Women's Professional Soccer

WPS faces first controversy with Wambach-Daniela tackle

WambachDaniela (ISIphotos.com) 

                                                                         Photo by ISIphotos.com



For a league that is just over six weeks into its inaugural season, Womens Professional Soccer now faces its first big controversy.

After a slide tackle by The Washington Freedom's Abby Wambach injured Daniela of the St. Louis Athletica, news that the Brazilian native suffered a crack in her tibia and damaged two knee ligaments, and is likely out for the season, is drawing a lot attention.

With both clubs trying to decide how much information to share or how much access they want to grant to the media, all parties erred on the side of caution.

Below are highlights from the game for another look at the injury

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In response to many of your comments and to the information that was released on Tuesday, here are my thoughts on the incident:

In a game that was becoming extremely physical, each team had its fair share of hard tackles and questionable plays.  Do I think it was a terrible foul?  Yes, of course!  Do I think that there should have been more control over the game especially with two physical teams and very wet conditions?  Absolutely.

As for the specific incident in question, Daniela's first touch got away from her and Wambach made a poor decision to slide tackle the way she did.

It is likely that Wambach may have meant for it to be an enforcing tackle; however, there is definitely a line between sending a message and injuring an opponent. Certainly her intent was to go in hard, but it's doubtful that she would have ever meant to severely injure the Brazilian attacker or any other player for that matter. 

Following the weekend, neither team thought that it would be a good idea to speak out on it right away.  If the league could have somehow set up some type of press conference (even if had to be web streamed), Commisioner Tonya Antonucci, the St. Louis Athletica, and the Washington Freedom would have all had an opportunity to addressed the situation properly and more effectively. 

Without a comment from the commissioner, fans have no idea how she feels about the whole situation.  Not that she needs to make an amazing statement or explanation, but I think that everyone would appreciate some acknowledgment of the event along with a brief explanation as to why there will or won't be any repercussions.

It's not so much that anyone has make this a huge ordeal, but a statement from the highest official would more or less just to ease some of the tension.

Personally, I am opposed to suspending any players because that type of play occurred throughout the entire game. Had there not already been some serious physical contact, my thoughts may be different.

I believe that this unfortunate situation serves as a lesson learned.  Intensity is a vital part of the game and it is not going away. There just simply needs to be a boundary placed between playing hard and playing recklessly. With  some key examples of both displayed in this game, officials and the WPS should set the boundaries and abide by them without fail.  I'm not calling for any rule changes, just saying that there needs to be a little more awareness and control over the game.

There have not been any other problems across the league with teams getting out of hand, so maybe this is simply a one-time situation that serves as an example.

For now, St. Louis has posted a write-up of the injury and Washington has only allowed Wambach to put together a statement.  Both sides played it very safe and prefer not to comment any further or in any greater detail.

This is what Wambach had to say:


"In regards to the injury Daniela sustained during our game, the thing I need to convey most is how hard it is for a player who has sustained a significant injury in the past year to now be on the other side of it,” Wambach said. “It’s been crucial for me to find out exactly what injuries Daniela has sustained because of how important I know she is to the Saint Louis franchise. I’ve been in contact with a close friend on the team to stay updated. Unfortunately soccer is a physical game and players do get injured. There was no intent on my side to cause any harm. I wish Daniela nothing but the speediest of recoveries. My thoughts and prayers are with her.”


As the U.S. national team player remembers her own injury (a broken leg before last summer's Olympics) and shows her compassion, the only thing that stands out is the fact that there is no official apology.  We can only believe that she has offered the "I'm sorry" many, many times already but why not do it officially? 

As for how the St. Louis Athletica will cope, Head Coach Jorge Barcellos said, “It is a great loss to the team who were getting accustomed to playing with Daniela.  We are going to have to restructure how our team is set up and our whole team will have to step up.”

After some controversy stirred things up in the WPS, how do you feel the league handled it? Who will replace Daniela's void for St. Louis?  Has there been any other physical play amongst other teams that stands out to you? 

Share your thoughts below.

  • Tom

    Watch closely, Daniela’s first touch caused the injury. First touch touch too far and Abby went for it. Foul, yes but thats all.


  • barrld

    I’ve watched the tackle many times and have the following comments:

    There is no reason to tackle on that play;

    Abby W often makes up for her lack of pure athleticism with strength and sometimes very rough play;

    She doesn’t come close to the ball, regardless of whether Daniela blows her touch;

    The tackle itself is two boots up, red card if I’m ref-ing, no matter if Daniela pops up or not;

    Great game, but rough and poorly officiated;

    Hope Solo looks terrible in goal.


  • mike ruze

    Marta is next!!! Just ensuring our third wc !!!!

    Brazil took Amy out with an equally cheap foul!

    should have been a red card at the least.


  • Kent

    It wasn’t the intent but the result that should be used to judge the incident. It was a reckless challenge on Wambach’s part. She should be suspended.


  • Craig

    One thing everyone seems to be ignoring is how many times Wambach made contact with Solo early in the game. At the 18:15 marked Wambach grabs Solo by the shoulders as she went by. No call at all. At the 35:52 mark, Wambach rams Solo knocking her backwards. No call at all. A bit later, Wambach again makes hard contact with Solo. No call. If I’m a defender and Wambach runs into my goalkeeper three times in one half, you’re darn right I’m going to rough up Wambach. So all this boohoo, poor Abby got roughed, boohoo stuff, Abby did her fair share of roughing up Solo, which should never have been allowed. Where were the calls there? Maybe if they had given Abby a yellow for one of those, she wouldn’t have been so reckless in her challenge on Daniela on totally inconsequential play for no good reason and with two feet and studs up. You bet she deserves some punishment other than the slap on the wrist yellow she got.


  • Joey

    The tackle wasn’t brilliantly executed in terms of timing or location, but it certainly wasn’t vicious. It actually looked pretty soft considering the injury it caused. My take: Daniela has weak knees, give that woman some Boniva!


  • Lorrie

    How many ignored fouls were there against Wambach? McNeil (I believe) was the enforcer throughout the game without a card – ridiculous. The ref didn’t make the calls he should have and the tone for the game was set. Wambach’s effort wasn’t malicious, but it was overkill and unnecessary, but many tackles are. Certainly unfortunate for Daniela.


  • TimF

    The women’s game sucks. The sooner this league dies the better. Oh and Wambach is a ****.


  • Brent Crossland

    All of the discussion of “intent” is totally irrelevant. The person with the whistle is not a mind reader. He/She cannot make any determination as to “intent”.

    To me the most telling statement in this article is “Personally, I am opposed to suspending any players because that type of play occurred throughout the entire game.”

    Please see Paul Gardner’s APR 27th essay titled “Refs Only Need to Enforce the Rules”. Setting aside the semantics of ‘rules’ vs. ‘laws’, was Wambach’s challenge careless? reckless?

    To me Wambach came in hard with both feet with no regard for her opponent’s safety. If I have the whistle I’m pulling red.

    You cannot justify these kinds of tackles because ‘they happen all of the time’. Pro league or youth league — if the foul is committed punish it. If misconduct occurs, enforce the LOTG.

    If the league doesn’t like it the referee only has two choices — personal integrity or . . . .


  • DS

    Easy red card.
    As a commenter pointed out, Daniela’s touch was a bit poor and if you pause at 2:04 you’ll see that her right leg is extended (a bit awkwardly). Wambach could’ve made a clean tackle by swinging her feet *away* from Daniela (sorta in a counterclockwise sweep starting from her own right hand side); instead, she goes right into Daniela’s legs – an entirely unnecessary, reckless tackle with excessive force, easily a serious foul play, and a send-off. Protecting talented players is very important for the good of the game, and IMHO, this referee failed at this miserably.


  • tres

    Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t bring myself to watch this video.

    Watching dudes get all banged up and crunched during a sports game: cool. It gets the adrenaline going.

    But watching women get hurt? I don’t know, man. It just feels off. I think it runs against something embedded deep in our DNA. Human beings have an instinct to protect young females (“women and children first!”), because of their role in reproducing the species.

    I’m not trying to be sexist. Women’s soccer is fine, even fun to watch. I just find it interesting that I don’t have the same impulse to gleefully click on that video that I would if it were some guy getting his leg cracked.


  • Doug Huston

    Wambach was frustrated by the physical play of Saint Louis all day. This was a savage tackle and would have warrented a red card and suspension in any other league. Abby may not have been trying to hurt Daniela but the tackle was reckless and should have been punished. Now Saint Louis is without their star for the rest of the year. If the roles were reversed, most everyone, IMO, would be screaming for Daniela’s head.


  • Doug Huston

    By the way, to TimF, the women’s game is much more pleasing to watch than MLS (I have season tickets to both MLS and WPS). The women’s game actually features skill as oppossed to the long ball, see what happens play of MLS. Funny that we are talking about a reckless tackle here as one of things I enjoy about WPS is the relative absence of non-sensical fouls that prevent skillfull players from being skillfull in MLS. The US men’s game has evolved into run like mad, kick the ball upfield, and foul if you get beat. Have you noticed that this country has yet to develop a quality center mid? The women’s game is beautiful to watch. Try it some time.


  • JP

    Watch the replay. There is NO WAY anyone here can watch that replay and say that Wambaugh was going for the player rather than the ball. NO. WAY. Play it in slow motion, and watch Abby’s eyes…she is running towards Daniela, and as soon as the ball bounces away from Daniela, her eyes follow the ball, her trajectory shifts to the side and she launches herself in a direct line towards where the ball is.

    Now, could you say she did that recklessly? Sure. But no objective, rational person could possibly argue that she was going for the player rather than for the ball. Watch the replay. Watch her eyes. They tell the whole story.


  • Rochelle massey

    I feel the refs and the league hasn’t done enough for safety. Abby was clearly in the wrong. A slide tackle at that point in the midst of that play was unacceptable. I’m not sure whether or not it was intentional or not, but she should have been carded! The penalty was too light.


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