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Soccer: Utahns Bogus, Reed prep for NWSL title match
That familiar ding of an email woke Elli Reed one morning while back home in Park City. Still a bit starry-eyed, she grabbed her phone and read the news that every U.S.-based female professional soccer player eventually read. The Women's Professional Soccer league was folding.
The Park City High School product and former University of Portland star grabbed a soccer ball went to the nearest soccer field and starting practicing on her own.
"I was just trying to play," Reed said. "I remember that day as good as any."
The news hit former Brighton High star and established pro Liz Bogus in a similar fashion. The former Arizona State Sun Devil had just signed a contract with the Western New York Flash a week before the league ceased operation. She heard rumblings, but saw the official news on Twitter.
"I did not think there would be a professional league back in the U.S. during my playing days," Bogus said.
The news that leveled women's professional soccer in America in January 2012 still carries a familiar sting. But as Reed and Bogus prepare for Sunday's NWSL championship match at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash., the two Utahns will be the first to say that renewed life in the National Women's Soccer League, founded later in 2012, is enjoyed.
Vying for a league title certainly helps.
Reed's Seattle Reign FC and Bogus' FC Kansas City, the top two teams in NWSL in 2014, get a shot at hoisting the league's second-ever trophy. Both Reed and Bogus have been teammates twice during their professional days: Playing for the Boston Breakers in 2011 and again in Seattle in 2013. In the off-season, Bogus was shipped to Kansas City.
"It's a little weird," Bogus said. "It's bringing back memories of this team. I had a lot of great memories here. I'm looking forward to playing in front of those fans again and seeing my old teammates. These are the two teams who deserve to be in the final."
While Bogus has stars like Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Holiday on her side, Reed has Megan Rapinoe, Kim Little, Sydney Leroux and Hope Solo.
"We have lots of players on our team that have played in World Cups and the Olympics," said the 25-year-old Seattle defender. "People are used to this kind of excitement and pressure. It's awesome to play on such an amazing team and such an amazing game every Sunday."
This will be Reed's first title game appearance as a professional, Bogus' second. While with the L.A. Sol in 2009, Bogus' team was the best regular-season side in the WPS, but lost in the final to Sky Blue FC. Now 30, a championship ring would be ideal for the forward from the Salt Lake Valley.
"You put everything on the line for this game," she said. "There's no holding back anything. I expect that will be from both teams - just laying it out there."
Both Bogus and Reed noted how the feel of playing in the NWSL is different as opposed to the WPS or the WPS Elite League that briefly followed soon after. The fan base is established in notable soccer cities such as Seattle, Kansas City, Portland and continues to grow on the East Coast, in Houston and Chicago.
"I think this league definitely seems like it has a great chance of sticking around for a long time," Bogus said. "It's been building over these past two years and the NWSL is ironing out some of the things that are a learning process for the first year or two of a league."
The hope is that NWSL continues to progress so it can showcase professional women's soccer to another generation. Reed used the 1999 U.S. World Cup champions as an example of a group of athletes who paved the way. The defender from Park City hopes she can be a part of another wave.
A championship match at Starfire Stadium could be another good launching off point.
FC Kansas City at Seattle Reign FC
Sunday, Aug. 31, 1 p.m., ESPN2
Utahns in NWSL championship match Sunday
Club: FC Kansas City
Professional career: Began playing with L.A. Sol (WPS) in 2009, played two years with Boston Breakers (WPSL), one year with Seattle Reign in 2013 (NWSL)
College: Arizona State, 2002-2005
High School: Brighton High School
Club: Seattle Reign
Professional career: Began playing with Boston Breakers (WPSL) in 2011, played in Germany in 2012-13, now with Seattle Reign since 2013.
College: University of Portland
High School: Park City