Well. We’re finally here. The WPSL season is underway and there is plenty to catch up on. This is the first in our regular WPSL roundup where we’ll hop around the league for updates and embed and interviews or content along the way.
It’s still early and two teams haven’t even played yet, but the standings do give us a bit of information to work with. Salvo and Maplebrook have yet to lose in multiple games and Dakota looks to be in rough shape after only two games. You might think writing teams off before June is a little premature, but you essentially have to win the conference to qualify for the postseason and some of these teams are already 20 percent through their schedule.
We took our first road trip of the season (don’t worry, Mankato, we’ll still take a trip for an actual match) for Mankato’s kickoff party at Mankato Brewery. They’re looking to play an aggressive style of soccer and it seems like they might have the squad to pull it off. They drew a much-hyped Maplebrook squad 1-1 on the road and they’re Mankato State heavy roster has an interested mix of D1 talent from the North and South Dakota schools.
Maplebrook opened with a tie against Salvo in maybe the worst weather you could hope for: 38 degrees and raining. It went about as well as you’d expect. In pretty brutal conditions, each team looked fairly composed. But it was also the first match of the season and gave the teams almost no time at all to practice or build chemistry. They followed it up with a decisive win again the Fusion and another draw. They might need to step it up if they’re going to leapfrog Salvo in the standings but they’ve also shown some grit getting points in all three matches so far.
They looked solid against Maplebrook to kickoff the season and absolutely shallacked the Fusion to the tune of a 7-0 win. You can rewatch the whole match or the highlights on mycujoo (the new streaming service for the entire WPSL) to get a taste of their build up play. They looked crisp and connected - and that can be tough to accomplish with such little practice time and a roster assembled from numerous places. They’ve shown that, so far, they are likely the team to beat in the North.
Fire and Rochester
After getting the chance to meet the people behind upstart Mankato United, we’re excited to see what Rochester brings to the table. They’ve gotten the least attention from us so far, but their roster might have the most interesting mix in the conference. Brazil, Spain, Botswana, Columbia, and England are all represented. To say nothing of the other domestic states like California and Texas. Plus, they’ve had a little more training time prior to their opening game this weekend so maybe they’ll have some magic against Mankato.
The Fire are a different story. After bursting onto the scene last year and recruiting a star-studded roster, internal club drama has meant an exodus of as many as 15-20 top players. They have yet to play their home opener, but chances are the starting 11, or even the full roster, will look quite a bit different than their promotion materials would suggest.
Prepping for pros
As part of our Going Pro series, we’re following three Gopher Soccer seniors who are looking to go from college to the pros. And, it just so happens, that two of them will be suiting up in the WPSL this summer as they wait for the summer transfer window to open. Emily Heslin has looked commanding in the midfield for Salvo and Molly Fielder took the long drive out to Utah to play for the Royals Reserves where she’ll be coached by members of the Royals NWSL staff. They don’t seem to stream any of their games, but we’re going to watch her suit up by watching the stream of other teams in the conference (like Colorado Rapids Women) on MyCuJoo.
Haley Helverson has played professionally in Sweden and Puerto Rico. We talk to her about deciding to go from Gopher Soccer to the pros, adjusting to life in new cities, giving advice to new players, and more.
Watch the chat in the video embedded below or download it as a podcast in iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher.
Even as leagues in the US and abroad continue to improve, many top college players still choose to hang up their cleats after they graduate. This year, three Minnesota Soccer players (April Bockin, Molly Fiedler, Emily Heslin) are trying to take their talents to the next level. Part 2 follows April as she returns from camp with the Chicago Red Stars and Molly and Emily as they prepare for opportunities this summer.
Also featured is former WPS and W League vet and current Director of Goalkeeping for Gopher Soccer Alli Lipsher.
Watch Part 1, where former pros talk about how players decide to make the jump to the pros, what factors they consider when exploring options across the globe, and what it's like to adjust to living in a brand new country while battling for a spot on the team, here.
Supporters giving $10/month and up
Chad Flynn & Mary Lahammer
Salvo Soccer Club