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San Diego boss Stoney rips NWSL over ‘unacceptable’ schedule

San Diego boss Stoney rips NWSL over ‘unacceptable’ schedule

San Diego Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney once again criticized the National Women’s Soccer League schedule on Saturday, calling his team’s three-game road streak this week “unacceptable” after a 0-0 draw in Houston, where the temperature at kickoff was 91 degrees Fahrenheit.

San Diego faced the Washington Spirit on June 15 in Washington, D.C., then traveled to face NJ/NY Gotham FC on Wednesday before finishing the road trip in Houston on Saturday.

“I think it’s extremely unfair to the players,” Stoney said after Saturday’s game. “I think for the well-being of the players, asking us to go to Washington, (Gotham) and then come to Houston in June two days after playing the previous game is unacceptable. From a player’s point of view calendar, this should not happen.

The NWSL has made significant efforts to reduce midweek games over the past two years, but every team has at least one midweek game between weekend matches this season.

This three-game week for San Diego and Gotham was a product of the teams’ successes last season. The Wave won the 2023 NWSL Shield and faced 2023 NWSL Championship winners Gotham in this year’s Challenge Cup. The NWSL created the new format to mimic other season-opening matches abroad, such as England’s Community Shield.

Stoney said she thought the Wave was “punished” for their success because Gotham hosted the Challenge Cup match in March (which San Diego won). Because the game was played on the opening weekend of the regular season, San Diego and Gotham had to make up their regular season game last Wednesday night in New Jersey.

Stoney pointed out on Saturday that all other leagues play this type of cup competition the week before the start of the regular season.

“There’s no reason,” she said. “Because in this league we don’t work with foresight, to be honest.”

Stoney, who was named the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year during San Diego’s expansion season, has previously criticized the league’s operations and scheduling.

She is not alone ; Seattle Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey pointed out flaws in her team’s travel and schedule earlier in the season, ahead of a clash with the Portland Thorns. Gotham head coach Juan Carlos Amorós has been critical throughout this season of the placement of the Concacaf W Gold Cup during the NWSL preseason.

The NWSL has always struggled with scheduling issues. Until recently, the league played during international breaks and, until this year, major international tournaments.

The NWSL will take a six-week season break for the Olympics this summer, but will still play a new friendly tournament with Liga MX Femenil clubs during that time.

The league’s calendar footprint is a larger, ongoing issue. Playing during the summer in some climates, like Houston, can be unbearable, especially on short breaks.

On Saturday, the NWSL announced that Gotham’s home game against the Spirit on Sunday had been pushed back to an evening kickoff to account for the lingering heat wave in the Northeast. Flipping the NWSL schedule to play during the winter presents other challenges in several northern NWSL markets.

Stoney’s frustrations stem from the three-game week, something all teams have endured this season with varying levels of travel.

“What we have to consider in all of this is the players, their health, their body, their mind and what we put them through,” Stoney said.

“Travel is brutal in this league. Conditions are brutal in this league. It could have been better. It wasn’t necessary. Just foresight and planning, timing. I don’t think it’s rocket science to be honest.”

With Saturday’s tie, San Diego is now winless in seven games, with its last victory coming against the Utah Royals on May 8.

“I’m extremely proud of my players tonight,” added Stoney. “They made an absolute change. It was so hot there.

“They controlled the match until the last 10 minutes when we gave a few set pieces… Huge credit to my players this evening. Absolute change this evening in these conditions with 48 hours (of rest), travel If we win in the end, it’s an incredible performance.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t get three points, we’re disappointed we only took two points from these games, but it’s a huge ask for us and it shouldn’t happen.”