Women's Soccer News: Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League Prepares for Opening Day
Teams Have High Expectations for Inaugural Season - Commissioner Jerry Zanelli, Albert Oni, Shek Borkowski, Paul Riley, Aaran Lines and others speak out on the upcoming inaugural season.
Less than three months ago, the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League was created in response to the suspension of the 2012 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) season. Now, with less than three weeks left before the inaugural WPSL Elite League season opens, the eight founding teams have set high expectations for themselves. The new league includes three teams with WPS experience, along with several top WPSL sides.
“With the addition of the pro WPS teams, the WPSL Elite League has become the preeminent women’s soccer league in America,” says WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli.
The 2012 WPSL Elite League will kick off with former WPS teams Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars (who have also played in the WPSL) and 2011 WPS ChampionWestern New York Flash. From the WPSL the Elite League has added ASA Chesapeake Charge, FC Indiana, New England Mutiny and New York Fury. Independent Philadelphia Fever finishes out the eight-team league.
The season opens on Thursday, May 10, when Boston Breakers travel to Maryland to take on ASA Chesapeake Charge. On Saturday, May 12, New York Fury visit New England Mutiny and Western New York Flash host FC Indiana. Chicago Red Stars and Philadelphia Fever open their seasons on Sunday, May 20 hosting FC Indiana and New England Mutiny, respectively.
“We are excited to be in the league and face quality opponents each night on the pitch,” says ASA Chesapeake Charge head coach Albert Oni. “I expect each game to be a challenge and look forward to our team meeting each challenge.”
“I look forward to the challenge of playing the former WPS teams, as they bring a higher level of expertise,” says FC Indiana head coach Shek Borkowski. “The soccer competition will be a higher level than before in the regular WPSL and we are looking forward to this.”
Paul Riley, who coached the WPS Philadelphia Independence to the playoffs the past two years, looks forward to repeating his success with the WPSL Elite League New York Fury. “It has been a whirlwind since we agreed to join the Elite League, and although we are behind in many areas we are building a decent foundation to compete for a playoff spot. Obviously having coached in WPS it was an opportunity to continue the rivalry with Boston Breakers and WNY Flash. Both have outstanding organizations, coaches and playing staff.”
Western New York Flash head coach Aaran Lines feels his team is ready for the new season. “The WNY Flash established itself in 2011 as the best club in U.S. women's soccer by capturing the WPS regular season title and the championship. It is our goal to win the WPSL Elite League and be the only team to win three consecutive championships in three different leagues.” WNY Flash previously won the W-League championship in 2010 before joining the WPS.
Alyse LaHue of the Chicago Red Stars is equally enthusiastic about the upcoming season. “As a former WPS team, we saw a great opportunity to step up a level and play in the Elite League against other WPS teams. Being able to attract a greater range of WPS players to WPSL was another benefit for us, especially having many standout local players that have gone on to the pro level. They are excited to be back home, playing where they grew up, and being able to connect with the local community.”
Lines agrees that the new WPSL Elite League will prove an attractive option to top women players. “I have high expectations for the league as the talent in America is so deep. Also, with three WPS clubs and coaches in the league, many former WPS and National Team players will be drawn to the league with our reputations.”
The new league has already attracted a number of elite women players, including former WPS stars McCall Zerboni (WNY Flash) and Eli Reed (Boston Breakers), and former U.S. Women’s National Team captain Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars) and current National Team member Tobin Heath (New York Fury). Several international standouts have also signed to play in the WPSL Elite League, including Spanish international Adriana (WNY Flash), Australia Women’s National Team members Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt (Boston Breakers) and former Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team member Ciara McCormack (New England Mutiny).
FC Indiana’s Borkowski knows that his team will have their work cut out for them against such competition. “It will be difficult season for FC Indiana to compete against Boston, Western New York and Chicago. For teams like us, we can be successful if we are disciplined and serious, otherwise it could be a long season. Right from the beginning we will be challenged as we meet these top teams.”
The real winners, though, will be fans of top-level women’s soccer. With the quality of players taking part in the WPSL Elite League, high-caliber play is guaranteed. “We will play an entertaining brand of soccer for people of all ages to enjoy,” says WNY Flash’s Lines, “especially the youth players in the Western New York area who can learn from the pros and emulate how they play the game.”
“The Red Stars had a solid run to the WPSL Championship match last season,” says LaHue, “and we expect that form to continue with many great roster additions. The caliber of teams in this league is going to be very high, but we believe we’ve created a roster of quality individuals from top to bottom who are going to be ready to compete day in and day out over the course of the intensely short season.”
Riley sees a great summer ahead for fans of women’s soccer: “We will utilize our WPS experiences to make the New York Fury franchise a stable, consistent team with a great fan base. Hopefully we can give the ever-critical soccer fans of New York something to cheer about. It won't be for lack of effort as our training regimen will be tough, precise and competitive for all the players.”
“The best players in the country will be playing,” says Oni. “That is a recipe for great entertainment and fun.”
The WPSL Elite League regular season runs from early May through late July, with playoff schedules to be determined.
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