Ladies & Reserves Column #15
Arsenal Ladies haven`t had the easiest time of things lately. Losing the Champions League Semi Final to Frankfurt appears to have hurt their confidence and the fixture congestion of battling on four fronts has hit them injury wise. Since the exit to the German champions they underwent some of the most horrific luck I have ever seen in a single football match to lose the F.A. Cup semi final to Chelsea. Last weekend they lost their Continental Cup tie 4-3 at Lincoln`s Ashby Avenue, with the Lady Imps` winner coming with the final kick of the game.
Jayne Ludlow has now returned from a back injury, but Ellie White, whose goals from the right hand side are so crucial, is still bothered by a back problem with no comeback date yet set. Danielle Carter is still not recovered from an achilles problem, whilst Kelly Smith will be lucky to play before September. Arsenal again travelled to Lincoln, this time in the WSL, this Sunday in order to keep their league campaign in check. The WSL is about the only competition in which everything has gone Arsenal`s way as they travelled to Lincolnshire with a 100% record and with nearest challengers Everton and Birmingham having taken points off one another.
Lincoln showed last week they were no soft touch and so it proved again as yet another feast was served up by the two sides. The evergreen Rachel Yankey gave Arsenal the lead half way through the first half, but quick fire goals from Collette McCallum and Megan Harris had Lincoln leading at half time. Fortunately, through Arsenal`s striker shortage, midfielder Kim Little has picked up the baton with gusto, she equalised once on 65 minutes and when Lincoln looked to have won it again through Sarah Daly, Little lobbed home a late equaliser to make the final score 3-3. (Yankey rattled the crossbar in stoppage time). Little has 10 goals in her 11 appearances this season- only one of which has been from the spot. (She`s missed two penalties this season, but scored from the rebound with one of them). That`s not a shabby return from a central midfield player at all.
Elsewhere, second placed Birmingham beat Liverpool 3-1 to cut Arsenal`s lead at the top of the table down to three points. The Gunners play Birmingham City at Borehamwood on June 24th in what is likely to be a vital encounter in deciding where the WSL title goes. Laura Harvey`s side play again on Wednesday, 30th May against Bristol Academy. The game will be played at Stoke Gifford Stadium in Bristol. The West Country side will be riding high having beaten Doncaster Belles 3-2 with a 94th minute winner at the weekend. If you`re in the area and fancy going along, tickets are £5 adults and £3 students / concessions. If not, the game is being screened live on ESPN.
Onto matters of wider importance for the women`s game and the week has seen two very big pieces of news. First off, Olympique Lyonnais retained their UEFA Champions League crown by beating Arsenal`s conquerors Frankfurt 2-0 in Munich`s Olympic Stadium last Thursday. But on a sadder note, the Women`s Professional Soccer League in America has now been permanently dissolved. The league was originally suspended for this year after a sustained legal challenge from Dan Borislow. In 2010, Borislow bought a majority stake in the Washington side, even renaming them "magicJack" to promote his company. magicJack were hit with a number of levies by the league, including having insufficient facilities and unpaid debts. The league argued that the reputational damage of Borislow`s ownership directly affected Puma`s decision to withdraw sponsorship from the league in 2012.
Eventually, magicJack`s membership was terminated, culminating in Borislow challenging the decision through the courts. The resulting case was a drain on WPS resource and they took the decision to suspend the league for 2012 in February this year. (This enabled Arsenal to bring back the likes of Alex Scott, Kelly Smith and Gemma Davison). Borislow`s case was settled out of court on Friday. On Saturday, WPS CEO Thomas Hofstetter announced the permanent dissolution of the league. Leaving aside the legal implications, this leaves many WPS players in limbo and facing the prospect of stepping back down to semi professional level and, ergo, getting another job to boot!
There are two semi professional leagues in the States, the WPSL and the W-League, both of which are semi professional and have already announced that they will look into launching higher level divisions. This puts great pressure on the US team to deliver in this summer`s Olympics. The correlation between their success and the prospect of establishing a new league will be inextricably linked. Interest in the women`s game across the pond is directly influenced by the performance of the national side and bringing home gold this summer appears to be their best chance to rekindle their livelihoods. The Olympics will also become a shop window for many of the WPS players looking for clubs. More on that as it develops. Until next week. LD.
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