Pro kicks for a new generation of Broncos
Catching up with Women’s Professional Soccer
The June 7 matchup between FC Gold Pride and the Chicago Red Stars ended as many Santa Clara soccer fans might have hoped—in a tie. How else to split the baby in a game that featured Leslie Osborne ’05 and Head Coach Albertin Montoya ’97 facing off against Red Stars Marian Dalmy ’07, Chioma Igwe ’08, and Brittany Klein ’08—with the game taking place right here on the Mission campus?
No matter the score, the winner was women’s soccer, which got a pro league of its own this spring when Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) kicked off its inaugural season with a major assist from Santa Clara alumnae—and alumni.
Buck Shaw Stadium has served as home for the Gold Pride. NBA star and lifelong soccer fan Steve Nash ’96 chipped in funds as one of the league’s owners. And six former Broncos helped supply the world-class talent on the field.
Besides Osborne, Dalmy, Igwe, and Klein, the WPS also features Brandi Chastain ’91, back on pro turf a decade after scoring the winning goal of the 1999 World Cup, and Aly Wagner ’02, who scored the game-winner for SCU in the 2001 NCAA championships. Chastain plays for the Gold Pride—although she didn’t feature in the tie against the Red Stars— and Wagner plays for the L.A. Sol.
At press time, the league was entering the second half of the season, with fortunes widely diverged for the three teams that are home to Broncos. While the Gold Pride and the Red Stars toiled at the bottom of the standings, the Sol were crushing the competition, with Wagner tied for second in team assists.
Though their teams have struggled, Osborne, Dalmy, Klein, and Igwe each established themselves as mainstays in their lineups. Chastain’s playing time was kept down due to filming of the ABC reality show The Superstars in the Bahamas, which was a pre-existing contractual requirement, according to Jerry Smith, her husband and Santa Clara soccer’s longtime coach.
Smith was delighted for his team to share the field at Buck Shaw with the world’s top players, a relationship he thinks will only strengthen his program as more Broncos go pro. “It helps with recruiting,” Smith said. “It gives our players something to aspire to. And it just brings attention to the University.”
Mindful of the fate of the WUSA, the short-lived precursor in women’s professional soccer stateside, and of the tough economy, the WPS kept its belt pretty tight during takeoff. But league officials have plans to soon expand beyond the seventeam base—meaning more SCU standouts like Dalmy may get a chance to shine again on Santa Clara’s field.
“It’s a second home to me any time I get to come back and play,” Dalmy said, after playing the Gold Pride. “I love it.”
News from the MLS SuperDraft
The women weren’t the only ones getting the call from the pros this year. Jide Ogunbiyi ’09 put an exclamation point on a standout collegiate career, getting drafted by the New York Red Bulls as the 18th pick in the 2009 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. The 6-foot-4 all-rounder was the 21st Bronco drafted in MLS history.
Ogunbiyi helped Santa Clara to backto-back West Coast Conference titles in 2006 and 2007 and three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He was the highest MLS draft pick from SCU since Chioma Igwe’s brother, Amaechi Igwe ’10, was picked 12th in 2007. Her other brother, Kelechi Igwe ’06, also played for Santa Clara.
A finance major, Ogunbiyi stayed in school to finish his degree after getting drafted. “With sports you never know what is going to happen,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “One thing I know I’ll always have is my degree.”
At press time, Ogunbiyi was considering playing abroad rather than joining the Red Bulls.
—Sam Scott ’96