Tuesday, April 13, 2010

10 Questions With...

Hola Spot fans! From time to time, the Spot will be able to get a leader or two in the sports world to give him the time of day, and answer 10 simple questions for our reading audience. It’s with that in mind that the Spot introduces a new feature…”10 questions with….”. So now, for your reading pleasure (and curiosity), it’s the Spot’s very first 10 questions ever!....

You can tell a lot about a sports organization by how it treats the people it deals with on a daily basis. From your biggest corporate sponsor down to the fresh faced, somewhat na├»ve, start up blogger (That would be yours truly), treating everyone as if they’re vital to your organization’s success not only creates good karma, but shows that you just “get it”, and that you and your organization are set up for success.

While trying to figure out who to try and get for the Spot’s first ever 10 questions segment, the Spot came across the FC Gold Pride and their General Manager Ilisa Kessler. The Spot was quite impressed that he could find her bantering back and forth with her team’s fans on bigsoccer.com, and sending out updates to the Pride’s fan base on her very own twitter account. So with that in mind, the Spot decided to give it a shot, and e-mail Ilisa with a request for his first ever 10 questions interview. And what happened you may ask? Well, less than 30 minutes later, he received an e-mail from Ilisa herself, saying that she’d be happy to answer the Spot’s questions! After arranging for a Monday afternoon phone interview, the Spot was even more impressed that Ilisa took her time to give very thurough and well thought out answers to his questions. So without further ado…it’s 10 questions with FC Gold Pride General Manager Ilisa Kessler…

1. Spot- During the off-season, the Pride was able to obtain, Marta (degrees of seperation...Marta's Brazillian, the Spot's parents are from Portugal...which mean's we both speak Portuguese!!), arguably one of the best players in the world today. How do you think this acquisition will translate both on the field and off the field for the Pride?

Ilisa- Marta gives us the scoring ability that we lacked last season. She gives us somebody who can attack and complement Christine Sinclair and Camille Abily; she invigorates us to give us a more attacking presence. Off the field, people like to see the best. There is a real difference between seeing Marta live and seeing her on TV. Her speed, her grace on the field, it doesn’t compare.

2. Spot- Much has been made about the Pride’s move from Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara to the East Bay (Castro Valley High School first, then CSU East Bay), what do you see as the positives and minuses of such a move, and is the move CSU East Bay a permanent one?

Ilisa- The move to CSU East Bay is a permanent move; this is going to be our new home. The partnership with CSU East Bay has been great in giving the Pride what we need to be competitive. We now have one location for everything, training, locker rooms, practice fields, those are things other professional teams take for granted. You can’t make everyone happy, but our move has brought us closer to many of the strongest girls’ soccer programs in the Bay Area: the Pleasanton Rage, Mustang FC, San Ramon Shock, and we have a lot of support from Castro Valley soccer clubs. Being able to partner with those clubs is great for brand awareness, and that translates into ticket sales. Geographically, Hayward calls itself the heart of the bay, and its location places us conveniently located to most places in the Bay Area.

3. Spot- If one pays attention to internet message boards like bigsoccer.com, the natives are getting restless with the Pride’s coach, Albertin Montoya. Is patience the key word in this situation, or are immediate results expected in light of the Pride’s off-season acquisitions?

Ilisa- I stand behind my coach 100%. We had some good acquisitions in the off season with the expectations that we’ll win. Albertin is looking at changes to ensure that we are successful. We do have a lot of rookies on the team, and we put a lot on the leaders to carry the team so the rookies can engage to become professional athletes. Albertin knows that expectations are to win, he wants to win and we’re all competitors. We will just need to have a little bit of patience.

4. Spot- Hey, we're soccer fans here in the valley too! Given the Pride’s move to a location closer to the Central Valley, can we expect to see more of a marketing push to get valley soccer fans over to Pride games? If so, what might they be? Maybe an exhibition game or two?

Ilisa- It was never really in the cards to head over to the Central Valley this pre season. We have had some good support from club teams in the valley area and we look forward to being able to do more outreach in the Central Valley in the near future.

5. Spot- Just this past month the Women’s NCAA basketball regional final in Sacramento played in front of a half full Arco Arena. There seems to be a disconnect between women and girls participating in sports such as soccer and their actually taking the time (and spending the dollars) to attend a Women’s sporting event. What are the WPS and the Pride specifically doing to “bridge the gap” so to speak? Is it something that can be seen as a quick fix, or more of a cultural type challenge where it will take a good 5-10 years to overcome the road blocks that currently exist?-

Ilisa- This is actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. There is a huge disconnect and we’re trying to move mountains. There are huge factors both cultural and society based, that will take years to overcome, so no, it’s not an easy fix. I hope what we’re doing on the women’s side is creating opportunities for young women to think about hopes and dreams they didn’t already have. We want to fill a void for young women and give them role models they didn’t already have. The journey has just begun and we have a long way to go.

6. Spot- Other than the Pride of course, who do you see as the top contenders to win this year’s WPS championship?

Ilisa- After seeing St. Louis this past weekend, I really liked what I saw. They are very strong with the addition of Shannon Boxx. She might be the piece that helps them get over the hump to win it all. I see it being us vs. St. Louis in the finals. There is a lot of parity between the teams in the WPS. With the dispersal draft of the L.A. Sol, there isn’t a lot of dead weight on the rosters of teams this year.

7. Spot- It’s a World Cup year…give us here at the Sports Spot your predictions, and how far do you think the United States will make it in South Africa?

Ilisa- I’m rooting for the United States to advance as far as they can go. They have got to get out of group play and if they can stay healthy I can see them getting out of the round of 16.

8. Spot- Speaking of the World Cup, do you see it as potentially giving the Pride a boost both at the game and in interest/exposure for the Pride?

Ilisa- I think it helps soccer in general in the United States. This is the one time it’s on the public consciousness and we have to take advantage of this time, because everyone is talking about it (soccer). One of our matches will be a World Cup celebration, allowing us to tie into the World Cup. I’m also hoping that the league will do some advertising round the World Cup to create more league awareness.

9. Spot- The Atlanta Beat opens an 8300 person soccer specific stadium this year. The Pride’s new home at CSU East Bay seats 5k. The LA Sol drew good crowds of 6k+ which looked tiny when played in the 27,000 Home Depot Center. Are these smaller capacity stadiums the way to go for WPS and the Pride in particular?

Ilisa- Yes, one of the things we were looking at for the move was what is a reasonable size for our fan base. It’s important for us to be realistic about our fan base, so a smaller stadium is the way to go. We hope to have the opportunity to have sell-out crowds and have to turn people away. We want to have the energy of everyone sitting next to a fan and having this great enthuseasum about the game and bringing people together, getting the crowd involved, and having a smaller stadium does that.

10. Spot- The Spot played a mean ‘keeper position for his Law School’s co-ed rec league soccer team. Could the Pride use a back up ‘Keeper perhaps?

Ilisa- Well, we have a goal keeper clinic… we can put the ‘Spot thru the hoops and see how the spot does in the net first and evaluate. But to be honest there would be a LOT of injuries before we picked up the ‘Spot. In fact I’m pretty sure we’d put Kelly O’Hara in goal first before we picked up the ‘Spot!

Well there you have it Spot fans! Even though she crushed the Spot’s hopes and dreams of becoming a professional soccer player (ok ok, I’m sure those hopes and dreams were crushed WELL before his interview with Ilisa) the Spot is greatly appreciative that Ilisa Kessler was more than willing to give her time for his ever fledgling blog. For those of you who are game, the FC Gold Pride’s home opener is this Saturday, the 17th, at Castro Valley High School. Why should you go might you ask? Well other than seeing some world class athletes in action playing the beautiful game (Marta, two-time Fifa player of the year, need I say more?!?) the Spot was also informed that if a game ball is kicked into the crowd during the game, whoever in the crowd catches it gets to keep it! Now how often do you get a chance to snag a $100 dollar soccer ball for free? That’s what the Spot calls fan interaction!

‘Till next time Spot fans….


  1. "I stand behind my coach 100%"= the dreaded vote of confidence, so he'll be gone soon.

  2. Montoya is a spoiled youth coach who won because of talent and recruiting not soccer smarts. He gets the keys to the Bentley because he coached the owners daughter. Haha - He simply doesn't have the experience to manage and coach at this level. This will be another wasted year. Bring in Brandi Chastain or Jerry Smith! We deserve better, the players deserve better.