I just don’t get it. On Wednesday, Atlanta Beat Head Coach James Galanis admitted postgame to reporters that the team never expected to make the playoffs this season.
“We never expected to make the playoffs,” Galanis said to All White Kit’s Lauren Barker postgame. “This is a developmental year.” Check out the full audio interview here.
That admission comes more than halfway through the season with the Beat sitting at a miserable 1-8-3 (6 pts.) and dead last in the standings. It may not be fair to say that such an admission was suspected prior to Wednesday, but the end result was certainly expected. Sure, the large majority expected Atlanta to finish in last place this season. But at least for a few months, we were led to believe that Atlanta did not believe that. Was that all a front? It seems that way.
I’ve got nothing against the players in Atlanta. This has very little to do with those players, who are not only hard workers but just great people. Maybe at this point in the season they realize that the playoffs are more than likely out of the question, but I don’t believe that at any point early on they thought they were playing for sixth place.
I also have nothing against development. The United States clearly needs some of that as the generation gap between the old guard and the youngsters becomes more apparent. New players still need to step up in Germany this summer and beyond.
But that is not what is at question here. What we have is a team admitting that it never expected to make the playoffs in a six team league where four – yes, that is two-thirds – of the teams make the playoffs. A team just needs a hot streak and a little luck to be in the playoff mix, but apparently that was never the intent in Georgia.
This was a business decision; I get that. Atlanta owner Fitz Johnson decided that to take a route that did not involve overpaying for better players. That says something about WPS’ current business model, which just can’t support dishing out full salaries to every player. By controlling player costs, Atlanta can better cut costs. And while some fans will feel shorted, the majority of casual fans who come to one or two games each year for a family night out won’t know any better (at least, for the sake of future attendance, let’s hope).
Where this problem lies is competition. Four teams qualifying for the playoffs in a six team league already cuts the legitimacy and urgency of most regular season WPS games. To essentially cut that number to five almost makes the regular season completely irrelevant. At a time when WPS searches for a breakthrough into the public eye, that is the last thing the league needs. Did anybody really need to know that the Beat never expected to make the playoffs? Perhaps it is better than putting up a front, but both options leave WPS fans unfulfilled.