Thursday Roundup: NWSL Disciplinary Committee suspends Mathias

Allison Lee May 11, 2017 95

Also in today’s roundup, England announces its final pre-EURO friendly, Henninger joins WPSL team’s coaching staff, Shannon MacMillan joins MLS investment group and U.S. U-17 camp roster announced.

Merritt Mathias was handed a three-game suspension and fined by the NWSL Disciplinary Committee. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Merritt Mathias was handed a three-game suspension and fined by the NWSL Disciplinary Committee. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

NWSL suspends, fines Merritt Mathias

The NWSL Disciplinary Committee announced Thursday evening that Seattle Reign FC defender Merritt Mathias has been suspended three matches and fined an undisclosed amount for violent conduct determined to be major game misconduct.

The incident in question came in the 68th minute of the Reign’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Thorns last weekend. While both Mathias and Thorns defender Emily Sonnett were competing for the ball, Mathias appeared to pull Sonnett’s ponytail as the ball rolled out of bounds, causing Sonnett to briefly square up with Mathias before alerting the referee of Mathias’ actions. No card was awarded for the incident, although the referee did talk to the Reign defender afterwards.

Merritt Mathias fouls Emily Sonnett during the Reign's 2-2 draw with the Thorns.

Merritt Mathias fouls Emily Sonnett during the Reign’s 2-2 draw with the Thorns.

That incident was the second in as many games, as Mathias was awarded a yellow card during the Reign’s 3-0 loss on the road in Boston. Mathias and Breakers defender Allysha Chapman were competing for the ball and, once again, Mathias pulled Chapman’s ponytail.

This is also the second season that Mathias has faced punishment from the league’s disciplinary committee. Last year she was suspended one game after an incident with FC Kansas City’s Shea Groom. Although the referee missed the on-field incident, the disciplinary committee investigated the incident, initially declining to punish Mathias for the incident. However, after new evidence–most likely a video of the incident shot by a fan in the stands behind the goal–surfaced, the committee reversed its decision and suspended Mathias for “major game misconduct and unsportsmanlike conduct detrimental to the league.”

England announces final pre-EURO friendly

England will take on Denmark in its final match before the 2017 EUROs. (photo: England FA)

England will take on Denmark in its final match before the 2017 EUROs. (photo: England FA)

England’s national team announced today that it will close out its preparation for the European Championship with a friendly match against Denmark on July 1. The two teams will meet at Gladsaxe Stadium in Copenhagen.

“Demark are a team who will have genuine ambitions of going a long way in the summer, so it will be a good challenge for us leading into the Euros,” Mark Sampson, who made waves when he announced his Euro-squad back on April 3, said in a statement. “It will be our last game before the tournament, so we will prepare well for the match and look to get a win as we head into the final phase of our Euros preparation.”

{BARCELONA: We’ll have a team in NWSL for 2018}

Before traveling to Denmark, the Lionesses will face Switzerland in Biel on June 10. Their first group stage match of the EUROs is on Wednesday, July 17 against Scotland, followed by matches against Algarve Cup champions Spain on July 23 and Portugal on July 27.

Bianca Henninger joins WSPL team’s coaching staff

Bianca Henninger has joined the WPSL's TTi as a player and assistant coach. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Bianca Henninger has joined the WPSL’s TTi as a player and assistant coach. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The Technical Institute (TTi) announced the hiring of current Mexico women’s national team and former Houston Dash goalkeeper Bianca Henninger to its WPSL team coaching staff. Henninger will serve a dual role for the team, serving as an assistant coach while playing for the club. Henninger is joining former Dash teammates Haley Carter, Stephanie Ochs and Jordan Jackson at TTi. 

{THURSDAY Q&A: Breakers forward Midge Purce}

Henninger was recently waived by the Houston Dash after Head Coach Randy Waldrum selected USWNT goalkeeper Jane Campbell in the 2017 NWSL College Draft and Campbell won out Henninger’s spot on the roster. Henninger had been with the Dash since its inaugural season, serving as backup to Canadian-international keeper Erin McLeod and Australian-international keeper Lydia Williams. In 2015 Henninger won Player of the Week for Week 7 after recording 8 saves in a 1-0 win over the Portland Thorns.

U.S. U-17 WNT to hold 40-player training camp

In the wake of its Torneo Femminile Delle Nazioni win last month, the U.S. U-17 women’s national team will be holding a week-long training camp from May 14-21 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. The camp will be a way for U-17 head coach Mark Carr to evaluate players at the start of a new cycle and, therefore, boasts a large, 40-player roster as Carr continues to prepare for the 2018 U-17 World Cup.

Sixteen players from the Torneo delle Nazioni roster were once again invited into camp, and those players account for 10 of the 13 goals scored in that tournament. Lia Godfrey, who scored the other three, is unavailable for the camp because of injury. Three of those players–forward Jordan Canniff and defenders Kennedy Wesley and Katie Weisner–are starting their second cycle with the U-17 WNT and were all members of the U.S. squad that competed in the 2016 U-17 World Cup.

The U-17 camp will include a scrimmage against the WPSL’s Tampa Bay United Hellenic on May 20. 

U.S. U-17 WNT Roster by Position

GOALKEEPERS (6): Angelina Anderson (Mustang SC; Danville, Calif.), Rachael Black (SC Del Sol; Phoenix, Ariz.), Ryan Campbell (So Cal Blues; Dana Point, Calif.), Marzia Josephson (CASL; Apex, N.C.), Lindsey Romig (Richmond United; Midlothian, Va.), Cayla White (McLean; Arlington, Va.)

DEFENDERS (10): Michela Agresti (FC Stars of Mass.; Swampscott, Mass.), Kamryn Farro (Livermore Fusion; Livermore, Calif.), D’awncey Jones-Black (Honolulu Bulls SC; Ewa Beach, Hawaii), Julianna Leskaukas (PDA; Brielle, N.J.), Makenna Morris (Bethesda SC; Germantown, Md.), Natalia Staude (Tophat SC; Atlanta, Ga.), Kennedy Wesley (So Cal Blues; Rossmoor, Calif.), Astrid Wheeler (Tophat SC; Atlanta, Ga.), Harper White (TSC; Franklin, Tenn.), Kate Wiesner (Slammers FC; Monrovia, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (14): Ainsley Ahmadian (Eclipse Select SC; Naperville, Ill.), Hannah Bebar (Eclipse Select SC; Naperville, Ill.), Croix Bethune (Concord Fire; Alpharetta, Ga.), Talia DellaPeruta (Tophat SC; Cumming, Ga.), Maya Doms (Davis Legacy; Davis, Calif.), Mia Fishel (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Ellie Glenn (Tophat SC; Avondale Estates, Ga.), Sophie Jones (De Anza Force; Menlo Park, Calif.), Madison Mercado (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Maggie Pierce (CASL; Cary, N.C.), Leah Scarpelli (PDA; Brick, N.J.), Jadyn Shinn (De Anza Force, Manteca, Calif.), Hollyn Torres (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), MacKenzee Vance (Jacksonville Armada; Bluffton, S.C.)

FORWARDS (10): Jordan Canniff (Richmond United; California, Md.), Laney Carroll (Redlands, Calif.; Legends FC), Sunshine Fontes (Honolulu Bulls SC; Wahiawa, Hawaii), Savianna Gomez (Torrance, Calif.; Beach FC), Payton Linnehan (FC Stars of Mass.; Douglas, Mass.), Brecken Mozingo (Celtic Storm; Sandy, Utah), Diana Ordonez (FC Dallas; Prosper, Texas), Gabrielle Robinson (BRYC Elite Academy; Springfield, Va.;), Kalyssa Van Zanten (Eclipse Select SC; Buffalo Grove, Ill.), Hannah White (Tophat SC; Atlanta, Ga.)

Shannon MacMillan joins San Diego MLS investment group

Shannon MacMillan has joined the San Diego MLS investment group.

Shannon MacMillan has joined the San Diego MLS investment group.

Eleven investment groups are currently jostling to win out on a Major League Soccer expansion bid, and one group just brought some USWNT star power to its group. Former USWNT forward, 1999 World Cup Champion, and National Soccer Hall of Famer Shannon MacMillan was recently added to the San Diego group as both an investor and an adviser, according to Sports Illustrated. Although she was born in New York, MacMillan grew up in Escondido, Calif., a city about 30 miles north of San Diego. She also played for WUSA side San Diego Spirit from 2001-2003.

  • Observed

    The hottest temperature recorded in Escondido was 112º on July 22, 2006. Basically San Diego. Imagine playing on plastic turf in that heat.

    • Paul Klee
      • Silver Frost

        I used to live in SD. It’s the desert, and it’s hot.

        • Paul Klee

          The MLS stadium is going to be developed in the Qualcomm area I believe. And I think that is in the maritime climate.

          • mockmook

            If you are referring to Qualcomm Stadium, even though it is only around 10 miles inland, it is a very hot place in the summer — it probably doesn’t help that it sits at the bottom of a valley that likely limits air movement.

        • mockmook

          If you lived in SD, you know that coastal SD (the part that most people think of when they think of SD) is very mild.

    • mockmook

      As Paul notes, San Diego “proper” is typically mild — on or very near the cool Pacific.

      It’s a different story for places like Escondido — even 5 or 10 miles inland is enough to get the temperature to soar.

  • Silver Frost

    MM should have been suspended the whole season. That was assault and battery.

    • guest

      MM is a hack as is Fishlock. Zerboni is the same. Portland players also make contact first win ball second and then collapse whenever they are near the box. There should be some review of these games even if they don’t get the calls right during he games. MM couldn’t argue it with as accidental when she had just done the same thing the game before.

      • William

        Fishlock a hack?? really You a thorns fan ??

      • Lorehead

        Mathias (and Shea Groom) have a pattern of behavior. Fishlock and Zerboni, who have been team captains, don’t.

        • I think Mathias and Zerboni have a pattern, not Groom. Groom goes in hard for balls, she doesn’t physically attack other players after the play has gone dead. Mathias does this regularly, and Zerboni has done this in the past.

          And Groom hasn’t had a single incident this season, so why all the hate towards her still?

          • Lorehead

            It’s early yet.

          • mockmook

            It’s the new kindler, gentler Groom — I hear she has been meditating with Press 🙂

          • Lorehead

            When people talk about Zerboni, they’re talking about one indefensible incident. (She had an unrelated, off-the-field black mark on her record, from years ago.) You can dig up some really bad incidents from a lot of players: in 2014, Megan Rapinoe kicked another player’s feet out from under her, from behind, while the ball was dead. Carli Lloyd, that same week, earned the first suspension in NWSL history for grabbing another player by the jersey and punching her in the head. Or Melissa Tancredi.

          • JL

            That wasn’t a punch, it was a smack with an open hand. It doesn’t excuse what Lloyd did, and she definitely deserved to be suspended for it, but I wanted to clarify that point.

            But at least she had the class to publicly apologize for what she did, which is more than I can say for some other players.

          • Lorehead

            Violent conduct either way. It’s been a while since I saw the video, but I seem to remember it being ambiguous. I think at the time, I ended up saying “struck.”

    • newsouth

      LOL, I played football and had guys stomp my hand with cleats, and you are on here crying about assault and battery after ladies have a ponytail pulling contest in a heated game. stay hidden in your basement.

      • Silver Frost

        Is that the standard now? Cleats used as weapons? FU.

      • suseboy

        Any infraction involving the head and neck is serious. Having your head/neck jerked back or twisted at speed can potentially cause whiplash. MM also has a history. Maybe a 3 game suspension is harsh, but some form of punishment is entirely appropriate. Btw, malicious stomping on hands with cleats (which can result in broken bones) should also merit disciplinary action.

    • William

      Get real, it didn’t warrant a card on field. I call this revisionist history, after all wasn’t the game promoted as the most heated rivalry in the NWSL. The suspension is unwarranted, BS.

      • DNG

        The suspension is not unwarranted at all. If the referee saw it, she would have gotten a card. Regardless the disciplinary committee is well within their right to review and give supplemental punishment when they deem it necessary.

        • William

          3 games, yes unwarranted for sure. Claim it’s for repetitious behavior all you want, Sonnett’s own teammates didn’t even protest after the incident happened.

          • DNG

            Don’t agree at all. If the teams thinks it’s undeserved maybe they can appeal the decision. Terrible reasoning re: Thorns teammates response. No one was really that close to her that they would have definitely seen what happened. Sonnett looked like she was about to hit Mathias.

          • William


            Menges had to have seen exactly what happened and yet offered no support.”

          • DNG

            You don’t know that. Complete speculation on your part. I don’t feel anywhere near as confident about that as you seem to.

          • William

            Watch the video she was maybe ten feet away looking directly at the play.

          • DNG

            We don’t see Menges’ eyes from the replay do we? She’s most likely looking at the ball being ushered out of bounds or focused on something else than Sonnett and Mathias. It is completely plausible that she didn’t see what happened and whats more Mathias was suspended. It’s not even worth arguing with you about this anymore because the league felt she has done enough to warrant a 3 match ban. Based on the leagues action and the comments here very few(if any) people agree with you. It’s hard for me to take you seriously when you continue to defend an action that is clearly outside what is acceptable behavior in soccer. And what you failed to note in Foudy’s comment about hair pulling is that she also said that violently pulling back someones ponytail clearly crosses a line.

          • JL

            Unless things have changed, there isn’t a process for teams to appeal cards, or suspensions that are less than 6 games.

      • She should have gotten a card on the field for this. It would have been her second, equaling a suspension for the next game.

        Maybe the disciplinary committee thought this act deserved a 2-game suspension (like Zerboni got for her stomp of Shea Groom). The 2-game suspension, plus another for what should have been yellow card accumulation is perhaps how they arrived at this decision.

        • mockmook

          And, I think they want her to take the “message” to heart this time — probably tired of seeing her name pop up.

        • William

          That’s possible, I still think two games would have sufficed to get the point across. Or was the extra game because of who the second infraction was against, never know.

      • Bill

        What does how the game was promoted have to do with anything?

        You keep harping on this as if it is relevant at all.

        You also ascribed the problem to Sonnet being a NT member.

        Is there any possibility that the problem is the decision MM makes and has made several times in her career?

      • JL

        There’s no room for that type of behavior in the NWSL. That’s the reason for having a Disciplinary Committee, so that actions such as what Mathias did are properly sanctioned.

        If the situation were reversed, if it were Sonnett pulling on Mathias’ hair, would you be against the DisCo suspending Sonnett?

        • William

          That would not have been a possibility, Merritt never wears her hair down for games.

  • disco party

    disco ought to have said a hell of a lot more about PRO in the process of fining and suspending a player for 3 games for something that didn’t even warrant a yellow on the pitch, especially if they didn’t factor the chapman hair pull that drew a yellow in the decision

  • Paul Klee

    Question I have is why Klingenberg and especially Menges didn’t say anything to Sonnett, Mathias or the Ref? they both just trotted away. Menges had to have seen exactly what happened and yet offered no support.

  • guest

    Thursday roundup and you don’t mention that Mal Pugh is likely going to the Spirit? How can that be?

    • Guest

      Doesn’t fit the Equalizer narrative that the one thing they “knew” is that Mal wasn’t going to DC.

  • SayWhat?

    Another 99er Macmillan investing in MLS. What has Shannon or Mia done to help promote then NWSL over the last 4+ years? I’m sure they both agree that the women aren’t treated fairly but have done nothing to support the women in the league. Where are the rest of the retired uswnt players? Is anyone actively suppporting the NWSL? Why aren’t they called out? We are constantly reading about the owners not caring enough not being committed enough but never any callingnoit of Hamm, Foudy, Macmillan, wambach, And the list goes on.

    • mockmook

      Don’t think they were looking to invest — were probably invited to invest for PR reasons (and probably given indications that there will be a future move into woso).

      • SayWhat?

        That’s speculative at best and doesn’t really take a shot at answering the question. Where are alll the successful, well to do ex-uswnt players? Even if they just helped with bringing attention to the league. I can’t think of a single player that’s involved in the league at all, certainly don’t know about any of them being an investor.

        • mockmook

          I suspect that few of them are wealthy enough to “wager” on the NWSL.

          Hamm seems to be, though it will take a few years to materialize.

          • Guest

            My main point is that they continue to say the men’s team and federations need to do more for the women, but there are very wealthy ex-national team players who don’t do anything themselves. It also doesn’t even have to be money. i don’t know of a single 99er who is actively promoting the league. Are there any retired national team players actively supporting the women’s league?

          • Silver Frost

            You think the 99ers are wealthy? Prove it.

          • Guest

            Hamm/Garciaparra are clearly worth tens of millions. Holiday isn’t a 99r, but clearly has a big family income. My point wasn’t even about them being wealthy. My main point is that it’s funny (ironic maybe) how they have the money to invest in men’s teams, are in the camp of the men need to more for the women, but then also haven’t done or aren’t doing anything for the women’s league as far as I can tell. Not even lending their voices and hitting the stump in or airwaves for NWSL teams in markets. Why isn’t anyone saying the women can and should do more?

          • Steglitz49

            That’s women for you. No loyalty among sisters.

          • mockmook

            ” Are there any retired national team players actively supporting the women’s league?”

            None that I know of.

        • Lorehead

          The fee an ownership group pays MLS to start a team is by itself in the nine figures. She doesn’t have that kind of money. She’s getting an ownership stake in exchange for her name. It might or might not portend a greater interest in WoSo.

    • Steglitz49

      Women are not known for being loyal to their sisters. What else is new?

  • FawcettFan14

    Some of the names of these U-17 players…my goodness. It is superficial of me to be annoyed, and it isn’t these girls’ faults, but wow.

    • JL

      I agree. But at least they’re somewhat distinctive and not 50 versions of the same name.

  • brdn08

    This is nothing. Merritt shouldnt have been suspended. We see much worse all the time. If Zerboni and Jones only got one game for much more serious attacks on Shea Groom then this definitely did not deserve 3 games.

    • guest

      She violently yanked back the head of a player in two straight games. It’s very dangerous. Zerboni stepping on someone’s back is stupid and deserved a suspension as well, but you can’t compare the potential danger with snapping someone’s head backwards.

      • brdn08

        Yeah because the risk of breaking someones back isnt analogous to whiplash?

    • Ponytail

      Would you like to volunteer for a little whiplash? No penalty for jerking someone’s head back during play. Interesting.

      • Steglitz49

        If she is a dominatrix, she may prefer to whip with a lash.

    • William

      I agree a three game suspension is way overboard, especially since the game was promoted as the biggest NWSL rivalry. You would expect it to be a little bit chippy.

      • guest

        Strong disagree. Pulling someone’s ponytail is not in any way part of the game. Chippy is a late tackle or shoulder shoving someone too hard – normal game things taken to a different level. She also has a repeated pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed. DisCo and refs have a responsibility to protect players and also to handle things appropriately so that they players don’t feel like they have to take matters into their own hands. In this case, I was honestly surprised Sonnett didn’t hit her. This feels like an appropriate and fair outcome to me.

        • Steglitz49

          Hear hear!

        • William

          No not so much, 3 games for a hair pull, wtf. Make the punishment fit the crime and this isn’t it. The league promoted this game as “the biggest rivalry in the NWSL”

          leave it on the field and that’s what happened. DisCo shouldn’t be shaking their fingers saying no four days later. Fact is it should have been called on the field if it was such an egregious infraction. Not even one of Sonnett’s teammates even reacted to support a call not being made.

          • Steglitz49

            You can’t raise your arms against another player. Pulling a pony tail is a no-no already in the kindergarten and playground.

            Stop defending the indefensible.

          • William

            Then she should have worn her hair up, wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

          • WoSoFan

            Oh boy, now we’re victim-blaming.

          • Steglitz49

            I guess his solution to avoid infractions by pulling/grabbing jerseys and shorts would be for them to play in body paint with short haircuts.

          • William

            Did you listen to Foudy’s comments in the video clip above, “hair pulling is a part of the women’s game” direct quote.

          • Steglitz49

            Utter hogwash. It was not in the 1920s and it is not now.

            The vast majority of Europid players play in long hair in a pony tail. The bun or crunch is comparatively rare. Though many Japanese players wear their hair short, a number of them sport the pony tail, such as Naho and Homare. They would not play that way unless hair was off limits.

            What Foudy experienced is her experience. Alzheimers? Did she define what sort of hair is pulled?

          • Frozen Blue

            I can’t speak for Foudy but I’ve played soccer for 35 years (including college soccer) with long hair in a pony tail and never once have I ever had my hair pulled. It is not part of the game and it’s not ok.

          • DNG

            Should have been a red card in both matches. That’s two games she should be suspended at least if the officials make the correct call. It’s completely unacceptable conduct on the soccer pitch. League got this one right

          • William

            No I think the suspension had more to do with who the infraction was against, that’s why such a harsh reaction.

          • DNG

            Again complete speculation with no proof at all on you part. To me, it seems as if you are seeking to confirm your biases. The league clearly got it wrong the week before. They got it write a week later. It could just as easily have been them saying “Well we’ll look away from it this time but don’t do it again.”

          • William

            revisionist history is what DisCo did. I dont need proof of anything, the infraction being against Sonnett, an allocated federation player heightened the entire incident above what it should have been. 1 game suspension max would have been fair not 3.

          • JL

            3 games for a second offense of violent conduct is fair. And this might benefit Seattle, since Mathias is more of a liability than a benefit to them at this point.

    • DNG

      Disagree. I think she deserved a red card in both matches and this suspension is probably due to an accumulation of poor behavior. This is violent conduct that should be in no way a part of the game. I hope the league has a no tolerance policy for any similar action in the future.

      • brdn08

        NWSL overlooks way too much to ever be this punitive. They would never do this to a national team player.

        • Lorehead

          They did it to Carli Lloyd in 2014 and made her sign a written apology.

          • brdn08

            Are you saying pulling hair and striking someone in the face are similar. I dont think the two are comparable. And Merritt still got a longer suspension and a fine.

          • Lorehead

            Honestly, it’s long past time for a zero-tolerance policy for intentionally going after another player’s head.

            One difference is that this is not a first offense for Matthias. Another is that a former NWSL Defensive Player of the Year isn’t exactly a nobody, but US Soccer puts a higher priority on protecting their NT players than on protecting anyone else from their NT players.

            Is three games the right length for a suspension? I could see two or three, but not one or four.

          • DNG

            Lloyd only getting a 2 game suspension for striking another player in the face extremely was weak by the league. She should have been suspended a lot longer than that. I’m completely fine with three games for Mathias. A zero-tolerance should be in place going forward.

          • William

            here, here, totally agree.

    • Ethan

      She has a history now. The incident with Groom and now the two incidents this season. Completely fair suspension.

      • William

        Groom is a loose cannon with her charges into the box and a former teammate of MM, so I think that incident was more personal than meets the eye.

  • Bruce

    Henninger deserves so much more than a WPSL spot. Wish her the best.

    • disqus_hj8dHnhlYK

      Seeing as how she is coaching in the WPSL, not playing, I wonder if this is her unofficial retirement?

  • guest

    The link provided here is to the video of MM “slamming” Groom’s head into the ground from last year. Could we please see this year’s dangerous “whiplash” by ponytail pull incident?

    • Timber Dave

      Challenge: Which minute will Shea Groom first run full-speed into the opposing goalkeeper this weekend? Or kick her? This is for only the first time it happens, not any of the subsequent times.

      Extra points: Will the ref issue a yellow card for it? Of course one no longer expects a red for endangering an opponent.

  • Gary Diver

    Elizabeth Lambert: Gold Standard for Hyper-Rough Play

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E1fMx7jgxQ

    • WoSoFan

      Wow, you’re not kidding!

      • Steglitz49

        The video is quite old and went viral at the time.

        • She should have had assault charges leveled on her after that game.

          • newsouth

            No she shouldn’t have. BYU girls had cheap shots too. You drama queens. are unbelievable trying to mess someone’s life up with an un-necessary police record. .Even at the pro there are little cheap shots occurring during the games. I didn’t see you on here calling for Wambach to go to jail for Daniella’s knee injury.

          • mockmook

            Conviction for assault doesn’t necessarily mean jail time.

            BTW, what is the threshold of violence for a “necessary” conviction of assault?

          • Steglitz49

            Convictions for assault is starting to happen in (ice)hockey in Europe. There was one for very rough play in Sweden not long ago.

        • Lorehead

          Yes, 2011.

    • Lorehead

      She went on to play for the Pali Blues for a short while.