Analysis

In the red: A history of dominant women's teams that failed off the field

Lauren Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
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FC Gold Pride

If Saint Louis FC was a harbinger for what was to come, FC Gold Pride’s exit was the red flag that WPS was doomed.

Gold Pride became LA Sol 2.0 and the forerunner to the Western New York Flash’s first professional team. Gold Pride head coach Albertin Montoya had his team – the spine of which was Marta, Abily, Christine Sinclair and eventually, Boxx – playing the most attractive, fluent and dominant soccer in the league. Complementary rookies Kelley O’Hara, Ali Riley and Becky Edwards played like veterans as Gold Pride, like the Sol, stormed to a regular-season title.

This time, the No. 1 seed would prevail in the final, easily defeating an exhausted Philadelphia Independence playing its third game in a week. In the aftermath, owner Nancy Nesmith professed the team would be back stronger in 2011. Two months later, the team folded.

“It’s kind of like the Field of Dreams: You build it and they will come. And no one came,” she said at the time. “At the end of the day, this is not a charity; this is a business and you have to think. We reevaluated our business model and that didn’t even work.”

This left WPS with only five returning teams and the expansion Flash waiting in the wings. The league said it would need at least six teams to play in 2011, and while the Flash appeared to get WPS to that minimum, the storied Washington Freedom was also quietly for sale.

Freedom … magicJack

John and Maureen Hendricks were founding members of the Women’s United Soccer Association. Their Washington Freedom was the only original WUSA member to stay active between that league’s 2003 demise and WPS’ start in 2009. The Freedom ruled the pro-am USL W-League, winning the 2007 championship and serving as a showcase team for events like the National Soccer Hall of Fame game that same year.

The Hendricks, however, saw the writing on the wall for WPS in 2010. In stepped Dan Borislow out of absolutely nowhere, having only just read about the league’s financial troubles a few weeks earlier, and what followed was one of the most under-reported circuses professional sports has seen.

The late Borislow, who died of a heart attack in July 2014, was women’s soccer’s Al Davis, with a rogue, Vince McMahon twist.

In his first public interview, he spoke flippantly of his desire to change the Freedom’s name to “magicTalk SC” and have it split time between Maryland and Palm Beach County, Florida. He spoke of dramatic wage hikes for the world’s best players (there was no salary cap in WPS) and trying to sign Marta.

What followed was an ugly, public battle with the league over just about everything as magicJack failed to meet WPS’ relatively lax standards. The team, named after the internet phone jack which he founded, played on a pristine grass field with little seating – a glorified showcase field, with fans separated from players by a thin rope.

NEXT: magicJack's demise, and the strange case of WNY