TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for January 22, 2022

BULLETIN: Jan. 22, 2022 — And just like that …

Today, the NWSL Board of Governors approved the change of structure within the Washington Spirit which allowed Y. Michelle Kang to wrest control of the team away from Steve Baldwin.

With that, the unanimous vote should allow Kang to make the changes needed within the club to make a full pivot away from the regime that allowed Richie Burke to coach the team. Burke’s reputation as an abusive coach had been documented in the media at the time of his hire, which should have raised numerous red flags to the managerial braintrust of the team.

Instead, Burke was allowed to verbally abuse the team, which hemorraged star player during his tenure. The final straw was when defender Kaiya McCullough came out and cited Burke as the reason she left the sport entirely.

Kang doesn’t have the necessary control of the team at the moment; the vote today only paves the way for the Washington Soccer Partners organizing group to reorganize.

BULLETIN: Jan. 22, 2022 — U.S. men 2, Canada 1

In one of the most unbelievable single-game performances by a U.S. men’s national field hockey team in the last 20 years, the Boys in Blue beat Canada 2-1 in a Pan American Cup pool B match. Canada was a huge favorite coming into the tournament, given its ability to qualify for the Olympics the last two occasions. But the result has put the U.S. team into position towards qualifying for its first FIH men’s World Cup since the tournament was organized in 1971. It had been four years earlier, 1967, since the United States beat Canada in a Pan American zone tournament.

Though the U.S. has never qualified for the FIH men’s World Cup, the States came close in 2009 when they lost to Canada in extra time. It was a game in which the U.S. led for nearly 50 minutes, but fell on a Paul Wetlaufer tally. There was only one berth available for the World Cup through the Pan American zone.

But that was then; today was an achievement which defies explanation. Think of this: Canada is the tenth-best men’s national field hockey program in the world. On the other hand, the United States men’s field hockey team is perhaps on the lowest tier of the USOPC rung in terms of funding and fan involvement, landing somewhere around modern pentathlon and team handball. It is a self-funded side with players cobbled together from various club sides that play on weekends; no varsity apparatus for the game exists in the USA.

Instead, the selectors for this Pan Am Cup side have been able to make a deep dig for foreign talent. Today’s goal scorers for the U.S. team, Jack Heldens and Kai Kokolakis, made their way to the U.S. roster through Germany.

Heldens’ father Joachim played for the DHB League in Germany as well as the senior men’s national team. Heldens declared for for the United States last year. Kokolakis is from Weisbaden, and has been with the U.S. program for five years.

The States now top Pool B, and, like their sisters on the women’s national team, need just a draw in their final pool match against Mexico to win the pool and get into the crossover round only needing to win one game to get to the World Cup.

Only for the U.S. men, there’s no margin for error. Only two Pan American berths are up for grabs in this tournament; the States need to make the championship final of the Pan American Cup to get into the World Cup.

Full marks have to go to goalkeeper Jonathan Klages and the U.S. defense, as well as Harry Singh, Jun Kentwell, and the U.S. coaching staff.

Jan. 22, 2022 — Trouble in women’s sports ownership, Part 1

The last month or so has seen some upheaval in the National Women’s Soccer League when it comes to the leadership and ownership of the league champion Washington Spirit.

Frankly, it has been business as usual for the 10-year-old Division I women’s pro league, given the financial problems that spelled the doom of the WUSA, the disastrous Dan Borislow ownership within WPS, and now, problems with choosing coaches within the NWSL.

It’s gotten to the point where fans in both Portland and Washington have been calling for changes in management. In Portland, there has been enough fallout from the club’s hiring of the now-disgraced Paul Riley to put a microscope on any and all actions that the club undertakes. This includes the drafting of Sydny Nasello, who fans quickly discovered had retweeted viewpoints on social media that didn’t match the Thorns’ core values.

And this week, the front office of the Thorns and the MLS Timbers franchise announced it was terminating monthly meetings with its main supporters, the nonprofit 107 Independent Supporters Trust.

In Washington, there has been mounting pressure for co-owner Steve Baldwin to sell his portion of the team because of his role in the hiring of the now-disgraced Richie Burke as head coach. Word came down, however, that Baldwin, even as he has refused to sell his share, has been outflanked by his main rival, Y. Michelle Kang.

Kang was able to convince the biggest debt-holder, Devin Talbott, to sell his share to Kang. Talbott and seven other debt-holders converted their shares to equity in order to gain voting rights. According to The Athletic, Kang now holds a 52 percent stake in the team.

Now, the Kang forces can’t exactly declare victory yet. There could be a drawn-out legal process, similar to the process which saw Frank McCourt sell the Los Angeles Dodgers a decade ago.

It is certain that we haven’t heard the last about the quality of governance in women’s soccer, especially on the continent that holds the World Cup and Olympic championships.