Charlie Naimo: Dealing with Ups and Downs

Naimo scans his research at the WPS Draft (Photo by Bill Barrett, ISI Photos).

In this post with us, Charlie gives us a deep and insightful look into what has been a rare rough patch for the three-time W-League champion coach. After winning back-to-back league titles, the Pali Blues have not been able to catch any breaks this season, and that is something that has worn on him a bit. The original request to Charlie for this post was to switch gears from the Palisades and speak about the over 40 players he has coached who currently play in Women's Professional Soccer, but we all know he is not one to run from any hard topic. The 2010 Pali season has been a subject of many conversations in the soccer community, and Charlie tackled the topic head-on once again to give us a truly heart-felt look into the tough experience that it has been.

Once again, I am writing from the airport. This is a troubling topic for me today as it is incredibly hard to think about success while the worst year of my career is coming to an end.

What do we look for in a player? At this point, who would care, but the irony is we used the same exact formula this year as we did the last 6 years. For some reason, we lost 4 this year (out-shot in only one of those) after losing just 3 regular season games the previous 6 years combined. Words cannot describe and I refuse to make excuses, but the latest example of the unexplainable is the loss to Santa Clarita. Normally, when you out-shoot a team 19-2 and your keepers are not forced to make a save (40-2 over 2 games with a 1-1 aggregate), you win right?? Not this year. Normally, when you are playing in a game for first place (1st game vs. Vancouver) and double your opponent in shots and dominate in corners, 9-1, you win right?? Not this year.

This is sad, but maybe I started taking winning for granted. I started to believe that maybe I wasn't a solid manager, and I just had great players all those years (seems to be a common opinion). If I learned anything this year, it’s that winning is hard no matter who you have, and I appreciate what we accomplished from ‘04 to now. We had some great players this year like all the others, and we managed them the same way. I think sometimes things happen you just can't control. I remember the last year of WUSA when the Charge was dealt with so much bad luck and had a similar season. Mark Krikorian is a great friend and the best coach in America. Sometimes it is just not meant to be. That is my perspective, and Shayon and I are just pumped for 2011. Coming in second is no different than last to me, only one team wins. We will get it back next year - 3 of 4 will re-right this ship.

And we will do it the same way.

We will select the best players available. In fact, the process has begun. One thing we will do better is make a great effort for more senior players that do not have as many NT trips. That killed us this year. Having too many young players that were not used to our philosophy (as referred to in previous posts re: PDA kids) was extremely hard. The older players also tend to play harder for the badge - they want in to WPS, and for some reason, they understand we can actually help them accomplish that. At times, it is hard to get the younger players to come out of college mode for a couple of months. We are here to make them better for college if they will focus on us. The ‘09 team was a great example of this.

Anyway, as we begin our search for a new crop of winners (harder to find than a good player), it is great to see the 40-plus players that have come from my past 6 teams compete in WPS. There are so many stories that make me smile and other occasions where we were just lucky to have had the opportunity to work with a kid that was headed to the pros, and we were a stop along the way.

I am on my way to Chicago now to watch 2 matches and hopefully witness back-to-back wins. I hope when I am watching the WC final on Sunday back in Cali, the Red Stars are sitting in a playoff spot.

I am a bit down, but life goes on and there is a lot of career left. It will surely feel like a decade until I coach in a meaningful game again. Until then, Pali will leave it on the field to end our year, with a result for our home fans.

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