clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Orlando City Returns to Form and Systemic Problems in Women’s Soccer

The Lions are playing well going into the international break, but the effects of the NWSL bombshell are ongoing.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Paraguay v United States Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

There might not be any Orlando City matches for almost two weeks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty happening in the world of soccer. Just a warning that though there is the “good” part of this feature, the “bad” and “ugly” are worse than usual, but I feel it is essential that the topics are covered and covered again until things improve. Thank you for reading.

The Good

As the MLS season heads into the final playoff stretch, Orlando City sits in fourth place in a close Eastern Conference race. That is good, though the challenges are still ahead with away matches at Cincinnati, Columbus, and Montreal. The Lions also host Montreal, and fortunately, the tougher matches against New England and Nashville are also at home. Still, the schedule is about to get very congested as there are five matches in only 16 days.

Daryl Dike’s return to form is coming at the right time. Yes, there’s the international break, but I don’t think it will affect him. In fact, the added time will allow everyone to mend (well, except Pato of course) so Orlando City could be at full strength for the final playoff push. We’ve already seen the benefits of that as the return of Sebas Mendez has bolstered the Lions’ midfield and defensive efforts.

The Bad

An overdue metaphorical bomb was dropped in the world of women’s soccer last week. Meg Linehan’s article about the abuses committed by former North Carolina Courage manager Paul Riley. What Riley did to players like Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim while at the Portland Thorns is reprehensible and deserving of legal consequences in addition to the professional ones already taken by the Courage.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident nor is it a “bad apple” situation. Riley was given chances after he was let go by the Thorns, keeping him in a position to continue to perpetrate the same types of abuses. The problem is systemic. We know this because the Orlando Pride’s own Alex Morgan assisted her teammates when she was with the Thorns to report the abuses, and next to nothing came of it. That is no fault of Morgan or any of the players, rather the power structure that found it preferable to at best ignore, or at worst cover up what was happening.

The Ugly

The ugly is still to come, but it’s not hard to predict, and indeed it is already beginning. Lisa Baird was removed as NWSL Commissioner, and rightly so. Baird was contacted by the players in an effort to reopen the 2015 complaint against Riley after the NWSL adopted a new anti-harassment policy. Baird communicated that the complaint had been “investigated to conclusion”, and was content to let the matter stay hidden.

More will come to light. Venezuelan and Australian players are now going public about systemic abuses in their national team programs. It won’t stop there, nor should it. The problems have been systemic, and systemic change is needed. Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy is now a part of the NWSL Board of Directors’ executive committee tasked with changing the system and providing transparency throughout the league’s coaching and front office structures. Whether it is going to be enough, only time will tell. This could be a watershed moment for women’s soccer with the players and the game coming out better on the other side, but it will not be easy.

As supporters, we can demand that the clubs take this seriously, just like the Rose City Riveters and Timbers Army have done in Portland. The groups announced they are boycotting concessions and team merchandise until general manager Gavin Wilkinson is fired (he’s since been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an ongoing investigation). Wilkinson was in the front office in 2015 and received the report from Shim. It is up to everyone who loves the game to put pressure on the system until the players get the protections they need and deserve.

I know this was a pretty heavy piece, but it wasn’t nearly as heavy as what has been reported, nor what was perpetrated upon these women. I have no tolerance for this in the sport I love, and I hope you don’t either.