D.C. United Women 2011 team. Photo Credit: D.C. United Women
Women's Soccer News: D.C. United Women Prepare for 2012 W-League Season
While the franchise is only two years old, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the W-League’s D.C. United Women’s front office or the team’s attendance statistics. General manager Chris Hummer and his team take their roles very seriously, and it shows on the field and in the stands.
“Most W-League teams are pretty good,” says Hummer, “but we treat it like a pro team in the front office. We have to because of the D.C. brand expectation, as well as the local fan base with a deep knowledge of the women’s game. They will spot anything second class in a heartbeat, so we go all out in every area.”
“I don’t believe there is a market in the world that understands and respects the highest quality of women’s soccer better than the fan base here in the Washington area,” Hummer explained. “As the USA has been at the center of the women’s soccer revolution on a global basis, the Washington region has been at the center of that.”
D.C. United Women managed the second highest attendance in the W-League in 2011, in spite of a less-than-generous home schedule, with only five home games and just one Saturday night, and only eight weeks to prepare before opening day. Hummer credits that in part to the strong fan base for women’s soccer already present in the region from when the Washington Freedom of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) played.
But the front office team did not rest on that alone. “We did a Living Social campaign that combined a youth clinic and sold 650 packages,” said Hummer, “that helped kick start things.”
This season the front office is already hard at work, with a goal of increasing average attendance. “This year anything less than 1,000 average attendance will be a huge disappointment,” Hummer said. “We’re off to a good start with about 100 season ticket packages already, and we’re seven weeks out from opening day.”
D.C. United Women were not just successful in the attendance column. The team and staff were nominated for six USL W-League Organizational Awards for their efforts in 2011. Former general manager Tim Schweitzer was awarded Executive of the Year honors and former team administrator Remy DuCote was nominated for Key Grip of the Year. While both have since decided to focus on their roles with NoVa Majestics, they leave a legacy and large shoes to fill.
D.C. United Women is one of several W-League teams that have developed connections with Major League Soccer franchises. The affiliation benefits both sides as it provides brand identification for the women’s teams while giving the MLS teams the ability to reach a demographic they normally do not. As a franchise, D.C. United Women were nominated for the Media Award and Marketing Award alongside such W-League teams as Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Ottawa Fury and Pali Blues. The biggest news of the post season was when the team was named W-League Rookie Franchise of the Year, acknowledging the amazing effort put in at all levels.
“While last year we filled a void [left when Washington Freedom moved to Florida and became magicJack], this year we really want to lead the next revolution in women’s soccer,” said Hummer. “I think partnering the women’s game with the established MLS brands is the best way forward for the game as a whole. We want to be the standard bearer, along with our fellow MLS-affiliated league members in Seattle, Vancouver, and Denver.”
On the field the Black-and-Red, as they are often called, started slowly but then caught fire. After a 1-3-2 start, head coach Mike Jorden and assistant coach Cindi Harkes made the necessary adjustments to the team and tactics. The result was a four-game win streak to close the season and finish just four points out of the playoffs for the Eastern Conference. Goalkeepers Kerri Butler and Didi Haracic combined for three clean sheets on the season, and Christine Nairn and Christie Welsh each scored three goals for the Black-and-Red.
Hummer is excited about the prospects for 2012. While final contracts are in various stages of completion, the team looks forward to making several big name signing announcements in the coming weeks. Already the list of college-level players signed up for the May tryouts runs to more than 100 names for only six to ten open spots. With all of the enthusiasm, D.C. United Women will also run a reserves team in the USL Super-20 League, and may even put together a third team of active and committed college players and high school seniors as part of a long-term feeder system.
“We’re running a team on a responsible budget,” said Hummer, “but expecting nothing less than the best at every level. It’s all for the good of the women’s game. We’re all in this together, and while we need to be profitable in order to keep the game growing, I think anyone who’s in the women’s game with money as their main focus should find another job.”
For 2012, D.C. United Women have high expectations. Looking to build on their 2011 record, the club hopes to finish at the top of the fifteen-team Eastern Conference and earn the right to host the Conference Championships. From there the next step would be the USL W-League Championships in Ottawa, Canada. With the efforts that the front office and coaching staff have already put in, that might not be just a pipe dream.
2011 D.C. United Women in USL W-League Action
| Aly Shaughnessy in action against NY Magic. Photo Credit: Larry J. Clark
||Danielle Malagari in action against NY Magic. Photo Credit: Larry J. Clark
|| Marisa Abegg in action against NJ Valkyries. Photo Credit: Larry J. Clark
D.C. United Women will open the 2012 W-League season with home matches on May 19 against Virginia Beach Piranhas and May 27 against Northern Virginia Majestics. The team then takes to the road for matches against Dayton Dutch Lions on May 31 and June 2, Fredricksburg Impact on June 9 and Northern Virginia Majestics on June 16. The team returns to the Maryland SoccerPlex in late June. For the full schedule, visit the D.C. United Women website.
As a bonus, the team will take on the WPSL Elite League Boston Breakers in an exhibition match on May 12. The return of the former WPS club to the Washington area is expected to generate a great deal of interest for the W-League team’s season. “I think the local fans just want to see great soccer,” said Hummer, “and if we can play games at home for them in addition to our regular league schedule, we want to do that for them.”
Related Articles: W-League on SoccerNation and Boston Breakers Meet D.C. United Women