Antonucci's departure and Solo rant overshadow playoff race

[WPS] Women's Professional Soccer can't seem to get a break. Its playoff race once against went down to the final day of the regular season, but Saturday's action was overshadowed by reports of another shakeup for the troubled league. It didn't help that one of the league's biggest stars went off in Twitter tirade about a game whose result didn't affect her team's final placement ...

Abby Wambach's goal in the 89th minute gave the Washing ton Freedom a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Beat that clinched fourth place and the final playoff berth.

Boston's 0-0 tie with Sky Blue FC was enough to give the Breakers second place ahead of Philadelphia, whose 4-1 loss at league leader FC Gold Pride was its fourth straight loss.

WPS has retained its postseason format that will decide the 2010 champion within a week.

Playoff Schedule
Sept. 19: First Round -- Washington at Philadelphia
Sept. 23: Super Semifinal -- First-round winner at Boston
Sept. 26: Final -- Semifinal winner at FC Gold Pride

Missing out on the playoffs was the defending champion Sky Blue FC, which needed to beat Boston and hope Washington didn't defeat Atlanta, Chicago, whose season had ended last week, and Atlanta.

Christine Rampone, who served as player-coach when Sky Blue won the 2009 championship with a three-game sweep of the playoffs, tweeted “Free at last!!!!!!!!!!!!” after another season of upheaval in New Jersey ended, then deleted the tweet the next day.

But that was nothing compared with the rant by U.S. national team goalie Hope Solo after the last-place Beat's 1-0 loss to the Freedom.

She tweeted, "Its official, the refs are straight bad. Its clear the league wanted dc in playoffs. I have truly never seen anything like this. Its sad. A goal taken away with no explanation, one offsides call against dc, many against atlanta. An amazing all ball tackle for a red. We play with 10, DC with 12. Players punched in the face. Free corners. I am done playing in a league where the game is no longer … In control of the players."

And the league shakeup? The Washington Post's Steven Goff reported that Commissioner Tonya Antonucci, who oversaw the league's launch, will step down in the continued house-cleaning of the league office, which also has lost COO Mary Harvey and several key marketing and communications executives.

The moves signaled the remaining owners to take on a more hands-on role in the operation of the league, which lost two franchises, Los Angeles and St. Louis, in 2010.

"We realized after St. Louis we needed to get in the room and make sure we can build this to last,” Atlanta owner T. Fitz Johnson, the chairman of the WPS board, told the New York Times. “We don’t want another St. Louis."

Antonucci will be replaced by WPS General Counsel Anne-Marie Eileraas, who will take the title of CEO

7 comments about "Antonucci's departure and Solo rant overshadow playoff race".
  1. David Sirias, September 13, 2010 at 10:11 a.m.

    As one of the few hard core mls guys who follows wps, I certainly hope the league gets it's act together. WPS is vital to the national team program And the skill level is good enough on most teams to produce a good product. But something is wrong. Most games are still yawnfests because most coaches are defense first types. Same problem as MLS but which can't be hidden by pure pace of the players And the league is making the same mistake of not branding enough or at the very least working with MLS. Why there is no team in Canada which will have three teams soon with excellent
    ownership ( or Seattle which is the real soccer city) is beyond me. And for chriminey sake get rid of the football lines and college logos in the center circle If it can be done in seatlle it can be done anywhere. Yes it costs money. But your league might survive. Those little things matter. Otherwise it's doomed. And that would be a shame.

  2. Leonardo Perez, September 13, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.

    Right on, David Sirias. I too, a fellow MLS diehard since 1996, want to start liking the WPS. For the same reasons that you have stated, but I have one more gripe about the WPS.
    Can't they name the place where the teams are from? SKY BLUE is from what city? I still don't know. Can't they brand their teams with the team's location? It would be too bad if this league folded. Just saying!

  3. James Madison, September 13, 2010 at 1:35 p.m.

    I would love to be watching FC Gold Pride, but find it difficult when games are scheduled on the same day as Earthquakes matches. If that is indicative of the WPS overall, no wonder the league is struggling.

  4. Tyler Dennis, September 13, 2010 at 10:02 p.m.

    Games are pretty good, but they need to increase their speed of play considerably. When they do put some intensity into the game, it is fun to watch. Problem is that the intensity is usually the last 10 minutes of each half and maybe the first 5 minutes after halftime.

  5. John Riley, September 14, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

    FC Gold Pride is always exciting to watch. Some of the other TV games have lacked the moments of brilliance that we all wait for, but the intensity is always there. With the Pride the top 6 players always produce something outstanding.

    As for Solo she is a fantastic ball stopper but is not a team player either for Atlanta or the WPS. Her public outbursts have made her a minor embarrassment but I have simply tuned her out. If I were the USNT coach I would drop her and tell her she can come back only if she figures out what it means to be a responsible player. The US has some wonderful alternatives.

    I was surprised to see that the Commissioner is leaving. I guess it means that the owners are going to work out a new deal for the league next season on their terms. I never did understand why the USNT players got a special "group deal" or the foreigners either.

  6. Robert Robertson, September 15, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

    My family regularly goes to SkyBlue games although, we decide which games to attend based on their opponents. We always love Marta as she is my daughters role model. We also made an effort to see the new teams. I decided to support WPS over MLS since tickets are cheaper, my daughter plays, and WPS have more international players. We particularly, like the Brazilian players as a group since they have "moves". The women players both US and International have always made an effort to reach out to the fans - the first professional player my daughter ever met was Christie Rampone. So, they are doing their part.
    The world recession (depression) has hurt the league along with lack of real support from mls and US Soccer officialdom. In this regard, just helping to get stadium usage at little or no cost would be a big plus and is a realistic way to aid WPS. For example, the new Red Bulls stadium - this would allow NYer's more accessibility along with Northern NJ fans to the games. I feel the womens world cup should give the league a boost next year. Additional franchises would reduce travel expenses which hopefully will be forthcoming. (There are obviously, fans in LA and on the West coast). This year I think the mens world cup hurt the league but, should help it in the future as greater Soccer awareness in general grows. Also, just needs a little more time for youth players of today to grow up.

  7. David Huff, September 16, 2010 at 7:24 p.m.

    I was a LA Sol ticket holder until AEG decided to pull the rug out from underneath them and so there are no games to attend anymore. I really question whether this league will survive after this season with all the down-sizing that is taking place. Hope Solo is a great player and I don't have a problem with criticism of bad refereeing (although some thin-skinned individuals do), its her opinion afterall and we don't live in North Korea.

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