Bridgeview, IL (June 4, 2010)--If last week was the week that wasn't, in WPS, as the soccer world was shocked at the demise of St. Louis Athletica, and the Chicago Red Stars became only the second club in the league to dispatch a head coach, this week is the week that was.
The week began on Monday with the announcement that Charlie Naimo (pictured above with Marcia McDermott) had been engaged as the Red Stars' "Technical Advisor."
As General Manager of Los Angeles Sol last season, Naimo put together the league's most talented club, with the best regular season record.
The Sol was disbanded after the franchise was given back to the league in January 2010 and the league was unable to find a new owner in time to prepare for the upcoming season.
According to a Red Stars spokesperson, Naimo was brought to Chicago to help with personnel decisions including finding a replacement for Emma Hayes, and in evaluating free agent talent available due to the dissolution of St. Louis Athletica.
"I am very excited to join the Red Stars family," Naimo said. "I have always had a great working relationship with Marcia and the ownership there, and it will be an easy transition. I believe the staff has put together a great roster, and it will be an honor to contribute in any way I can to help them become a playoff team in 2010 and beyond."
With the announcement of Naimo's hiring, it was also announced that General Manager Marcia McDermott would also assume the role of President. McDermott, who is acting coach until a new head coach is in place, will fill the role held by Peter Wilt, part owner of the Red Stars, who left his executive duties in a cost-cutting move at the end of last season. He now works as President/CEO of the Milwuakee Wave.
"Marcia is invaluable to us. She has been running our team and operating in the role of President and General Manager for months," said Arnim Whisler, part-owner and Governor of the Red Stars. "We wanted to formally recognize her many contributions."
Three days after Naimo's arrival, the Red Stars announced the hiring of Omid Namazi as head coach.
Namazi was head coach for San Diego in WUSA for one season in 2003. It was the only season the Spirit qualified for post-season play. After that he won honors coaching indoor men's soccer in the MISL, but most recently he has been operating a soccer academy in New Jersey.
The day after settling the coaching situation (today) the club announced the signing of two former St. Louis players and the release of two Red Stars to make room on the roster for the new signees.
Midfielder, Nikki Washington and Defender, Elise Weber were the Athletica players signed. Receiving pink slips were Defender Ifeoma Dieke-- a surprise since she has started most matches she's been eligible to play, since the club's inception-- and Michelle Weisenhoffer, from the developmental squad. Weber, a native of Elk Grove Village, IL will replace Weisenhoffer, a Naperville, IL native, on the D-squad, while Washington will join the First Team 18.
"We're excited about the additions of Nikki and Elise to our roster," Red Stars new coach Omid Namazi said. "Nikki is a dynamic attacking player who will add another dimension to our game. Elise brings an attacking dimension to the left back...Obviously releasing players is very difficult, and we'd like to thank Ifeoma and Michele for their contributions to the Red Stars."
As a University of North Carolina alum, McDermott appears to be presiding over a gradual takeover of the Red Stars organization by Tarheels. In addition to rookies Whitney Engen and Casey Noguiera, the acquisition of Nikki Washington makes the third North Carolina alumna added to the club this season.
Whether or not these moves will prove successful is yet to be seen, but there is one thing that is not in doubt. The Red Stars mean business. Beginning with the announcement of the sacking of Hayes, McDermott has been saying Chicago is determined to make a serious run at the championship and they are doing what is necessary to make that happen.
Although there might have been better known coaches available, including displaced St. Louis coach Jorge Barcellos, and although Amid Namazi has not been coaching at the major league level for a few years, it appears that all the moves announced this week are part of a comprehensive scheme developed with Naimo's input.
In his introductory remarks, Namazi sang in the right key, talking about talent being abundant in Chicago but raw talent not being enough. He emphasized the need for cohesion. We would expect to hear nothing less, stating the obvious, but it is a positive development none the less. Fans have been increasingly frustrated with the Red Stars underachievement. These developments should resolve that.
Under Hayes, the sum was less than the total of the parts in Chicago. After Hayes, for the first time, fans were heartened to see the sum actually equal or exceed the total of the parts as the Red Stars coalesced, focused, and followed through to defeat league leading FC Gold Pride last Saturday, under McDermott's temporary tutelage.
Now the Namazi era begins, and with it, hope returns.