Thursday, November 14, 2013
The announcement this week that the W-League’s Pali Blues and LA Strikers had chosen to join forces likely sent shockwaves through the Western Conference, and the entire league. Not only does the new partnership mean a merger of talent from the conference’s top two teams in 2013, it lays down a formidable off-field gauntlet as well with the pairing of Pali’s Charlie Naimo and LA’s Tracey Kevins.
Naimo, one of the top coaches and recruiters of talent in North America, will manage the new LA Blues Soccer Club, while Kevins, who coached England’s Women’s National team before joining LA in 2013, will serve as technical director; coaching the always bountiful talent Naimo will undoubtedly help supply.
“Working with Tracey will form quite a battery, in my opinion,” Naimo said. “We both have solid resources and share a common vision. It is all about the players, and it is up to us to manage them to another championship shot.”
The list of names Naimo has managed to lure to Pali the past six seasons is impressive. Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Kelley O’Hara are among the U.S. stars who have helped the Blues capture three W-League titles in six seasons. En route to their latest title this past summer, Naimo’s Blues only lost twice – both times at the hands of Kevins and the cross-town Strikers.
LA has been able to secure impressive talent of its own since joining the league in 2010, including England internationals Kristy Moore and Rachel Daly and Stanford star Lo’eau LaBonta. Combining the sales and marketing eye of co-owner Steve Miller with Kevins’ talents behind the bench had the Strikers poised for long-term success after reaching the playoffs for the first time this past season, and both sides expect the new partnership will clarify and strengthen women’s soccer in southern California.
“Combining the resources of two successful clubs will always create one stronger club,” Naimo said. “In this situation we are combining tests of success on the field with a partner that has as much passion for growing the business. This should result in a professional product for fans to enjoy and support.
“That said, it is just a concept to be excited about. We all have to work even harder to accomplish the goals we have set for our supporters.”
Not surprisingly, Kevins and Naimo are already fast at work, identifying players for 2014 and plotting to bring another title to southern California.
“On the field is where I am most excited,” Naimo said. “We are very far along in the recruiting process for 2014, but it is all on paper. It is a brand new team that has yet to play a game.
“We’ve won nothing and will have much to prove.”