Naimo and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc first won a W-League title with the New Jersey Wildcats and then a regular season crown with the LA Sol of WPS (Michael Janosz, ISI Photos).
In this post with Resolution Sports, guest writer Charlie Naimo steps in to reflect on the first loss in Pali Blues history (a 2-1 result to the Vancouver Whitecaps this past Saturday) and keeping the team focused on the 2010 postseason. This weekend, his Pali Blues play a two-game road set, and Charlie checked in before the team boarded a flight to Washington State on Thursday.
Sitting in the airport and waiting for my connection to Seattle, I had some time to speak with John A about our next entry. After all, it is this or continue watching Italy embarrass themselves.
Well, anyone that follows USL, W-League or Pali knows by now that we suffered our first loss in franchise history. Ironically, we have deserved a loss this season but not in THAT game. Although Vancouver is well coached, loaded with talent (not to mention extremely athletic) and playing a much more sophisticated style than previous Vancouver teams... Pali finally put together a dangerous performance. In previous games, we have lacked bite as we have tried to figure out who we were and who the impact players were going to be this season. We were lucky to draw with Rush late, but we dug that hole for ourselves. The good news is that we started 2-0-3 last year, and it took a terrible performance against the LA Legends for the staff to realize some players just were not cutting it. At that point, we made some changes - most notably making Ali Riley a center back. Always a bummer to take one of the best attacking backs in WPS and put her in the middle, but because of shaky organization at times, we needed her pace in the center. This was also the time when the other players decided Pali was their team and wanted to win.
Well, here in 2010, we are hoping that it is our time now. On this trip, there are 6 major points at stake. The Vancouver game is double points and differential if you know how to follow a table. The Euro players join us in Seattle and hopefully will be rested for Vancouver. Back at home, Kristina Larsen is getting set to join us after healing from a stress fracture in her foot that kept her out of Saint Louis Athletica’s line up.
Once again, we have the roster, but in our case, it takes time to develop a team. As a staff, there is a lot of managing that goes on each year as we lose many players to WPS and start almost fresh each campaign. We have sent over 20 players to WPS in 2 seasons, and this year there will be more as Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Lauren Fowlkes all figure to be top 5 picks. We have another juggling act on our hands this year as we never have the same 11 available. Between U23s, schools on quarter systems and Euro qualifying, it was a challenge early. It has been this way since my Wildcat days... When you have the best players, you have the most challenges.
We actually have more managing to do with these teams, and with that comes good and bad. Yes, great players, but it is often a box a chocolates. It takes time, but all we care about is the Championship. At this point, it is all about making the playoffs and having the team prepared to win 3 tough games. Hats off to all the Western Conference teams for creating the strongest group I have ever seen during my time in this league. It would have been a bit harder to get over 100 wins in this league with a table like this, but I can promise that our conference champion will be battle tested and extremely hard to beat at the final 4 this year.
Wish us luck this weekend - over and out. My breakfast is getting cold, and Tracy is mad I am writing ;-)
Editor's Note: Tracy is Charlie's girlfriend, Pali's Director of Operations and is awesome.
From Resolution Sports President John Archibald:
Little known fact, but a phone call with Charlie Naimo over three years ago was one of the first steps in what would eventually lead to the creation of Resolution Sports. I had begun working with a new friend by the name of Jim Gooley with a professional indoor soccer franchise called the New Jersey Ironmen, and Jim had lined me up to speak with Charlie about the Pali Blues Soccer Club, a new organization in the USL W-League which he had been hired to coach. Fast forward three years, Charlie and the Pali Blues have placed a pair of Gold Medals after winning back-to-back league championships. Meanwhile, Charlie has also been one of the most impactful figures in Women's Professional Soccer, first leading the Los Angeles Sol to the league championship game as its General Manager in 2009 and now as the Technical Director of the Chicago Red Stars. In light of his chaotic schedule, I asked Charlie if he would add yet another item to his weekly agenda and step in a guest writer for Resolution Sports. Much like any challenge he ever gets asked to face, he quickly took it on without question.