Los Angeles Soccer: Anthony LaPaglia
HUFC, which has several competitive teams in addition to the celebrity side featuring Anthony LaPaglia in the nets, last month departed the PDL to hook up with the Galt, Calif.-based NPSL, a growing outfit that promises owners more freedom and power and far lower costs.
The Hitmen, a professional team coached by former Galaxy forward Jose Botello, debuted in the new league Saturday night, eclipsing the first-year Santa Ana Winds, 1-0. Arturo Albaran's early goal was the difference in the Western Division clash at Santa Ana Stadium.
The PDL season kicks off at the end of the month -- HUFC was supposed to open at Fresno Fuego on April 29 -- and the Tampa, Fla.-based United Soccer Leagues, which administers the PDL and several other national leagues, must alter its Western Conference schedule.
A league spokesman said the plan was to announce a new slate on Wednesday. There are four L.A.-area teams remaining in the PDL -- L.A. Legends (who will play at Huntington Park High School), Orange County Blue Star (Concordia University in Irvine), Southern California Seahorses (Biola University in La Mirada) and Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College) -- after HUFC and, previously, Lancaster-based Rattlers FC, bolted for the NPSL. Thousand Oaks-based FC Hasental also has joined the league, giving it four L.A. teams, too.
“It's an area we've been trying to get into quite a while,” said Dan Trainor, the NPSL commissioner. “We know about the teams there. It's a matter of … I'll call it coming of age.”
- Stories/No. 7: Sol starts a trend
The L.A. Sol set the standard in Women's Professional Soccer's inaugural campaign in almost every regard, with the league's most professional organization, the most sponsorship and merchandising revenue, the best fan experience (in the league's best stadium) -- and, especially, on the field.
The Sol, featuring Brazilian superstar Marta and local heroine Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), went 12-3-5 in 2009, easily capturing WPS's regular-season title. They likely would have won the championship if not for a controversial red card not quite a half-hour into the final.
The team would never play another game. The team folded on Jan. 28 after negotiations with a potential new ownership group fell apart.
It began a trend in the league, and not a good one. Saint Louis Athletica, which posted the second-best regular-season record in year one, dissolved just six weeks into the 2010 campaign, and Bay Area-based FC Gold Pride -- winner of the 2010 title with Marta and Boxx leading arguably the finest women's team ever assembled -- packed up shop in November.
A month later, the Chicago Red Stars went on hiatus, with plans to return in 2012. The Washington Freedom, the lone survivor from the late, great 2001-03 Women's United Soccer Association, nearly went under, too.
What's left? A six-team league, entirely on the East Coast for 2011. The San Francisco-based front office has been all but scuttled, and survival remains uncertain, perhaps unlikely. Yet there are groups angling to join in 2012 and beyond, including one that wants to put a team in Orange County.
The Sol lost somewhere around $3 million in 2009. Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owned half the team and paid about 90 percent of the bills, pulled out -- as planned, it turned out -- after the first season, and Blue Star LLC, a partnership that included L.A. Blues owner Ali Mansouri and Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia, couldn't afford to run things on its own.
The league took control of the club in November 2009 and had a new owner, never identified, all but signed, sealed and delivered. That owner pulled out in mid-January, and the Sol was dead a week later.