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November 19, 2010 > Gold Pride ceases operations

Gold Pride ceases operations

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photo by William Mancebo

In two seasons in Women's Professional Soccer, the Bay Area-based FC Gold Pride have had a whirlwind experience. That experience came to an abrupt halt earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16, the Pride officially folded its operations, leaving WPS less than two months after capping off a remarkable season with a 4-0 triumph in the WPS Championship (Sept 26. vs. the Philadelphia Independence).

FC Gold Pride became the third team in WPS to fold, joining the Los Angeles Sol (January 2010) and St. Louis Athletica (May 2010). When St. Louis severed its allegiance from WPS in May - in midseason - it forced the league to think on its toes, essentially rescheduling the entire year so each team played the full 24-game regular season.

With the 2009 regular season champion Sol, since its halt of operations took place in the off season, WPS held a Dispersal Draft - vastly organized; however, since St. Louis folded during the season, all players were lumped into a free agency pool. Instead of players dispersed evenly throughout the league, players could sign anywhere, which led to a handful of players - Hope Solo, Eniola Aluko, Tina Ellertson, Carolyn Blank and Lori Chalupny - signed with one team, the Atlanta Beat.

Hoping to avoid the situation that unfolded in 2010 with St. Louis, teams were required to give WPS a deposit which essentially committed itself for the entire season. Previously, teams were asked to give a bond that wasn't nearly as much as the current asking price (financial terms are not disclosed in WPS).

Initially, the deadline to provide the league with the deposit was set for Nov. 1. Four teams - Gold Pride, Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers and Washington Freedom - did not meet the deadline. WPS, not willing to cease league operations, extended the deadline to Nov. 15. Boston and Washington, along with the Atlanta Beat, Philadelphia Independence, inaugural champion Sky Blue FC and the 2011 expansion club from Western New York, have committed to the 2011 season.

Chicago was also granted a month's extension, allowing them to pursue investors until Dec. 15. For the Pride, however, it's the end of the line.

"While it is disappointing to the league and its many enthusiastic fans, players and partners that FC Gold Pride did not find the level of support it aimed for in its market, the continuing WPS teams have fully committed to the 2011 WPS season," said WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas. "These past few weeks have been critical to ensuring the long-term health of the league, and we are pleased to be moving forward today with these six committed teams for the 2011 Season. We are hopeful that Chicago will also join those teams for 2011."

After the deadline to provide WPS with the funds to commit to another season, the Pride began introductory conversations with potential investors. But the timeframe was not large enough, and no commitments were made.

"We have exhausted our options, and it is with a heavy heart we close operations," said Pride owner Nancy NeSmith. "We are grateful to have been a part of Women's Professional Soccer, and we wish all the teams and the league great success in 2011 and beyond."

Gold Pride has gone through ups and downs, both on and off the field. After committing to WPS later than any other club, the Pride got off on the wrong foot, stumbling to a league-worst 4-10-6 record in the inaugural season while calling Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium its "home".

But after picking up Marta (Dispersal Draft) and Camille Abily (trade) from the Sol, along with Kelley O'Hara, Ali Riley and Becky Edwards (2011 WPS Draft), then adding Shannon Boxx (free agency after Athletica folded), the Pride dominated the league in 2010.

Their complete turnaround consisted of a move from SCU to Cal State University-East Bay's Pioneer Stadium, followed by a 16-3-5 record (17 points better than any other club), most goals scored, least goals allowed, biggest goal differential and a WPS Championship.

"Don't get me wrong, winning a championship was great," said Pride GM Ilisa Kessler. "But I would trade the championship for more years in the league. (Gold Pride) was here for more than winning championships."

Being the lone West Coast club in WPS (after the folding of Los Angeles) proved to be too much of a grind for the Pride, slashing into their budget severely with numerous cross-country trips. Diminished ticket sales also played a factor in the Pride's decision to bow out of WPS.

All the Pride players will now become free agents, available to be signed by any team. Free agency began on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at midnight.

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