February 17, 2010

The Los Angeles Sol-An All Too Short History Part 3

Part 3-Clouds on the Horizon

By late June, Los Angeles had risen to the top of the WPS. It would be only a matter of time before they clinched the regular season title and barring an upset, the WPS Championship. But by July, things weren't going perfectly anymore. The combination of injuries, a strange schedule which saw them play only sparingly over the last two months of the season, and some less than sparkling play on the field started catching up with them. And apparently off the field, the problems were far greater.

June 29, 2009-Martina Franko is listed by the Sol as having a season-ending injury.

June 30, 2009-Los Angeles trades for Christie Shaner to help fill in for Franko. Shaner plays only 52 minutes for the Sol. In her first game for Los Angeles just 5 days later, Shaner fractures her leg in a collision with the Freedom's Abby Wambach, thus ending her season.

July, 2009-Yet another Sol defender is having injury problems. Allison Falk misses all three games in July with injuries.

July 5, 2009-Marta scores the only goal of the game in stoppage to defeat Washington 1-0. Karina LeBlanc earns her 11th shutout. It is LA's 4th consecutive victory and they run their unbeaten streak to 11 games. The Sol now lead 2nd place Athletica by a whopping 17 points and will have a chance to clinch the regular season title in their next match.

July 8, 2009-With a chance to clinch first place, the Sol suffer their first and only regular season loss at home in their final regular season home game. Los Angeles falls to Saint Louis 1-0 as Amanda Cinalli scores the game winner for Athletica.

July 13, 2009-The Sol signs Sharolta Nonen to help their beleaguered defense. Nonen, like Martina Franko, is a veteran of the Canadian National Team.

July 23, 2009-After a two week layoff, Los Angeles clinches the WPS regular season title in a scoreless tie against Gold Pride. Karina LeBlanc gets her 12th and final shutout of the season. The Sol shut out Gold Pride all four times they play them.

August 2, 2009-Falk returns to the lineup, but Los Angeles' winless streak extends to 3 games with a 3-1 loss in Chicago. After falling behind 2-0, Han Duan scores a late goal to temporarily make it close, before Cristiane puts it out of reach with a goal in stoppage time. It is only the 2nd time all season that the Sol allow more than one goal in a game.

August 4, 2009-Four Sol players are named to the WPS All-Star First XI. Karina LeBlanc, Shannon Boxx, Camille Abily, and Marta grace the first WPS All-Star team. Abily would be unable to play because of her national team commitment for France. Abner Rogers is named to coach the WPS All-Star team.

August 7, 2009-Aya Miyama is added to the WPS All-Star roster as the next highest vote getter as a replacement for players not able to play in the game.

August 9, 2009-The Sol end the regular season with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Boston, keeping the Breakers out of the playoffs. Marta scores her league best 10th goal of the season and then forces a penalty kick late on a call strongly protested by Breakers' players. Shannon Boxx converts the penalty to give Los Angeles the win. Ironically, this result puts Sky Blue, the team that would ultimately defeat them in the title game, into the playoffs.

August 22, 2009-Los Angeles hosts the first WPS Championship Game at the Home Depot Center. Playing without their 2nd leading scorer, Camille Abily, the Sol are upset by Sky Blue by a 1-0 score. Heather O'Reilly scores in the 16th minute. Then Allison Falk receives the first and only red card in Sol history for tripping Natasha Kai from behind later in the 1st half. The final is played before 7218 fans.

August 29, 2009-At the WPS Awards Banquet, Marta is presented with the PUMA Golden Boot Award and the Michelle Akers Player of the Year Award. Abner Rogers wins the Coach of the Year Award.

August 30, 2009-The WPS All-Stars defeat UmeƄ IK by a 4-2 margin in St. Louis. Marta gets the game tying goal and adds two assists in the contest. Abner Rogers is the winning coach.

September 15, 2009-The Sol lose Katie Larkin and Sharolta Nonen to Atlanta in the WPS Expansion Draft.

October 7, 2009-Los Angeles sends starting center back Allison Falk and backup keeper Val Henderson to Philadelphia for the 5th and 22nd selections in the 2010 draft. The Sol would later draft Nikki Washington and Kiki Bosio with those selections.

The finish of the 2009 season was a disappointment for players and fans alike, but it was always assumed that there would be a next year. Unfortunately, behind the scenes, things were not going well. The team lost what has been variously estimated between $2 and $3 million in their first season of operation. AEG had maintained that their involvement with the team was always on a temporary basis and that involvement was coming to an end. And equally unfortunate for the Sol and their fans, this was one issue that couldn't be settled on the field.

For the final part in this series, we'll look at the final months and the legacy of the Los Angeles Sol.

(Sources for some of the information in this story came from http://www.womensprosoccer.com/ and the 2009 Los Angeles Sol Media Guide)