PRINCETON - In all the time I've spent covering soccer, Lori Lindsey is one of the best quotes and best people I've ever worked with.
The former Independence midfielder is also a perfect advertisement for the effect that a fully professional league can have on women's soccer in the United States.
Her career first blossomed with the Washington Freedom in the old Women's United Soccer Association in 2003. She remained with the organization when it moved to the semi-pro level after the WUSA's demise, then rose back with it to WPS in 2009.
Lindsey moved from Washington to Philadelphia in 2010, and quickly became one of the Independence's most important players. She also became a regular contributor to the U.S. national team, earning a spot on the 2011 World Cup roster along the way.
Now Lindsey is competing for one of the 18 spots on the U.S. roster for the upcoming Olympics.
At almost the same time that I got to Princeton University's Roberts Field for one of the national team's practice sessions on Friday, the word got out that WPS had shut down for good.
Lindsey was one of the first people I wanted to talk to about the news. As you read my interview with her, I think you'll understand why.
Talk about what it's been like here in camp for the last week or so.
It's a great facility. Princeton has been awesome, and we've lucked out with the weather. We only had one day with a little bit of rain. But other than that, it's been a world-class atmosphere – a good hotel that's about two minutes away, and good fields. We're training hard.
Is it a good thing to have the team together for two full weeks, or do people get a little bit restless by the end?
I think any time you're choosing a team and fighting for spots, you can get restless. But we have a really good mixture of people here, and everyone gets along. I think it's a good group – a tight-knit unit, and everyone respects each other for what they bring to the table.
So I think in the end, it's an excellent thing. I don't think a lot of other national teams get a chance to play together this much.
The roster for the Olympics will have just 18 players on it, instead of the usual 23 players that go to FIFA tournaments. How much does that increase the level of competition?
Oh, it's huge. In my personal opinion, any of us could be starting on other national teams. We had a great intra-squad scrimmage the other day. I think it just really comes down to a little bit of a numbers game: how many people are you going to take at each position?
Outside of being with the national team, how have you been spending your time?
There hasn't been much time outside the national team. On my weekends off, I just go home to D.C. and try to relax. We have preparations in terms of fitness and stuff. But other than that, it's just relaxing.
What's your reaction to WPS shutting down? Where do things go from here – especially for young players hoping to make the national team, such as your former Independence teammate Sinead Farrelly? As much as anything, WPS was a development tool for future national team players.
It's a sad day. As players, our union worked really hard with the owners to keep the league going. But I think for a little while we've seen this coming – since the suspending of operations in January.
We've been here before. I think there are opportunities overseas, and hopefully there will be some kind of glorified W-League* that we can have. So I think people will find other ways to play right now, and see where that goes in coming years, when we have a little more quiet time with the national team.
*- The W-League is a semi-professional women's league that is run by the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the PDL and USL PRO men's leagues. Among the W-League's most prominent franchises is one operated by the Seattle Sounders, which has Alex Morgan and Hope Solo on its roster.
It is important to note that the W-League is one of two semi-pro leagues in the United States along with the Women's Premier Soccer League.
If you're asking yourself why there are two semi-pro women's leagues in the U.S., that's a good question. If you're also asking yourself whether having two leagues that compete against each other for talent is a good idea at a time like this, that's another good question.