Columbus Eagles Ready for Franchise Home Opener
The Columbus Eagles, an expansion team of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, will return to the field for the franchise’s home opener on Sunday against FC Indiana. The Eagles dropped each of their first two games on the road to begin the season.
Despite losing their franchise debut against FC Indiana on May 11th, Head Coach Mark Wise was encouraged by the support they got from fans that traveled from Columbus.
“We went to South Bend and there were maybe 30 people in the stands and 28 of them were ours”, Wise said.
Similarly, at Motor City FC, a large portion of the crowd were fans that traveled from Columbus to see the Eagles play. When they take the field at Wellington High School on Sunday, the Eagles hope they continue to see that type of enthusiasm.
“We are drawing really heavily from Columbus and the surrounding areas for our players”, explained Wise. “We’re hoping for our home opener that people will remember these players from the time they played in a local college or even a local high school and they’ll want to come out and see them play again”.
Despite the early season setbacks that are an inevitable part of building a franchise from the ground up, Coach Wise is optimistic about the future.
“We all knew going into this that it was going to be an uphill battle. Some of our players have played in this league before and they said, ‘look, it’s going to be tough’. So, it’s that old saying: sports don’t build character, they reveal it. We’re finding the players that are in it because they want to play, and they want to play well, and they want to get better. We’re looking for players who are here for the long haul and want to help build the franchise. If each player who faces the adversity that we’ve started with says, ‘what do we need to do to get better?’, that’s the kind of player we want on our team. Because eventually that’s going to happen and it’s going to come together”.
Whereas some teams in the Women’s Premier Soccer League have players that play together all year round, Columbus’ roster is made up partly of college players who have only recently reported to the team, making it difficult to have established cohesion early on. However, now that the team has spent some time practicing as a unit, Coach Wise expects to continue to see them develop and make progress.
“We’ve got great talent”, Wise pointed out. “We’ve got a system in place that we’re working on for it to make a difference on Sunday. And I think as we go our results are going to get more and more in line with our talent”.
Coach Wise hopes that the rematch against FC Indiana on Sunday will provide a good measuring stick for the team’s growth.
“This weekend we have a chance to see, did we get better? We know what our result was against this team in our away opener. It’s two weeks later. Can we improve on that? Can we be a better team in two weeks period of time”?
Coach Wise hopes the atmosphere at the home opener will help set the tone for the game.
“We’ve got a great bunch of young ladies who are really excited about having the opportunity to play this game”, Wise said. “I would be thrilled if we could get a couple hundred people or more out there this Sunday afternoon and provide an environment where it fires up our girls and they really get into the game. It’s one thing playing for a club when you go out to the field and maybe parents are there. But it’s another thing when you’ve got your community coming out and watching you and getting excited about seeing you play”.
Wise is passionate about the sport of soccer, and wants to see the growth of women’s sports as a whole. He knows that attendance at women’s sports is something that has been an obstacle in the past, and challenges people to come show their support for the Eagles.
“It’s time for people to say, if I’m going to support women in athletics, and especially in women’s soccer, it’s time to come on out”, Wise explained. “If you really believe in the future of women in soccer we need you to get around this team and make it happen”.
Wise’s passion for the sport goes back to the World Cup title run of the US Women’s National Team at the turn of the century.
“I have always been about women’s soccer. Especially after 1999 when the Fab Five and the 99ers were playing in front of 100,000 people in the Rose Bowl”, Wise remembered. “It sent chills up and down your spine to see that many people watching a women’s sport. And then where are we today? It’s like that never happened in a lot of cases because professional teams are not drawing the numbers that they should. They’re not being supported as much as the men are. It’s time for us to step up and make it happen. And wouldn’t it be sweet if it was right here in Columbus, Ohio?”
You can show your support for the Columbus Eagles at 2:00pm on Sunday at Wellington High School.
More information about the Columbus Eagles can be found at www.columbuseaglesfc.com.