Five thousand, nine hundred and sixty-one people. Seriously? Allow me to rewrite that number for all you soccer fans to digest: five thousand, nine hundred and sixty-one. It seems more appropriate to write out the number – 5,961 – for emphasis when trying to show you how many people showed up to all three Women’s Professional Soccer matches over the past weekend.
Here’s the question (if you didn’t already read the headline of the piece): What is wrong with people?
In the home opener for the expansion Western New York Flash at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y. – the same franchise that won the W-League title in 2010, the same franchise that stacked its roster – only 2,164 fans were in attendance. Maybe that’s acceptable for a team that has no postseason goals, or a team that has been around for a while, but this was the first game of the WPS version of the Flash, a team that is expected to contend for the championship, and they only had a showing just over two thousand. Sahlen’s Stadium featured more than a handful of elite players and popular veterans on Sunday, including Heather Mitts, Cat Whitehill and Carli Lloyd for the Atlanta Beat, as well as Marta, Christine Sinclair, Ali Riley, Caroline Seger and Candace Chapman for the Flash.
Meanwhile, in Florida, for the used-to-be Washington Freedom, now-known-as magicJack franchise, in a region of the United States that gets why soccer is the world’s sport, the lowest attendance figure of the weekend – and in league history – showed up to FAU Soccer Field: 1,008. Oh, but it’s understandable, it wasn’t their home opener. You’re wondering how big of a drop-off was it from home opener to second home match for magicJack? You might want to sit down for this whopping figure … sitting yet? OK. magicJack’s opening day attendance was 1,224. After some quick math, that results in a 216 fan decrease. That with arguably the most well-known American female soccer player, Abby Wambach, playing – and still producing, I might add – and guiding her club to a 2-1 win over Philadelphia with a goal and assist. FAU Soccer Field was also cluttered with stars, including Nicole Barnhart, Lori Lindsey and Amy Rodriguez for the Independence, as well as Hope Solo, Lisa de Vanna, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Tina Ellertson, Nikki Marshall and Wambach for magicJack.
And for the WPS Game of the Week on Sunday, a contest at Harvard Stadium in Massachusetts between Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC, a mere 2,789 showed up. Boston, who came away with a 1-0 win on the day, features stars like Rachel Buehler, Kelly Smith, Lauren Cheney, Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Amy LePeilbet and Stephanie Cox, while Sky Blue FC sports stars like Heather O’Reilly, Laura Kalmari, Brittany Taylor, Allie Long, Eniola Aluko and Karen Bardsley (who got the night off).
How can we, as fans of the beautiful sport, not send more people to these games which provide us with world-class talent right here on our own soil?
One word comes to mind when I think of the lack of respect these “fans” give to these hard-working, talented soccer players on a week-in, week-out basis: inexcusable.
Don’t get me wrong, those 5,961 fans in attendance in three venues up and down the East Coast, you get it. I don’t want to hear about it being Sunday. I don’t want to hear about the weather – whether beautiful or not. I don’t want to hear one excuse after another. If you had a chance to be at these games, and didn’t go, and you claim to be a fan of the club, you ought to look yourself in the mirror and reassess your devotion.
WPS is a league that is scraping to survive and you’re not at the match? What’s wrong with you? Soccer is a great sport. We all know this. If you’re reading this, I don’t have to convince you that it is the best sport out there. One reason why soccer is perfect, for the fans specifically, is because you know going to the park that it will be two hours. It’s not like baseball that could last four hours at times, nor football, basketball and hockey, which can all vary in times for a number of reasons. It’s two hours; you’re in and you’re out.
So stop dilly dallying, fans. It’s irritating. I feel for those dedicated fans in Los Angeles, St. Louis and the Bay Area that went to watch their respective teams each and every week only to have them taken away at the drop of a hat. I’m one of those fans who spent countless weeks – either glued to the TV or laptop, or at the park – following FC Gold Pride, and now the team gone. Oh, how I’d love to be at a game each week again this year. I’m certain from talking to fans on the social networks that there are people in the Midwest and SoCal that wish their teams would come back.
There’s no time to be a fair-weather fan. Get to the park and start supporting your team and WPS as a whole. You’re ticking all of us off who can’t go to games that you don’t go with a team right in your backyard.
Things to look for this week
First thing’s first, the Tri-State tilt begins with Sky Blue FC traveling to Rochester, N.Y., to take on Western New York at Sahlen’s Stadium on Friday. Then, on Sunday, the anonymous team known as magicJack will host Atlanta at FAU Soccer Field, followed by the WPS Game of the Week, featuring a rematch of the epic 2010 WPS Super Semifinal between Boston and Philadelphia — this game at Widener University in Chester, Penn.
1. Western New York Flash
3. Boston Breakers
4. Atlanta Beat
5. Philadelphia Independence
6. Sky Blue FC
Player of the Week
Christine Sinclair, Western New York Flash — 2 goals in a 3-0 Flash win over Atlanta Beat in the home opener at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Quote of the Week
“I am obviously going to be making a lot of changes to the line-up. That’s what happens when you see players not giving enough effort,” said Atlanta Beat coach James Galanis after his club got run over by the Flash attack, 3-0.