Los Angeles Soccer: Carlos Marroquin
When the opportunity to own a women's soccer team presented itself last year, Joe and Debbie Caracciolo jumped at the it. It cost them a friendship but gave their club an archrival before it had a name, coach, players or a place to play.
The L.A. Strikers will make their debut Saturday in the USL W-League, taking on two-time league champion Pali Blues in the 1 p.m. opener of a tripleheader at Cal State Fullerton, but the dates to circle on the calendar are May 29 and July 13.
That's when the Pasadena-based side takes on the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, a second-year club that counted Debbie Caracciolo as operations manager last year. The parting was not sweet -- Blue Heat owner Carlos Marroquin felt blindsided, Caracciolo felt abandoned -- and the battle will be intense.
"I went from hero to zero [with Marroquin] the minute I chose this franchise," Caracciolo said. "In my eyes, we had this partnership of working together, and I thought we had a great relationship throughout the entire season. At the end of season, when the opportunity presented itself, you'd think he'd be happy for me, that we were able to put this together, about another game to add to the schedule. That wasn't the case. I don't understand why he's upset I'm not working there."
Marroquin says he'd have loved to have been supportive, but he felt betrayed because he said the Caracciolos didn't let him know they were considering taking their own team -- not until they had done so.
'TASTE OF IT': Both head into the season with similar goals: to reach the playoffs, give players an opportunity to grow and showcase their talents, and to connect with their communities -- and especially the youth soccer clubs.
A bid by a group headquartered in the Bay Area to bring FC Gold Pride to Orange County fell through, but Women's Professional Soccer could be headed to Southern California soon. Perhaps real soon.
A meeting of the group's chief investors and strategists is scheduled Friday, and on the agenda is discussion whether to wait until 2012 to start a WPS franchise -- the likeliest option -- or make a play to bring in a team next season.
WPS announced Tuesday that it had six clubs, all on the East Coast, lined up for its 2011 campaign and was giving the Chicago Red Stars another month to secure the necessary funding to continue. Gold Pride, which scorched the competition en route to the championship in the league's second season, folded Tuesday, and its players -- including Brazilian superstar Marta -- became free agents.
Gold Pride's potential survival, with a move likely to Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium, fell apart apparently over financial matters, although a league official offered no such reasons during a teleconference Wednesday.
"We did have several conversations with a group, a couple of groups in Los Angeles and Orange County, [about trying] to take over Gold Pride," said T. Fitz Johnson, owner and CEO of WPS's Atlanta Beat, chairman of the league's board of governors and head of the league's expansion committee. "We just couldn't get over the hump of getting everybody on the same page in time for 2011."