Chapman (right) is an Australian international and a member of the Strikers. - Stefan Postles
We talk to Strikers GM Vanessa Valentine about the team and what's ahead for 2013.
Chivas USA are not the only local soccer club in their offseason at the moment, as the LA Strikers FC of the USL W-League is also getting ready for next season. The Strikers' front office has undergone some changes already this offseason, with Vanessa Valentine moving into the General Manager position. Considering the relationship between Chivas USA and the Strikers last season, we decided we need to step up and cover the team on a regular basis. As a result, we've asked Vanessa to introduce the team to us and get us up to speed on what's going on with the Strikers! Many thanks to her for answering our questions!
1. First, could you give us a little background on the history of the Strikers? And where do you play your home games?
The LA Strikers were first formed in the summer of 2011 and have only been in the W-League now for 2 seasons. That is comparing to other teams that have been in the league for 10 plus years. So you can say that we are an extremely new organization. We play all of our home games at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
2. When did you get involved with the team? And when did you make the jump to General Manager?
I got involved with the team halfway through the Strikers 2011 season. They released their coach halfway through the season and brought in Demian Brown. Demian was my coach in college so he wanted to see if I wanted to join the team and help improve the team. So I played the rest of the 2011 season as well as the 2012 season with the Strikers.
I just recently took the job as General Manager after the previous GM left for another job with the Galaxy. It was a great opportunity for me and being a bit older than the college players and majority of the team, I felt it was time for me to get a "real" job that actually had benefits and a paycheck! I love the Strikers organization, the owners and the whole team so I felt it was a great move for me to step into that role. I feel I have a lot to offer as the GM. Being a past player I feel as though I can contribute to the success of the Strikers. It has been a lot of work thus far, but I can't think of a better job than helping build a successful women's professional soccer team.
3. Tell us about how the Strikers performed this past season.
The Strikers did not do as well as we hoped this past season. We had a very strong team with great players and great talent, though as we all know sometimes that is how the game of soccer works. You can have the best players in the world and sometimes it just doesn't come together. We play in the toughest region of the league. The West Coast has teams such as Pali Blues and Vancouver Whitecaps, and both teams have U.S. and Canadian National team players. Pali Blues this past season went on to be finalists in the W-League Championships and in past seasons have won the whole thing.
We have strong competition here on the West Coast, but that is what makes us so great. We have to play against the best in order to be the best. This past season we weren't quite there. But that is the beauty of this sport, there is always next season. We have learned from our mistakes and know what changes needs to be made. Now that I have stepped off the field and into the manager's position, I know what needs to change and what needs to be better and I have been working towards making 2013 the best season the Strikers have ever had!
4. Can you highlight one or two key players? What did they contribute to the team?
A few key Striker players were Caitlin Munoz and Amy Chapman, both from Australia, as well as Jamie Bell (Loyola Marymount), and Dominique Richardson (Missouri). I feel these players were impact players. I could name off about 10 other girls on our team that are amazing and great players, but these few were consistent in each game and helped our team get through some difficult games. We also have many tremendous college girls from USC, UCLA, CSU Northridge and Stanford that are incredible soccer players and helped contribute to the success we had this past season. The great thing about the college girls is that they will continue to get better and will be returning to the Strikers each summer.
5. The W-League is currently in the offseason, so what do your players normally do during this time?
Most of our girls are college players so once the season ends they return to their respected colleges for their pre-season. We have a few international girls from England and Australia so they return home to play for their club soccer teams back at home. The rest of us return to our day jobs and continue to train on our own. There are leagues that we can play in during the offseason, but they are not as competitive as the W-League. Every player understands that at this level you have to constantly be training. As in any professional sport there is no "break" from training. We understand that our team has a lot of work to do to get better and to have a better season than our last. This will include everyone working hard in the offseason to come back in shape and better than they were last season.
6. When will the 2013 W-League season begin? How long does the season last?
The season begins in May and runs until the end of July or earl August. We will be releasing our official schedule in January.
7. Although it is early, what changes do you expect to make ahead of next season?
Some changes that are expected to be made will most likely be player changes. We will be having a lot of returning players back along with our international girls. We are also looking into bringing more international girls over as well. We have been looking at some Australian National Team girls and other players from England as well. There are a lot of things that we are currently working on and a lot of exciting things ahead for the Strikers.
I would encourage people to check our website and keep a look out for the LA Strikers. We are making a big push to spread our name and our team out into Southern California. I can definitely tell you the biggest change that will be made in this new season is the change in our standings. We will definitely be the number one team this upcoming season!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!