Jamaica captain impresses at Atlanta Beat trial
KENNESAW, Georgia, USA: Jamaica international football captain, Taneisha Vassell, will know this afternoon if she has made the cut to join the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league in the United States, after completing a rigorous two-day trial with the Atlanta Beat club yesterday.
Vassell, a 29-year-old midfielder from St Andrew, was one of two Jamaica representatives who participated in the trials.
St James native Alicia Wilson, a 31-year-old who played at central defence, was not selected for yesterday’s final full-field scrimmage, which signalled her elimination from contention for an invitation to the Beat’s pre-season training camp, which begins in March.
Wilson and Vassell, who have played at US colleges, were hoping to join national teammate Omolyn Davis in the WPS, among the top women’s leagues in the world.
Davis was recently drafted out of George Mason University by the Washington Freedom and is likely to make her pro debut when the seven-team WPS season kicks off in April.
Wilson, still troubled by a knee injury she suffered in December, did not find favour with Beat head coach James Galanis, although she impressed some observers at the trial as one of the most accomplished players on show.
She admitted, however, that the injury, which kept her out of football for a month and forced her to leave the field once during the trial’s first day, did not allow her to perform at her best. Even then, she reasoned, she could still have been among the final group from the 50-plus players who participated at the open tryout based on ability.
“I honestly thought I was one of the better players out there,” said Wilson, who has played professionally in Iceland the past few seasons. “I don’t know what they’re looking for. Only they know what they are looking for.”
Galanis indicated that the club is interested in selecting “between two and six” players to supplement the WPS squad.
Despite not being fully fit after conceding that she had not trained since November, Vassell impressed Galanis with her hard tackling, composure on the ball and quick recovery on defence, catapulting her into a group of about 10 still in contention for selection.
“(Taneisha) did great,” the coach said at the end of the trial. “She has a lot of potential and she’s in the mix (for selection). Obviously she’s very skilled on the ball, good in tight spaces. She was a tough tackler as well; not afraid to go in. She was fast. Nice, solid player.”
According to Galanis, players will be notified via email before 5 p.m. today if they made the Beat squad.
For Vassell, currently a final-year student at Western Texas College, selection would mean another step to accomplishing her lifelong goal.
“This is my dream, to play professional soccer,” she said.
Over two days, despite the perfect weather for football, Vassell and Wilson, the sister of former Jamaica youth player Keith Wilson, were put through a testing programme of physical and technical drills, plus small-sided games and full-field scrimmages, which left both players sore after day one.
Saturday’s session lasted close to four hours. Yesterday’s was about an hour shorter.
Vassell hopes if she makes the team it will open doors for other women footballers from her homeland.
“I’m coming here to just make the team and do my best, really,” said Vassell, “so I can make other opportunities for Jamaica.”
She said she was satisfied with her performance and believes she has “a pretty good chance” to join the Beat. If she doesn’t, she will likely join another club in the US as, Vassell said, she had received offers elsewhere.
WPS players are among the highest paid female footballers in the world, with salaries ranging “from US$20,000-plus to high US six figures,” a league source said.
Many of the world’s top players, including Brazil’s Marta, have joined the league, plus the best of the US national team, which has won World Cup and Olympic titles.
The Beat was one of two WPS expansion franchises in 2010 when the team finished last in the standings. However, the club has reportedly acquired several US national players for the 2011 season.