by TOM SLATER
The year in women’s soccer was as diverse as the women playing the game. There were victories and defeats – and even a few draws in there. There were personality players galore, great moments and things that just made you shake your head.
In an effort to look back on 2016, Empire of Soccer lists the top 10 moments in in women’s soccer. While only choosing 10, there are bound to be moments left out. Not everyone will agree with this list. In fact, many probably won’t. And that’s ok.
Today, we’ll look at soccer moments 2,3 and 4.
Number 4: Morgan says Bonjour to Olympique Lyonnais of France
Going to play in Europe has often been the traditional path for American soccer players looking to further their development by playing for the best teams with and against the best players in the world. But when Alex Morgan agreed to a six-month loan to Olympique Lyonnais of France, she may have started a trend in the women’s game. For the four-year lifetime of the National Women’s Soccer League, a deal was struck with US Soccer that required national team players to be allocated throughout the NWSL. That was the reason Lindsey Horan was not in the national team pool for the last few years.
However, Morgan may have opened the path from the United States to Europe with her signing. Morgan visited the French club at the end of November when she was on her honeymoon.
There are many reasons why Morgan left Orlando — even though a trade was arranged a year ago to put her closer to husband Servando Corrasco, who plays for the MLS Orlando side. Lyons has established a reputation as the best women’s club team in the world. They are the reigning European and French champion. She will be with the team in January and stay with the team through the end of the current season, which could run as late as March. She will also be eligible to play for Lyons in the Champions League play.
The competitive cauldron will be there for Morgan, who said she was disappointed in both the US play and her personal performance in Rio last summer. At Lyon, she’d be training daily with world class players from Germany (Dzsenifer Marozsán), Norway (Ada Hegerberg), Japan (Saki Kumagai), Sweden (Caroline Seger) and France (Wendi Renard, Eugénie Le Sommer, Claire Lavogez, Camille Abily, Amel Majri and Élodie Thomis).
— bdz sports (@bdzsports) December 8, 2016
Morgan isn’t leaving for good. She’ll be back in June for the majority of the Pride season and will be available for all US National Team matches, which consist of a smattering of friendlies. How much influence the Federation’s glacier-like approach to a new collective bargaining agreement had in Morgan’s decision is unknown. But she did admit the lack of movement and uncertainty of the federation contract talks did play a factor.
Loans across the ocean have been part of the men’s domestic leagues for more than a hundred years. Women’s soccer supporters wanted their sport to get equal treatment; this is one way.
Number 3: The NWSL field fiasco
As the NWSL started a record-setting fourth year, the league office was hoping to grab media and public attention. But not like what happened on July 9.
That night the Western New York Flash gave a new meaning to “narrowing the field.” The Flash, who usually play at Rhino Park in Rochester, were forced to find an alternate site because of a previously scheduled concert. Great. They moved the game with Seattle to Frontier Field, a venue that was used previously by the men of the Rochester Rhinos. The trouble was Frontier had been made into a baseball field. The NWSL didn’t want the field to be on the infield dirt, so the entire pitch was laid out in the outfield.
The result was a non-regulation field, a 3-2 Flash win and lots of finger-pointing with Flash coach Paul Riley, Reign coach Mary Harvey and NWSL president Jeff Plush.
The league claimed they granted the Flash a waiver on the field rather than not play the game. Riley said he offered Harvey the chance to not play the afternoon of the match and Harvey said she was lied to by everyone.
The fallout — beside the 3 points to Western New York — was an avalanche of negative publicity for the NWSL. Tweets abounded with jokes about the size of the field. While amusing, what followed was embarrassing for the league. US National Team players took to Twitter calling out the league for allowing the match to be played as the season went on. Among others, Carli Llloyd, Ali Kreiger, Becky Sauerbrunnn and Megan Rapinoe all tweeted about the absurdity to the situation.
— Christine Sinclair (@sincy12) July 10, 2016
No fear, however, for the NWSL. A month later the Olympics took center stage followed by a heart-stopping victory for the Flash in the NWSL final.
Number 2: Fair play, fair pay and other labor issues
One of the biggest stories of the year in women’s soccer came off the pitch. And it’s complicated. This story actually began in 2012 and continues to this day.
In short, the labor contract for the women’s team expired in 2012. In March 2013, representatives for the players and the federation signed a revised memorandum of understanding that extended the collective bargaining agreement through the end of 2016.
Just to keep the news fresh, the women’s player association parted ways with union counsel Rich Nichols on Wednesday.
The story began in February when there was talk of the United States women striking in advance of the Rio Olympics. However, that was averted and the Games went on as planned.
In March, five USWNT players — Hope Solo, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe — filed a federal complaint Wednesday, accusing US Soccer of wage discrimination.
Their claim was the women earned as little as 40 percent of what players on the United States men’s national team earned even as they marched to the team’s third World Cup championship in 2015.
The players also claimed they were being shortchanged on everything from bonuses to appearance fees to per-diems.
The filing of the complaint was the latest move in an increasingly contentious legal fight between U.S. Soccer and the women’s national team,
US Soccer officials dispute the numbers and dollars used by the leaders of the women’s team. They claim that the men outdraw the women –both in attendance and television ratings.
But one area is crystal clear – the bonus program. And in that area, there is no disputing the men are better off.
A men’s team player, for example, receives $5,000 for a loss in a friendly match but as much as $17,625 for a win against a top opponent. A women’s player receives $1,350 for a similar match, but only if the United States wins; women’s players receive no bonuses for losses or ties.
There does not seem to be a short-term solution in the works and with no major tournaments or qualifiers scheduled for at least another year, there probably is no rush, at least for the federation, to make good on this new contract.