WPS stars in fine fettle at jersey unveiling
At the WPS jersey unveiling in Manhattan on Feb. 25, ESPNsoccernet was able to catch up with some of the league's players as well as commissioner Tonya Antonucci. On the top of the agenda were the recent international signings, the possibility of European players having to miss the championship game and whether games will be broadcast online. Here's what Antonucci had to say:
ESPNsoccernet: What are your thoughts on signing three-time FIFA world player of the year Marta?
Tonya Antonucci: To have the world's best player is a gold standard. She's the kind of player that everyone wants to play with and against. So, the tide rises. You never know what she's going to do. She's got so many skills in her bag of tricks.
ESPNsoccernet: Has Marta's arrival led to other big-name internationals signing, such as England's Kelly Smith (Boston)?
TA: Some of these negotiations were in parallel and on their own sort of gestation periods. But it doesn't hurt, for sure. It certainly doesn't hurt.
ESPNsoccernet: With the 2009 European Championships falling just a few days after the WPS championship game, will the European stars be available to play for their club teams in the WPS final?
TA: We had tradeoffs. Were we going to launch during the Olympics? Or were we going to launch during Euros 2009? We've got to work through it. If we take a break, we back into the big six [NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football and college basketball]. Television's crowded, and we lose our TV time. Kids are back in school. So you go into September, and you have problems there. So we felt like we did the best that we could. We're not going to take a break. We're going to play through. We'll see how it goes. It's also, on the upside, exciting. You don't want to miss any players for your final, but at the same time, it's exciting to know that you have the world's best players and they're playing for the national side. This problem is not new to soccer.
ESPNsoccernet: In that event, when would those players need to be released to play for their national teams?
TA: That depends on what we negotiate with the actual national team, and that process is not done yet. Hopefully they'll work with us, we'll work with them, on the international calendar in general and not just the championships.
ESPNsoccernet: Will WPS games be broadcast on the Internet?
TA: The teams will each have a minimum of two games streamed online live. The league will probably broadcast a number of games online live on our game of the week from Sunday nights. We'll have highlight packages and other mash-ups of content and get it out there virally.
With plenty of marquee players present to model their respective team jerseys, it was a great opportunity to gather their thoughts as the WPS opener on March 29 approaches.
"I'm open to new nicknames, but I'm really just looking forward to going [to Boston] and hopefully giving people a new A-Rod to look up to and hopefully bringing down some positive light to that name." -- Amy Rodriguez (Boston Breakers) on sharing the nickname "A-Rod" with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
"On paper, I think we look amazing, but we all know that on paper doesn't exactly translate onto the field. But, I will stand by my belief that we will be 2009 champions. I'm gonna stand by that." -- Hope Solo (St. Louis Athletica) on what to expect from her team.
"That game was probably the most memorable game of my entire career. It brings chills to my arms when I watch the highlights and rewatch the game. It was amazing." -- Carli Lloyd (Chicago Red Stars) on scoring the game-winning goal over Brazil in the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game.
Another international signs with WPS
World player of the year finalist and Marta's partner in crime on the Brazilian team, Cristiane, has signed with the Chicago Red Stars. After revealing last month at the world player of the year news conference her intention to go to Chicago, the deal is official. It'll be interesting to see how Chicago's team comes together under coach Emma Hayes, but getting Cristiane the ball as much as possible surely will be a top priority.
Jacqueline Purdy is an editor for ESPNRadio.com. She also hosts the ESPN Women's Soccernet podcast on ESPN PodCenter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.