CONFLUENCE, Pa. - Greetings from one of the more unsual datelines I've ever attached to a blog post. I am en route to Chicago for the weekend, and I'm traveling to the Windy City by train instead of flying. I have nothing against planes, but I decided to mix a little bit of a vacation in with this trip.
(Yes, there really is a town in this state called Confluence. And yes, as some of you already know, I have a bit of a history when it comes to writing about trains.)
Anyway, enough with the travelogue. Since the injury report section in the Union's pregame notes is empty, I figured I'd change the subject a bit and spend a bit of time focusing on women's soccer. We'll have plenty of time to discuss the Union's game at the Fire on Saturday night, when I'll be blogging live from Toyota Park.
The health of women's soccer looks a bit shaky at the moment. Despite the Philadelphia Independence's relative success in its inaugural season, Women's Professional Soccer lost a franchise for the second time this year when St. Louis Athletica went bust.
It's never good when a team goes under, but even more so when it's in the middle of the season. WPS was able to adjust its schedule fairly easily - the Independence's new fixture list is here - but the PR hit that the league took will sting for a while.
Of course, the U.S. national team remains among the world's elite. But its matches generate only a fraction of the buzz that they used to. Last month's 4-0 rout of fellow power Germany in Cleveland, which cemented the U.S.' status as the No. 1 team right now, was witnessed by only 10,000 fans. The game was televised, but it was up against playoff hockey and basketball.
Can things be turned around before the financial situation becomes even more dire? There's a Women's World Cup next year, to be played in Germany, and that will generate some publicity. But if I asked you point blank whether you could name any players on the U.S. national team, could you do it?
Maybe you'd come up with Heather Mitts, and a few of you might mention Amy Rodriguez because she plays for the Independence. Others might come up with Abby Wambach, the towering striker who plays her club soccer in Washington.
I would guess, though, that you wouldn't have come up with Heather O'Reilly right away. If that's the case, then you might want to remember her name over the coming months. The 25-year-old forward from New Brunswick, N.J., is the focal point of the U.S.' attack. With the U.S. determined to regain the World Cup next summer, O'Reilly is hitting her prime at just the right moment.
A few days ago, I interviewed O'Reilly about the present and future of women's soccer, and what role she thinks she'll play in it. O'Reilly is currently playing for Sky Blue FC in WPS, and she'll be in town this weekend as Sky Blue visits the Independence on Sunday at 6 p.m.
In addition to her work on the field, O'Reilly is working on an interesting community service project off the field. She has joined up with CooperVision to award 10 grants of $2,500 each to individuals who work in the youth soccer community. That's a pretty serious amount of money. If you want more information, you can get it here.
Here's the transcript of our chat. I think you'll find what she has to say pretty interesting.