Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the...non-regulated field?
That’s right, if you haven’t already heard (which I’m sure you have, considering all the players that have tweeted about it) Saturday night’s match between the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Reign didn’t take place in Rhinos Stadium as the Flash’s matches usually do. Instead, due to a concert being held at said stadium, the game was moved to Frontier Field. No problem, right? The USL team Rochester Rhinos played there for almost a decade before moving to another field. Except, when they moved out in 2005, Frontier Field was renovated into a baseball stadium. So, that’s already slightly concerning to begin with.
The decision to play and the aftermath
Because the NWSL didn’t want any dirt to be part of the makeshift soccer field, the goals were placed in the left field and right field. This made the field’s dimensions 100x58, which is not a regulation-sized field by the league’s standards. They knew this, of course. They were absolutely aware of it, and even informed Seattle’s coach and general manager Laura Harvey about this hours before the game, letting her know it wasn’t suitable. Nothing had changed an hour before the game, and she was notified that the field was suddenly “suitable” for the match.
It wasn’t even just the field that was the issue, it was the. The angle was awkward due to the equipment being set up for a baseball match and not a soccer match, nets in the way of filming close-ups at times. Not only that, but the sound was pretty atrocious. Words and phrases would be repeated, and if you try to go back and watch the game now, all you’ll hear is static. Western New York haven’t necessarily been known for the best s around the league, but this was something else.
Towards the end of the first half, Seattle’s goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer went down with an ankle injury and had to be carried off on a stretcher. It turns out Kopmeyer would be needed to be taken to the hospital, and it apparently took way too long for the Flash organization to call an ambulance for the keeper.
Coach thoughts and league “apologies”
The game ended in a 3-2 victory for the Flash, but tension continued to run high in post game press conferences and as other players in the league learned of what happened, taking to twitter and sharing their thoughts, tagging the league and its commissioner, Jeff Plush, in those tweets.
“I was told the field was 110-by-61 (yards). That’s 100-by -58,” Harvey angrily stated. “I got lied to the whole week. I’m not making excuses. We knew what they were going to do but that’s not acceptable.”
Hmm, I wonder why the league felt the need to lie about the dimensions. Even if it’s just by a few inches, that’s still a detail that shouldn’t be left out. That’s a tiny field; it’s barely enough to fit a seven-a-side game, isn’t it? But Harvey’s disappointment and anger didn’t stay in the locker room, instead, she took to Twitter to tell her side of the story, posting a picture of a note on her phone with all the information typed out.
Meanwhile, Western New York’s coach Paul Riley seemed rather unbothered by the whole situation. His team had won against one of the most talented teams in the league. There technically was no reason for him to complain.
“Me and Laura had a chat with the referee (at 5:30 p.m.), and I said, ‘If you don’t want to play the game, just say and we won’t play the game,” he explained. “That was the last I heard… Nobody likes to lose a game. I’m sure everyone’s disappointed. But everybody agreed to play the game.”
Well, isn’t that interesting? If Paul Riley said they could call the game off, Harvey would’ve most definitely agreed. So why didn’t she?
Ah yes, it was not up to head coaches.
“The decision for the game to be played was not my decision and...is not a head coaches choice,” Harvey wrote in her Twitter explanation. “The responsibility for WNY flash was to provide a suitable field at a standard required for league play, they did not do that.”
Head coaches, in fact, are not able to make the call on a game. It is up to the league and its overseers. So what’s Riley trying to do? Ah, he’s trying to paint Seattle as a team who can’t handle a loss.
“I think it was a tough adjustment for both teams but I don’t know if that’s the reason for the result,” he stated. “Everybody agreed to play the game, so get on with it.”
Ouch, that was rough.
Later that night, the league’s own commissioner Jeff Plush released - a very short - statement on the events surrounding the match.
“The field dimensions were not up to our standards, but due to various factors, the league office made the decision to grant an exception for this evening’s match. In retrospect, we made the wrong decision,” he stated.
At least he admitted he was wrong, right? No. No he did not. The statement basically only claims that he’s sorry that they were called out on their wrongdoing. He didn’t offer much after that, and both teams’ media have declined commenting until the NWSL’s deeper investigation is completed.
What this means for the league
The NWSL is regarded as one of the top leagues in the world due to its caliber of players. The reigning World Cup champions all play in this league, as do players for 69 different countries. World-renowned players such as Nadine Angerer from Germany and Amandine Henry from France come to play for the competitiveness of the league. But will they stay if the conditions are like this? Will other internationals want to play here? If they are not treated like professionals and the league can’t make the right calls, what makes the NWSL so attractive? And also, Western New York, what made this okay to consider as an alternative field? Have you seen it?
As if this wasn’t enough for the week, Seattle and U.S. National Team keeper Hope Solo just posted a blog about the league’s current state. Yikes.
NWSL, you might want to think about the decisions you've been making.