is an instance where the writer and the subject seem to be giving equally to the piece in a way that speaks not only about themselves, but about this sport and how this level of this sport at this moment in time has something to say about the sport and society.

I get that Tobin Heath was the number one draft pick, that Amy Rodriguez won a gold medal, that Yael Averbuch trains hard and is going to Algarve. I hear that there is this amazing player named Marta, and apparently she’s won some awards and gets paid more than anyone else in the league. I have yet to see anyone care so much about what those players bring to the sport, or give such thought and consideration to their narratives and how they embody what there is to love about soccer.

This level of caring, this depth of character, this degree of relevance and willingness to share that narrative  is something to strive for. That is part of the beautiful game, too.

Drafty thoughts, take 2?

I am still avoiding reading too generally about the draft. If it doesn’t show up in my RSS feeds, I don’t go looking for it, so of course I am not reminded to come back here and write about it. I did run into–by way of a friend–DiCicco’s comments about this year’s sleepers.

I spent most of the second half of the draft wondering whether Gina DiMartino pulled out or didn’t put her name in. In the latter rounds, after every pick, I was thinking, “Okay, the next one will be her.” But the next one was never her, until the end of the sixth round (56). For comparison, the other Golden Eagle in the draft, Kelly Henderson, went at 31 to Philadelphia.

There are a few reasons I expected DiMartino to carry more value than she apparently did in this draft. Yes, the one W-League game I saw her in last summer was not impressive, but since I had put off W-League games until the end of the season, that particular game didn’t mean anything to either team. Look at Boston College’s run in the fall. There was actually someone worth cheering for in the ACC, who really should have had a chance against UNC. DiMartino wasn’t the “star” of that team–if anyone, it was her sister–but she is quite good. She was good enough just a year before to make DiCicco’s U-20 roster and get minutes–not every one of those players did.

So, at least a third of this draft made sense to me. There were some very late picks that were headscratchers, not so much because they were late picks, but because of who came before. Because of that, a lot of this draft makes me think of the Athletica roster from preseason last year. Maybe I’m too cynical, but I expect a lot of cuts in this class’ future.

Perhaps the most painful cuts are going to come from FC Gold Pride. The team underperformed last year, lost a lot of talent in the offseason, traded away one of the most consistently hardworking players, then put together 2010’s best draft selections. The first four picks are a cohesive, standout unit, and the last four are nothing to scoff at. Still, someone has to go.

That’s the thing about drafts. They get your hopes up, then gut you in time for opening day. By the end of the season, the big-name cuts have either mysteriously disappeared or landed a spot on a postseason roster. Some even wind up on the championship team, and you have to wonder, why couldn’t that have worked in our system?

Drafty thoughts, take 1

One thing I am hoping to accomplish with this blog is to learn some patience when it comes to writing about my reactions to sports. In the case of the 2010 draft, however, I don’t see how giving myself another day to mull things over is going to change much. I did get to sit through the whole five hours yesterday, and I did not do much else with my day.

I think I might be one of the few people who prefers the Twitter and video clip approach over a live video feed of the draft. At least in the WNBA, the procedure of the draft requires a lot of downtime. I can appreciate that, because the draft is an important time for young athletes and their families, and to some extent for the teams’ staffs and media. But I feel as though the online chatter fleshes things out enough without wasting time and resources on a process that requires a lot of visually dull moments. I am okay with waiting for the clips to hit Vimeo and YouTube or for the traditional photos to find their way into galleries. The uniform unveiling is a different story, but I will leave that for another post.

Here are the draft results. I have not checked my feeds yet this morning, but likely everyone and their mothers have already recapped. The pre-draft trade of Tarpley and Loyden might have thrown some predictions off. This selection or that might have been unexpected. This team or that might have drafted perfectly to suit whatever needs were exposed last year. Et cetera.

The past two years, it’s been very nice to know the top pick ahead of time. We really only have to anticipate the draft actually starting rather than wondering whose name will be called first. The excitement of selections begins with the second pick–in this case, Lauren Cheney. Leave it to Boston to play it safe and take the next available gold medalist. In my last entry, I wrote that I thought Boston would take Nikki Marshall, who was instead selected by Washington. What I didn’t mention was that if Boston didn’t take Marshall, I expected them to take Alyssa Naeher instead, which they did at the end of the first round. The Cheney pick leaves me apathetic–after all, she could end up like Rodriguez–but Naeher has played under DiCicco quite a bit. I was not too impressed with Boston’s keepers last year (Lipsher was good, but it took her a while to get there) so I had hoped they would address that in this draft. I think most people assumed Harris was the top keeper in the draft, but having watched Naeher at Penn State and with the U-20 national team, she is the one I feel most comfortable with in goal. You should have seen her in that championship game against Korea.

So, Marshall was still on the table until Washington picked her up at #7. I have to say, I expected them to take Becky Edwards. And I have to say, I am happy with Marshall in Washington and Edwards in the Bay. I did not see much of Marshall with Colorado–only one or two games–but I did enjoy her performance in 2008 and her continued success in 2009. She would be a solid addition to any team, and I think she will serve an important role in stabilizing things in Washington. There seemed to be a lot of personnel movement last season. Washington also took Caitlin Miskel much later. Not surprising, as she stood out at the couple of W-League games I saw last summer.

Since I am not going in any particular order here, I am mostly going to skip Chicago’s picks. My partner here has much more informed opinions on the Red Stars. I will say I am jealous that CRS got Kelsey Davis. FC Gold Pride needed a new backup keeper, and I think she would have been a good fit. Her role with FCGP definitely would have been as the #2, though, and I wouldn’t necessarily rank her behind Loyden for CRS.

Loyden’s move left a gap in Saint Louis that was filled with Ashlyn Harris. Considering how often she seems to have been injured the past few years, not being in competition for the starting role might be a good thing. And just as an aside, a last note on the keepers in the draft, I read that USC’s Olsen pulled out of the draft. Interesting, if it’s true.

Again, I don’t have much to say about LA. For one, they are in limbo so far as a coach goes. For another, Naimo makes solid decisions and has picked up a good crew in this draft. The first four picks for LA were all members of the U-20 national team in 2008, and the fifth is a U-23 and one of the best players in Santa Clara’s graduating class. The other top Bronco was picked up by Boston–and I mean Reynolds, not Angeli. Angeli is an excellent player, but often injured. Best of luck there, Breakers.

Already feeling draft-deprived.

I have been avoiding WPS draft talk since the middle of the college season for a variety of reasons. Let’s narrow it down to my superstitions and leave it at that. This is the same reason I avoided filling out tournament brackets for years, so the excuse will hold up under scrutiny.

It’s a bad idea to blog and publish when you’re upset. At least in this case, what I am writing about isn’t what’s upsetting me, although writing about the draft flies in the face of my usual fannish behavior. For the record, the upsetting bit is that I might not get to follow the draft live this year. It’s a very upsetting possibility.

Last year, despite being in the area, I did not go to the draft. I don’t think there was snow, but I do remember it being frigid. I stayed indoors and followed the draft on Twitter like most everyone else. Even so, it was amazing. I hadn’t dared to tell anyone who I wanted “my” team to draft. When they did draft her, and in the first round, the excitement exploded and just kept rolling with every new pick. The WNBA drafts were never as much fun for me as the WPS college draft was.

This year, I feel more invested and better educated. I have been looking forward to this draft since August. And now I am going to jinx myself.

The thing about drafts (I always have to remind myself) is that a team should draft the best available player to serve its needs. The Rodriguez pick last year didn’t seem to fit that mold for Boston–and obviously, teams don’t always draft to fill a spot so much as to serve other functions. I think the projected top pick this year (Tobin Heath to Atlanta) could serve as both a best-fit and other-function role. And although I don’t think she is the Number 1 pick from the college seniors this year, I do hope Atlanta proves everyone right and takes her. I have selfish reasons.

I think Boston will take Colorado’s Nikki Marshall, simply based on a mid-season quote from Coach DiCicco. I wish I could remember where I read it, but since then, I have been convinced that she will be Boston’s top pick. She impressed me a lot in 2008 (and again in 2009), but people seem to forget about her when they talk about the draft.

My top pick for this 2010 group is Kelley O’Hara. For that reason, I hope Atlanta passes her up. I can say almost certainly that Boston doesn’t want her. And I can say almost certainly that FC Gold Pride would be crazy to pass up a proven goal scorer with ties to the team. The team seems to need that intensity, now that DiMartino has been traded away. Of course, as an FCGP fan, I recognize that FCGP does tend to make crazy personnel decisions, but I’m tired of crossing my fingers.

After this, I would think that Noguiera would go to Chicago. That’s looking at it with American soccer logic, though. She played for UNC, of course she must be a high pick. From another angle, Chicago does seem to like those Santa Clara Broncos. Surely they might consider one of the less injury-prone graduating seniors.

LA Sol are next? I won’t even pretend to have Naimo’s magic powers. He gets three picks this round, and I don’t see LA’s selection at 5 affecting Sky Blue FC at 6 or Washington at 7. Beyond the top three, I don’t have a wish list, and once LA is on the board, I can’t even guess. If my top three hold–even if only two of the three hold–this year’s draft would be just as exciting as last year’s.

I really want to follow it live, though. The magic just isn’t there if it’s not in real-time.