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June 19, 2003 – WUSA All-Star Game

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WUSA American Stars vs. WUSA World Stars
June 19, 2003
SAS Soccer Park
Attendance: 7,068

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs
22 pages

 

Thanks to Atlanta Beat fan and women’s soccer collector Steven Bruno for sending in this match program from the second and final Women’s United Soccer Association All-Star Game from June 2003.

The WUSA’s defending champion Carolina Courage hosted the match at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.  SAS (known today as WakeMed Soccer Park) was one of the finest soccer specific venues in the league and fans of the WUSA’s successor leagues, WPS and the NWSL, have long hoped that a new women’s professional club might take up residence there someday.  The wait continues…

2003 was a World Cup year and the format of the match was intended to mirror the upcoming tournament, hosted by the United States in September.  A squad of the WUSA’s American Stars, coached by Jim Gabarra of the Washington Freedom, faced a team of WUSA World Stars, coached by Tom Stone of the Atlanta Beat.

This was also the first time that the WUSA staged an All-Star Game in season.   The match was shoehorned awkwardly into the league schedule on a Thursday night.  Regular season play resumed around the country just two nights later.  Accordingly the rules were relaxed to allow unlimited substitution and re-entry and the halves were shortened to 40 minutes each.  A standing room-only crowd of 7,068 packed SAS Soccer Park for the exhibition.

Maren Meinert of the Boston Breakers scored two goals and assisted on a third by her Breakers teammate Dagny Mellgren to lead the World All-Stars to a 3-2 victory and earn All-Star Game MVP honors.  Two months later, Meinert, 30, would also win 2003 league MVP honors in her final professional season before retirement.

The WUSA folded on September 15, 2003, on the eve of the Women’s World Cup tournament that this game was intended to preview.

In 2009, a re-booted version of the Boston Breakers held a tribute night for the now-retired Maren Meinert and presented this video montage of her WUSA highlights:

 

==Downloads==

2003 WUSA American Stars Roster

2003 WUSA World Stars Roster

 

==Links==

Soccer America match report.

Women’s United Soccer Association Media Guides

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

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2001-2003 Atlanta Beat

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Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003)

Born: 2000 – WUSA founding franchise.
Died: September 15, 2003 – The WUSA ceases operations.

Stadiums:

Team Colors:

Owner: WUSA

Investor/Operator: Cox Enterprises, Inc.

 

Perhaps the best all-around team in the pioneering Women’s United Soccer Association, the Atlanta Beat were the only club to make the playoffs in all three of the WUSA’s seasons, but they never captured a championship.  The Beat advanced to the title match twice, losing Founder Cup I to the Bay Area CyberRays in 2001 and losing the third and final Founders Cup to the Washington Freedom in 2003.

Under Head Coach Tom Stone, the Beat boasted a strong attack with Canadian international Charmaine Hooper and U.S. World Cup veteran Cindy Parlow up top and Japanese star Homare Sawa organizing the midfield.  Chinese superstar Sun Wen – FIFA’s Female Player-of-the-Century, along with Michelle Akers – was expected to be a major star for Atlanta, but was limited to only five starts by injuries in 2001 and retired from club play after the 2002 season.  Nevertheless, Wen regained her form in the 2001 playoffs, helping lead the Beat to the final and scoring a goal in the championship game.

The defense was even stingier, conceding the fewest goals in the WUSA’s inaugural season. Goalkeeper Briana Scurry was one of the Beat’s most recognizable stars, having backstopped the United States in their thrilling World Cup final victory over Sun Wen’s Chinese team in 1999.

The 2001 Beat had the league’s best regular season record in 2001 at 10-4-7.   The playoffs were terrific, with the Beat escaping the Philadelphia Charge 3-2 in the semis thanks to a golden goal by Cindy Parlow.  That earned the Beat a trip to face the Bay Area CyberRays at Founders Cup I at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts.  Atlanta and Bay Area were the two strongest defensive sides in WUSA in 2001, but the match turned out to be a barnburner.  Kylie Bivens, Hooper and Wen scored for Atlanta, but the CyberRays kept pace and the matched was knotted at 3-3 after regulation and overtime.  Bay Area finally prevailed 4-2 on penalty kicks after Hooper and Wen failed to convert.

In 2002, the Beat came into the WUSA’s second season as prohibitive favorites for the title.  Most of the roster returned intact and Wen was healthy for the first time.  The club also left cavernous Bobby Dodd Stadium on the campus of Georgia Tech University for 15,000-seat Herndon Stadium at Morris Brown College, where they would play their final two seasons.   The season was a disappointment, with the Beat finishing 4th at 11-9-1 and falling in the semi-final 2-1 to the eventual champion Carolina Courage.

In 2003, the Beat regained their form, finishing with the second best record in the WUSA at 9-4-8.  The Beat would play in the last match in the WUSA’s brief history when they faced the Washington Freedom at San Diego’s Torero Stadium in the Founders’ Cup III championship game on August 24, 2003.  Charmaine Hooper scored on a PK for the Beat in the first half, but Atlanta couldn’t contain Washington’s budding young superstar Abby Wambach, who scored a pair for the Freedom, including the game winner in overtime.

The WUSA folded three weeks later, falling victim to lack of corporate sponsor interest and weak television ratings, among other woes.

After five seasons without a fully professional women’s league in the United States, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) launched in 2009.  For the league’s second season in 2010, WPS added an expansion franchise in Atlanta known as the Atlanta Beat.  The new Beat revived the old WUSA-era name and logo (although with new colors), but otherwise bore no connection to the old club.  The played at a new soccer-specific stadium out in the suburbs and no original Beat players returned to play for the new WPS franchise.  The new Beat played two seasons (2010-2011) before folding.

 

==Beat Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
2001 6/6/2001 @ Boston Breakers T 1-1 Program
2001 7/12/2001 @ New York Power W 3-0 Program
2001 8/4/2001 @ Washington Freedom W 2-1 Program
2001 8/18/2001 vs. Philadelphia Charge W 3-2 (OT) Program
2001 8/25/2001 Bay Area CyberRays L Program
2002 7/3/2002 @ Washington Freedom L 2-1 Program
2002 8/4/2002 @ Washington Freedom L 3-2 Program
2003 4/12/2003 vs. Boston Breakers W 6-0 Program Roster
2003 4/26/2003 @ Washington Freedom T 1-1 Program
2003 5/3/2003 vs. San Jose CyberRays L 1-0 Program Roster
2003 5/10/2003 vs. San Diego Spirit T 1-1 Program Roster
2003 5/17/2003 vs. San Jose CyberRays W 1-0 Program Roster
2003 6/7/2003 vs. Carolina Courage L 2-1 Program
2003 6/22/2003 vs. Philadelphia Charge W 4-2 Program Roster
2003 8/24/2003 Washington Freedom L 2-1 (OT) Program

==Key Players==

  • Charmaine Hooper
  • Cindy Parlow
  • Homara Sawa
  • Brianna Scurry
  • Sun Wen

 

==YouTube==

Japanese international midfielder Homare Sawa in action for the Beat against San Diego. June 1, 2002

 

==Links==

Women’s United Soccer Association Media Guides

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 1st, 2013 at 12:57 pm

April 5, 2003 – Carolina Courage vs. Washington Freedom

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Carolina Courage vs. Washington Freedom
April 5, 2003
SAS Soccer Park
Attendance:

Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

 

The Women’s United Soccer Association opened its third and final season on April 5, 2003 with a rematch of the season two Founder’s Cup championship game between the Carolina Courage and the Washington Freedom.  The Courage came out the victors in that title bout, defeating the Freedom 3-2, and they hosted this rematch at SAS Soccer Park, their soccer-specific stadium in Cary, North Carolina.

The Freedom was the WUSA’s glamour franchise led by the game’s brightest star, U.S National Team star Mia HammThe club also featured one of the game’s most promising young stars, the American striker Abby Wambach, drafted out of the University of Florida with the #2 overall pick in the 2002 WUSA college draft.

The Courage, by comparison, was a more workmanlike squad.  Carolina’s American stars – Carla Overbeck, Danielle Fotopoulos and Tiffany Roberts – were strong players who never quite commanded the public adulation of their USWNT teammates Hamm, Brandi ChastainKristine Lilly or Michelle Akers.  Carolina’s best player was the German striker Birgit Prinz, who fueled the team’s championship run in 2002 with 12 goals.  Prinz was entering the peak of her legendary career in 2003, about to reel off a remarkable three-year run (2003-2005) as FIFA’s World Player of the Year.

The match itself reflected the changing of the guard, both in the WUSA and on the U.S. National Team.  Prinz got the Courage on the board first with a sixth minute goal, assisted by Fotopoulos and program cover model Hege Riise.  But the Freedom ultimately got the best of Carolina, thanks to the past and future symbols of the U.S. National Team.   Wambach, emerging as the Americans’ great offensive force of the 2000′s, notched the equalizer in the 44th minute off a feed from Hamm, the brilliant star of the 1990′s.  Hamm then put away the game-winner in the 59th minute in Washington’s 2-1 victory.

The result sent both teams on their course for the 2003 season.  Carolina never recaptured the momentum of their 2002 title run and finished 7th out of 8 teams.  The Freedom finished fourth, but saved their best performances for the postseason, upsetting the top-seeded Boston Breakers in the semis and then defeating the Atlanta Beat for the 2003 Founder’s Cup title in August.  Wambach was the MVP of the title match.

The WUSA folded less than a month later on September 15, 2003 after losing $100 million over three seasons.

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Written by andycrossley

September 22nd, 2012 at 8:31 pm

June 8, 2002 – Philadelphia Charge vs. Washington Freedom

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Philadelphia Charge vs. Washington Freedom
June 8, 2002
Villanova Stadium
Women’s United Soccer Association Programs

Former Washington Freedom supporters club member Kevin Parker (@StarCityFan) sent in this rare Philadelphia Charge program from the  Women’s United Soccer Association this week. Cover girl Heather Mitts was in the early days of her career back in 2002, both as a club pro with the Charge and as a fixture on the U.S. Women’s National Team.

I thought the program made for a nice companion piece to an lengthier column I wrote recently on Mitts’ latter-day career in Women’s Professional Soccer with the Boston Breakers.

The big impact players on the Charge were the team’s foreign stars – striker Marinette Pichon of France and midfielder/forward Kelly Smith of England. Mitts became the biggest American name on the Charge, partly due to her skills and model good looks, and also due to the fact that the established American stars of the day took a dim view to playing in Philly.  WUSA launched each franchise with three “allocated” U.S. National Team players in late 2000.  The players had a voice in which markets they wanted to play in and (reportedly) virtually no one listed Philadelphia.

As a result, the Charge were the only club among the WUSA’s eight franchises that did not receive one of the recognizable stars from the 1999 U.S. National Team that won the World Cup.  Mia Hamm went to Washington, Brandi Chastain headlined in San Jose, goalkeeper Briana Scurry headed to Atlanta, Julie Foudy led San Diego, Kristine Lilly landed in Boston, Tiffeny Milbrett went to the New York Power, and Michelle Akers was allocated to her home town of Orlando (later shifted to Carolina).  The Charge got a largely anonymous allotment of younger players: Mandy Clemens, Lorrie Fair and Saskia Webber.

Mitts was a stalwart for the Charge during the three-year run of the WUSA, appearing in 51 of the team’s 63 matches and earning all-league honors as a defender in 2003. Off the field, Mitts appeared on the cover of Philadelphia Magazine as one of the city’s sexiest singles and dated Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell and later Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley (whom she married in 2010).

The WUSA folded in September 2003 after three seasons of play.  Mitts tore her ACL in 2007 and missed the World Cup that year, but bounced back in 2008 to win Olympic gold with the USA at Beijing in 2008.  She played three seasons in Women’s Professional Soccer, a successor league to the WUSA, from 2009 to 2011, including a return engagement in the City of Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Independence in the summer of 2010.  She last played professionally for the Atlanta Beat in WPS in 2011.

 

Written by andycrossley

July 6th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

2001-2003 San Diego Spirit

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The San Diego Spirit played three summer seasons from 2001 to 2003 in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the first attempt to form a fully professional women’s pro league in North America.  The Spirit endured two seasons of mediocrity, despite the presence of prominent U.S. National Team stars Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett.  Prior to the 2003 season, the club brought in new Head Coach Omid Namazi and overhauled its roster with top young players, resulting in a winning campaign and the first playoff appearance in franchise history.  Before the Spirit could build on this foundation, however, the WUSA closed up shop in September 2003 after burning through $100 million in three seasons of operations.

The WUSA announced its formation in early 2000, aiming for an April 2001 debut.  The league was organized in a single-entity structure, with $40 million in start-up capital provided by a consortium of Cable TV operators and executives.  Each funder received investor-operator rights to one of eight league markets in return for a commitment of $5 million.  Cable operator Cox Communications purchased rights to San Diego.

The marketing cornerstones of the WUSA would be the stars of the United States Women’s National Team.  The league launched on the backs of the USWNT and their thrilling victory in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.  The Cup final on July 10th, 1999 drew a sell-out crowd of 90,185 to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, making it the largest women’s sporting event in history.  The US women defeated China in nerve-wracking fashion on penalty kicks and the tournament made media darlings of American stars Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the team.  In May 2000, the WUSA allocated three USWNT stars to each of its eight franchises.  San Diego received Fawcett, Foudy and striker Shannon MacMillan, a graduate of nearby Escondido High School.  In the international draft, San Diego also picked up Fan Yunjie and Wen Lirong of the Chinese team which had given the Americans all they could handle in the final.

Cox Communications spent $2.5 million to renovate 40-year old Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego for the Spirit.  The improvements included 3,600 new seats to bring total capacity to just over 6,000, a new and re-graded natural Bermuda grass surface, upgraded lighting to meet television broadcast standards, and various aesthetic improvements.  The renovations turned Torero into a quality venue for professional soccer.  Viewed alongside similar efforts in other WUSA cities – such as the Boston Breakers’ $4 million renovation of Boston University’s Nickerson Stadium – the renovations were also symbolic of the new league’s free-spending ways.  By the end of 2001, WUSA had expended the $40 million intended to fund operations for its first five seasons.

The 2001 Spirit started slow out of the blocks under Head Coach Carlos Juarez before rallying late in the season to finish in 5th place with a record of 7-7-7.  Fawcett missed most of the season due to pregnancy, but returned in August less than two months after giving birth to her third child.  MacMillan was a bright spot.  Her 12 goals were second best in the WUSA to league Most Valuable Player Tiffeny Milbrett.

The 2002 Spirit started slowly again, which cost Juarez his job in early June 2002.  General Manager Kevin Crow, a long-time star for the San Diego Sockers during the 1980′s and 1990′s, assumed coaching duties for the remainder of the season.  The Spirit finished in seventh place with a 5-11-5 record.

Off the field, the Spirit paced the WUSA in season ticket sales despite lackluster play.  In 2002, the Spirit sold more than 2,000 season tickets, which was the best figure in the eight-team league.  The Spirit also benefitted from substantial television advertising drawn against unsold inventory on the Cox cable system.

On the last day of September 2002, the Spirit orchestrated the largest trade in WUSA’s two-year history in order to move up a single spot in the 2003 WUSA college draft.  The Spirit shipped three starters - midfielders Shannon Boxx and Sherrill Kester, defender Margaret Tietjen - plus the #2 overall pick in the 2003 WUSA draft to the New York Power in exchange for the #1 overall pick and midfielders Jan Lalow and Wynne McIntosh.  The prize for the Spirit on the back end of this trade was Santa Clara University midfielder Aly Wagner, already a fixture on the U.S. National Team with 36 caps as a collegian.  Soccer America called Wagner “the most gifted playmaker the United States has produced”.

“Mark Ziegler from The San Diego Union-Tribune is a first class reporter, but he loved to stir it up,” recalled Spirit GM Dave Presher in 2011.  “Well, he really went at us when Shannon Boxx came back to town with the New York Power for the first time after the Aly Wagner trade.  Aly hadn’t scored so far that year.  In practice the day before the New York game she couldn’t hit the frame, putting her free kicks in outer space.  Then on game day she ended up with I believe two goals and an assist and we beat New York 4-2.”

Wagner got the most press attention, but she was just one component of a youth movement that transformed the Spirit in 2003.  22-year old Scottish striker Julie Fleeting returned for her second season and finished tied for third in the WUSA in scoring with 11 goals.   New Coach Omid Namazi used his other two international spots to import the 19-year old Brazilian star Daniela and big Canadian forward Christine Latham, fresh off an All-American career at the University of Nebraska.  It would be Latham, not Wagner, that walked away with WUSA Rookie-of-the-Year honors after scoring six goals.  The young cohort’s contributions were especially significant after offensive leader Shannon MacMillan was lost to a season-ending ACL tear in May.

“My proudest moment was probably the hire of Coach Omid Namazi,” said Presher.  “I think the staff and the league were a bit concerned when I hired an Iranian men’s indoor coach, who had previously punched out a mascot at a game.  But Omid was the real deal and he turned out to be a fantastic coach, leader and partner.”

The 2003 Spirit improved to 8-6-7, good for third place in the WUSA and the franchise’s first and only playoff appearance.  Prior to the season, the WUSA selected San Diego to host the 2003 Founder’s Cup at Torero Stadium.  All that now stood between the Spirit and hosting the title match was the regular season champion Atlanta Beat.  The Spirit travelled to Georgia for the WUSA semi-final on August 17th, 2003.  Aly Wagner scored in the 38th minute to put the Spirit up 1-0.  The lead held up through regulation, but Beat forward Conny Pohlers tapped in the equalizer during stoppage time and Charmaine Hooper won it for Atlanta in overtime, ending the Spirit’s season in heart rending fashion.

The playoff semi-final loss proved to be the final Spirit game.  Investors pulled the plug on the WUSA on September 15th, 2003.  The WUSA folded less than a week before the start of the 2003 Women’s World Cup, providing a sad bookend for a league that was born out of the euphoria of the 1999 tournament.

Just days before the league folded, Spirit GM Dave Presher traded Aly Wagner to the Boston Breakers for midfielder Angela Hucles in a surprising move.  He explained why in a 2011 interview with Fun While It Lasted:

“We had signed <18-year old Brazilian> Marta for the 2004 season and knew she was the best player in the world…we needed one fast central midfielder as we were considering some modifications to our formation with Marta coming aboard.  The league folding sucked.  We may have been overconfident, but we thought with Marta we were going to really be a surprise.”

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In June 2004, a reconstituted Spirit – including Fawcett, Foudy and MacMillan – played in a WUSA exhibition doubleheader before an announced crowd of 7,123 at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.  The event was part of a pair of WUSA “festivals” (the other was in Minnesota) which showcased the eight former clubs and their stars to potential new sponsors and investors.  The events drew little interest and the efforts of the WUSA Reorganization Committee wound down soon afterwards.

In 2007 the new Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) launched as a lower-budget successor league to the WUSA.  San Diego Padres owner John Moores was briefly linked to a WPS franchise, but never moved forward.  In the late summer of 2008, WPS placed a brief release on its website announcing a San Diego franchise.  But the league removed the story days later after and as of late 2011, no further discussions have occurred to bring WPS to San Diego.

The rookie stars of the 2003 Spirit each returned to play in the first season of WPS six summers later in 2009.  Daniela signed with St. Louis Athletica and played four matches before her season – and career – was ended by a brutal tackle from Washington Freedom star Abby Wambach.  Christine Latham scored two goals for the Boston Breakers in 2009.  She was cut in training camp by the Atlanta Beat in 2010.  Aly Wagner, now 28 years old and slowed by assorted injuries, signed with the Los Angeles Sol and played in the first WPS Cup final on August 22nd, 2009.  It was her final match.  She announced her retirement from soccer in January 2010.

Downloads:

2011 Dave Presher Interview
San Diego Spirit Sources

Written by andycrossley

November 13th, 2011 at 11:12 pm