The city of Columbus is host to the Columbus Eagles, a Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) team who made their league debut in 2014. Since then, the team has grown with their performances on the pitch and their reach in the community. On Sunday, the Eagles welcomed their rivals from Cincinnati to Otterbein Memorial Stadium for the team’s home opener. The Sirens took the win, 3-2, despite a strong effort from the home side.
Sunday was my first WPSL experience, and it was a very positive one despite the result. I had several takeaways from on and off the pitch regarding the Eagles and my first exposure to the league.
What is the WPSL?
The Women’s Premier Soccer League is the largest women’s soccer league in the world with over 100 teams all over the United States. Players’ skill levels range from collegiate to international to anywhere in between. The league was developed as a summer league to give collegiate players reps in their offseason but has grown into a gateway for players of all levels to get to the National Women’s Soccer League and beyond.
The WPSL has seen plenty of talent come through its teams, with top national team players such as Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Foudy, Brandy Chastain and Rose Lavelle all making stops. This adds to the excitement surrounding the league, for fans never know what player is the next national team star.
Quality of Play
The WPSL may be a semi-pro league, but the players play on a much higher level. Despite the fact that the team has a large age range and most of the players have other jobs, they gel well together and play to a level of intensity that keeps fans engaged.
It was clear that these women aren’t just playing for fun. They’re in it to win, which makes their games exciting and intense. In Sunday’s match specifically, the teams were physical and aggressive. Players were not going down easily, but still fouls were far from rare.
Tactically, play was smart. Between the Eagles’ aerial switches and quick movements and the Sirens’ dangerous counter, all aspects of the game were high level.
Sunday’s match was rainy, muggy and warm. However, that did not stop a decent crowd from coming out to cheer on the Eagles. It wasn’t a silent crowd either. Decked out in black and gold, the supporters stayed rowdy and passionate through the entire 90 minutes. The energy always built when the home team needed it most, even after the Sirens took the lead.
The #HellIsReal rivalry between Columbus and Cincinnati is not distinct to MLS. The tension between the Eagles and the Sirens was palpable Sunday night, especially considering the circumstances surrounding their meeting last year.
A year to the day of Sunday’s match, Cincinnati was forced to forfeit their match against the Eagles after they neglected to provide an athletic trainer. The Eagles were granted a 5-0 victory but weren’t thrilled with how the result was earned. This added another level to the rivalry that was evident in both teams’ play on Sunday.
The Sirens’ victory marked the first time in the rivalry’s history that either team has notched three points away from home.
Columbus now looks to right their season and push toward a first place finish in their division. They’re on the road next Saturday to take on the Dayton Dutch Lions at 4 p.m.