Abby Wambach to coach magicJack
Less than a week after the thrilling Women's World Cup, Abby Wambach already is taking on new challenges. She will spend the rest of the Women's Professional Soccer season as player-coach for magicJack.
She will need to settle a team whose results suffered in the absence of its national team players, even as those players, such as Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo and Wambach, recover from the grueling Cup chase.
And she will need to soothe whatever conflicts remain in the wake of a grievance filed July 8 by the WPS Players Union after complaints surfaced from current and former magicJack players. That grievance prompted the league on July 14 to ban owner and sometimes coach Dan Borislow from the sideline for the rest of the year.
WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas said by email that in addition to the suspension, the league "prohibited him from retaliating against players in relation to the grievance."
Borislow is anything but apologetic.
"I don't know one player who was involved in the grievance," Borislow wrote in an email. "I believe it was a player or players who were let go."
Among the accusations in the grievance, Borislow allegedly sent emails to his players that "demonstrate his practice of bullying and threatening players, and his creation of a hostile, oppressive, and intimidating work environment which adversely affects players' ability [to] perform."
"You can ask the players with character and heart if they think it's true," he said. "Or you can believe a player who does not belong in the league who was only there because the league decided to have amateurs play while the [national team] was away."
The union also claims Borislow was never qualified to act as coach, citing U.S. Soccer regulations that require WPS coaches to hold a U.S. "A" license within two years of their appointment.
Said Borislow: "The league and union don't even know my grade and if I was graded. It's a kangaroo court run by a hater."
After original coach Mike Lyons was reassigned three games into the season, magicJack rotated several people in the position, including Christie Rampone, former Palm Beach Atlantic University player Richard Bone and Borislow. But this week, Borislow said Wambach would be in charge for the team's seven remaining games and playoffs.
Before Wambach's appointment, Eileraas said, "We hope magicJack will select a qualified and capable coach meeting the standards required by the U.S. Soccer Federation to lead the team through the remaining weeks of the season."
The union will not challenge Wambach's credentials.
The league has precedent for a player-coach. U.S. captain and magicJack defender Rampone temporarily took the reins of Sky Blue FC in 2009 and led the team to the first WPS championship. Borislow hinted at a leadership role for Rampone, saying she and Wambach are good leaders who know the game well. But the primary coaching duties will fall to Wambach.
Wambach might have a chance to duplicate Rampone's feat. Sky Blue finished fourth in 2009 but won three road games in the playoffs to take the title. In the current WPS standings, South Florida-based magicJack holds the fourth and final playoff spot by two points over New Jersey-based Sky Blue. But the team could climb quickly with national team players back in the mix and with a game in hand over Sky Blue and third-place Boston Breakers.
Wambach did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Borislow said he considers her quite qualified.
"Abby is not only a great player who sacrifices everything, she knows the game incredibly well. But the best-kept secret in sports as how [darn] smart she is," Borislow said. "Her IQ I am sure is off the charts, and she is really good with her teammates."
And he said he wishes they could all be like Wambach.
"If we had 50 Abbys, guys would be watching women's soccer instead of football on Sundays," he said.