Glory tryout brings dozens to Sports Emporium
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Even though the beginning of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) is still more than four months away, prospective players for the Green Bay Glory were busy at the Sports Emporium in De Pere Jan. 5.
Dozens of collegiate – some former, some current – and high school players hit the turf for two-plus hours in the hopes of cracking the roster in the team’s second season.
“Year one was highly successful,” said Glory head coach Chad Johnson, whose daughter, McKenzie, a high school senior at Bay Port, was also in attendance. “We want to build off our successes and continue to grow.”
The Glory finished their 2019 WPSL campaign with an overall record of 4-5-1, good for 13 points and a fourth-place finish in the Midwest Conference.
Green Bay also finished 3-1 in its friendly matches.
Johnson said the Glory isn’t actively recruiting high school players to not play for their school teams.
“The Green Bay Glory is a bridge to the next level,” he said. “We’ve had situations where girls don’t have a high school team to play for, so if the player’s talents are there, it could be a perfect fit.”
Players from all over the Midwest attended the Jan. 5 tryout.
“Compared to last season, we are drawing players from Indiana, Tennessee and Nebraska,” Johnson said. “Our name is getting out there. We won the franchise of the year last season in our inaugural year. When you get these types of awards, it shows we are strong on and off the field.”
Johnson said the teams in the WPSL are held to a high standard.
“We are required to provide a facility which hosts at least 200 people and has an electronic scoreboard, we have to provide a meal for the other team and provide locker rooms and showers,” he said. “The Glory does all of this well. When other teams come to play, we’ve utilized Julie’s Café in the past. We also have another sponsor supply toiletries for opposing players – they get treated first class.”
Like last season, Green Bay will be playing its games at Aldo Santaga Stadium on the campus of UW-Green Bay.
“The facility at UWGB is exceptional, and I spent lots of time getting to know my players,” Johnson said. “Rolling into the second year, you have a better idea about veterans and what their capabilities are. There are also new faces that pop up – that’s what I’m most excited about. They are hearing about our mission and want to check us out.”
In the two tryout camps, Johnson estimated 35-38 players attended.
“We carried 28 players in 2019, but we can only dress 18,” he said. “I’m not sure if we will carry the same number this season. I would estimate our team will be 50 percent the same as last year. You get comfortable with players you know can perform, but you also notice others you want to take risks on because you see the potential. We will also lose a few talented players whose career paths have taken them elsewhere.”
Johnson said he learned things during his first campaign as head coach.
“The season kicks off May 1, and we will play friendly matches that first week,” Johnson said. “The official season with games begins around Memorial Day. We don’t have time in practice to run the players, but the expectations are set – we’ve communicated with the ladies their fitness level needs to be high. We don’t have to preach – the players saw it. We played our best soccer in the second half of the season when we got in better shape.”
There are approximately 120 teams in the WPSL nationwide, and it’s the oldest women’s league in the country.
“If you can win your conference, you advance to the playoffs,” said Johnson. “My No. 1 goal is to keep the fun factor for the players. Winning is important, so I’d like to finish in the top-three in the conference – that’s attainable. We were in the running for a second-place finish last season, but we dropped two late games. Our expectations are to be highly competitive in each match.”
Johnson also noted 50 percent of the U.S. Women’s National Team once played in the WPSL.