In the wake of a rather gray day in the brief history of the WPS, following yesterday's announcement of the league's decision to discontinue operation of the Los Angeles Sol, Atlanta Beat General Manager Shawn McGee was quick to remind fans of the WPS a few very important lessons.
Lessons like "When you fall down you need to brush yourself off and get back up," and "Every problem has a soft spot,"and everyone's favorite, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" resonated from McGee's message during a phone interview this afternoon.
Following several weeks of negotiations with a potential new ownership group fell through yesterday, following former owner AEG decision to give back it's ownership stake to the league,Women’s Professional Soccer made the decision to discontinue operations of the Los Angeles Sol.
The rights to the 19 players currently held by the Sol will be dispersed during a special draft for the league’s eight franchises on Thursday, February 4.
"We have so many great things going on with our league, explained McGee, who is busy preparing the Beat for their maiden season in year two of the WPS. "It makes sense that if we couldn't find an investor for the team, that the league not have to support that team over time and use up resources. So now, what you really have is eight stronger teams."
"They'll be stronger on the field, because LA had a lot of good players that will be dispersed to those teams and then obviously there are other teams that investor a lot of money and they'll be able to focus on their teams rather than to worry about having another team to support."
McGee said that the league had hopes of finding a new ownership group to purchase the LA-based team but that with the beginning of the season looming just over the horizon, the league felt it was necessary to suspend operations.
"There were rumblings and we knew that Tonya and the league were working on finding investors. There was certainly a ray of hope that the league could get something done, but the fact of the matter is the league just ran out of time. We have to get the upcoming season rolling and because of that it was just one of those things they had to set a deadline and move forward."
McGee was quick to point out, however, that the City of Angels may not have seen the last of a WPS entry.
"For this season we've moved on. LA is, of course, a great city and an important city to the United States and the sport of soccer, so I think in the future you'll probably see a team there."
So at a time when McGee would normally be thinking of finalizing his roster and signing that last player or two, he's busy preparing for the February 4th Dispersal Draft.
With players like Marta, Shannon Boxx, Karina LeBlanc and Aya Miyana amongst the available players and with Atlanta in possession of the No. 1 pick in the draft, it may seem as easy as adding a few more top quality players to the roster, but as McGee explains there is a lot of additional thought that has to go into this impromptu event.
"We've been told that at this point everything stays the same," he explained. "You must stay within the salary cap and you must also stick with the number of international spots. We're going along with that message and putting our team together based on that information."
"League rules are you can have rights to six International players, of which five can be on your roster. So we've signed four of the five that we can have on our roster and we're in talks to determine who the fifth person will be."
He adds that like any of the drafts that the team has participated in, including the Expansion draft, the International draft and the college draft, that preparation and home work are the keys to success.
"There are a lot of moving parts and you obviously have a lot of league rules to go by, you have to consider salary cap and International roster spots. You really have to have your ducks in a row and our coach, Gareth O'Sullivan, he's brilliant at this stuff. He does his home work and will be well prepared for the draft."
"Anything can happen, you know, not saying that there will be but there could be a player trade or a pick trade in the draft. It's just like a regular draft so a lot of strategy goes in behind it."
McGee also added that though yesterday was a difficult day for all of the players and fans involved as well as for the league, that with strong communication and the ability to put the event into it's proper perspective that there is indeed a silver lining to come out of the event.
"What's the old saying? Good press, bad press, just don't spell my name wrong. Reality is it was a sad day that LA had to suspend operations, but it is what it is and that's part of sports."
He added, "You look at other leagues and there's attrition and expansion all the time. You look at MLS back in 2000 and they had to contract. They got rid of the two teams in Florida and the fact of the matter is, though there was some press on that it actually ended up making the league stronger as a whole and sent the league on to their second generation of maturity and it really made them a stronger league because of that."
"We've been communicating with the players. They know this is a business and know that they must perform every day on the field to maintain their spot, whether they're a starter or a player on the field, so obviously this takes away some spots because there are 22 fewer spots in the league, but you're going to have a stronger line-up."
"We're already the best league in the world, so this just makes it even better."
Before continuing with his draft preparation, McGee was eager to share some good news about the Beat and their new 8,300 seat stadium that is being built in Kennesaw, GA.
The stadium, which will cost nearly $16.5 million to construct is a partnership between the Beat and Kennesaw State University. It will be home to both the Beat and the KSU Owls women’s soccer program and will be the only women’s soccer-specific stadium of its kind in the world.
"Stadium looks great," shined McGee. "Fitz Johnson, our owner, was just out there yesterday and he was down on the field. We haven't laid the turf yet, but he just came in all giddy this morning because it's really coming together.
"We're over 50 percent done with the stadium. All the plumbing and the electrical and all the foundation and our suite level is done and the concessions and the dressing rooms are getting done. It's really coming together."
"Choate, who is the construction company for the project and also Rosetti, is the architect who actually did Real Salt Lake Stadium, both of those groups have just done an outstanding job. And then KSU, our partner has just been unbelievable."
"They're working really, really hard. They were laying concrete at 3:00 AM last week on Thursday night and Friday morning and they work weekends and nights all the time. They're just doing an outstanding job."
McGee concluded with his thoughts on how the team is shaping up in their first season in the WPS. The Beat and the Philadelphia Independence are the two expansion teams to be joining the six remaining teams in the WPS.
"We talk all the time. Fitz uses the phrase called "Best in the World". This league is already the best in the world and we want to be the best team in the best league in the world and we want to be considered the best organization."
"Everything we're doing is pointing to that. We're still a young organization. We're going to make mistakes, but I think we've done a good job and part of that means winning championships, so we're working hard daily on making that happen."
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