soccer365.com interview with me.
After last weekâ€™s earthshaking news that multiple WPS teams are considering folding and the U.S.â€™s loss against Mexico in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, Soccer 365 caught up with respected womenâ€™s coach Shek Borkowski. Borkowski co-founded FC Indiana ten years ago in tiny Goshen, Indiana (population 30,000) and led the team to two WPSL titles, a W-League final, two U.S. Open Cup titles and exhibition victories over Australia, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago and WPS teams. FC Indiana sent nine former players to WPS in 2009 and was involved in the original development of the Chicago Red Stars franchise. Borkowski always ran FCI like a professional European club; in late 2009 he took over one–the two time reigning Russian champion and UEFA Champions League runners-ups Zvezda-2005.
Soccer 365: Will the U.S. qualify for the World Cup versus Italy and win the World Cup?
SB: I know Italy head coach Pietro Ghedin well so I am sure that Italy will be well organized, will defend deep and counterattack, and will be difficult to play against. Overall the U.S. has enough quality to qualify. As far as the World Cup finals, Germany are my favorites but anything can happen.
Soccer 365: WPS has made many personnel cuts at league and club levels. What are your thoughts about the leagueâ€™s chances to survive?
SB: WPS faces important challenges at this time. While the economy plays its role, I would say that the biggest problem is the clubsâ€™ business model and structure. I suspect that in five out of seven cases, clubs struggle because there is no proper structure and no long-term strategic plan in place. Blind spending canâ€™t take precedence over strategy. The current WPS business model is flawed. Itâ€™s simply a scaled-down WUSA model. [WUSA lost over $100 million on 8 clubs over 3 seasons.] Right now, the clubs recognized that the model they bought into is not sustainable and they are making changes in order to avoid the unthinkable. Personally I hope the owners are in it for the long haul and understand they will have to keep investing in their teams.
Soccer 365: Can the league be profitable?
SB: Yes. Leading clubs in the USA must and can make a profit. Investing $2 to $3 million a year in a club with players on large salaries and competing in a sport where even winning league titles means financial losses is not the stuff shrewd investors are interested in unless they are vanity owners. So, profitability is the key but progress must be organic. Good examples for growing womenâ€™s football in North America are Ottawa Fury, Vancouver Whitecaps, Buffalo Flash and FC Indiana, where they are successful on 5% of WPS budgets.
Soccer 365: We have seen many coaching changes and player turnover in WPS during their two seasons. Why do you think that is?
SB: You have to understand that most WPS owners have very little or no experience in professional womenâ€™s football. Many of them lack experienced womenâ€™s football people advising them, which leads to poor decisions and the challenges get compounded. Make no mistake, menâ€™s and womenâ€™s football are different, so someone who worked in sales for a menâ€™s club will not necessarily make a good manager in leading a womenâ€™s club. As far as the players, one could wonder what analytical data/information is underpinning the selection or evaluation of players. Poor acquisitions lead to turnover, which makes it harder for clubs to market their players to fans.
Soccer 365: Is there a difference in working with American and European players?
SB: Yes, the training expectations are different. European players are used to more tactical work and specific opponent preparation. American players enjoy the physical aspect of preparation more. [While in Russia, Borkowski discovered that his Russian players treated soccer simply as a job. They came to train and then returned home to their other interests. North American players expect social bonding with their squads, spending a lot of time with their teammates off the field, because thatâ€™s what they experienced in college.]
Soccer 365: What tactical trends in womenâ€™s football are you noticing?
SB: For the most part top teams are very good in the first three phases of the gameâ€”possessing the ball, transitioning after losing the ball, and when the opponent possess the ball. What separates Germany from others is their dominant play in the fourth phaseâ€”transitions after winning the ball. The power, speed, purpose of their movement, and understanding when they win the ball sets them apart from the competition. Current German success, I believe, is based on their superiority in that fourth phase.